East Suffolk supports a diverse range of habitats and species. This includes sites of international and national nature conservation importance, and rare and protected species. A number of sites, such as RSPB Minsmere, are of international importance. Designations for such internationally important sites include Special Protection Area (SPA), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Ramsar site. The district also contains National Nature Reserves (NNRs) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) which are of national importance and County Wildlife Sites (CWSs) which are of county nature conservation importance.
The protection of the natural environment is an important and integral part of the planning system. As Local Planning Authority, the council has a statutory duty to consider the conservation of biodiversity when making decisions on planning applications. Policy SCLP10.1 of the Suffolk Coastal area Local Plan and policy WLP8.34 of Waveney area Local Plan, require that there should be no net loss of biodiversity as a result of a development. Also, where there is the opportunity, development will be required to provide ecological enhancements as part of its design and implementation.
The Local Planning Authority are responsible for ensuring potential impacts of development on biodiversity are fully considered when determining a planning application. We therefore require that adequate information to assess this is provided at the time of a planning application being submitted.
Where there is reasonable likelihood that a development will affect a designated nature conservation site (statutory or non-statutory), a Priority Habitat or a Protected and/or Priority Species, you will need to carry out a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) as part of your application. The Suffolk Biodiversity Validation Requirements provide further information on this. Natural England have also issued guidance on construction near protected sites and protected species. The PEA should be undertaken by a suitably qualified ecologist, following published best practice guidance. The PEA should also include a data search from Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service (SBIS).
If the PEA concludes that your project will have no significant ecological effects, no or limited mitigation is required and no further surveys are necessary, the report should be submitted along with your planning application.
If the PEA concludes that the development will affect a designated nature conservation site, a Priority Habitat or a Protected and/or Priority Species, you must submit either an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) or the relevant Phase 2 surveys as part of your planning application. These surveys and assessments must be undertaken by a suitably qualified ecologist, following published best practice guidance.
It should be noted that different species and habitats may need to be surveyed at different times of year. Any ecological survey must follow published good practice, including in relation to survey timings. Further details of appropriate survey times can be found in the Suffolk Biodiversity Validation Requirements.
Where a development may impact on a habitats site (also known as a European designated site) the applicant will be asked to provide information to inform a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA). Habitats sites in East Suffolk include Special Protection Areas (SPAs); Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Ramsar sites. Further details on these sites is available from the MAGIC website.
All new developments should contribute to the enhancement of biodiversity and delivering Biodiversity Net Gain. Examples of onsite ecological enhancements include:
Assessment work has determined that development of new housing within a 13km zone of influence around habitats sites (also known as European designated sites) along the Suffolk coast is likely to have a significant effect upon the interest features of these sites, through disturbance resulting from increased recreational pressure.
A strategy to mitigate such impacts has been developed. This includes the collection of financial contributions from new development to help fund mitigation projects.
The protection of the natural environment is an important and integral part of the planning system. As Local Planning Authority, the council has a statutory duty to consider the conservation of biodiversity when making decisions on planning applications.