Policy SE 3: Biodiversity and geodiversity
- Areas of high biodiversity and geodiversity value will be protected and enhanced. Enhancement measures will include increasing the total area of valuable habitat in the Borough, and linking up existing areas of high value habitat to create 'ecological stepping stone sites', ‘wildlife corridors’ and 'Nature Improvements Areas'. Ecological networks and connectivity are vitally important in sustaining sites and addressing the impacts of climate change.
- Development proposals which may adversely affect the integrity of a site with one or more of the following international designations will not be permitted:
- Special Protection Areas (SPAs)
- Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
- Ramsar sites
- Any potential Special Protections Areas (SPAs), candidate Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) or proposed Ramsar sites
- Sites identified, or required, as compensatory measures for adverse effect on European sites, candidate Special Protection Areas, possible Special Areas of Conservation, and listed or proposed Ramsar sites
unless it has been demonstrated that there are no alternative solutions, there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest and that compensatory measures will be provided to ensure the overall coherence of the network of SPAs and SACs are protected or, in the case of deleting a Ramsar site or restricting its boundaries, by creating additional nature reserves for wildfowl to compensate for any loss of wetland resources as far as possible.
- Development proposals which are likely to have an adverse impact on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a National Nature Reserve or the Peak District National Park fringe will not normally be permitted. Where an adverse effect on the site’s notified special interest features is likely, an exception should only be made where the benefits of the development, at this site, clearly outweigh both the impacts that it is likely to have on the features of the site that make it of special scientific interest and any broader impacts on the national network of Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
- Development proposals which are likely to have a significant adverse impact on a site with one or more of the following local or regional designations, habitats or species will not be permitted except where the reasons for or benefits of the proposed development outweigh the impact of the development:
- Local Nature Reserves
- Sites of Biological Importance (SBI) or Local Wildlife Sites
- Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Sites (RIGGS)
- Designated Wildlife Corridors
- Habitats and species within the Cheshire Biodiversity Action Plan
- National priority species and habitats (commonly known as 'UK BAP priority habitats and species') published for England under the requirements of Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006
- Legally protected species
- Areas of Ancient and Semi-Natural Woodland
- Nature Improvement Areas
- All development (including conversions and that on brownfield and greenfield sites) must aim to positively contribute to the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity and geodiversity and should not negatively affect these interests. When appropriate, conditions will be put in place to make sure appropriate monitoring is undertaken and make sure mitigation, compensation and offsetting is effective.
- Development proposals that are likely to have a significant impact on a non-designated asset or a site valued by the local community identified in a Neighbourhood Plan or the Site Allocations and Development Policies documents will only be permitted where suitable mitigation and / or compensation is provided to address the adverse impacts of the proposed development, or where any residual harm following mitigation/compensation, along with any other harm, is clearly outweighed by the benefits of the development.
13.21 The National Planning Policy Framework states that 'planning permission will be refused for development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats including ancient woodland and the loss of aged veteran trees outside ancient woodland, unless the need for, and the benefits of, the development in that locality clearly outweighs the loss'. It also states that 'to minimise impacts on biodiversity and geodiversity, planning policies should: plan for biodiversity at a landscape-scale...; identify and map components of the local ecological networks, including the hierarchy of international, national and locally designated sites...; promote the preservation, restoration and re-creation of priority habitats, ecological networks and the protection and recovery of priority species populations...; and aim to prevent harm to geological conservation interests'.
13.22 The National Planning Policy Framework also states that 'The planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by . . . minimising impacts on biodiversity and providing net gains in biodiversity where possible, contributing to the government's commitment to halt the overall decline in biodiversity, including by establishing coherent ecological networks that are more resilient to current and future pressures'.
13.23 The Natural Environment White Paper 'The Natural Choice: Securing the Value of Nature' states that 'We want to create a resilient and coherent ecological network at national and local levels across England….To make this happen, the government will put in place a clear institutional framework to support nature restoration. This means: establishing Local Nature Partnerships….Creating new Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) and strengthening support through the planning system'.
13.24 Local Plan Strategy Policy SE 3 seeks to make sure that there is no overall loss of biodiversity and geodiversity and seeks to utilise avoidance, mitigation, compensation and offsetting strategies to achieve this. Biodiversity offsetting is described in the Natural Environment White Paper 'The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature' as 'conservation activities designed to deliver biodiversity benefits in compensation for losses in a measurable way. Good developments incorporate biodiversity considerations in their design but are still likely to result in some biodiversity loss. One way to compensate for this loss is by offsetting: the developer secures compensatory habitat expansion or restoration elsewhere'.
13.25 The level of biodiversity offsetting required could be determined by means of assessments undertaken in accordance with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) metric contained in Biodiversity Offsetting Pilots published in March 2012 as applied in the Defra offsetting pilot projects. Biodiversity offsetting could be delivered by developers in partnership with various partners including conservation organisations, local landowners and the borough council.
13.26 The designation of international, national and local sites is an on-going process, therefore the above policy will equally apply to any sites selected or designated subsequently to the adoption of the Local Plan. Conversely, the policy will not apply to any site de-selected after the adoption of the Local Plan. Sites of Biological Importance are being resurveyed; they will then be designated as Local Wildlife Sites. At the time of producing this document, there are therefore sites that are designated as Sites of Biological Importance (which have yet to be resurveyed) and sites that are designated as Local Wildlife Sites (which have been resurveyed.)
13.27 The policy recognises that in rare and closely defined circumstances, proposals that have an adverse impact on a European site (or equivalent for planning policy purposes) may be permitted. This aligns with the legal framework governing these designations of international importance.
13.28 Construction Management Plans, landscaping, green infrastructure and open space proposals should be submitted to the council during the planning application process as part of sustainable development proposals for any sites in close proximity to European designated sites.
13.29 The importance of biodiversity has been a common theme within Neighbourhood Plans in Cheshire East. Where supported by local evidence, there is an opportunity for communities to identify sites of nature conservation importance as Local Green Space designations to further support the aims of Policy SE 3.
- Cheshire East - Habitats Regulations Assessment of the Local Plan
- Cheshire Region Biodiversity Action Plan
- The Natural Environment White Paper 'The Natural Choice: Securing the Value of Nature'
- Natural England - Condition Surveys for Site of Special Scientific Interest (updated yearly)
- Natural England Wildlife Plans (2011)
- Natural England - Information on Environmental Designations (2012)
- Sites of Biological Importance / Local Wildlife Site Registry (on-going updates)
- The UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework (July 2012)
(Footnote 63)The spatial extent of the categories and/or references identified in this policy are those identified in the maps and diagrams contained in this Local Plan Strategy, the evidence base of the Local Plan Strategy and the saved policies and proposals maps of the existing local plans for Crewe and Nantwich, Macclesfield and Congleton, until reviewed and updated through the production of a Site Allocations and Development Polices DPD, and/or the production of a neighbourhood plan.
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