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Case Study

Habitat Regulations Assessment in Southampton

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Background

Arbtech was commissioned by a client based in Southampton to undertake a site walkover, Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) Screening and a report to support an Appropriate Assessment (AA) with regards to a proposed development for a small jetty.

This was requested by Fareham Borough council as the site lies within and adjacent to European designated sites.

HRA is required under the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC)1 for any proposed plan or project which may have a significant effect on one or more European sites.

The purpose of HRA is to determine whether or not there are any likely significant effects (LSEs) on the integrity of any European site and, where LSE are identified, to provide mitigation measures to avoid, reduce or off-set the effects.

Walkover

To inform the HRA screening and report to support AA, a walkover of the site needed to be carried out as no previous ecological survey work had been done. This provided a baseline assessment of the site and the development area. It also identified the designated sites that would need to be addressed in the HRA screening.

The site lies within Solent and Southampton Water Ramsar Site and Special Protection Area (SPA), Lee on the Solent to Itchen Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and Solent Maritime Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

The survey area was a garden leading down to a mature tree line. Beyond the tree line was scrub leading to reedbeds and then the River Hamble.

Associated with the river are mudflats which are within the development area, and saltmarsh which can be found adjacent to the development area. The mudflats are exposed at low tide providing vital foraging habitat for overwintering wildfowl.

HRA screening

This report provides details of all European sites that could potentially be impacted by the development. It includes a breakdown of the site’s features, reasons for designation and conservation objectives.

This information is then used to assess risk pathways that could impact the sites and its qualifying features. These pathways are air pollution, water pollution, light pollution, visual disturbance, noise disturbance, loss of associated habitat and recreational disturbance.

The HRA screening identified potential risk pathways in the form of loss of associated habitat, water pollution, noise pollution and recreational disturbance. This then triggered the next stage of the HRA which is an Appropriate Assessment which is carried out by the competent authority, in this case Fareham Borough Council.

Report to support the Appropriate Assessment

An Appropriate Assessment was being carried out by Fareham Borough Council with consultation from Natural England. As a result of these consultations it had been determined that there were no expected impacts on the site from direct habitat loss or shading, but that an increase in recreational pressure could impact the bird populations present.

To assist the council in the AA, Arbtech were asked to produce a report that collated bird data.

In order to establish whether there has already been an impact on bird populations from recreational disturbance, and to inform what impact a small increase in recreational disturbance may have, an analysis of historical bird data was carried out, with data from Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre (HBIC) and Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) data from 2013-2018.

The analysis of the data suggested that bird populations were relatively stable and had not suffered significant effects from the increase in recreational pressure in the area.

As the development proposal was so small in scale and its effects would be immeasurably small, even in combination with other developments, the report advised that any impacts could be offset by a financial contribution to assist with the management and maintenance of the designated sites.

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