With climate change making it more crucial to protect the environment each and every year, it was only a matter of time before developers had to meet tougher ecological requirements.

That said, although the legislation was initially announced in 2021, we doubt anyone was fully prepared for the moment that the UK government published its new Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) legislation for 2024…

Mandatory from 12 February, this set of non-negotiable rules seriously affects how all sorts of developers will go about getting the green light for their current and future projects — especially when it comes to artificial light at night (ALAN).

Stick with us as we explain how lighting can seriously affect biodiversity, what the new BNG legislation entails and how enlisting DFL’s help can help you achieve compliance. We’re pretty clued up on this topic!

Biodiversity and lighting strategies

Most of us are no strangers to the fact that poor lighting can negatively impact humans. So, it should come as no surprise that it can also harm wildlife.

Think of the effects an ultra-bright, incorrectly positioned flood lighting can have on someone’s sleep schedule — keeping them awake and putting them at risk of a whole host of health conditions, from depression to diabetes. It’s a similar story for animals and other small creatures!

Intense luminaires with a high, blue-looking colour temperature can cause increased glare that disrupts bird migration patterns, as well as high levels of light spill that disturbs bat foraging routes and even impedes plant reproduction.

The knock-on effect? Wildlife populations decrease, ecosystems struggle to survive and the array of living organisms in affected areas is left at risk.

So, you can imagine how lighting strategies play into biodiversity — and why they’re crucial to the new BNG legislation…

Described by the government as an approach to development that ensures wildlife habitats are helped — not hindered — by new developments, the legislation requires developers to deliver a BNG of 10%.

But let’s not beat around the bush — it’s a bit more complicated than that.

The ins and outs of BNG legislation

As you might’ve guessed, anyone hoping to implement a lighting strategy that doesn’t get in the way of the new BNG legislation can’t just use a few warm-toned LEDs and call it a day.

Developers must now use a statutory biodiversity metric tool to calculate a site’s existing biodiversity units, as well as how many units are needed to replace what’s lost (or, in other words, to achieve 10% BNG). It’s recommended that developers consult an ecologist at this stage, as they can handle your biodiversity calculations and advise on habitat enhancements.

There are also three routes to achieving 10% BNG. Either create biodiversity on-site, supplement insufficient on-site biodiversity by making off-site biodiversity gains or buying off-site diversity units or, if all else fails, purchase biodiversity credits from the government.

And don’t be fooled into thinking the legislation only applies to those working on ecologically sensitive sites…

Right now, you must achieve 10% BNG if you’re a local planning authority, a land manager wanting to sell in the BNG market or a developer of major developments. From 2 April, that’ll also be the case if you’re developing small sites, and from November 2025, you’ll need to comply if you’re developing nationally significant infrastructure projects.

It’s only applications made before 12 February 2024, certain self-build applications and things like add-ons to high-speed rail networks that are exempt!

Another thing worth noting: you must maintain the habitats you create or enhance for at least 30 years to ensure the changes that take place over the course of the next three decades don’t infringe on your site’s biodiversity.

Wondering where a lighting consultant like DFL comes into all this? Let us explain…

How a lighting consultant can help

Whilst we can’t handle your BNG legislation compliance alone, we can do plenty to ensure your lighting strategy doesn’t stop you from meeting the 10% requirement.

Not only can we do all your homework for you, meaning you don’t need to worry about all the details we’ve explained above, but we also have strong connections with lots of ecology consultants.

We’re used to collaborating with these experts, who ultimately have the competency required to advise on BNG legislation, to ensure lighting and ecology are considered in harmony — and prevent any issues with lighting impact from costing you your application approval.

What’s more, we’ve provided our lighting consultancy services to projects in the trickiest of ecologically sensitive locations, like Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). So, you can trust us to ensure your lighting doesn’t interfere with your project’s BNG — environmentally sensitive schemes are second nature to us!

Plus, whether you need a lighting impact assessment (LIA) to mitigate potential disruption on a large site or want a whole lighting strategy detailing what equipment to use and where, we can deliver high-quality results with a quick turnaround.

We’ll even be on hand should you have any post-service queries or require support! What more could you ask for?

Contact one of our lighting consultants at +44 (0)1962 855080 or email ryan@dfl-uk.com, who specialises in lighting impact and planning, to learn more about how we can help you meet BNG legislation. You could be signing off on a scheme before you know it!