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Habitats regulations assessment guidance and forms

New developments have the potential to impact on internationally protected wildlife sites (as defined as habitats sites in the National Planning Policy Framework) within and close to the borough planning area. New development is therefore required to avoid or mitigate such impacts. If this cannot be achieved, permission cannot be granted.

Demonstrating that potential impacts have been avoided or mitigated for through documented assessment is an important part of compliance with The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (opens new window). Planning applications for developments which are likely to have significant effects on designated sites must be accompanied by a shadow habitat regulations assessment. For certain types of development, the Council has produced a template assessment to simplify and speed up the process. More information on the habitat regulations can be found in the government guidance on appropriate assessment (opens new window).

Recreational impacts

The habitats regulations assessment of the Local Plan Part 2 (PDF) [1MB] (opens new window)  has established that there are likely significant in-combination effects resulting from increased recreational visitor pressure from new residential and tourist development, and this applies to the whole of the borough. As such, all residential and tourist accommodation development across the borough requires a habitats regulations assessment as part of the planning application process.

The Borough Council has worked with all Norfolk local planning authorities to adopt the Norfolk green infrastructure and recreational avoidance mitigation strategy (opens new window) that seeks to implement the necessary measures to mitigate the in-combination effects. These measures are funded by developer contributions from development likely to produce in-combination effects. As such, where applicable, with the relevant submitted shadow habitats regulations assessment, the Borough Council will require a planning contribution of £221.17 per net new dwelling (or equivalent tourist accommodation being six-bed spaces).

In order to simplify and speed up this assessment process, the Borough Council has developed the guidance below:

A Template shadow habitats regulations assessment (OpenDocument text) [17KB] (opens new window)  form is available which can be used in the circumstances indicated in the above guidance.

Where the contribution applies and no section 106 will be applicable for the development, a Section 111 agreement (OpenDocument text) [33KB] (opens new window)  should be completed. Payments should be made when the application is submitted.

Nutrient neutrality

Alongside all other local planning authorities in Norfolk, the Council received a letter from Natural England in March 2022 on nutrient pollution in the protected habitats of the Broads Special Area of Conservation and Ramsar site. The letter advised that new development comprising overnight accommodation such as new housing development, tourist accommodation and care homes within the catchment of these habitats has the potential to cause adverse impacts with regard to nutrient pollution. 

A significant effect from overnight accommodation will only occur where the wastewater from a development enters into the catchment of the designated sites. In the case of the Borough of Great Yarmouth all properties connected to the mains sewerage system are served by a treatment works which discharges outside of the catchment area. Therefore, for developments that connect to the mains sewerage system within the Borough, there will be no effect and therefore will not require a habitat regulations assessment for the purpose of nutrient neutrality (note an assessment will still be required for recreational impacts as detailed above). 

For new properties in the catchment that cannot connect to the mains system, and that are reliant on an on-site treatment plant such as septic tank or package treatment works, a significant effect cannot be ruled out. Therefore, any planning application for such development will need to be accompanied by a bespoke shadow habitat regulations assessment which identifies the amount of nutrients arising from the development and how the development will mitigate those nutrients and achieve 'nutrient neutrality'. Development not involving overnight accommodation but which may have other non-sewerage water quality implications should also be supported by a bespoke shadow habitat regulations assessment. 

Nutrient neutrality catchment

To find out if your development is within the nutrient neutrality catchment, and whether it is served by the mains sewer system, please refer to our interactive map. Please note, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the wastewater treatment centre data and you should contact Anglian Water for further information.

There may be development sites that are within the nutrient neutrality catchment area and fall outside of the treatment works network area, as shown on the map, but can still connect to the mains by extending the sewer network to serve the development. For those development sites, evidence should be submitted with the planning application which demonstrates that a connection will be made. In these circumstances, a planning condition will likely be attached to any planning permission requiring connection to the mains sewer system. 

Nutrient nutrient budget calculator

Norfolk authorities have produced a Norfolk nutrient budget calculator that can be used to help inform the content of a shadow habitat regulations assessment. This is a Norfolk-specific calculator, and other calculators are available, including the Natural England calculator.

The Norfolk calculator however uses local data to provide a more refined nutrient calculation having regard to specific local characteristics. The Norfolk calculator provides a rapid calculation of net phosphate and nitrate loadings from developments. This includes phosphate and nitrate offsetting calculations for on-site and off-site locations. It is a clear decision-making tool for local planning authorities and developers.

If you need help to complete the calculator, we recommend using a specialist consultant. We will be adding more guidance to help use the calculator in response to queries we receive and a Nutrient neutrality training video (opens new window) is available. 

Natural England also offers a discretionary advice service.

Last modified on 03 April 2024

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