A Renewed Interest in Wharfedale about What Brussels Says
4th November 2013
A “rarely visited” piece of EU Legislation may cause problems for Planners, Developers Builders and Speculators in Wharfedale.
What is so Important about Bird habitats?
There are many views about the need for so much legislation coming out of Brussels. However, a lot of attention is currently being paid locally to “Habitats Regulations”- (The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010). These UK regulations respond to a requirement in EU Directives.
It appears that Bradford Council published their Local Development Framework, in 2011, ahead of the publication of their draft Habitats Regulations Assessment(HRA).
Natural England (a.k.a . English Nature) made comments to BMDC during the Consultation process. You can read their complete submission here (Download Natural England Report PDF). We have reproduced the section of the submission below, which highlights a potential problem for the Local Planners.
Why might it be important?? — the Societies’ researchers understand that protection for habitats can extend up to 2.5Km from Open Moorland with Special status. Many of the threatened sites in Wharfedale sit well within such a Boundary around Rombalds Moor, or even Beamsley!!
Wharfedale waits for the publication (November2013) of BMDC’s Local Plan with bated breath!!!!
Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA)
The Sustainability Appraisal of the Bradford Core Strategy – Further Engagement Draft (November 2011) refers to a HRA screening that is being undertaken to determine whether significant effects are likely on European designated sites. Natural England is disappointed that a HRA screening assessment is not part of the current consultation on the Core Strategy DPD.
Regulation 102 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (the Habitats Regulations) require local authorities to undertake a Habitats Regulations Assessment for all land use plans. Bradford MDC‟s Core Strategy is a land use plan that will be subject to such an assessment. It is therefore good practice to ensure that the requirements of the Regulations, and the potential effects on European sites, are considered in an iterative process from the earliest stages of the plan making procedures.
A Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) is required to ensure the protection of sites identified under the Natura 2000 network as sites of exceptional importance in respect of rare, endangered or vulnerable natural habitats and species within the European community. These sites are collectively known as European sites and European Offshore Marine Sites and consist of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). As a matter of policy the Government expects listed Ramsar sites to be assessed as if they were fully designated European sites. 9
The purpose of an HRA is to ensure that the proposals of any plan or project, or the cumulative effect of a number of plans or projects, will not adversely affect the integrity of any European Sites. The „integrity‟ of the site is defined by ODPM circular 06/2005 Biodiversity and Geological Conservation as the coherence of its, ecological structure and function, across its whole area that enables it to sustain the habitat, complex of habitats and/or levels of populations of species for which it was classified.
Natural England wishes to avoid the perception that a Habitats Regulations Assessment is an undue burden on the plan making process. This tends to be the perception where a large proportion of the general policies are considered likely to affect European sites, even where such effects are at best hypothetical, or are unlikely ever to occur. Rather we are concerned that the precautionary nature of the assessment is applied in such a way that the nature, scale and location of development proposals are formulated so as to avoid the likelihood of significant effects on European sites.
Please note that the advice provided above on the Core Strategy DPD: Further Engagement Draft is made in the absence of a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA). It is vital that a HRA is carried out with respect to the Core Strategy because, as a matter of law, it has to be subject to HRA before it is adopted. Natural England requests to be consulted on the updated HRA prior to formal publication stage.