Development of land that may affect natural heritage interests including landscape

Advice on development that may affect Natural Heritage Interests

Key considerations

The planning authority has a statutory duty under The Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 (the WANE Act)  to have regard to conserving biodiversity as part of policy or decision making and in drawing up development plans. Further guidance is available in The Biodiversity Duty guide for public bodies.

You should consider the potential risks to natural heritage interests due to impacts from the construction and the operation of the proposed activity, and its location.

Does the Development need a Habitats Regulation Assessment?

To comply with The Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended) the planning authority, as the competent authority, must carry out an appropriate assessment (or Habitats Regulations Assessment, HRA) if the proposal has the potential to impact on any area that is protected (or a candidate for protection) through any one of the following designations, also known as ‘European Sites’ or ‘N2K Sites’:

  • Special Area of Conservation (SAC) – which protects habitats and/or species which are rare or threatened within a European Context.
  • Special Protection Area (SPA) – which protects birds
  • Ramsar – which protects wetlands

DAERA, as the Statutory Nature Conservation Body, has made publically available records with associated guidance, literature and maps on European Sites and other Protected Areas on the DAERA website which can be accessed via the following the link Protected areas.

Should DAERA be consulted?

The Biodiversity Checklist tool has been provided to assist in the initial ecological assessment of an application. We recommend that the Biodiversity Checklist is submitted with all planning applications, which will inform the need for more detailed or specific surveys. Planning consultations should not be issued to DAERA until all of the appropriate survey information has been completed.  Planning applications accompanied by appropriate surveys are more likely to be processed more quickly. Applications may be delayed when a request for a survey has to be made.

Answering ‘Yes’ to any of the following questions will require consultation with DAERA. However a consultation should not be initiated until all relevant ecological reports, assessments and mitigation proposals have been submitted.

Development type

Does the proposal fall within one of the following development types?

  • Wind Farms
  • Single wind turbines
  • Regionally significant or major solar energy installations
  • Anaerobic Digestion plants
  • Intensive livestock housing
  • Extractive Industry
  • Proposals involving engineering works within terrestrial and marine waters e.g. hydroelectric schemes, bridges, weirs, aquaculture
  • Combined heat and power plants
  • Major infrastructure developments e.g roads, pipelines, overhead power lines.

Location

Will the construction and/or operation of the development result in any of the following effects on a Designated Site*?:

  • direct loss or damage of the special habitat or species which are features of the designated site
  • contaminated run-off entering a watercourse which is hydrologically linked to a designated site
  • nitrogen deposition resulting from ammonia emissions?  (You need to consider all designated sites within 7.5 km of the point of potential emission release)

*Designated Sites

Priority Habitat

Are there areas of Priority Habitat* on or around the location which are important or sensitive for reasons of their ecology? e.g. wetlands, watercourses or other waterbodies, the coastal zone, peatland, woodlands, which could be affected by the proposal through:

  • loss or damage of habitat features
  • degradation of habitat due to contamination of soil, groundwater or surface water

*Priority Habitat

Priority Species

Has a survey been carried out that identifies the presence of Priority Species* on the site which could be affected by the proposal?

The most commonly encountered Priority Species which are also listed as Protected Species are covered by our Standing Advice.

*Priority Species

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Is the development located within the boundary of the Giant’s Causeway UNESCO World Heritage Site or its distinctive Landscape Setting?

Note: In exceptional circumstances we may also provide advice for applications located outside the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site or its distinctive Landscape Setting if it is likely to result in significant adverse impacts to the Outstanding Universal Value of the Site.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Is the development a ‘regionally significant’ or ‘major’ application and located within the boundary of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty* (AONB)?

Note: In exceptional circumstances we may also provide advice for local applications located within the boundary of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) if it is likely to result in significant adverse impacts to the AONB.

*Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), designated under The Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Northern Ireland) Order 1985

Answering 'Yes' to any of the following questions may not require a consultation with DAERA. in the first instance please refer to the Further Guidance listed below.

Protected Species

Has a survey been carried out that identifies the presence of Protected Species* on the site which could be affected by the proposal?

Although we do not have a specific statutory duty to provide advice on development affecting Protected Species in the wider countryside, we may choose to do so in cases which would result in significant harm.

*Protected Species are listed under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended) and The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (as amended).

Local designated sites

Is the development located within the boundary of / immediately adjacent to a local designated sites such as Site of Local Nature Conservation Importance (SLNCI)?

We may provide comment in relation to a SLNCI where a survey has been carried out that identifies the presence of priority habitat or species on the site which could be affected by the proposal.

Invasive Species

Consultation with DAERA is not required if a survey identifies Invasive Alien Species* on a proposed development site however planning authorities must ensure measures are taken to prevent further spread.

The planning authority should refer to Invasive Alien Species Standing Advice which provides survey requirements, potential environmental impacts, mitigation measures and informatives for decision notices.

We recommend that on-site recordings of invasive alien species are logged with the Invasive Species Ireland Records via CEDaR.

(*Invasive species are non- native species which out-compete native species. Once an invasive species has established within a site its spread can be rapid. Development activity, such as construction works, can aid the spread of invasive alien species).

Local Landscape Policy Areas

We do not comment on the landscape and visual impacts of development on Local Landscape Policy Areas (LLPA’s)

Information/Documents Required

Planning applications should as a minimum be accompanied by a Biodiversity Checklist - A step by step guide to identify a range of biodiversity interests.

In the event that possible habitat and species have been identified on the site, further assessments should be requested such as:

  • Ecological SurveysSurvey specification guidance for a range of habitats and species
  • A Construction Method Statement may be required for applications for works to be conducted in; near (within 10 meters) of a watercourse or liable to affect a watercourse and the watercourse is hydrologically linked to a designated site
  • Outline habitat/species management/mitigation plan may be required for large scale housing or infrastructure
  • Outline Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP)

This list is not exhaustive. Please note that certain development types may require more development specific information. Please refer to best practice and the Planning consultation development types section of our Environmental Advice for Planning.

Further guidance

Protected species guidance - The following NIEA publications contain information on protected species and Development. You may find it useful to refer to these guides when assessing the impact of your proposal on protected species.

Native Species Planting Guidance . The document lists those species which are considered native in Northern Ireland. When designing any development it is important to include native species of local provenance to the planting list. These species can be used alone or in conjunction with ornamental species to attract invertebrates, birds and mammals which will result in biodiversity gain.

You can identify invasive species from the Field Guide to Invasive species in Ireland and find out about measures to control invasive species.

Further information is also available at Invasive alien species

Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment 3rd Edition 2013 - Best practice book published by the Landscape Institute and the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment

Landscape Institute Advice Note 01/11 - Photography and photomontage in landscape and visual impact assessment 2011

World Heritage Advice Note: Environmental Assessment (ICUN, 2013) – Best practice guidance on integrating natural World Heritage Sites within Environmental Assessments

Data sources

Centre for Environmental Data and Recording (CEDaR) - facilitates the collection, collation, management and dissemination of biodiversity and geodiversity information for Northern Ireland and its coastal waters. Records of species on sites or within the nearby area of an application can be provided on request. Invasive Species records are also available for some areas. See http://www.nmni.com/cedar

National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas - The UK's largest collection of biodiversity information provides priority species records at resolutions from 100m to 1km.

NI Regional Landscape Character Assessment 2016 - Regional Landscape Character Areas map viewer

NI Landscape Character Assessment 2000 including Geodiversity and Biodiversity Profiles for each LCA NI Landscape Character Assessment 2000

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