Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA)
The purpose of Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA) is to identify any aspects of the emerging Local Plan that would have the potential to cause a likely significant effect on Natura 2000 or European sites (Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Ramsar sites), (either in isolation or in combination with other plans and projects), and to identify appropriate avoidance and mitigation strategies where such effects are identified.
There is a legal requirement for all Local Plans to be subject to a HRA. The need for HRA is set out within Article 6 of the EC Habitats Directive 1992 (The Habitats Directive), and interpreted into UK law by the Conservation of Habitats & Species Regulations 2017 (The Habitats Regulations).
The purpose of the Habitats Directive is to "maintain or restore, at favourable conservation status, natural habitats and species of wild fauna and flora of Community interest" (Habitats Directive, Article 2(2)). This relates to habitats and species, not the European sites themselves, although the sites have a significant role in delivering favourable conservation status. European sites (also called Natura 2000 sites) can be defined as actual or proposed/candidate Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) or Special Protection Areas (SPA).
The Habitats Directive applies the precautionary principle to protected areas. Plans and projects can only be permitted having ascertained that there will be no adverse effect on the integrity of the site(s) in question.
There are two European sites which fall partially within Guildford Borough - the Thames Basin Heaths (TBH) SPA and Thursley, Ash, Pirbright and Chobham SAC (which overlaps with the SPA).
During HRA of previous stages of the new Local Plan in 2007 URS (now Aecom) concluded, in consultation with Natural England, that only the Thames Basin Heaths SPA required further consideration as the Guildford Local Plan and associated documents are developed, primarily due to possible likely significant effects through recreational pressure/urbanisation and through reduced air quality. The HRA report therefore focuses on that SPA.
URS Infrastructure & Environment UK Ltd was appointed in 2012 by Guildford Borough Council to assist the Council in undertaking a HRA of the Guildford Borough Local Plan at each of the qualifying stages. URS have subsequently become AECOM but continued to work on the HRA. The Council worked closely with them to ensure that they fully considered the policies and site allocations of the Local Plan.
The first stage in the assessment process was the screening stage. This determined whether a plan being prepared is likely, either alone or in combination, to have a significant effect upon the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area. This was carried out in July 2013 and supported the preparation and consultation on the Local Plan Issues and Options Consultation which took place in Autumn 2013.
An HRA (2016) was published to support the Proposed Submission Local Plan: strategy and sites (2016). This was updated to take account of changes in the Proposed Submission Local Plan: strategy and sites (2017). It was updated again after the consultation on the 2017 plan to take account of the further issues raised and was then consulted upon with Natural England. Minor updates to the wording were made in May 2018 following judgement C-323/17 from the European Court which led to clarification regarding the process that should be followed when undertaking HRA. The updates clarify that the HRA is compliant with this judgement. The final version can be seen below. An addendum, also available below, has been prepared to support the Main Modifications which have been made to the Submission Local Plan.
- Local Plan 2015-2034
- Evidence base
- Protecting and design
- Green Belt and Countryside Study
- Planning for Open Space and Green Infrastructure
- Strategic Flood Risk Assessment
- Surface Water Management Plan
- Guildford Renewable Energy Mapping Study
- Surrey Hills AONB Areas of Search Natural Beauty Evaluation
- Infrastructure and delivery
- Local plan examination
- Topic papers