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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:
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 draft 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. These measures and the revised level of developer contribution will be used for all applications that need to secure mitigation. 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.
Consultation on draft Revised Habitat Mitigation Scheme Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) – January 2020
This draft SPD provides guidance on the implementation of Policy SP5 of the Local Plan: Nature conservation sites of international importance and 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 draft SPD covers proposed new development throughout the National Park.
This draft SPD revises the existing 2012 Habitat Mitigation Scheme and reflects the 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.
Representations are invited on the draft Revised Habitat Mitigation Scheme SPD between Wednesday 8 January and 12 noon on Wednesday 19 February 2020. Comments received outside these dates will not be considered.
The draft Revised Habitat Mitigation Scheme SPD, supporting documents and consultation response form can be viewed and completed online at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/consultation or at the New Forest National Park Authority office at Lymington Town Hall, Avenue Road, Lymington SO41 9ZG during office hours.
All of the representations made during the 6-week consultation period will be considered and any amendments will be made before the revised SPD is considered at a full National Park Authority meeting for formal adoption.
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.
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.