Supplementary Planning Documents

Special Protection Area SPD

The Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits Special Protection Area (SPA) Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) has been produced to help Local Planning Authorities, developers and others ensure that development has no significant effect on the SPA, in accordance with the legal requirements of the Habitats Regulations. The SPD was endorsed by Planning Policy Committee in February 2016 and outlines a consistent approach to both consulting Natural England and identifying potential significant effects on the SPA’s qualifying features.

The SPA SPD has been adopted by East Northamptonshire Council as a statutory SPD.

An addendum to the SPA SPD was found to be needed during the examination of the North Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy (adopted July 2016) where Natural England required a mitigation strategy to be put into place to meet Habitats Regulations. This was consulted on over a six week period, finishing in September. Representations received were considered and some alterations were made before final adoption at Planning Policy Committee on 21 November 2016 (Agenda Item 6).

Questions and Answers on the Mitigation Strategy

Q. What is the Upper Nene Valley and Gravel Pits Special Protection Area?

A.  This Special Protection Area (SPA) was formally classified by UK Government in 2011. It covers 1358 hectares in four local authorities in Northamptonshire. It is a site comprising of 20 separate blocks of water and land along the River Nene.

Q. Why is it important?

A. The site has been designated as a Special Protection Area because it is used regularly by 1% or more of the Great British population of bird species such as the Golden Plover and Bittern. It has been designated as an area to provide increased protection and management due to the importance of the area for breeding, wintering and migration of rare and vulnerable species of bird.

Q. Why is there a need for mitigation?

A. The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (known as the 'Habitats Regulations') set out how Local Planning Authorities must deal with planning applications that have potential to impact on Special Protection Areas and other European protected sites. The legislation says that local planning authorities must not grant consent for a development that would, either alone or in-combination with other developments, have a likely significant effect on a European protected site, unless full mitigation is provided.

Q. How can a developer provide mitigation?

A. The mitigation strategy (linked at the top of this page) provides a way for development schemes to provide mitigation for the impact of additional recreation on the Special Protection Area which will be generated by new housing within a 3km radius.

If the developer commits to paying the developer contribution set out in that Strategy in order to mitigate the effect of their development, then it is possible to conclude that a significant effect on the SPA as a result of the development is unlikely. This enables development to go ahead in compliance with the Habitats Regulations and enables developers to deal with the issue quickly, simply and at minimal cost.

The alternative would be for the developer to gather their own evidence for a Habitats Regulations Assessment and then to implement the necessary bespoke mitigation measures (or demonstrate that none are required). This assessment would likely have a much higher cost than if the developer were to make a contribution to the implementation of the Mitigation Strategy (linked at the top of the page).

A proforma has been created to help developers in submitting mitigation contribution measures;

Q. Why does a payment have to be made towards mitigation when building new houses?

A. The additional population from the building of new homes will mean an increase in recreational activity along the river nene. The ‘in-combination’ impact of proposals involving a net increase of one more dwellings within a 3km radius of the SPA are concluded to have an adverse effect on the integrity unless avoidance and mitigation measures are in place. This is through an increase in visitors that will in turn increase the level of disturbance to the wintering waterbirds, particularly though dog walking.

Q. What is a SAMM?

A. The financial contribution will go towards Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMM). It is a facility to provide suitable mitigation in the affected areas to reduce the adverse impact of people visiting the SPA through specific measures and monitoring.

Q. What is the extent of the area where new housing needs to provide mitigation?

A. The extent of the area can be viewed on the Council’s interactive mapping system ‘In My Area’ and ticking the SPA buffer layer. A map is also viewable in Appendix 1 of the Mitigation Strategy.

Q. Why does a new dwelling up to 3km away have an impact on the birds?

A. Evidence demonstrates that visitors come mainly from within a 3km zone around the SPA. Therefore new development that falls within the 3km buffer can be seen to be directly increasing visitors to the SPA. The ‘in-combination’ impact of proposals involving a net increase of one or more dwellings within a 3km radius of the SPA are concluded to have an adverse effect on its integrity unless avoidance and mitigation measures are in place. Walkers and dog walkers, by their nature means that their impact can be some distance away from the development site. The in-combination assessment and spread of the SPA means that the impact and therefore mitigation needs to take place across the SPA.

Q. Do I have to pay the developer contribution if I don’t agree with its purpose or how it is calculated?

A. Under the Habitats Regulations, a development which is likely to have a significant effect on a Special Protection Area must provide mitigation or otherwise must satisfy the tests of demonstrating 'no alternatives' and 'reasons of overriding public interest'. There is no precedent for a residential development meeting those tests, which means that all residential development must provide mitigation. Any residential proposal which does not provide mitigation would need to be refused by the local planning authority.

Q. Are other Authorities doing similar strategies?

A. There are over 20 other LAs collecting mitigation money for different SPAs around the country mainly through S111s. It should be noted that this mitigation has been bought in at ENC/BCW because of the recent update to planning policies (North Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy 2011-2031).