Planning Service consults NIEA when assessing planning applications in relation to the biodiversity or geodiversity of an area. In response, The Development Management Team identifies any issues of concern and advises accordingly. This may include recommendations for mitigation or compensatory measures to minimise or compensate for any potential negative impact from the proposal on the Natural Environment.
Our role in the planning process
The Development Management team co-ordinates a response on behalf of three functional units within the Natural Heritage Directorate. These are the Conservation, Designation and Protection Unit, the Conservation Science Unit and the Biodiversity Unit.
We work within a statutory framework and according to the policy contained in Planning Policy Statement 2: 'Planning and Nature Conservation' (PPS2). PPS2 states the Department's planning policy for nature conservation for the whole of Northern Ireland. This policy is guided by the legal framework of national and international law. It also outlines the criteria which Planning Service will employ when processing planning applications which might affect natural heritage interests and to which developers should have regard when preparing proposals.
NIEA advises Planning Service and does not make the decision on whether any planning application receives planning permission.
For further information on examples of areas which planning proposals could effect, please see the attached link.
What do the Development Management Team do when consulted by Planning Service?
- review any nature conservation information NIEA may hold
- carryout a site visit to assess current natural heritage interests and to look for evidence of valuable habitats and protected plants and animals
- examine relevant planning and natural heritage policies
- take into consideration Area Plan designations and policies
- assess implications under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985
- assess implications under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended)
- assess accuracy of information provided by the applicant
- assess whether further information/ clarification is required from the applicant e.g. a badger survey
- consult relevant in-house specialists
- assess validity of any objectors comments
If the applicant is asked to carry out a habitat or species survey, the team will assess its findings and recommendations. If the survey does not fully meet our requirements or does not provide sufficient mitigation measures, we may ask for additonal measures of protection or further surveying to be carried out. We are happy to advise on these requirements,
Considering all of the above - The Development Management Team then advises Planning Service, whether a proposal is likely to have an adverse impact on the natural heritage interest of the site and its surroundings as follows - NIEA will not object:
- If the proposal poses no risk of damage - we may, however, offer suggestions for positive gains to biodiversity on the site e.g. the provision of wildlife corridors; planting of native trees and shrubs - this is called enhancement
- If the proposal poses a risk which can be avoided through an amendment to the application to remove (avoidance) or to reduce damage (mitigation) - conditions are attached to the decision notice to specifiy how to achieve this
- If the proposal poses a risk which can not be avoided but where it may be possible to accept the loss if a replacement habitat or translocation of a species is acceptable (compensation)
- only where the proposal poses significant risk of damage which can not be mitigated or compensated will NIEA recommend refusal of a proposal, in its current form
We are committed to working with the applicant through Planning Service to provide possible solutions where a risk has been identified.
The Development Management Team within NIEA, Natural Heritage is not responsible for the following:
- providing arboriculture advice on the condition or the felling of privately owned trees
- carrying out tree surveys (see guidance on Trees and TPOs below under the Tree Preservation Order and FAQ sections)
- recommending which environmental consultants or trees surgeons to choose
- carrying out landscape or visual impact assessments of small-scale development proposals
Other government Agencies and Departments are responsible for the following areas:
Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs)
Planning Service provide information and advice on Tree Preservation Orders.
Enforcement of planning permission
Planning Service provide advice on the enforcement of planning legislation.
Enforcement of the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is responsible for enforcement of the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985.
The Environmental Protection Directorate of NIEA has responsibility for incidents water pollution.
Water Pollution Hotline 0800 80 70 60
The Environmental Protection Directorate of NIEA has responsibility for advising on septic tanks.
Supervision and protection of salmon and inland fisheries is the responsibility of the Department of Culture, Arts & Leisure (DCAL).
Land reclamation such as reseeding an old pasture or removing stone walls or hedges
Any project to bring uncultivated land or semi-natural areas into intensive agricultural use may require an assessment of the environmental impact. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development have responsibility to ensure that this assessment is carried out under the Uncultivated Land and Semi-Natural Areas - Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations.
Major forestry work
Projects for major forestry work, such as planting, felling trees or building forest roads may require an assessment of all potential negative impacts on the environment. The Forest Service within the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has responsibility to ensure that this assessment is carried out under the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) Regulations.