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Appropriate Assessments

Process for Appropriate Assessments

The following advice is provided for applicants whose development is affected by Natural England’s Advice ‘Nutrient Neutrality for New Development in the Stour Catchment [pdf] 499KB’ and who are proposing schemes to provide their own on-site nutrient mitigation (or otherwise on land they own or control).

This advice does not apply to development proposals relying on the Council’s borough Mitigation Strategy or other off-site credit based mitigation schemes on account of the fact that Appropriate Assessments cannot be undertaken until the Mitigation Strategy is finalised.

Further guidance related the process for Appropriate Assessments for development proposals relying on the Council’s borough Mitigation Strategy will be published at a later date.

What do Local Planning Authorities need to do?

If your application is affected by Natural England’s Advice ‘Nutrient Neutrality for New Development in the Stour Catchment’, in its role as competent authority, the Local Planning Authority will need to undertake a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) and Appropriate Assessment (AA) to establish whether the proposal will have a significant effect (alone or in combination) on the Stodmarsh Lakes protected site.

What do applicants need to do?

In order to assist the Council to undertake the HRA/AA, applicants proposing development affected by Natural England’s Advice must submit the following information in support of their application:

  • Nutrient calculations, prepared in accordance with the Natural England advice

and

  • A nutrient mitigation strategy, setting out how you can achieve nutrient neutrality for the proposal.

Further guidance setting out what information and details need to be provided is available on the Council's ‘Nutrient Neutrality information for developers’ webpage.

The requirement for this documentation is also set out within the Council’s Local Validation Checklist.

Applicants are advised that if we receive your application, and we consider that it is lacking information, it will be held as ‘invalid’ and it will not progress any further towards a decision until the necessary information is received.

Habitats Regulation Assessments

A Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) refers to the several distinct stages of Assessment which must be undertaken by the Local Planning Authority in accordance with the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) to determine if a proposal may affect the protected features of the Stodmarsh Lakes protected site before deciding whether to grant planning permission.

Appropriate Assessments

If a proposal is considered likely to have a significant effect on a protected habitats site (either individually or in combination with other plans or projects) then an Appropriate Assessment of the implications for the site must be undertaken.

The competent authority should only grant planning permission if they have made certain at the time of Appropriate Assessment that the proposed development will not adversely affect the integrity of the Stodmarsh Lakes protected site. To assist with this process the Council have appointed independent consultants to assess the technical information submitted with nutrient mitigation proposals and advise the Council on whether an Appropriate Assessments may be adopted.

From the 12 December 2022 the Council will recharge the cost of undertaking this work to the applicant in cases where the proposed solution is not based on an off-site credit mitigation system.

The fees will be set on a cost recovery basis and charged through the Council rather than paid directly by the applicant to the consultants.

It is anticipated that this will cost around £3000 - £4000 for minor schemes and around £6000 for major schemes but each proposal will be costed individually depending upon the level of technical input required and will be influenced by factors such as the scale of the proposal and type of mitigation proposed.

The Council will confirm the cost to the applicant and seek the applicant’s approval to meet these costs prior to undertaking the Appropriate Assessment.

When to pay?

A signed and dated written statement confirming the intention to cover the costs must be provided prior to commencement of the technical review of the information submitted.  The cost of the Appropriate Assessment must then be paid once the costs have been confirmed.

Details of how to pay for the Appropriate Assessment will be provided by the allocated case officer(s) once the cost of the Appropriate Assessment has been confirmed.

Schemes which do not cover the costs of the Appropriate Assessment will be unable to progress through to determination and may be refused planning permission.

Off-site credit mitigation schemes (including the Council’s borough mitigation scheme)

For schemes relying on nutrient mitigation from off-site credit mitigation schemes, such as the Council’s borough mitigation scheme, the above process is not applicable.  Further details of the process will be available through a future Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).

It is anticipated that the assessment of nutrient budget calculations for schemes relying on off-site credit mitigation schemes will be undertaken in house at no additional fee.

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