Middlemarch proves its worth with Habitats Regulations Assessments Louise Fox 18 July 2023

Middlemarch proves its worth with Habitats Regulations Assessments

When developers appealed against a refused development near Eastbourne, East Sussex, Middlemarch helped them demonstrate that three internationally-important habitats would be unaffected by the proposal.

Ashdown Forest

Around 900 locations in England, Scotland and Wales have been designated as ‘European sites’ under a European directive issued before Brexit took place. As a result, they receive special protection from the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, known as the ‘Habitats Regulations’.

Under the terms of the legislation, a competent authority (such as a local or county council) must carry out a Habitats Regulations Assessment to determine whether a plan or project proposal could significantly harm the designated features of a European site.

London-based property developers Danescroft had already appealed to the Planning Inspectorate about a denied application to build 180 new homes and a medical centre near Eastbourne. If they were to be successful in the appeal, they needed to demonstrate that their proposal would not harm three European sites in the vicinity.

Danescroft asked Middlemarch to support their appeal by reviewing and revising a ‘shadow’, or example, Habitats Regulations Assessment submitted as part of the proof of evidence. The Habitats Regulations Assessment was required due to the potential impact of the proposal on three European sites that form part of the National Site Network: Pevensey Levels; Lewes Down and Ashdown Forest.

Under the spotlight

The shadow Habitats Regulations Assessment turned the spotlight on the proposed site for development at Willingdon, near Eastbourne. The land covered 6.48 hectares and was mainly made up of open grassland – the former Hindsland playing fields that are now disused – as well as areas of hard-standing associated with a former pavilion. A single detached home, which was vacant, and associated outbuildings were also located next to the site access.

Middlemarch assessed the potential impact of the development on each of the European sites in question, to identify whether there would be any likely and significant impacts.

“Thanks to the Middlemarch team’s extensive experience in preparing HRA evidence bases and our high level of technical competency in assessing air pollution impacts, Danescroft received outline planning permission in October 2022 for the demolition of the existing vacant home at Willingdon and the construction of up to 180 new homes.”
Louise Fox
Principal Ecological Consultant, Middlemarch

Pevensey Levels

Pevensey Levels (pictured above) is located 2.8km from the proposed development at Willingdon. It’s designated as a European site because of its nationally and internationally-important population of an aquatic snail, the little whirlpool ramshorn (pictured above), as well as for its outstanding area of wetland plants and invertebrates.

The nature of the development at Willingdon would result in more buildings and hard-standing, with a risk of increasing surface water run-off and foul-water drainage.

Middlemarch demonstrated through the shadow Habitats Regulations Assessment that the proposed Sustainable Urban Drainage Strategy (SuDS) would include measures to convey, treat and reduce the effect of water run-off. The surface water would also pass through at least two stages of treatment.

These measures meant that the proposed development wouldn’t have a harmful impact upon the designated features and the site at Pevensey Levels was screened out from further assessment.

Lewes Downs

Lewes Downs (pictured below) is 14km from the development and is designated for its nationally and internationally-important areas of semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies (rock formations).

The features of interest at the site are sensitive to atmospheric pollution. It was identified that increased vehicle movements by people living in the new homes could increase levels of atmospheric pollution, such as deposits of nitrogen.

By using modelled vehicular trip generation mapping – showing where new residents from the development would likely travel – combined with traffic growth factors derived from the Trip End Modelling Program (TEMPro), which was then applied to the current determined base rate of annual average daily traffic (AADT), Middlemarch demonstrated that the development would not result in a significant increase of annual average daily traffic on any of the roads within 200 metres of the site.

This was demonstrated to be the case when the impacts of the development were considered alone (for example, considering just the additional trip generation numbers), or in combination with other plans or projects (by combining new trip generation numbers with background traffic growth rate). Through this robust evidence base, Lewes Downs was screened out from further assessment.

Ashdown Forest

Finally, Ashdown Forest (lead image) is designated for its nationally and internationally-important areas of Northern Atlantic wet heaths, European dry heaths, its population of great crested newts and breeding populations of European nightjars and Dartford warblers.

As with Lewes Downs, the features of interest at the site are sensitive to increased levels of atmospheric pollution. Using the same methodology applied to the Lewes Downs, Middlemarch demonstrated again that the proposed development would not result in a significant amount of increased atmospheric pollution.

Successful conclusion to the planning appeal

Through the shadow Habitats Regulations Assessment, Middlemarch demonstrated that there was no reasonable likelihood of the proposed development (alone or in combination with other plans or projects) resulting in significant harm to any of the European sites.

Partly as a result of the report, the appeal was allowed. Danescroft received outline planning permission in October 2022 for the demolition of the existing vacant home and the construction of up to 180 new homes, as well as a medical centre, related services and an open space.

Email us for an initial conversation about your Habitats Regulations Assessment and how we can help at hello@middlemarch.eco.

Lewes Downs

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