Habitat regulations assessments and mitigating risk.
We’re proud of our track record with plan-level habitat regulations assessments (HRAs). In Scotland, we’ve assessed documents such as forest and woodland strategies, and developed a spatial tool to help the Scottish Government assess the implications of proposals for the third National Planning Framework.
A recent example of our HRA expertise was a project for New Forest District Council. At examination, concerns had been raised about the local plan’s compliance with the Habitats Regulations.
We carried out an in-depth review of the evidence that New Forest and Solent Coast sites may be vulnerable to recreation pressure. Concluding that they may, we estimated the effects potentially resulting from the development proposed in the local plan. We followed this up by analysing potential strategies, before establishing the best strategy to avoid, reduce and offset potential recreation pressure: a mitigation strategy the council then used for its supplementary planning document.
Throughout, we enabled real engagement with conservation stakeholder bodies. As a result, Natural England supported the council’s new approach. At examination, the inspector concluded: “…the plan is sound and the conclusions of the revised HRA are justified.” The local plan has since been adopted.