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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 a Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Ramsar (wetlands). Consequently, applicants and decision makers 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 these protected sites to ensure legal compliance.
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 can be certain will fully mitigate the impacts on the designated site.
We have prepared a template for completing Unilateral Undertakings to enable a financial contribution to be made to the Authority for ecological mitigation. The Unilateral Undertaking template and accompanying guidance note is available here.
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 Submission draft Local Plan, January 2018
- The updated HRA Addendum of the Local Plan, July 2018
The HRA of the Local Plan concluded that prior to mitigation, in combination adverse effects on the integrity of the New Forest SPA and SAC from recreation pressure cannot be ruled out as a result of any residential or visitor accommodation development within the National Park. Consequently, mitigation is required for all proposals for new residential and visitor accommodation for their recreational impacts on these New Forest designated sites.
This HRA 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.
Impacts of nutrients from new development on internationally designated nature conservation sites
Details of how nutrients from new residential and visitor accommodation development can impact the protected sites, the method of calculating a nutrient budget, and how applicants can comply with the Habitats Regulations can be found at Nutrient mitigation – New Forest National Park Authority (newforestnpa.gov.uk).
Complying with the Habitats Regulations and Local Plan Policies
The Authority has devised a package of appropriate mitigation measures in a Revised Habitat Mitigation Scheme SPD (see below) that will allow most residential and visitor accommodation proposals to mitigate their recreational impacts on the New Forest SPA / SAC. 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.
This Revised Habitat Mitigation Scheme SPD was adopted in July 2020 and provides guidance on the implementation of Policy SP5 of the Local Plan: Nature conservation sites of international importance. It outlines how recreational impacts on the protected New Forest nature conservation sites can be mitigated through a financial contribution to the Revised Habitat Mitigation Scheme. The current level of this financial contribution can be seen here.
This SPD replaces the Habitat Mitigation Scheme contained in the Development Standards SPD (2012) and reflects the slightly higher level of development planned in the new Local Plan, recognition that mitigation is required for the lifetime of the development, and the latest evidence on mitigating impacts.
In relation to the Solent coastal designations, mitigation can be provided through the SRMP Recreation Mitigation Strategy and developers can make a contribution to this 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. This note is updated in April each year to reflect the revised level of developer contributions required to deliver the identified mitigation measures.
While developments covered by permitted development do not need planning permission, they must still comply with the Habitats Regulations and therefore these types of development may also require mitigation. This will affect any permitted development that could create additional recreational visits to the protected conservation areas. Please contact the Planning Team for advice.
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.
Guidance for temporary pop-up campsites
We have produced a Guidance Note relating to temporary pop-up campsites and the requirements of the Habitats Regulations. It is a condition of any permitted development right that development which is likely to have a significant effect on protected nature conservation sites cannot commence without the approval of the local planning authority under the Habitats Regulations.
To apply to the Authority to demonstrate compliance with the Habitats Regulations, please complete and return the Temporary campsites – HRA Information Form to firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition, new planning guidelines have been agreed for new and larger temporary ‘pop up’ campsites within the New Forest National Park, to help protect the environment and local communities. From 30 September 2022, temporary 28-day campsites with 51 pitches or more, and any 28-day campsite established after 1 March 2020 will need planning permission from the National Park Authority. Please see our web page for further information and related documents.
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.
The implementation of our Habitat Mitigation Scheme is overseen by a Steering Group comprising Natural England, key wildlife charities, our neighbouring planning authority and specialist officers of the Authority. Following the adoption of the revised Habitat Mitigation Scheme SPD in 2020 it was decided to produce a report covering the implementation of the Scheme. The reports are set out below:
- Annual Report 2019 – 2020 on Implementation of the Habitat Mitigation Scheme
- Annual Report 2020 – 2021 on Implementation of the Habitat Mitigation Scheme
- Annual Report 2021 – 2022 on Implementation of the Habitat Mitigation Scheme
Research into recreation impacts arising from development within and surrounding the National Park
Increasing levels of new housing development are planned in and around the New Forest. Research has been undertaken to understand the impacts of recreation arising from this development on the New Forest’s internationally protected habitats and the potential for mitigation. This research can be found here.
The research was jointly commissioned by six local planning authorities (including the National Park Authority), together with Natural England and Forestry England, with funding from central government.
These research reports help local planning authorities understand the impacts of planned new housing. This work defines a catchment area within which new development would have an impact on the New Forest’s designated sites due to visitor pressure and provides a basis for the relevant planning authorities to seek mitigation. Natural England endorses the conclusions of these research reports and supports their use as the best available information.
More New Forest Planning policy
Planning policy is a key statutory function and plays a central role in the achievement of the two National Park purposes and the related socio-economic duty.