Appropriate Assessments: Planning Inquiries
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Important Notice for Existing and Potential Clients:

As from 4th March 2013, Phil Lomax, Director and Principal Consultant of Green Dimensions is moving to take up a position as Principal Ecologist at Thomson Ecology. From this date, existing and potential clients can contact him at:

Phil Lomax, Principal Ecologist,
Thomson Ecology,
Compass House,
Surrey Research Park,
Guildford, GU2 7AG, UK

Tel: 01483 466014
e-mail: Phil.Lomax@thomsonecology.com

Thomson Ecology and its sister company Thomson Habitats is one of the largest ecological consultancies in the UK and is able to offer the full range of ecological services. For further information, please visit: www.thomsonecology.com

Phil looks forward to continue providing existing and potential clients with all the ecological consultancy services required to support their business needs.

 
kingfisher
Bluebells
Badger
Well-hedged farmland
Burley Walk in autumn
Tawny owl
Painted Lady
Eastleigh Borough Council Biodiversity Action Plan
Longstock, River Test
Greater Birdsfoot trefoil
Spotted flycatcher
Waskersley Way
Hedgehog
Elf cup
Martin Down
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Case Studies

Biodiversity Conservation Planning

GreenDim.bmpsupports Development of New UK Biodiversity Planning Toolkit

A pilot version of the unique Biodiversity Planning Toolkit will be launched in summer 2010. The web site has been designed specifically to help planners and developers to achieve high quality sustainable developments that conserve and enhance biodiversity resources across the UK.

Developed with the help of Green Dimensions, the toolkit will provide a one-stop-interactive shop for the planning community to help it navigate through relevant legislation and guidance and will lead to a better understanding and compliance with statutory requirements and Government policy in relation to biodiversity. 

The toolkit will highlight potential development impacts and provide an easily accessible means of managing the process to ensure such impacts are avoided or adequately compensated or mitigated, as well as encouraging enhancement. The toolkit will also lead to good practice and greater consideration of biodiversity in both forward planning and development control and management, as well as dove-tailing biodiversity with green infrastructure.  

Map screen shot

A web-based toolkit for planners and developers is urgently required. There is currently no single source of up to date information and guidance to support planners and developers in the vital task of conserving biodiversity and geodiversity in the UK. Government policy and advice in all four countries of the UK stresses the importance of conservation in spatial planning and development. Yet the information, knowledge and guidance to enable planners and developers to achieve these policy aims is difficult to access, scattered across a wide range of disparate sources, few of which are actually specifically geared to supporting planners and developers. At the same time, lack of knowledge and skills in the sector has been identified as a major reason why spatial plans and new developments are not delivering the hoped for national targets of halting biodiversity loss.

Purpose of the Toolkit
The toolkit will facilitate and support the production of consistently high quality spatial plans and development schemes, which respect, conserve and enhance biodiversity. The web based biodiversity toolkit will provide a free, practical, dynamic and easy to use resource for all those involved in the development planning process, enabling them to find, understand and use the relevant law, guidance and good practice at the touch of a button.

Desired Outcomes

More specifically, the project will enable planners and developers to:

  1. better understand and appreciate the impacts on and opportunities for biodiversity conservation in development planning
  2. comply with EC and UK law and statutory obligations for biodiversity conservation
  3.  implement government  policy and help to achieve government targets for biodiversity
  4. achieve tangible improvements in the delivery of biodiversity conservation through the planning system and new development
  5. adopt a consistent approach to biodiversity conservation within the planning system across the UK
  6. improve standards of planning practice with respect to biodiversity conservation and enhancement leading to higher quality and more sustainable development
  7. work more efficiently and effectively in delivering sustainable development by providing instant access to a common framework of all key information and advice.

Development of the Toolkit
In 2006, the Association of Local Government Ecologists (ALGE) and the British Standards Institution (BSI) published PAS 2010  Planning to halt the loss of biodiversity; biodiversity conservation standards in the United Kingdom; A Code of Practice. This document specifies key responsibilities and tasks that competent planning authorities should undertake and perform if they are to consistently and effectively give due regard to biodiversity conservation in the exercise of their forward planning and development control and management functions. It was always envisaged that this would be the first element of a three part strategy – the second element being to develop a web based toolkit for the development community.

ALGE, with support from Defra and Scottish Natural Heritage, and several other governmental, professional and specialist organisations*, employed consultant Mike Oxford to lead on the planning and design of the toolkit, supported by Phil Lomax of Green Dimensions and with graphics and web site realisation by Buffalo Design and Zoo Media. A working pilot of the toolkit is planned for launch by the end of June 2010 on http://www.biodiversityplanningtoolkit.com

Further development of the toolkit to achieve its full potential will be dependent on generating additional financial support. If you would like to support the development of the toolkit, or you would like to be involved in testing the pilot toolkit or you would like further information, please contact either Mike Oxford michaeloxford@btinternet.com or Phil Lomax phil.lomax@green-dimensions.co.uk .

* A number of interested stakeholders from Government, the planning community and the biodiversity conservation community have joined together to help deliver the toolkit:

      Association of Local Government Ecologists
      Barn Owl Trust

      Bat Conservation Trust                                                         
      Countryside Council for Wales

      Defra                                                                          
      Department of Environment Northern Ireland

      Environment Agency                                                 
      Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management

      Natural England                                                                     
      Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

      Royal Town Planning Institute                                               
      Scottish Executive

      Scottish Natural Heritage                                          
      The Wildlife Trusts

 

Green Dimensionsundertakes Appropriate Assessment for the Test Valley Borough Council, Core Strategy

This report was commissioned by Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC), to assist the Council in assessing whether its Core Strategy Development Plan Document was likely to have any significant effects on the integrity of any sites or species of European conservation importance within or adjacent to the borough. The Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended) give effect in England to the EC Habitats Directive and the EC Birds Directive. In particular, the Habitats Regulations give effect to Article 6(3) of the Habitats Directive which requires that in respect of all European sites:

“Any plan or project not directly connected with or necessary to the management of the site but likely to have a significant effect thereon, either individually or in combination with other plans and projects, shall be subject to appropriate assessment of its implications for the site in view of the site’s conservation objectives. In light of the conclusions of the assessment ………….the competent national authorities shall agree to the plan or project only after ascertaining that it will not adversely affect the integrity of the site concerned….”

This requirement applies to the preparation of Local Development Frameworks by Local Planning Authorities, of which the Core Strategy is the key document setting out the preferred spatial planning options and development control policies from which all other plans and documents flow.

The key to determining whether any plans could have an adverse effect on the integrity of a European site is the process of Appropriate Assessment (AA). The DCLG published guidance for the AA of Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) and Local Development Documents (LDD) in August 2006. This guidance describes AA as a three step process:

Step 1   – Determine the likely significant effects of the plan on the European sites.

Step 2 – If there is a likely significant effect, then undertake a full Appropriate Assessment to ascertain the effects on the integrity of the European site in relation to the conservation objectives of the site.

Step 3 – If an adverse effect is identified, then consideration needs to be given as to how the effect could be mitigated.

TVBC carried out an initial screening of the Core Strategy Preferred Options in January 2008. In consultation with Natural England and the Environment Agency, the Screening Report considered the potential effects of the Core Strategy Preferred Options and Development Control policies on all European sites within the Test Valley Borough and up to 10km outside of the borough boundary.

This identified 15 SACs, SPAs and Ramsar sites that may be affected. The initial screening assessment eliminated 10 of these and the green dimensions report focused on assessing the remaining 5 Natura 2000 sites in relation to key Core Strategy policies on housing development, commercial and industrial development.

The 100 page Appropriate Assessment report concluded that there were no likely significant effects on the Emer Bog or Mottisfont Bats SACs. However, there remained uncertainties about the recreational impacts of new residential development on the New Forest and the impacts on water quality in the Solent and Southampton Water from the scale of proposed residential development in Andover, due to the capacity of the Fullerton Sewage Treatment Works on the River Test (a main tributary of Southampton Water).In discussions between  Test Valley Borough Council and Natural England and the Environment Agency, it was agreed that the provision of an alternative countryside recreation site – a proposed new Forest Park in southern Test Valley – could mitigate the potential recreational impacts on the New Forest. Furthermore, limiting the number of new houses built in the Andover area to within the estimated capacity of the Fullerton STW would maintain current levels of water quality.

Green Dimensionscarries out an Appropriate Assessment for proposed new 1600 home residential site near Romsey

This report was commissioned by Glowfern Ltd, through its planning agents Lucken Beck Ltd. and on behalf of a consortium of the other property owners of land at Halterworth near Romsey. The purpose of the report was to assist Glowfern Ltd. and Test Valley Borough Council, in assessing whether its proposals for residential use and development is likely to have any significant effects on the integrity of any sites or species of European conservation importance. In putting forward this land as an alternative location to meet housing targets in southern Test Valley, Glowfern Ltd. did not want its proposal disadvantaged or compromised by not having had such an assessment, when the preferred strategic development sites in the Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) Core Strategy DPD   had already been assessed (see above).

The 37 page assessment concluded that the proposed development of 1600 new houses was unlikely to have a significant effect on the Mottisfont Bats SAC because the site lay outside the 7.5 km bat foraging zone. It was unlikely to have a significant effect on the Solent Maritime SAC or the Solent and Southampton Water SPA/Ramsar, so long as the infrastructure and capacity of the Romsey Greenhill Sewage Treatment Works was increased to accommodate the additional waste water. Furthermore, it was unlikely to have a significant effect on the Emer Bog SAC or the New Forest SAC/SPA/Ramsar via additional recreational impacts so long as adequate public open space alternatives were provided for the new residents of the area.

However   the proposed development site is a ‘safeguarded’ minerals area, policies on which are ‘saved’ in the new Hampshire Minerals and Waste Core Strategy DPD, July 2007.Pending further investigations, there remained uncertainties over the likely significant effects of mineral extraction (and possible subsequent land filling to achieve a viable development platform) on the sensitive hydrology and water chemistry of the nearby Emer Bog SAC.

Folded Corner:   can carry out an environmental assessment of your plan or project. Contact us to discuss what we can do for you.

Green Dimensionsprovides expert witness support at planning inquiry

At the request of Test Valley Borough Council, green dimensions produced a Proof of Evidence and appeared at the planning inquiry to support its case on appeal, for refusal of planning permission for a recreational high ropes course in a woodland SINC (Site of Importance for Nature Conservation).(Planning Inspectorate Reference: APP/C1760/A/08/2071069/NWF. Local Planning Authority Ref: 07/02374/FULLN, November 2008).

In support of the Council’s case for refusal, green dimensions presented the Inspector with the following evidence:

  • Described the ecology of the appeal site and the reasons for its identification as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC);
  • Explained the criteria for the designation of SINC sites in Hampshire and demonstrated that the appeal site met the criteria;
  • Demonstrated how SINC sites, and in particular the appeal site, contribute towards the achievement of national, regional and local government objectives and targets with respect to sustainable development and biodiversity conservation;
  • Demonstrated the special importance accorded to woodland habitats, particularly ancient woodland, in national and regional planning policy and strategy;
  • Questioned the purpose and findings of the ecological report which supported the planning application;
  • Whilst noting anomalies and the lack of key details in the submitted planning application, examined the potential impacts on the ecology and nature conservation importance of the appeal site and surrounding areas;
  • Noted that no proposals were included with the planning application for the avoidance, mitigation or compensation for the potential impacts on nature conservation;
  • It concluded that the proposed use and development of the site presents a significant risk of adverse effects on the ecology and nature conservation interests of the woodland and that the Council was justified therefore in refusing planning permission.

The appeal site consists of 2.48 ha of copse within the 600 acre Harewood Forest SINC. Harewood Forest is believed to be the second largest area of ancient woodland in the south of England and was mentioned in the 10th Century Saxon Chronicles as the Forest of Chute. 44 species of vascular plants indicative of ancient woodland have been recorded from within the site, as well as 11 different woodland stand types.

The appeal focused on whether the creation and use of a recreational high ropes course within a copse that had been felled and re-planted with Douglas Fir, would have a harmful effect on the ecology of the SINC woodland, contrary to planning policy. 

Folded Corner:   can provide expert witness support for your planning appeal and inquiry. Contact us to discuss what we can do for you.

Roe doe
Bee orchid
Stag beetle
New Forest heathland
River Test, Longstock
Broad-bodied chaser
Mute swans
The Leicester Ecology Strategy produced for Leicester City Council won an Association of Local Government Ecologists (ALGE) national award.
Watermead Park Nature Reserve being created following sand and gravel extraction in Leicester.
Meadow cranesbill
Golden plover
Lanchester Valley Way
Rabbit
Fly agaric
Netley Marsh
Roundall
Hurst Castle and the salt marsh
Web Site Development and Wildlife Photography by Andrew Walmsley
Copyright © 2008 Phil Lomax and Andrew Walmsley  All rights reserved
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