Habitats Regulations Assessment

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Comment

Consultation Draft (February 2017)

Representation ID: 5453

Received: 05/04/2017

Respondent: Natural England (Lincoln office)

Representation:

Habitat Regulations Assessment
We note that the intention is for the HRA screening to be revisited at publication stage of the plan. We advise that the HRA is an iterative process and would need to be updated to inform the plan as it progresses. The HRA should be used to refine options as they are developed to ensure that the requirements of the Habitat Regulations are met. If the HRA is not revisited until the publication stage when the allocations are finalised it would not be informing the options.

Full text:


Natural England welcomes the North East Derbyshire Local Plan and has made the following comments for your consideration on the Consultation Draft, Habitats Regulations Assessment and the Sustainability Appraisal:

3. Vision and Objectives
Natural England generally supports the vision particularly the aspiration to provide accessible Green Infrastructure and biodiversity networks and to strengthen the District's role as a gateway to the Peak District.

We have the following comments on the Local Plan Objectives:
D8: Addressing Climate Change - we suggest this objective should also reference the provision of green infrastructure to assist with climate change adaptation.
D11: Environmental Protection - we are pleased to note that the wording within this objective has been clarified from the initial draft document by including "nature conservation sites".

SS1: Sustainable Development
Natural England considers that this policy provides a clear framework for the achievement of sustainable development and particularly welcomes the provisions for the protection and enhancement of green infrastructure and local landscapes (h) and protection of the best quality agricultural land (i).

SS4: The Avenue, Wingerworth
We welcome bullet point (g) which provides pedestrian and cycle routes through green infrastructure where there would be no impact on biodiversity. We also support point (j) which aims to maintain and improve existing areas of habitat and species and promotes measures for habitat creation. This site has great potential to make positive green infrastructure and biodiversity gains for the benefit of both wildlife and local residents therefore these opportunities should be maximised during the earliest stages of the development.

SS5: Former Biwaters Site, Clay Cross
We welcome the provision in this policy at bullet point (j) for a wildlife corridor and buffer zone beside the River Rother and we suggest that this should link to the wider green infrastructure network.

SS6: Markham Vale, Long Duckmanton
We acknowledge the provision for structural landscaping and green infrastructure as set out at point (c) and suggest that this should link to the wider green infrastructure network.

SS7: Land to the south of Markham Vale
We acknowledge the provision for structural landscaping and green infrastructure as set out at point (d) and the protection of the adjacent Local Wildlife Site and biodiversity interest of the Doe Lea corridor.

SS8: Coalite Regeneration Area
Whilst we welcome the protection of the biodiversity value of Doe Lea corridor at point (d), this site has great potential to make positive green infrastructure and biodiversity gains and therefore opportunities to incorporate green infrastructure during the development of the masterplan should be maximised.

LC1: Housing Allocations
j. Land north of Eckington Road, Coal Aston, Dronfield
We note that this proposed allocation for 180 houses is in close proximity to the Moss Valley Woods SSSI and ancient woodland. We would wish to ensure that any future development proposals can demonstrate that there will be no adverse effect on the interest features of this nationally designated area in terms of increased recreational disturbance and air or water pollution. We note that the potential impact of this site has been mentioned within the Sustainability Appraisal (paragraph 3.4.28)

WC6: Visitor and Tourism Economy
Natural England generally supports the approach that this policy takes of enhancing tourism whilst protecting designated sites and landscape character and extending green infrastructure. We also welcome the restoration of the Chesterfield Canal.

SDC2 - Trees, Woodland & Hedgerows - support
Natural England welcomes this policy which offers protection to ancient woodlands and veteran trees and complies with paragraph 118 of the NPPF.

SDC3: Landscape Character
We welcome this policy and note that the policy draws upon the evidence set out in the Derbyshire Landscape Character Assessment. We also welcome reference to the National Character Areas at paragraph 8.12 of the accompanying text.

SDC4: Biodiversity & Geodiversity
Natural England generally supports the approach that this policy takes and particularly welcomes the intention to provide net gains in biodiversity. However we suggest there are a couple of points that you may want to consider which would clarify and strengthen the policy wording:
 The wording should distinguish more clearly between international, national and local sites to reflect more clearly the advice set out in paragraph 113 of the NPPF. Whilst the status of European sites is shown, the importance of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) which are national designations is not clear. The policy needs to set out that any proposal that causes significant harm to a SSSI will not normally be granted permission.

 The policy wording should be clarified to explain that the avoidance-mitigation-compensation hierarchy should be applied generally to planning applications so that it more accurately reflects the guidance set out in paragraph 118 of the NPPF: "if significant harm resulting from a development cannot be avoided (through locating on an alternative site with less harmful impacts), adequately mitigated, or, as a last resort, compensated for, then planning permission should be refused". The current wording appears only to apply to protected species.

SD10: Decentralised, Renewable and Low Carbon Energy Generation
Natural England generally welcomes safeguards within this policy for the ecology of the area including protected species, sites of biodiversity value, and ancient woodlands. We suggest the policy should strengthen the wording concerning landscape protection to ensure that adverse effects are addressed satisfactorily, including cumulative landscape and visual impacts.

SDC12 Flood Risk
We welcome point (e) of the policy wording which makes provision for green infrastructure gains within areas set aside for surface water management. We would suggest that there could also be opportunities for biodiversity gains within these areas.

We also welcome the provision for the incorporation of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) within developments to manage surface water drainage, and suggest that the policy should encourage the maximisation of biodiversity and amenity value within these areas.

Policy SDC13: High Quality Design and Place-Making
We generally welcome this policy particularly the integration of green infrastructure into developments (points g & j), opportunities for biodiversity enhancement (l) and the provision of SuDs and green and brown roofs (n).

LP14: Environmental Quality
We are pleased to note that this policy covers water, air, noise and light pollution. We particularly welcome the inclusion in paragraph 8.72 of the requirement for HRA if development proposals are likely to increase air pollution in the vicinity of a Natura 2000 site. We also welcome the reference to tranquillity in the section on noise pollution.

We acknowledge that the protection of agricultural land has been mentioned within policy SSI but we also suggest that the plan should include the protection of soils. We note that the accompanying sustainability appraisal at paragraph 6.49.1 explains that this policy would reduce air, soil and water pollution however the policy wording should more accurately reflect this aim.

Soil is a finite resource, and fulfils many roles that are beneficial to society. As a component of the natural environment, it is important that soils are protected and used sustainably. The plan should recognise that development (soil sealing) has a major and usually irreversible adverse impact on soils. Mitigation should aim to minimise soil disturbance and to retain as many ecosystem services as possible through careful soil management during the construction process. Soils of high environmental value (e.g. wetland and carbon stores such as peatland) should also be considered as part of ecological connectivity. We advise that policy refers to the Defra Code of practice for the sustainable use of soils on construction sites.

IDI: Green Infrastructure
Natural England welcomes this policy as it provides protection for existing Green Infrastructure (GI) and encourages the incorporation of new, high quality GI at the earliest stages of development. We are also pleased to note the intention to link to ecological networks and to protect landscape features such as trees, hedgerows and watercourses.

We welcome the reference to the Green Infrastructure Study (2012) and are pleased to note that this will be updated We are also pleased to note that this policy protects and enhances public rights of way and access.

Policy ID2: Chesterfield Canal
We generally support this policy as it will contribute to both the biodiversity and green infrastructure of the District.

ID6: Sustainable Travel
Natural England generally supports the approach that this policy takes but suggests that the provision of pedestrian and cycle routes may allow for opportunities to link to the wider GI network through green verges and natural footpaths.

Habitat Regulations Assessment
We note that the intention is for the HRA screening to be revisited at publication stage of the plan. We advise that the HRA is an iterative process and would need to be updated to inform the plan as it progresses. The HRA should be used to refine options as they are developed to ensure that the requirements of the Habitat Regulations are met. If the HRA is not revisited until the publication stage when the allocations are finalised it would not be informing the options.

Sustainability Appraisal (SA)
The Sustainability Appraisal at this stage of the Local Plan has involved the appraisal of a selection of alternative development options. We acknowledge that the objectives within the SA framework generally cover our interests and we particular welcome the inclusion of objectives on climate change, pollution reduction, biodiversity & geodiversity and landscape character. However we suggest that you may want to consider including green infrastructure and green/open spaces within the objectives list to ensure that this topic is fully considered throughout the appraisal exercise.