When considering plans or planning applications we are obliged under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (the ‘Habitats Regulations’) to assess whether the ‘favourable conservation status’ of a population of a European protected species is affected. ‘Favourable conservation status’ is when these species are maintained so that their numbers stay at a level sufficient to make sure their survival in that area. This includes making sure that the distribution of these animals is not reduced and that the quantity and quality of habitat needed to support a population on a long term basis is maintained.
This test must be reported in the evidence for a plan or in a planning officer’s report to committee. In addition tests for alternatives must be considered as well as whether the proposed development is in the public interest.
The Somerset Species Alert Mapping gives information regarding the presence of a population of a European Protected Species and other important species in the county. It is a computer based mapping system which shows the likely distribution and value of habitats within the areas of known use to most important species in Somerset. This system was researched and developed by us, along with the Somerset Environmental Record Centre (SERC). The information from this system allows us to see what potential impacts are likely on a protected species at the plan-making stage. This gives councils the ability to avoid harming protected species, and additionally informs assessments of planning applications.
Where impacts on species from habitat loss or degradation occurs the amount of replacement habitat required to maintain the Favourable Conservation Status of a species’ population can be calculated using the Somerset Habitat Evaluation procedure.
Species in Somerset
The following species, listed on Schedule 2 of the Habitat Regulations, have significant populations in Somerset:
- Greater Horseshoe Bat
- Lesser Horseshoe Bat
- Daubenton’s Bat
- Whiskered Bats
- Natterer’s Bat
- Bechstein’s Bat
- Common and Soprano Pipistrelle Bat
- Noctule Bat
- Serotine Bat
- Barbastelle Bat
- Brown Long-eared Bat
- Common (or Hazel) Dormouse
- European Otter
- Great Crested (or Warty) Newt
- Large Blue Butterfly
The National Planning Policy Framework states that policies should plan for biodiversity at a landscape level across administrative boundaries and promote the protection and recovery of priority species.
European Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora requires that species listed on Annex IV of the Directive are maintained at ‘Favourable Conservation Status’.
The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) bring the provisions of Habitats Directive into UK law. This places a duty on local authorities to have regard for the provisions of the Habitats Directive, including the ‘Favourable Conservation Status’ of populations of species listed in Annex IV of the Directive.
Note that the United Kingdom is also a signatory to The Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, 1979. This is a legally binding treaty in the field of nature conservation, covering most of the natural heritage of the European continent, and extending to some states of Africa too. This treaty aims to conserve wild flora and fauna species and their habitats, especially those whose conservation requires co-operation between several countries. It was transposed into UK law both through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.
- Biodiversity 2020: A strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystems services
- National Planning Policy Framework
- European Directive 92/43/EEC
- Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended)
- The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended)
- The Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
- Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006
- Environment Act 2021