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RTPI finds 81% of public sector planners need more guidance on BNG as law comes into effect

Planning professionals across the public and private sectors continue to report low levels of confidence in their ability to handle new Biodiversity Net Gain requirements in the planning process, according to a survey from the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

The measures, introduced under the Environment Act, come into effect today (12 February), and will require local planning authorities to assess and seek mitigation of the expected biodiversity net gain impact of planning proposals.

However, an ongoing survey of our RTPI members found that:

  • 81% of planners in the public sector need further ‘guidance, advice and support’.
  • 68% of all planners need more staff and skills, and 61% require more case studies of best practice.
  • 69% of planners in the private sector whose developments and land will now need to demonstrate BNG gain as part of the planning application process, want more case studies of best practice.

The updated figures show that 41% of public sector planners still cannot confirm whether they’ll have access to the necessary ecological expertise to comply with the new BNG requirements before implementation. This is a slight improvement from September's report, where 61% of planners were uncertain.

Victoria Hills, Chief executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said: “We made it clear to the Government that, without adequate funding, new BNG requirements could add disruption and delays in already overstretched Local Planning Authorities. While we welcome the additional resources from DEFRA, we feel that only time will tell whether this funding will be enough.

“However, planners in the public and private sectors are still calling out for guidance, advice, and support to help them improve the biodiversity of new development from today. We’ve recently seen almost a thousand RTPI members sign up for a webinar on BNG in the hope of finding out information on the process and will be holding more events in the future to help planners implement these changes effectively.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has confirmed funding of £10.6m for next financial year. The RTPI has been advocating for additional resources since the proposal of these new requirements. While the Institute has welcomed the Government’s commitment to fund new burdens from the Environment Act, it remains uncertain whether the allocated funding will be adequate.

The latest results from the RTPI’s Biodiversity Net Gain survey were collected between September 2023 and January 2024. To help the Institute monitor changing levels of understanding this survey does not have a closing date.

Tell us about your experience of BNG so far

RTPI members can help to inform the RTPI’s engagement with Government and other public bodies on BNG by answering our BNG Transition, Implementation and Monitoring Survey. This is designed to help us understand the levels of knowledge held, where there might be gaps, and any potential issues experience within different sectors. 

This is an ongoing survey. To help us monitor changing levels of understanding, the survey does not have a closing date and will continue to run throughout the implementation of BNG.

If your level of knowledge and training significantly changes over time we would encourage you to complete the survey again. 


Get prepared for BNG

For planners still in the dark about BNG, you can find a quick recap from the RTPI’s head of policy practice and research Richard Blyth online here.

For a deeper dive into the new measures, Planning Advisory Service (PAS) has been producing resources to help support local authorities, which have been updated as recently as 8 February.

RTPI events covering BNG have had considerable interest from members hoping to find out more information on the new law. RTPI regions across England are offering peer-to-peer learning events to help members keep informed about available information on BNG and encourage best practice. Check out upcoming events in your region to find out more. 

RTPI members can also access the recordings of past events we’ve held, including this London region event with speakers from Natural England, Wiltshire Council and our policy team.


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