Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options) October 2010

Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options)

Biodiversity and New Development

12.31 Planning Policy Statement 9: Biodiversity and Geological Conservation sets out the Government’s objective to “promote sustainable development whilst conserving and enhancing biodiversity”. It requires plan policies to take a strategic approach to the conservation, enhancement and restoration of biodiversity and geology by sustaining and where possible improving the quality and extent of natural habitat and the populations of naturally occurring species which they support. This should be based on up to date information of resources in the area and should promote opportunities within the design of proposal for the incorporation of beneficial biodiversity and geological interests.

12.32 An indication of the variety and biodiversity interest of South Somerset is given by the number of designated sites: there are three National Nature Reserves within the District, (Hardington Moor, Barrington Hill and part of the Somerset Levels and Moors, which is also a European Special Protection Area), along with 39 nationally designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest and nearly 600 Local Wildlife Sites. The Somerset Wildlife Trust manages fourteen Nature Reserves, while much other land of conservation value is owned or managed by the National Trust, RSPB and other conservation organisations, and by individual landowners. There are also currently four Local Nature Reserves looked after by District or Town Councils and two award-winning Country Parks.

12.33 A wide range of habitats are represented from flower-rich limestone grassland to acid heathland; wet fen and grazing marshes rich in invertebrate and bird life to hay meadows; bluebell woods to parkland with veteran trees supporting rare insects and lichens. These reflect the varied landscape and topography, which is in turn underlain by a variety of geological formations from clay to greensands and limestones. In terms of species, South Somerset is thought to hold some 20% more rare or threatened species that its size would predict, indicating its species richness.[1]

12.34 The District Council recognises the value of our natural assets and has been working with Somerset County Council, the District/Borough Councils, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Natural England, RSPB and other conservation agencies as part of the Somerset Biodiversity Partnership to identify species and habitats that are important in Somerset and to draw up plans to care for them.

12.35 ‘Wild Somerset’ is the Strategy that covers the whole area of Somerset and describes how the partnership will work together and involve local communities and other agencies in activities to protect and enhance wildlife.

12.36 In addition to the habitats and species covered in the Countywide Wild Somerset Strategy, the South Somerset Local Biodiversity Action Plan describes the actions that the District and other partners will take locally to protect and enhance wildlife in the District.[2]

12.37 All proposals should consider protection and enhancement of biodiversity from the outset and have regard to Local and Regional Biodiversity Strategies, taking into consideration the findings as identified in ‘The Distribution of European Protected Species in South Somerset’ and ‘European Protected Species in South Somerset’.[3]

12.38 This has significant consequences for the long-term protection and adaptability of biodiversity and the ability of wildlife and habitats to respond to climate change. There is a need to expand and re-connect the existing areas and restore habitats where they have been destroyed. Development proposals should be accompanied by sufficient information to assess the effects of development on protected sites, species, biodiversity or geology, together with any proposed prevention, mitigation or compensation measures.

12.39 The Appropriate Assessment Report identified the following potential impact of development proposed on the Somerset Levels and Moors:

  • increased disturbance to birds from recreational activity;
  • impact upon invertebrates owing to reduction in water quality; and
  • impact upon birds from renewable energy infrastructure (especially wind turbines) along or in proximity to flight paths.

12.40 The Appropriate  Assessment suggested changes to policies within the Core Strategy to ensure appropriate mitigation of effects and all these have been incorporated in the relevant policies.

Policy EQ3 Biodiversity

All proposals for development, including those which would affect sites of regional and local biodiversity and geological interest, will seek to:

  • Protect the biodiversity value of land and buildings and minimise fragmentation of habitats;
  • Maximise opportunities for restoration, enhancement and connection of natural habitats; and
  • Incorporate beneficial biodiversity conservation features where appropriate, with particular reference to the objectives of the South Somerset Local Biodiversity Action Plan.

Where there is reason to suspect the presence of protected species applications should be accompanied by a survey assessing their presence and if present the proposal must be sensitive to and make provision for their needs.

1. South Somerset Local Biodiversity Action Plan, 2009 [back]
2. South West Nature Map (evidence for RSS) is also useful. [back]
3. Produced by Somerset County Council, 2009 [back]