Somerset County Council

Habitat Regulations Assessment


We carry out Habitats Regulations Assessment both on County Council plans and planning applications, and on behalf of the district and borough councils, to ensure that no harm happens to a Natura 2000 site from a plan's or project’s adoption.  Natura 2000 sites are nature conservation sites of European importance and are designated either Special Protection Areas (for birds) or Special Areas of Conservation (for animals and habitats).  In addition, Ramsar sites (Internationally Important Wetlands) are treated as if they were Natura 2000 sites in accordance with Government policy.

About this service
Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) of plans and planning applications considers the impacts of plans and proposed development on Natura 2000 sites.  It is required under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. There are four steps in the process.

Step one: Screening Stage
This identifies the likely impacts of a plan or planning application, directly or indirectly, upon a Natura 2000 site, either alone or in combination with other projects or plans. It considers whether these impacts are likely to be significant. Most assessments do not go beyond this step.

Those submitting planning applications will need to provide survey data to inform the assessment. Lack of such data can delay a planning application’s progress. We are happy to advise on survey requirements before an application is submitted. 

Step two: Appropriate Assessment 
An evaluation of the evidence gathered on impact and consideration of whether changes to the plan are needed to ensure that it will have no adverse effect upon any Natura 2000 site.  Alternative options should be considered to avoid any potentially damaging effects. 

Where adverse impacts remain, the plan may only be adopted for 'Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest' (Step 3) and compensatory measures must be ecologically viable to replace that lost (Step 4). The Secretary of State must be consulted and will inform the European Commission about the compensatory measures adopted.

What is covered?

A Habitat Regulations Assessment is made on the following plans:

Our plans, including:

  • Minerals and Waste Local Plans
  • Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Management Plans (Mendip Hills and Quantock Hills)
  • Future Transport Plan
  • Other strategies that may affect Natura 2000 sites   

Mendip, Sedgemoor, South and West Somerset District and Taunton Deane Borough Council Local Plan Documents including:

  • Local Plans or Core Strategies
  • Site Allocation Development Plan Documents
  • Supplementary Planning Documents    

Where is it?

The following Natura 2000 sites are located in Somerset: 

Special Protection Areas (SPA)
Somerset Levels and Moors
Severn Estuary (Bridgwater Bay) 

Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)
Exmoor and Quantock Oak Woodlands
Exmoor Heaths
Hestercombe House
Holme and Clean Moors
Mells Valley
Mendip Limestone Grasslands
Mendip Woodlands
North Somerset and Mendip Bats
Severn Estuary (Bridgwater Bay)

Ramsar sites are designated under the international Ramsar Convention on Wetlands 1971. The sites are required by Government policy to be assessed in the same way as Natura 2000 sites. The two sites in Somerset are:

Somerset Levels and Moors
Severn Estuary (Bridgwater Bay)

You can find details about these sites  on the Joint Nature Conservation Committee website see link in Information and resources. 

The National Planning Policy Framework states: ‘The presumption in favour of sustainable development does not apply where development requiring appropriate assessment [Habitats Regulations Assessment] under the Birds or Habitats Directives is being considered, planned or determined’.

Laws and Regulation
European Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora
Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds 
Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010
The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017


Contact: Ecologist, Somerset Ecology Services 
Address: Planning Control, Somerset County Council, County Hall, Taunton, TA1 4DY
Phone: 01823 358118 
Fax: 01823 356114
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday closed.

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