Habitats Regulations Assessment of Greater Norwich Regulation 18 Draft Plan (December 2019)

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Comment

Full Evidence Base

Representation ID: 21838

Received: 16/03/2020

Respondent: Natural England

Representation:

Natural England welcomes the production of the latest Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) report, dated December 2019, and prepared by The Landscape Partnership. We previously commented on the interim HRA in our response (dated 21 March 2018; our ref 235617) to the GNLP growth options and site proposals consultation.
Please note under 1.6.1 that the final sentence should refer to Natural Resources Wales rather than one of its predecessors, Countryside Council for Wales.
The designated sites have been identified correctly and we agree with the likely significant effects identified under 3.2.1. Under the second bullet point it would be good to amend the text as follows:
 “Increased pressure on water resources: The new homes and businesses would require a reliable source of drinking water…”.
This would recognise that water is essential for both new residential and employment allocations, as well as potentially being required in the operation of some businesses beyond the usual daily hygiene requirements.
As outlined in our response to the Local Plan above, Natural England has concerns whether the current wording and supporting text of various Plan policies are sufficient to secure the delivery of the mitigation measures identified in the HRA.

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Full text:

Natural England is a non-departmental public body. Our statutory purpose is to ensure that the natural environment is conserved, enhanced, and managed for the benefit of present and future generations, thereby contributing to sustainable development.
We support Broadland District, Norwich City and South Norfolk Councils’ preparation of a joint Local Plan to ensure a consistent approach to planning across the Greater Norwich area, with policies aligned with the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

We have made detailed comments in this letter in relation to the following Greater Norwich Local Plan (GNLP) consultation documents:
 Draft Local Plan – Part 1 The Strategy
 Draft Sites Document
 Habitats Regulations Assessment of GNLP, December 2019
 Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment, January 2020

Natural England acknowledges that the findings of supporting documents including the draft Greater Norwich Water Cycle Study (WCS) (AECOM 2019) and the emerging Green Infrastructure and Recreational Impact Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy (GIRAMS) will need to be incorporated in the policies of the Local Plan and supporting documents, once these are finalised.
To summarise our response briefly, we broadly welcome the progress and development of aspects of the Local Plan and supporting documents to date, though Natural England is not yet satisfied that the relevant Plan polices will provide sufficient mitigation to ensure that there will be no adverse impacts to designated sites alone, and in-combination, through changes in water quality and resources and in regard to recreational disturbance, and to demonstrate that policies are sustainable.

Comment

Full Evidence Base

Representation ID: 22061

Received: 16/03/2020

Respondent: Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Representation:

Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA)
There is a legal requirement for the plan to be accompanied by a HRA demonstrating that the plan will not result in any adverse effects on European Sites before the plan can be adopted. Our detailed comments are given below, but we wish to highlight our overall concerns with the conclusions drawn by the draft HRA issued at this stage. The conclusions that adverse effects on the River Wensum SAC and the suite of Broads European Sites appear to mostly depend on an evidence base being produced by third parties that is not yet complete. We therefore disagree with the overall conclusion of the draft HRA that there would be no adverse effects on European Sites either alone or in combination with other plans and projects. This issue will need resolving prior to publication of the submission version of the plan. We request a direct meeting with the Council and their consultants, ideally alongside other nature conservation bodies, as soon as possible after the consultation in order to discuss the outstanding actions required to ensure the HRA is completed satisfactorily in time for the submission stage.

Full text:

Thank you for consulting Norfolk Wildlife Trust on the draft Greater Norwich Local Plan. We have attempted to comment wherever possible in response to the questions set out in the consultation, but have a number of comments which cover multiple policies or supporting documents and so have compiled our comments in this letter.
See attached for full submission

Attachments:

Comment

Full Evidence Base

Representation ID: 22070

Received: 16/03/2020

Respondent: Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Representation:

Habitats Regulations Assessment
There appears to be an over-reliance in the HRA on third party reporting to provide evidence that adverse effects on Habitats Regulations sites can be avoided. The HRA presumes that the water cycle and recreational pressure studies will be delivered in time and able to cover all the points the HRA needs them to. There is a clear risk to delivery of the plan by relying on work by third parties which is not yet complete and the HRA appears to offer no indication regarding the completion of these studies in relation to the Local Plan production timetable. At this stage, we would expect the HRA to state the limitations of the evidence base, note the likely completion dates for the studies in comparison to the plan production schedule, and conclude that at this stage it is not possible to rule out adverse effects on several European Sites due to the need for third parties to complete their studies and for the recommendations of those studies to be accepted and be deliverable. There is a clear need for these studies to be completed and to be made publicly available for scrutiny before consultation on the final draft of the GNLP occurs.
Wea re also concerned at the approach taken in section 8.2.2 of the HRA regarding the potential impacts of the NWL on the River Wensum SAC and the anticipated increases in traffic flows on the A146 from allocations on the Broads suite of European Sites. The HRA identifies Likely Significant Effects on these sites from growth promoted in the plan, but at the Appropriate Assessment stage in 8.2.2 of the HRA it proposes adding the following wording ‘provided that it can be achieved without causing an adverse effect on the integrity of the [European Site]’. We do not believe the addition of this wording is sufficient to ensure that the plan will avoid any adverse effects on the European Sites as it defers any assessment to the planning application stage without being able to provide any certainty that the project level HRA could be passed. Whilst the recommended wording is technically correct in that any planning application would need to demonstrate that it can avoid adverse effects on European Sites, this is a non-negotiable legal obligation required of planning applications, and referring to it in the Local Plan HRA is not proof that the adverse effects of the plan can be avoided. Therefore, until such time as robust evidence is provided that these adverse effects can be avoided through modifications to the plan, the HRA should be revised to conclude that adverse effects on the River Wensum SAC and the suite of Broads European Sites from these infrastructure elements promoted by the plan cannot be ruled out. Any allocations dependent on the delivery of this infrastructure are at risk of not being deliverable until such HRA issues are investigated and concluded robustly.
We also note from survey effort to date the likely presence of a nationally significant breeding colony of barbastelle bats, one of the UK’s rarest bat species. All UK bat species and their roosts are legally protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act and the Habitats Regulations, and advice from government’s nature conservation advisors the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, is that due to their rarity, any barbastelle breeding site would qualify for designation as a Special Area of Conservation. Given the ecological value of land on the proposed western link route and the need for extensive further survey efforts to inform the impact assessment, we believe it is premature to conclude that this infrastructure proposal will be able to comply with the Habitats Regulations and gain consent.
Section 11.4.1 of the HRA makes two references to other assessment work where the HRA presumes that HRA work carried out by a third party (footpaths being promoted by the County Council in Acle and Loddon) has ruled out adverse effects. We are surprised that this conclusion has been reached based on a presumption rather than with direct reference to the HRA mentioned and recommend that further evidence is sought.

Full text:

Thank you for consulting Norfolk Wildlife Trust on the draft Greater Norwich Local Plan. We have attempted to comment wherever possible in response to the questions set out in the consultation, but have a number of comments which cover multiple policies or supporting documents and so have compiled our comments in this letter.
See attached for full submission

Attachments: