Regular readers of the Waverley Web will know of the Marmite relationship Waverley officers and some councillors have with the Farnham Residents’ Rebel incarnate – Cllr Jerry Hyman. The man who founded the Farnham Residents Group – whose Chairman John Ward is now Leader of the council.
Love him or hate him – there is no doubt when it comes to the controversial issue of assessing the extinction of species, which he is passionate about, that in the main he is either ignored or censored for his views. However, we accept that we, and others, find the Habitats Regulations Assessment pretty impenetrable
Protecting the Special Protection Areas around Farnham, and everywhere else, – Designated European Nature Conservation Sites has been one of his prime concerns ever since he joined Waverley Borough Council in 2016. Formerly he held a seat on the influential Joint Planning Committee but this was denied him in the new administration. Mainly by his own FRs colleagues.
However, perhaps his group – Waverley Planning officers, and everyone else, including the borough’s legal experts should think again…? and.. perhaps so should Government Inspectors?
This includes some information from The Planning Magazine.
The entirely new Guidance on the use of Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA), was published by the government earlier this week as part of a series of updates to its Planning Practice Guidance.
The move aims to address confusion among practitioners following the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ’s) landmark People over Wind ruling on HRAs in April last year. Any plans or projects in or near EU-designated special areas of conservation or special protection areas must undergo HRAs before they are adopted or gain permission.
Outlining the “key principles which can be considered by competent authorities when considering whether appropriate assessment is required,” the guidance says that “it would appear that off-site Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspaces may be considered as a mitigation measure under People over Wind as their primary purpose is to draw recreational pressure away from sites and so prevent an adverse effect from occurring. In these cases, the competent authority must now assess the robustness of mitigation measures through an appropriate assessment.”
Elsewhere, the document says that “an appropriate assessment for a more strategic plan, such as the local plan, can consider the impacts on sites and confirm the suitability or likely success of mitigation measures for associated non-strategic policies and projects.”
It adds that “an individual assessment of non-strategic policies and projects may not be necessary in some limited cases where the strategic appropriate assessment is sufficiently robust”.
Outlining what an appropriate assessment should contain, the guidance says that it “must contain complete, precise and definitive findings and conclusions to ensure that there is no reasonable scientific doubt as to the effects of the proposed plan or project”.
It adds: “The competent authority will require the applicant to provide such information as may reasonably be required to undertake the assessment.”
In February, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in light of the People Over Wind ruling.
15 MONTHS SINCE THE RULING.
Paragraph 177 of the July 2018 version of the NPPF had disapplied the presumption in favor of sustainable development if a project required an appropriate assessment, regardless of whether that assessment then found no harm to the site was likely.
But in February, the MHCLG amended paragraph 177 by reinstating the presumption where the appropriate assessment found the project or plan would not affect the integrity of the habitats sites, for example by proposing mitigation measures.