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Special Protection Areas

Volume 450: debated on Thursday 12 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether local authorities can require developers wishing to develop inside a special protection area (SPA) and its radius to provide land in mitigation for that development and its notional impact on the SPA. (87345)

Development which has an adverse effect on the integrity of an SPA, and which is not directly connected with or necessary to the management of the site, needs to be in accordance with Regulations 48 and 49 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994. The regulations transpose the provision of the EC Habitats Directive into UK law.

Where development is permitted the Secretary of State must secure that any necessary compensatory measures are taken to ensure that the overall coherence of Natura 2000 is protected. One way of doing this could be through the provision of land in mitigation. Further guidance is provided in “Government Circular: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation—Statutory Obligations and Their Impact Within The Planning System Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Circular 06/2005, Department for Food and Rural Affairs Circular 01/2005”.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment the Government have made of the effect of special protection areas status on (a) the viability of the provision of affordable housing, (b) the rate of new development and house building and (c) the construction industry in the area and its vicinity. (87352)

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are classified under the EU Birds Directive and receive statutory protection under The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c) Regulations 1994. ECJ case law confirms that member states are not permitted to take economic factors into account when classifying SPAs or defining their boundaries. The regulations set out the way in which SPAs should be protected, including how the implications of new developments should be considered.

The Government are working with stakeholders—including the construction industry—to consider and address the effects of Special Protection Areas for the continuing delivery of housing.

For example, in the south-east a range of activities are in hand to facilitate development around the Thames Basin Heaths SPA. English Nature has published a draft Thames Basin Heaths Delivery Plan, designed to provide a means of mitigating the potential adverse effects of increased housing, and the Government Office for the South East (GOSE) is working with them, local authorities, developers and others to explore the practicalities and flexibilities in the delivery plan approach. The delivery plan, along with other evidence, will be considered at the Examination in Public of the South East Plan in November. The plan is due to be adopted in 2008 and will set a regional spatial strategy for the south east region with strategic policies on the SPA which will inform local councils’ local development frameworks.

GOSE, English Nature and others are also working with a number of local planning authorities to develop ‘mini-plans’—area-specific packages of measures to allow development in accordance with the Birds and Habitats Directives in the short to medium term.