RammSanderson Ecology Ltd were commissioned by Bidwells LLP to undertake a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) Impact Assessment for a potential residential development in North Hertfordshire.
- Surveying the SSSI for botanical value to assess its value
- Finding all data relating to the SSSI including Natural England past condition assessments
- Ongoing communication with Natural England outside the needed DAS meeting/s
- Creating a methodology to be approved by Natural England to survey the current recreational use of Royston SSSI
- Establishing any impacts, the development would have in terms of increases in the established baseline recreational use of the SSSI
- Instructing a suitable nitrogen deposition report
Following in depth surveying of the SSSI for both botanical interest and recreational usage, it was established that the development would have negligible impact on the SSSI and mitigation was proposed to ensure this was lowered to a neutral impact.
The results of the recreational surveys were surprising and the maximum increased usage of the site (at peak times) was found to be 5 people per day.
The proposals put forward already included some on site recreational provision within the development and had proposed some form of mitigation was needed for the SSSI.
Communication was maintained with both the client and Natural England throughout the process to ensure that all parties understood the issues and potential resolutions and so Natural England could approve the methodology for the recreational studies.
Following a DAS (Discretionary Advice Service) meeting, Natural England agreed on the mitigation proposed and whilst everyone was surprised by the final baseline data and likely impacts from the development. All parties went through the data, and once all in agreement the mitigation was granted.
The mitigation included;
- Onsite recreational provision of green infrastructure within the development to avoid as much additional pressure as possible within the SSSI,
- S106 agreement to fund site specific nature conservation activities that could include a dog warden, this will be set up as a tariff per residential building on the development, this is part of a co-op agreement or all developments going forward to enter a similar funding agreement.
Enhancement was also proposed to include;
- Advice to new homeowners on the Public Rights of Way near the site to encourage use away from the SSSI and advice on the importance of the SSSI,
- Interpretation boards within the SSSI placed in suitable locations agreed with Natural England to explain the importance of the SSSI to all visitors.
As a result of the report and the approach to involve all parties from the start, Natural England removed their objection to the development and the planning application was agreed.