Approach to certain International Nature Conservation Designations

The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) includes the requirement for the Council to consider the potential impact of development on certain nature conservation designations. This includes Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), which are designated for bird species and habitats and other species respectively. National guidance advises that Ramsar sites should be treated in the same way; these are designated for wetlands of international importance.

Information is provided below in relation to the Council’s approach in relation to specific issues arising for some of these designated sites. There are other international designations that may be affected by development across the Borough.Also there may be other ways that the below designations are effected by development.


  • Solent region SPAs and SACs – Nutrient neutrality

    Following Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) judgements, Natural England has provided advice on the impacts of nutrients from new development on the group of SPA and SAC designations, within and around the Solent. There are high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous entering the water environment and these nutrients are causing eutrophication, resulting in dense mats of green algae impacting on the protected habitats and species.

    Due to the uncertainty that new development will not cause further impact, and in order to be precautionary, the recommended approach is for new development to achieve nutrient neutrality, which is a means of ensuring that new development does not add to existing nutrient loading. A development scheme’s nutrient budget should therefore be calculated, taking account of both wastewater and land use change. This will inform whether the development avoids harm to the protected designations, or needs to provide mitigation to ensure that there is no adverse effect.

    This applies to the area of the Borough which falls within the catchments of the River Test and River Itchen and their tributaries, which then flow into the Solent, with the exclusion of a small area around Shipton Bellinger and Cholderton, which falls within the catchment of the River (Hampshire) Avon.

    Natural England’s current advice, including a methodology to calculate a development’s nutrient budget is available from this page. The latest advice (June 2020) has updated and revised the previous June 2019 and March 2020 versions, which have been superseded. The advice is accompanied by a non-technical summary and a nitrogen budget calculator tool.

  • Solent and Southampton Water SPA - Recreational disturbance

    The Council has been working in partnership with a number of organisations to consider the potential for new development to impact on this designation in relation to disturbance of the bird species through the recreational use of this area. 

    It has been identified that certain new developments within 5.6km of the Solent SPA designations (see document titled ‘5.6km Solent SPA Buffer Map’), including the Solent and Southampton Water SPA, are likely to have a significant effect when considered in combination.

    The Solent Recreation Mitigation Strategy sets out the approach to providing mitigation in relation to this matter. It was approved by the Council’s Cabinet on 17 January 2018. Unless evidence can be provided to demonstrate that relevant proposals would not lead to a likely significant effect, mitigation would need to be provided. This could either be through a financial contribution, or a bespoke mitigation package, as set out within the Strategy (available from this page). Additional information is available from the Bird Aware Solent website.

  • New Forest SPA - Recreational disturbance

    Through the Revised Local Plan, the Council identified the potential for new residential development in parts of the Borough to have a likely significant effect on the New Forest SPA when considered in combination in relation to recreational pressures. To address this matter the Council has developed an interim mitigation framework. This was agreed by the Council’s Cabinet on the 1st October 2014. A copy of the framework is available from this page.

    This sets out that unless evidence can be provided to show that the proposal would not lead to a likely significant effect (when considered alone or in-combination), mitigation will need to be provided. Mitigation options are set out within the framework – applicants would need to discuss the appropriateness of mitigation options with the Council in relation to specific sites.

  • Emer Bog SAC - Hydrology

    The Council has been working with Natural England and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to update evidence in relation to the hydrology of Emer Bog and Baddesley Common, including the relevant hydrological catchment. The latest study is available from this page along with an associated guidance note setting out a summary of the implications, including the evidence that may be required to accompany planning applications within the hydrological catchment for this designation.