But of course – ‘Your Waverley’ will continue to ignore it – along with others.

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The latest European Court ruling on protected habitats indicates that developers and planners should take a broader approach to assess the impacts of plans and projects on such zones, though experts are divided on the significance of the ruling.

Farnham Residents’ councillor Jerry Hyman has been banging on about this issue for as long as the Waverley Web has been in existence. But he is almost a lone voice at Waverley Towers – and is ridiculed for his concerns about the borough’s Special Protection Areas (SPA’s)  – and the effect development has on them.

Is it possible that the Farnham Residents’ councillor regularly ridiculed by Your Waverley has been proven right by – none other than the European Court of Justice?

New legal rulings on the European Union (EU) Habitats Directive keep on coming.

In April this year, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued a landmark ruling on habitat regulation assessments, which plans or projects in or near EU-designated special areas of conservation or special protection areas must undergo. Before the ruling, many developments which proposed mitigation measures to address their environmental impact had merely to pass an initial lighter-touch screening test rather than a full-blown habitats assessment. This process was insufficient, ruled the court, dictating that mitigation measures could only be considered as part of a more onerous ‘appropriate assessment’.
Three months later, the ECJ tightened the rules further for both developers and plan-makers. The court ruled that mitigation measures designed to compensate for a development’s impact – rather than reducing or avoiding harm – can only be considered sufficient in cases where there are “imperative reasons of overriding public interest” in allowing a scheme to go ahead. The two rulings “really upset the apple cart,” said Ben Kite, managing director at ecological consultancy EPR.

“Processes established for years in the UK were simply upended.”

Then came a third ruling. In November, the ECJ gave its verdict on environmental rules in relation to plans to extend a proposed ring road around the town of Kilkenny in south-east Ireland, which objectors were trying to block. The 1.5km-long road extension would cross the rivers Barrow and Nore that form an EU special area of conservation. This latest ruling appeared to broaden the scope of ‘appropriate assessments’ by dictating that the process must consider implications for habitats and species outside, as well as inside, a protected site – if the external habitats and species affect those within the site itself.

Expert opinion differ on the significance of the latest ruling. Stuart Andrews, head of planning at law firm Eversheds Sutherland, says: “The ruling provides some helpful guidance on the correct approach to assessment, but doesn’t change the law or have any interplay with the decisions from the ECJ earlier this year.”

However, Dr Stephanie Wray, chair at ecological consultancy Biocensus, said the latest ECJ verdict sets a legal precedent, with particular implications for projects affecting roaming species such as bats and birds – requiring developers to consider factors beyond the boundaries of protected habitats.

“This really is the first time that’s been recognised,” she said.

Wray says such an approach is established good practice for ecological consultants but adds that the ECJ ruling will prevent examples of bad practice from slipping through the net.

“There hasn’t [previously] been a legal basis that would make this a necessary approach,” she says. Likewise, Kite says: “This judgment will be very useful for people like Natural England and other competent authorities when they are trying to address examples of bad practice.”

Of course, translating court rulings into good planning practice will require practitioners to get to grips with what is becoming a steady stream of significant ECJ decisions. Nicky Linihan, a spokeswoman for the Planning Officers Society, which represents public sector planners, said:

“We would really encourage the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs and Natural England to provide some advice as soon as possible on how the rulings should be interpreted from both a local planning authority and an applicant’s perspective.”

At the national level, changes to the National Planning Policy Framework in light of the April ECJ ruling are currently out for consultation. 

Will Councillor Hyman eventually be proved to be right?

6 thoughts on “But of course – ‘Your Waverley’ will continue to ignore it – along with others.”

  1. Examples of recent complaints Cranleigh Civic Society have made to Waverley Planners in accordance with The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 are reporting a developer destroying an active badger sett, a developer destroying designated ancient woodland and a developer destroying great crested newt corridor habitat, and all the complaints were simply ignored.

    At Cranleigh Civic Society’s request, the police attended site at the badger sett but they said there isn’t much they could do if local authorities do not enforce the 1981 act, Waverley came to an “arrangement” with the developer destroying the ancient woodland to plant some trees elsewhere instead (but knowing full well that no one can mitigate for loss of ancient woodland under the 1981 act), and even though Waverley paid one of the UK’s leading newt experts to survey the newt corridor habitat area (he found great crested newts in all the ponds in Cranleigh, all needing corridor areas to maintain diversity), Waverley’s drive to carry on building new housing estates on green field sites against all odds won through.

    We all have to accept that the Executive Officers at Waverley are simply not interested in environmental impact issues, and that poor attitude pervades down through the planning department too.

    There are a few, (sadly only a very few) good, concerned borough councillors like Jerry Hyman, but they are ignored by the Waverley Leadership too.

  2. Not only is Jerry Hyman and several others, completely ignored, but they are ridiculed and held to account by the ‘yes men’ monitoring officers who are an absolute disgrace to this borough of ours.
    While we all sit idly by and watch our environment being systematically trashed our planning officers draw their salaries and patiently wait for their final salary pensions – ignoring every rule in the book.
    The environmental impact of development in the borough of Waverley is truly devastating. Bats, badgers, newts, ancient woodland and TPO orders covering trees, many hundreds of years old, are being rubbished.
    As for Natural England – the staff there have all been drafted in by the Government as it prepares for a NO DEAL BREXIT so cannot properly investigate any environmental matters, yet the officers’ mantra of – “We are satisfied… continues.
    If it is any consolation to everyone over there in the East it is happening here in Farnham, in Haslemere, Godalming and all the villages around.

    There will be an election in a few months – make it count – vote in more of the Residents Groups the Jerry Hyman’s, Paul Follows and Elizabth Townsend’s – throw out Waverley’s old guard before they ruin this great borough of ours.

    Here at the Waverley Web we do our utmost to expose the issues you have raised,and we receive more information of wrongdoing every single day.

    Thank you for expressing your concerns. Keep in touch with us – and may we take this opportunity to wish you and your Cranleigh colleagues – a Very Happy Christmas.

  3. Apologies. It seems I have referred everybody to a subscription site. Alternatively try searching “Guidance on the use of Habitats Regulations Assessment” on the gov.uk website published on 22 July.

  4. Thank you. We will look at this. But it appears,judging by a recent Inspector’s decision in Churt that he didn’t read the Habitats Regulations before he made his awful decision. Will post on it shortly. WW

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