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 ensure their survival in that area. This includes ensuring 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, giving 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 maintaining the Favourable Conservation Status of a species’ population can be calculated using the Somerset Habitat Evaluation procedure.