Habitats, ecology and bio-diversity
Habitats Regulation Assessment (North Meadow SAC)
New developments in the Borough have the potential to impact on internationally important biodiversity sites (habitat sites) in particular the North Meadow and Clattinger Farm Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
The North Meadow SAC is internationally important for its biodiversity and is known for its very high proportion of the surviving UK population of Snake’s Head Fritillary (Fritillaria Meleagris). This is a plant highly characteristic of damp lowland meadows in Europe and now rare.
Natural England have advised us that over recent years, recreational pressures from visitors to the site have increased and are now causing considerable damage to the wildlife value of the SAC.
Although North Meadow and Clattinger Farm Special Area of Conservation is not in the Borough, part of its visitor catchment falls within the Borough.
As a “competent authority”, we are legally obliged under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) to consider whether a project or proposal, including planning applications, would affect the biodiversity of any SAC.
We can only permit that project/proposal, for example, approve a planning application, if we are certain that it will not lead to a “likely significant effect” (interpreted as any negative effect, other than those that are completely insignificant) on the special biodiversity of the SAC.
Recreational impacts and catchments
To establish where visitors to the site are originating from, detailed visitor survey work was undertaken in 2022. This has defined two ‘Zones of Influence’ around the SAC from which different types of recreational pressure arise.
The zones are set out below and can be viewed on a boundary map where you can see if your application site is affected.
- The Inner Zone is set at 0 - 4.2km from the boundary of the SAC. It represents the area within which 75% of local regular users originate, which also includes local visitors to the fritillaries in the main summer season.
- The Outer Zone is set at 4.2 - 9.4km from the boundary of the SAC. This represents the area within which 75% of those that come to view the fritillaries during the main summer flowering season originate, and does not feature regular users.
All planning applications (and prior approvals) for net new residential or holiday accommodation within the 9.4km ZoI, will be screened in and subject to a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA).
North Meadow SAC Interim Recreation Mitigation Strategy
On 13 July 2023, Full Council confirmed the adoption of an ‘Interim Recreation Mitigation Strategy for North Meadow and Clattinger Farm Special Area of Conservation (SAC)’ for the period 2023-2028. View item 12 of the Cabinet agenda and item 6 of the Cabinet agenda.
The mitigation strategy has been prepared by Swindon Borough Council, Cotswold District Council and Wiltshire Council in partnership with Natural England.
The purpose of the mitigation strategy is to ensure that the recreational impacts on the SAC from proposed development can be addressed effectively and provide applicants with simple and swift approach to progressing an application through clear consistent measures and financial mitigation.
The mitigation strategy provides a framework under which planning applications in the Borough which are likely to have a significant effect on the SAC, can be permitted. This sets out a package of mitigation measures and derives a developer contribution on a per unit basis.
Mitigation financial contributions
|Zone||Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMM)
contribution per unit
|Infrastructure Mitigation Projects/Strategic Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) contribution per unit||Total financial contribution to delivery of the Strategy/ per unit|
|Inner zone (0 – 4.2km) Relevant developments under 50 units||£323||£480||£803|
|Inner zone (0 – 4.2km) Relevant developments over 50 units||£323||Normally provided within the development site, for example. SANG||£323|
|Outer zone (4.2 – 9.4 km) All relevant developments||£323||N/A (Except for larger developments (e.g.those that trigger the EIA Regulations), which will be considered on a site by site basis)||£323|
|Outside 9.4km||N/A (Except for larger developments (e.g. those that trigger the EIA Regulations), which will be considered on a site by site basis)||N/A (Except for larger developments (e.g. those that trigger the EIA Regulations), which will be considered on a site by site basis)||N/A (Except for larger developments (e.g. those that trigger the EIA Regulations), which will be considered on a site by site basis)|
The financial contribution will go towards meeting the overall cost of the strategic mitigation package as set out in the strategy.
Legal and administrative fees
Please note: Relevant applications will be subject to both a legal fee for development and completion of Unilateral Undertakings/S.106 agreements and also a combined administration and monitoring fee. All Unilateral Undertakings include a flat rate administration and monitoring fee charge in order to meet the costs associated with any drafting, checking, overseeing and approving the unilateral undertaking.
Unilateral undertaking legal fee
- Up to and including four dwellings - £400
- Five to 10 dwellings - £800
- 11 dwellings or more - fees are on a case by case basis
- More than one contribution or obligation required for the scheme - fees are on a case by case basis
Monitoring and administration fees
- All schemes - £504
While the preferred option is for applicants to contribute towards the strategic mitigation option, there is a second option available to undertake a ‘shadow’ HRA, setting out the level of recreational impact linked to the application and a set of mitigation measures to address.
Should you wish to proceed with this option, you may wish to seek specialist professional advice in advance of contacting Natural England by using their Discretionary Advice Service.