Evidence and research for planning policies

10. Habitats Regulations Assessment

The European Directive (92/43/EEC) of May 1992, on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and Wild Flora and Fauna (the Habitats Directive) sets out the means to protect exceptional rare, endangered or vulnerable natural habitats and species, within the European Community. The Directive requires EU Member States to create a network of protected wildlife areas, known as Natura 2000 sites. This network consists of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs), the latter established to protect wild birds under the Birds Directive (Council Directive 79/409/EEC).

A Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) is required of land use plans under this Directive, as transposed into UK Law by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (The Habitats Regulations) 2010.

Purpose of a Habitats Regulations Assessment

The purpose of the HRA is to assess the implications of a land-use plan, individually or in combination with other plans or projects, on these Natura 2000 sites. In normal circumstances, a land-use plan can be brought into effect only after having ascertained that it will not adversely affect the integrity of a Natura 2000 site in terms of its nature conservation objectives. This may well mean taking measures to avoid adverse impacts, including finding alternative options, as part of the plan-making process.

For Reigate and Banstead, the relevant Natura 2000 site is the Mole Gap to Reigate Escarpment SAC which lies partly in this borough and partly in Mole Valley. A further five Natura 2000 sites are located within 15km of the borough boundary.

HRA is a staged process involving first, a ‘screening stage’, to determine whether the plan in itself, or ‘in combination’ with others, would be likely to have a significant effect on a European Site. If the answer is ‘yes,’ then the adverse effects on the integrity of each European site must be considered via an ‘Appropriate Assessment’ (AA) stage.

Core Strategy HRA

Our approach to the HRA was developed in cooperation with Mole Valley District Council, Tandridge District Council and Surrey County Council. The scope of the assessment was prepared with regard to advice received from Natural England.

An HRA was undertaken to assess whether Reigate & Banstead’s Core Strategy is likely, in combination with other plans and projects, to have an adverse effect on the integrity of these Natura 2000 sites. This assessment also informed Reigate & Banstead’s Sustainability Appraisal (SA) forming part of the New Local Plan. The HRA was prepared for the submission stage (May 2012); an update was then published alongside the Core Strategy Further Amendments (Dec 2012).