Site analysis for local plan designation.

We were engaged by Nottinghamshire County Council to help Ashfield District Council determine whether it was feasible and appropriate to allocate housing for a particular site in the local plan.

The site in question was Rushley Farm, which was bordered by woodland habitat identified by Natural England for possible inclusion in a prospective Sherwood Forest special protection area (SPA), because of its suitability for nesting woodlark and nightjar, both listed as Annex 1 birds under the EU’s Bird Directive.

We embarked upon a habitat regulations assessment (HRA) to gauge the possible impacts. It was highly theoretical, as the SPA was not confirmed and no detailed development proposals existed, and so we employed a risk-based approach to determine whether it would be possible to build housing without adversely affecting an SPA if one were to be designated. We also undertook surveys for woodlark and nightjar to support the assessment.

Our conclusion was that a housing scheme at Rushley Farm could be achieved without significant impact on the integrity of any future SPA, providing key design principles, mitigation and compensation measures were implemented. Our HRA was independently deemed robust and appropriate by Natural England, and the site allocation was included in the local plan.

For immediate advice on planning or ecology issues and HRAs, please contact Taran Livingston or Peter Lawrence.