Despite election fever hitting a crescendo – remember – it is business as usual at ‘Your Waverley.’
Tonight (Tuesday) a Farnham councillor will call on the council to suspend the granting of planning permissions for more housing, in the light of more Government guidance on habitats regulations.
Jerry Hyman the councillor for Firgrove Ward will propose a motion calling for the suspension pending “appropriate assessment” of the heathland surrounding Farnham due to fears the impact new housing is having on wildlife and the environment in its Special Protection Area (SPA.) This follows action already taken by other councils in the country.
Will the new coalition administration, which declared a climate emergency just weeks ago, back the motion? Or will it stick its head in the sand just like the former Tory administration has for more years than we care to remember?
We vividly remember one Cranleigh Tory councillor suggesting that Farnham’s problems could be sorted by Climate Change. He predicted the Dartford Warbler, flying to the warmer climes in the North of England enabling more development in Farnham!
It has been a year since a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on the environmental impact of nitrates from new developments which threw plans for thousands of homes in England into doubt.
“The effect of [the ruling] is colossal,” says Seán Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council and chairman of PUSH (the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire), a group of 11 local authorities that says some of its members cannot grant planning consents for fear of breaching European Union habitats regulations.
“Planning in south Hampshire has ground to a halt.” David Hayward, planning policy team leader at Havant Borough Council, adds: “We deal with habitats laws as par for the course here as we’re in a protected area, but on this issue there was, and still is, no resolution.” Hayward and Tim Pike, Havant’s deputy leader and the councillor responsible for planning, regeneration and communities, are hoping a solution can be found quickly.
On November 7, 2018, the ECJ ruled in two joined cases related to the EU Habitats Directive, known together as the ‘Dutch case’ (C-293/17 and C-294/17). Its judgment raised the bar that development projects would have to clear when being assessed to see if they breached rules protecting sensitive habitats, such as EU “special protected areas” (SPAs). During these appraisals, known as “appropriate assessments”, promoters of such projects will often cite measures that they argue will mitigate any habitat harm. The ECJ judges said that assessors should not take these measures into account…
…”if the expected benefits of those measures are not certain at the time of that assessment”.
The decision has had far-reaching repercussions for developers. In June, wildlife regulator Natural England responded to the case, and other ECJ rulings by issuing new guidance to councils on compliance with habitats regulation assessments (HRAs) taking a much tougher stance.
Tonight ‘Your Waverley will consider the following motion. Which if agreed could bring a moratorium on housing in parts of the borough.
- MOTIONS ON NOTICEIn accordance with Council Procedure Rule 12, Councillor Jerry Hyman proposes the following motion:
“That the Council instructs Officers to
- (i) reinstate the moratorium on the granting of consents to new housing within the visitor catchment zones of the Thames Basin and Wealden Heath SPAs (which was implemented temporarily from May last year), with immediate effect, and to
- (ii) suspend the Waverley Avoidance Strategy,
(and to advise relevant developers and other interested parties as appropriate), until such time as the requisite evidence and appropriate assessments have been produced in accordance with all relevant legislation;
and in order to enable limited development to be lawfully consented through the ‘exceptions tests’ of ‘Habitats’ Art.6(4) and Reg,64,
that the Council further instructs Officers to write to Natural England requesting that they provide the information necessary for Waverley to conduct complete appropriate assessments of the Local Plan, Avoidance Strategy and relevant planning applications, to specifically include all currently available and relevant information evidence in respect of
- (iii) the robustness of the current (2009) TBHSPA Delivery Framework strategy and SANG Standards,
- (iv) population data and dynamics (historic to date, and trends) for the 3 relevant bird species, for the Thames Basin and Wealden Heath SPAs,
- (v) the current Conservation Status, and the necessary specific Favourable Status Conservation Objectives for the habitats and species of those SPAs,
- (vi) the measured effectiveness of On-site, Local and Strategic SANGs in displacing visitor pressure and disturbance from the SPAs to SANGs,
- (vii) the extent to which SANG provision and promotion encourages dog ownership in the area over time, and
- (viii) the measured effectiveness of the SAMM Strategy,
and if any of that requested information is not currently available, that Officers request that Natural England advises when that information is likely to become available.”