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Development Impacts on Protected Areas

Recreational Impacts from new development on internationally designated nature conservation sites

Much of the New Forest National Park is home to rare habitats and birds and has been designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Areas (SPA) and as Ramsar sites (wetlands). Consequently, applicants must consider how development proposals could impact these areas and ensure they are not adversely affected.

All new residential development and visitor accommodation throughout the New Forest National Park will require mitigation for their recreational impacts on the New Forest SPA and SAC.

All new residential development and visitor accommodation within 5.6 kilometres of the Solent SPA, SAC and Ramsar sites will also require mitigation for recreational impacts on these coastal designated sites.

Specific tests within the Habitats Regulations, including an appropriate assessment of the potential impacts, ensure that new development can only proceed if it is ascertained that the proposed development will not adversely affect the integrity of the protected sites. All applications for new residential and visitor accommodation will require an appropriate assessment of their likely significant effects on the sites.

Mitigation can take the form of a financial contribution to the relevant habitat mitigation schemes or through bespoke measures provided by the applicant that we can be certain will fully mitigate the impacts on the designated site.

The need for mitigation

All new proposed development needs to be assessed to determine whether it could affect the integrity of these designated sites through:

  • recreational impacts resulting from new housing and visitor accommodation
  • urban edge impacts of new development very close to the boundary of a site
  • the range of other impacts outlined in the Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) of the Local Plan.

The HRA summarises the research of potential impacts on designated sites in the National Park.

The HRA of the Local Plan also supports the evidence from the Solent Recreation Mitigation Partnership (SRMP) that recreational impacts cannot be ruled out for any residential development within 5.6 kilometres of the Solent SPA, SAC and Ramsar sites that cover the coast. Therefore, mitigation will also be required for the recreational impacts on these coastal designated sites.

Complying with the Habitats Regulations and Local Plan Policies

We have devised a package of appropriate mitigation measures in our Habitat Mitigation Scheme that will allow most residential and visitor accommodation proposals to mitigate their recreational impacts on the New Forest SPA / SAC. Our current Mitigation Scheme can be found in Chapter 6 of the Development Standards SPD. Financial contributions will be used to implement a range of measures that will mitigate the recreational impacts of new development on the designated sites. This approach is supported by Natural England.

In relation to the coastal Solent SPA and SAC designations, mitigation can be provided through the SRMP Recreation Mitigation Strategy and developers can make a contribution to this SRMP scheme to ensure mitigation for their proposals (in most cases). Please see the Solent Recreation Mitigation Strategy Note for details of how to do this.

Policy SP5 in the adopted Local Plan (2019) sets out the planning policy requirements for development to avoid impacts on the protected habitat sites. All new residential development and visitor accommodation throughout the National Park will require mitigation. Developments covered by prior approval and permitted development must also comply with the Habitats Regulations and these types of development also require mitigation.

It should also be noted that there may be developments where, due to their scale, type, or proximity to the designated sites, avoidance or mitigation or a contribution to a Habitat Mitigation Scheme may not be possible.

Monitoring and Reporting

Reporting of the funds raised through developer contributions and how this is being spent on mitigation measures is included in the Annual Monitoring Report.



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