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Habitat mitigation (RAMS)

The Suffolk Coast is a special place for visitors and wildlife, it is also very rich and interesting in terms of habitats and wildlife. Our coast has several designations which reflect its beauty and importance locally, nationally and internationally. Some of these designations are commonly talked about, such as Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Heritage Coast, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Local and National Nature Reserves (LNR and NNR).

Some designations are not as well-known but are very important for wildlife (biodiversity). Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) as well as Ramsar Sites (wetlands) are vital for birds during migration and breeding, for feeding, roosting and nesting. These designations protect the birds directly as well as their habitats, as they provide important food, vegetation and landscapes for their lifecycles.

Because wading birds are reliant on tides to expose mud and salt marsh to feed and rest, they can be very vulnerable to disturbance. Birds will move with the tides through the day as the water exposes and covers food and rest areas, often feeding at the water’s edge. The rising tide brings birds closer to the shore, people, dogs, and recreational activities that can disturb them, causing them to fly away. If there are no suitable areas for them to land, they will continue flying until the disturbance has gone away.

Wading birds can be easily frightened away from feeding and resting areas, especially at high tide, preventing them from eating enough or getting enough rest. Nesting areas can also be close to where people like to recreate (walking, running, cycling, dog walking, paddle-boarding, boating, kitesurfing etc) and birds can be scared from their nests.

Suffolk Coast Recreational Disturbance Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy (RAMS)

The Suffolk Coast Recreation Disturbance Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy (RAMS) is a partnership between East Suffolk Council, Ipswich Borough Council and Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils. Its aim is to reduce the impact of increased levels of recreational use on Habitat Sites (also often called European Sites), due to new residential development in the Suffolk Coast area, and to provide a simple, coordinated way for developers to deliver mitigation for their developments.

The RAMS project allows for a strategic approach to mitigating the in-combination effects of development on these designated areas and allows mitigation to be delivered across the project area.  

Taking a coordinated approach to mitigation has benefits and efficiencies compared to project by project mitigation packages. The RAMS partnership approach has support from Natural England.

Where RAMS applies

The Zone of Influence (ZOI) is the area where increased residential development will result in likely significant effects. As set out in the strategy, evidence shows that there is a 13 km Zone of Influence (ZOI) around the relevant Habitat Sites in the Suffolk Coast area (this includes East Suffolk, Ipswich Borough and Babergh and Mid Suffolk Council areas).

Increased recreation without mitigation would result in the significant features of the sites being degraded, or lost, and these internationally important areas losing their birds and habitat, (and therefore their designations), and the Suffolk Coast losing significant important areas for birds, plants and wildlife generally.

Any new residential development within the Zone of Influence will be required to mitigate the effects of the development and show how this will be achieved prior to approval of planning permission. In smaller development this is most efficiently achieved through payment of the RAMS contribution only. For sites comprising of more than 50 dwellings and in more sensitive locations, a bespoke approach including payment of RAMS and demonstration of on-site/off-site mitigation measures may be required. This Suffolk Coast RAMS Habitat Regulation Assessment (HRA) Record provides guidance, agreed with Natural England. It will be used when intending to consent relevant development and in undertaking its Appropriate Assessment.

Habitats sites affected across East Suffolk

  • Alde-Ore Estuary Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar site
  • Benacre to Easton Bavents SPA and Benacre to Easton Bavents Lagoons (SAC)
  • Deben Estuary SPA and Ramsar site
  • Minsmere to Walberswick Heaths and Marshes Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
  • Minsmere - Walberswick SPA
  • Orfordness-Shingle Street SAC
  • Sandlings SPA
  • Stour and Orwell Estuaries SPA and Ramsar site

RAMS Payment Options 

Where a financial contribution towards RAMS is required it can be paid upfront or via a legal agreement that will secure payment before, or upon commencement of the development.

The RAMS contribution is set at £121.89 per dwelling within Zone A and £321.22 per dwelling within Zone B. Please check which zone your development will fall in using the interactive map.

To make an upfront payment, you can complete the RAMS upfront payment form to make a BACS payment, then email the form along with proof of payment to s106@eastsuffolk.gov.uk or make an online payment to the council (select ‘other payments’ and then ‘RAMS Habitat Mitigation’).

The upfront payment is refundable in the event planning permission is refused, an appeal is dismissed, or the development is not implemented.

Section 106 Planning Obligation (S106)

Where a Section 106 Agreement is required for a planning permission, the Suffolk Coast RAMS payment can be included with the other obligations.