What is an HRA?

Habitat Regulations Assessment

If you are embarking on a development project that will impact on nearby habitats it is important to know what factors linked to the proposed site might impact the ability to pass planning regulations.

One way to be certain of knowing these factors in advance is to assess whether you’ll need a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA). In this article we explain the process, the laws to which you’ll need to abide and highlight the benefits of this very important assessment.

What is a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA)?

A Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) assesses implications of a plan or project for a site in view of the conservation objectives for local European Designated Site.

The requirement for a HRA can be triggered if the proposals are located within the Impact Risk Zone of and are within an identified category type with potential to effect a European Site.

Under Regulation 63 and Regulation 70 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) a HRA can be required to assess effects upon the Conservation Objectives for the European Site and determine:

Test 1: if it will result in a Likely Significant Effect (in isolation and in combination with other developments within the Risk Zone of the designated site) and where it does,
Test 2: identify under Appropriate Assessment, a means of mitigation to result in Neutral Impact. Where this cannot be achieved, further Stage 3 Derogation documentation is required (which is beyond the scope of this document).

In conjunction, the need for a HRA is likely to occur where:

the proposals are not included within the allocations in a Local Plan;
where the local planning authority has yet to conduct a HRA for the local plan; and/or
the HRA was conducted prior 12 April 2018 and the People Over Wind and Sweetman vs Coillte Teoranta case (ref: C 323/17 –  judgment states that mitigation measures can only be considered as part of the Appropriate Assessment stage of HRA).

Under Regulation 63 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) it is the responsibility of a competent authority (i.e. the Local Planning Authority or statutory body such as the Environment Agency) to conduct a HRA. However, these can be completed by the applicant and adopted by the local authority as a ‘shadow’ HRA to support  planning application.

How does it affect land where houses are being built?

This will depend upon the specifics of the development, but with early involvement we can inform the design process to minimise impacts to the proposals. We provide bespoke mitigation strategies that are proportionate to impacts upon ecological features.

What are the implications for a developer / land owner?

The proposals can be subject to enhanced legal challenge and if the local authority is not satisfied planning permission will be refused.

What if I ignore it?

This will increase the risk to the project. If contested, projects can be taken to court under EU legislation. Note that even European Sites that are still ‘potential’ can receive full protected following consultation. Therefore, even if planning has been granting, it can be revoked by the local authority at any point up to completion. This will increase costs and delays, potentially years into the project if an effective assessment has not been made.

How can RammSanderson help?

We have successfully completed a range of Stage 1 and Stage 2 HRAs in collaboration with local authorities and environmental stakeholders and are best placed to offer professional advice as to the extent of support required to achieve planning permission first time, with minimal delays.

If you would like to learn more or you have a development project in mind, please get in touch.

  • Categories: FAQ
  • Tags: HRA