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Flintshire County Council Unitary Development Plan 2000-2015
Adopted 28th September 2011

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Chapter 8

Wildlife and Biodiversity

Relevant Strategic Aims

e. Natural environment

Policy Objectives
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Policy List
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  1. PROTECTING BIODIVERSITY - to conserve sites of nature conservation value and prevent loss of important species and habitats
  2. ENHANCING BIODIVERSITY - to enhance and create new wildlife habitats and nature conservation resources

WB1 Species Protection

WB2 Sites of International Importance

WB3 Statutory Sites of National Importance

WB4 Local Sites of Wildlife and Geological Importance

WB5 Undesignated Wildlife Habitats

WB6 Enhancement of Nature Conservation Interests

Indicators of Policy Performance

Targets

  1. Area of land in active conservation management
  2. Area of each Habitat Action Area plan in the BAP
  3. Number of sites of importance for nature conservation adversely affected by development
  4. Applications that lead to the loss/damage of: SAC, SPA, SSSI, NNR, LNR, species identified in Species Action Plans in the BAP

TARGET 3: Minimise the loss or damage through development, to sites of international, national or county geology, wildlife/nature conservation importance

 

8 Wildlife and Biodiversity

Introduction

8.1 In addition to protecting natural landscapes, another key role of this Plan is its contribution towards protecting and enhancing geological (geodiversity) and biological diversity (biodiversity). Adopting a biodiversity-centred approach to the natural environment acknowledges the complex interaction between species and their habitats. It should be emphasised that both commonplace and rare species, play an important part in natural systems. A hierarchy of designations at international, national and local levels exists in Flintshire and the local planning authority must have regard to the relative significance of these designations when making planning decisions, taking into account the integrity of natural systems as well as the presence or absence of notable species and habitat.

 

National Planning Policy

8.2 The Welsh Government sets out in para 5.1.2 of Planning Policy Wales the following objectives for the conservation and improvement of the natural heritage:

8.3 Section 5.4 of Planning Policy Wales requires that UDPs set out the locational policy framework for the conservation and enhancement of the natural heritage and seek to conserve and enhance the natural heritage in ways which bring benefits to local communities and encourage social and economic progress. UDPs should encourage the appropriate management of features of the landscape which are of major importance for flora and fauna in order to complement and improve the ecological coherence of the Natura 2000 network. This encompasses features which, because of their linear or continuous structure or their function as “stepping stones” or “wildlife corridors”, are essential for migration, dispersal and genetic exchange. Policies should attach appropriate weight to statutory and non-statutory designations and devise criteria against which development will be assessed. The conservation and, where appropriate, enhancement of biodiversity outside designated areas, should also be sought.

 

Flintshire Context

8.4 There are two key ways in which the UDP can contribute to the promotion of biodiversity in Flintshire. Firstly through protection of designated statutory and non-statutory wildlife sites, and secondly by applying general environmental considerations to all forms of development proposals. Flintshire contains many habitat types and nature conservation designations, with the Dee Estuary and Floodplain being a key strategic habitat type.

8.5 The UDP seeks to ensure that biodiversity is maintained and enhanced in the interests both of existing residents and of future generations. To this end, policies contained in this chapter support the protection of designated sites, and also conservation of undesignated features of ecological importance such as wildlife corridors. Detailed site surveys will often be required in association with development proposals where the Council considers that there may be a significant effect on wildlife, habitat or areas of other scientific interest.

8.6 In addition to these protective policies, the Plan also seeks to enhance the nature conservation value of sites where a development proposal would provide an opportunity to incorporate such measures. It should also be noted that the following policies support the Flintshire Biodiversity Action Plan (FBAP).

 

Policies

WB1 Species Protection

Development which would have a significant adverse effect on important species or their habitats will not be permitted unless appropriate measures are taken to secure their long term protection and viability.

8.7 The presence of an important species is a material consideration in deciding a planning application. Important species or habitats are those protected by law, identified as a priority species or habitat in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan or the FBAP. Examples of protected species occurring in Flintshire include bats, badgers, barn owls, great crested newts, otters and some orchids. These have statutory protection under a range of international and national legislation including: the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; and the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994, both of which play a key role in maintaining biodiversity.

8.8 Where development is permitted the Local Planning Authority must be satisfied that the ecological interest of a site can be adequately safeguarded by means of appropriate planning conditions and/or obligations. Before development affecting a European protected species can occur, conditions contained in the Habitats Regulations must be met, that is the development is required for preserving public health, safety, or for other reasons of overriding public interest. Additionally it must be demonstrated that there is no satisfactory alternative nor should there be a detrimental affect on the maintenance of the species population at a favourable conservation status. If these tests are met the Welsh Assembly Government can issue a licence to enable development to proceed.

8.9 This policy seeks to protect species with regard to the development and use of land and does not override the statutory requirements for species protection as contained in Acts of Parliament or through European Law. Where the Council require mitigation or compensatory provision to be made either on site or on adjacent land, conditions will be attached or obligations required to facilitate species survival, minimise disturbance or as a last resort provide suitable alternative habitat to ensure that species are safeguarded.

 

WB2 Sites of International Importance

Development will not be permitted unless:-

  1. it is demonstrated that it will not have a significant adverse effect on any Ramsar Site or Natura 2000 site (including SPAs, potential SPAs, SACs, candidate SACs); or
  2. it is demonstrated, following appropriate assessment, that it will not adversely affect the integrity of any Ramsar or Natura 2000 site.

8.10 This policy is directed at sites which have, or may be identified as having, ecological value of international significance. In Flintshire the Dee Estuary has several such designations and these are shown on the proposals map. It has been designated as a Ramsar site under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance and a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the European Community Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) due to its importance as a wintering site for significant populations of migratory waders and wildfowl. The Dee Estuary has also been designated a Candidate Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). These designations are intended to promote conservation and the wise use of wetlands and stem the progressive loss of internationally important habitats.

8.11 The purpose of an appropriate assessment as required by the Habitats Directive and Regulations, is to ascertain, in view of the sites conservation importance, whether development would have an adverse effect on the integrity of the designated site. The integrity of a site is considered to be the coherence of its ecological structure and function that allows it to sustain the species, habitat or complex of habitats for which it was classified. Proposals may have a significant effect on the ecological value of a site either individually, or as a result of cumulative developments. Detailed guidance in respect of internationally important sites is given in a table contained in Planning Guidance Wales – Technical Advice Note 5.

8.12 Where the County Council, in consultation with the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), suspect that the impact of a development on a designated area is likely to be damaging, planning applications should be accompanied by suitable supporting environmental impact information. An Environmental Impact Assessment will be required in certain instances, which is the process by which information about the likely significant environmental effects of certain types of development is collected, assessed and taken into account in deciding whether planning permission should be granted.

8.13 Where in the view of the Local Planning Authority proposed development will adversely affect the integrity of the site in a manner which cannot be overcome by planning conditions or obligations, planning permission should only be granted in exceptional circumstances for reasons of over-riding public interest, including those of a social or economic nature which must be sufficient to over-ride the ecological importance of the designation. In such circumstances it will be necessary to secure compensatory measures to protect the community wide network of SPAs and SACs.

 

Other Key Policies:

 

WB3 Statutory Sites of National Importance

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) will be protected. There will be a presumption against development either within or in the vicinity of a site which would have a significant adverse effect on the nature conservation interest of the site.

8.14 SSSI's are nationally important and statutorily designated for their biological and geological interest. Some SSSI's in Flintshire are also of international importance and for this reason have additional designations conferred on them. SSSI’s are shown on the proposals map.

8.15 The key importance of sites designated for nature conservation interest means that development proposals in or likely to affect them must be subject to special scrutiny. Where a specific proposal would impact directly or indirectly upon a SSSI it must be demonstrated that the site features meriting designation would not be detrimentally affected. Government guidance notes that SSSI's may be seriously damaged by developments outside their boundaries.

8.16 Consequently within SSSI's planning permission should only be granted where the Local Planning Authority is satisfied that the nature conservation value of the SSSI will not be compromised as a result of the proposed development, or where in accordance with national planning guidance, other material factors are sufficient to override nature conservation considerations. Where development is permitted, the Council will consider the use of conditions or planning obligations to ensure the protection and enhancement of the site's nature conservation interest.

 

WB4 Local Sites of Wildlife and Geological Importance

Wildlife Sites and Regionally Important Geological Sites will be protected. Planning permission will not be granted for development that is likely to have a significant adverse effect on their nature conservation or geological value.

8.17 In addition to statutory designated sites there are many habitats and important geological features of local interest which make a vital contribution to the County’s biodiversity and geodiversity. The County Council keep an up-to-date register of these non-statutory local sites.

8.18 Many of these are subject to pressures for change, and can be destroyed by development either on, or in the vicinity of the site. Nature conservation interest will therefore be a consideration where a development proposal may impact upon a site of local wildlife or geological importance. However, planning permission will not be refused if where in accordance with national policy guidance other material factors are sufficient to override nature conservation interests. Conditions or planning obligations can be applied to prevent significant adverse impacts on wildlife, habitats or important physical features. In the case of larger developments this may involve the integration of features and habitats of value into proposals.

 

WB5 Undesignated Wildlife Habitats

Development will be permitted only if it will not have a significant adverse effect on wildlife and habitats of local importance.

8.19 There are many undesignated sites which have considerable nature conservation value and represent vital elements in the County’s biodiversity. Examples include natural watercourses, streams or rivers and their banks, unimproved grasslands, wetlands, heather moorland and woodlands (particularly those of ancient semi-natural origin). Some of these habitats may be comparatively rare in the Plan area, and considered to be of value on a very local basis, for example the last remaining pond close to a particular town or village. Developers will often be required to undertake detailed surveys of flora and fauna to enable the Council to ascertain whether a proposal would be acceptable.

8.20 Such sites may be valuable in their own right or may serve an important function in relation to adjacent areas. A feature may, for instance, form a wildlife corridor, linking areas that are vital for certain species. In addition to areas in the countryside, urban sites may be of value for wildlife. In particular, green corridors in built up areas, which may be under significant pressure, should be safeguarded. Their development may have serious implications beyond the site in question. Even brownfield sites, despite their often degraded appearance, may have significant ecological interest.

8.21 However planning permission will not be refused, where in accordance with national policy guidance, other material factors are sufficient to override nature conservation interests. Conditions and agreements will be used to mitigate any harmful effects to nature conservation interests.

 

WB6 Enhancement of Nature Conservation Interests

The incorporation within development proposals of measures which improve the nature conservation value of an area will be permitted by the Local Planning Authority.

8.22 This policy recognises that, in addition to protecting habitats, opportunities will arise to increase biodiversity and geodiversity within Flintshire. Although land-take for development has gradually eroded wildlife habitats, opportunities exist to enhance ecological value through careful design of development proposals.

8.23 Proposals which improve the nature conservation value of sites will be encouraged. Where new development is carried out, sensitive landscaping and planting, the creation, maintenance and management of landscape features important to wildlife, and the skilled adaptation of derelict areas can provide extended habitats. The County Council will support proposals to establish local nature reserves in suitable locations. Larger scale developments will be required to consider how existing features can be enhanced, taking a strategic view of the site.

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