Habitats Regulations Assessment Addendum

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Chapter 2. HRA Screening of Main Modifications

Approach to screening

2.1 This Addendum has considered main modifications to each policy in turn, in order to screen them for potential HRA implications. In particular, this review seeks to determine whether the modified plan includes notable changes to housing growth and distribution, whether it retains key mitigation measures and other information that had been relied upon in reaching conclusions about the effects of the Plan. The European sites scoped into the HRA are shown in Figure 2.1.

2.2 In Natural England's written statement regarding Matter 1, Issue 5 of the Examination, it states that the 2018 HRA is satisfactory, provided that a number of policies were amended and strengthened, as set out in the Statement of Common Ground EXAM 5L agreed between Natural England and the Council.

2.3 Note that where policy names and numbers are proposed to be modified, the updated, modified versions have been used below.

Figure 2.1

Figure 2.1: European sites considered in the HRA of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan


Screening report

  • Policy SP1a: Partial Review of the Local Plan - This is a new policy and therefore was not previously subject to HRA. However, this policy will not result in any development itself and there is no pathway by which it could affect European sites. The partial review of the Local Plan will be subject to HRA itself during its preparation.
  • Policy SP1: Growth Strategy - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the overall quantum, or locations, of development to come forward. Changes to the quantum of development at particular sites is considered for the site-specific policies below.
  • Policy SP2: National Planning Policy Framework - Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development - No changes proposed.
  • Policy SP3: Generic Requirements for Strategic Sites - No effect on the HRA, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy SA1: North of Luton - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the changes are likely to result in less residential and employment development.
  • Policy SE1: Sundon Rail Freight Interchange (RFI) - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy SA2: Marston Vale New Villages - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the changes would result in slightly less employment development coming forward.
  • Policy SE2: Marston Gate Expansion - No effect on the HRA conclusions. The change to the site boundary allows for less employment development to come forward, although the broad location of development is the same.
  • Policy SA3: East of Arlesey - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy SA4: East of Biggleswade - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or broad location of development to come forward (despite a change to the site boundary).
  • Policy SE3: Holme Farm, Biggleswade - No effect on the HRA conclusions. Whilst the policy now allows for an additional 3 ha employment land, this is not expected to change the likely effects recorded in the 2018 HRA, which assessed the principle of employment development at this broad location, rather than relying on the precise quantum.
  • Policy SE4: Former RAF Base, Henlow - This policy has been deleted and should therefore be considered removed from the HRA. This does not affect the overall HRA conclusions.
  • Policy HA1: Small and Medium Allocations - HAS03, HAS04, HAS09 and HAS24 have been removed from this policy. However, this does not affect the overall HRA conclusions as no likely significant effects were expected to arise as a result of these allocations. It is noted that the modifications include other changes, particularly to the additional policy requirements and a change to the boundary or capacity of sites HAS08, HAS11, HAS25, HAS26, HAS36, HAS45, HAS48. As these changes result in either a lower quantum of development at the site, or smaller area for development (sometimes both), these changes will not affect the HRA conclusions.
  • Policy SC1: Houghton Regis Sites 1 and 2 Strategic Commitment - No effect on the HRA conclusions. Whilst the policy now refers to development of 1,850 homes at site 2, the 2018 HRA assessed this site for 1,500-1850 homes, so this level of housing has already been subject to HRA.
  • Policy SP4: Development in the Green Belt - No changes proposed.
  • Policy SP5: Important Countryside Gaps and Preventing Coalescence - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Settlement Hierarchy - No changes proposed.
  • Policy SP7: Windfall Development - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy SP8: Gypsy and Traveller, and Travelling Showpeople Pitch Requirement - No effect on the HRA conclusions. As the 2018 HRA did not identify the greater number of pitches as having likely significant effects, the allocation of fewer pitches can also be assumed to have no likely significant effects.
  • Policy H1: Housing Mix - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy H2: Housing Standards - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy H3: Housing for Older People - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy H4: Affordable Housing - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy H5: Rural Exception Sites - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy H6: Starter Homes - This policy has been deleted and should therefore be considered removed from the HRA. This does not affect the overall HRA conclusions.
  • Policy H6: Self Build and Custom Housing - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy H7: Assessing Planning Applications for Gypsy and Traveller sites - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy H8: Assessing Planning Applications for Travelling Showpeople sites - No changes proposed.
  • Policy EMP1: Small and Medium Employment Sites - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications clarify the locations of the 'portfolio of employment land'. The overall quantum of employment has not changed and the 2018 HRA considered the general implications of the policy, including proposals within and adjacent to settlement envelopes.
  • Policy EMP2: Change of Use to Non-Employment Generating Uses - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy EMP3: Employment Development on non-allocated sites - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy EMP4: Rural and Visitor Economy - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy EMP5: Significant Facilities in the Countryside and Green Belt - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy R1: Ensuring Town Centre Vitality - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as, whilst the modifications further detail the type of development permitted in different types of centre, they do not change the allocated quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy R2: Retail for Minor Service Centres, Villages and the Rural Economy - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy R3: Town Centre Development - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy T1: Mitigation of Transport Impacts on the Network - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy T2: Highways Safety and Design - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy T3: Parking - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy T4: Public Transport Interchanges - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy T5: Ultra Low Emission Vehicles - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy T6: Management of Freight - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy EE1 : Green Infrastructure - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward. Proposed modifications to this policy will not affect its role in mitigating potential increases in recreational disturbance at Chiltern Beechwoods SAC, as it still seeks to protect and enhance green infrastructure.
  • Policy EE2: Enhancing biodiversity - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward. Proposed modifications to this policy will not affect its role in mitigating potential increases in recreational disturbance at Chiltern Beechwoods SAC and changes in water quality/quantity at Chippenham Fen Ramsar and Ouse Washes SPA/SAC/Ramsar. This is because the policy still seeks to conserve and enhance ecological networks of habitats, species and sites (both statutory and non-statutory), as well as delivering biodiversity net gain.
  • Policy EE3: Nature conservation - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward. Proposed modifications to this policy will not affect its role in mitigating potential increases in recreational disturbance at Chiltern Beechwoods SAC and changes in water quality/quantity at Chippenham Fen Ramsar and Ouse Washes SPA/SAC/Ramsar. This is because the policy still seeks to protect and enhance important habitats and sites of geological and geomorphological interest.
  • Policy EE4: Trees, woodlands and hedgerows - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy EE5: Landscape Character and Value - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy EE6: Tranquillity - This policy has been deleted and should therefore be considered removed from the HRA. This does not affect the overall HRA conclusions.
  • Policy EE7: The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy EE8 : Greensand Ridge Nature Improvement Area - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy EE9: Forest of Marston Vale - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy EE10: The Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Park - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy EE11: The River and Waterway Network - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy EE12 : Public Rights of Way - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy EE13: Outdoor Sport, Leisure and Open Space - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward. Whilst the policy now gives stronger support to new open outdoor sport, leisure and open space facilities within or adjacent to settlements, this is not likely to introduce any pathways by which European sites could be adversely affected. In giving stronger support to sport, leisure and open space facilities, the modifications strengthen the mitigation this policy provides in mitigating potential increases in recreational disturbance at Chiltern Beechwoods SAC.
  • Policy EE14: Minerals and Waste Restoration - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy CC1: Climate Change and Sustainability - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward. Proposed modifications to this policy will not affect its role in mitigating potential changes in water quality/quantity at Chippenham Fen Ramsar and Ouse Washes SPA/SAC/Ramsar, as it still requires higher water efficiency standards to minimise demand and abstraction.
  • Policy CC2: Sustainable energy development - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy CC3: Flood Risk Management - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward. Proposed modifications to this policy will not affect its role in mitigating potential changes in water quality/quantity at Chippenham Fen Ramsar and Ouse Washes SPA/SAC/Ramsar, as it still sets out requirements for sustainable flood risk and water management, as well as requiring mitigation measures for development to maximise water efficiency and contribute to a net gain in water quality, biodiversity, landscape character and green infrastructure.
  • Policy CC4: Development close to watercourses - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward. Proposed modifications to this policy will not affect its role in mitigating potential changes in water quality/quantity at Chippenham Fen Ramsar and Ouse Washes SPA/SAC/Ramsar, as it still details that development in close proximity to a watercourse will be required to maximise opportunities to enhance the ecological value of watercourse and their flood storage value, with positive effects on flood risk management and water quality.
  • Policy CC5: Sustainable Drainage - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward. Proposed modifications to this policy will not affect its role in mitigating potential changes in water quality/quantity at Chippenham Fen Ramsar and Ouse Washes SPA/SAC/Ramsar, as it still requires provision of Sustainable Drainage systems (SuDS).
  • Policy CC6: Water Supply and Sewerage Infrastructure - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward. Proposed modifications to this policy will not affect its role in mitigating potential changes in water quality/quantity at Chippenham Fen Ramsar and Ouse Washes SPA/SAC/Ramsar, as it still seeks to protect water resources and ensure sewage infrastructure is adequate to accommodate proposed development.
  • Policy CC7: Water Quality - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward. Proposed modifications to this policy strengthen its role in mitigating potential changes in water quality/quantity at Chippenham Fen Ramsar and Ouse Washes SPA/SAC/Ramsar, as it still protects the water environment but now includes stronger requirements to enhance the quality of the water environment.
  • Policy CC8: Pollution and Land Instability - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy HQ1: High Quality Development - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy HQ2: Developer Contributions - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy HQ3: Provision for Social and Community Infrastructure - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy HQ4: Indoor Sport and Leisure Facilities - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward. Whilst the policy now focuses on provision of new indoor sport and leisure facilities, rather than protection of existing facilities, these are to come forward through new residential developments, which have been subject to HRA under other policies.
  • Policy HQ5: Broadband and Telecommunications Infrastructure - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy HQ7: Public Art - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy HQ8: Back-land Development - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy HQ9: Larger Sites, Development Briefs and Design Codes - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy HQ10: Small Open Spaces within Towns and Villages - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy HQ11: Modern Methods of Construction - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy HE1: Archaeology and Scheduled Monuments - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy HE2: Historic Parks and Gardens - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy HE3: Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas and Built Heritage - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy DC1: Re-use of Buildings in the Countryside - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy DC2: Replacement Dwellings in the Countryside - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy DC3: Rural Workers Dwellings - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy DC4: Equestrian Development - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Policy DC5: Agricultural Land - No effect on the HRA conclusions, as the modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward.
  • Locations for Future Growth - No effect on the HRA conclusions. Whilst not allocated through a policy, the 2018 HRA considered the locations for future growth identified in the Local Plan. The modifications propose to remove these from the Local Plan. The removal of these will not affect the overall conclusions of the 2018 HRA, because the 2018 HRA concluded they are not likely to result in adverse effects on integrity of any European sites. Furthermore, as the sites were not proposed for allocation in the emerging Local Plan, the removal does not affect the overall quantum of development to come forward.

Summary of screening outcomes    

2.4 As set out above, the proposed modifications are not expected to result in any changes to the HRA conclusions. This is largely because most modifications do not change the quantum or location of development to come forward under the Local Plan. For some particular sites there is a change in the quantum of development. However, the 2018 HRA Report focused on the principle of development coming forward at each location and the Appropriate Assessment reached conclusions of no adverse effects on integrity without the need to analyse specific quanta of development.

2.5 In addition, where the quantum of development has changed, it has generally decreased, and therefore there is even less potential for development to lead to effects on European sites. The exception to this is inclusion of an additional 3 ha employment land in Policy SE3. Employment development is not expected to result in increases in recreational disturbance, which is more closely associated with residential development. Whilst more development is now included in Policy SC1, the quantum of development is within the range assessed by the 2018 HRA. Furthermore, the overall levels of development in the plan remain the same. Therefore, the findings of the HRA remain valid.

2.6 It is noted that the Appropriate Assessment identifies policies within the Local Plan that mitigate potential effects that could arise as a result of development set out in the Local Plan. As set out above, these policies are still considered to provide sufficient mitigation measures. In fact, some of the modifications are likely to strengthen the mitigation provided by these policies, such as the stronger support for outdoor sport, leisure and open space in Policy EE13.

In-combination effects

2.7 Appendix II of the 2018 HRA Report set out a number of plans and projects that had potential for in-combination effects with the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan. Those plans that have been updated since the 2018 HRA are listed (as the most recent version) below:

  • Anglian Water, Water Resources Management Plan 2019.
  • Affinity Water, Water Resources Management Plan 2020-2080.
  • Thames Water, Water Resources Management Plan 2020-2100.
  • Huntingdonshire Local Plan (Adopted May 2019).
  • South Cambridgeshire Local Plan (Adopted September 2018).
  • Dacorum Local Plan 2020-2038 (Emerging Strategy for Growth (Regulation 18 plan) published in November 2020).
  • Plan:MK (Milton Keynes Local Plan) (Adopted March 2019).
  • Bedford Local Plan (Adopted January 2020).
  • Chilterns AONB Management Plan 2019-2024.

2.8 For the most part, the updated plans listed above are very similar in terms of the quantum and distribution of development compared with the versions considered in the 2018 HRA. The exceptions to this are discussed below.

2.9 The St Albans Local Plan (2018) was withdrawn and the Council is beginning the plan making progress again. As such, there is substantial uncertainty regarding development to come forward in St Albans and therefore it is not possible to assess in-combination effects with this Local Plan. The HRA of the emerging St Albans Local Plan will need to consider whether any in-combination effects could arise with other plans and programmes, as the St Albans Local Plan is developed.

2.10 Dacorum Borough Council is preparing a new Local Plan, which makes provision for 20,000 additional homes by 2050. The Topic Paper for the Chilterns Beechwoods SAC [See reference [iv]] summarises the HRA work and findings to date. This states that the key issues to be addressed through the HRA process are recreational pressure and air quality at Chiltern Beechwoods SAC, part of which lies within Dacorum Borough. Whilst the 2018 HRA of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan screened out potential air quality effects, there is potential for the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan and Dacorum Borough Local Plan to result in in-combination effects on the Chiltern Beechwoods SAC with regard to recreational pressure. The proposed modifications to the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan include the additional and amended wording set out in the Statement of Common Ground with Natural England, part of which seeks to ensure no adverse impacts on European sites as a result of recreational impacts. This includes commitment to a review of existing green infrastructure plans in order to produce an updated, authority-wide green infrastructure strategy, which will ensure an appropriate quality and quantity of natural green space is delivered to meet identified local needs. In addition, updated to paragraph 15.4 clarify that some developments may require project-level HRA and will need to mitigate any adverse effects on integrity identified. In addition, the Dacorum Local Plan (2020-2038) Emerging Strategy for Growth includes Policy DM31 - Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation, which requires development proposals to assist in the conservation and enhancement of the SAC and sets out measures to achieve this. The measures in both the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan (as proposed to be modified) and the emerging Dacorum Local Plan are expected to ensure no adverse effects on integrity of the SAC occur alone or in-combination. Nevertheless, Central Bedfordshire Council should work with Dacorum Borough Council as the Dacorum Local Plan is prepared to ensure this remains the case.

2.11 The adopted Bedford Local Plan makes provision for 14,550 homes in the period of 2015-30, as well as 6,900 additional jobs. At the time the 2018 HRA was prepared, a draft Local Plan for Bedford was not available. Whilst a consultation paper setting out the Council's preferred strategy was published in 2017 [See reference [v]], the adopted plan is substantially different to the proposals set out in that document, including a different plan period and housing number. The HRA for the Bedford Local Plan [See reference [vi]] considered potential for in-combination effects with the submitted version of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan and concluded that there would be no adverse effects on any European sites as a result of the two local plans in-combination.

2.12 The Appropriate Assessment of the 2018 HRA Report considered whether the Local Plan would result in adverse effects on the integrity of any European sites both alone and in-combination with other plans and programmes. The text in the 2018 HRA is considered up to date with regards to the mitigation provided by the Local Plan and the distance between the plan area and European sites that could potentially be affected, therefore no in-combination adverse effects on integrity are expected to arise. With regards to water quality and water levels, the updated Anglian Water, Water Resources Management Plan (2019) states that no adverse effects on integrity are expected to arise, subject to lower-tier HRA for the two desalination options (ESU1 - Felixstowe and NFN1 - Kings Lynn). As the Water Resources Management Plan was published in 2019, it is assumed to take account of any increases in water demand as a result of the level of development set out in the Local Plan.

2.13 It is noted that the modifications to the Local Plan include the amendments agreed between Natural England and the Council, as set out in the Statement of Common Ground (EXAM 5L).

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