Natural England's Response
Link to original document at Torbay Council
It's fair to say that the proposed application from Lidl falls short in terms of ecological and environmental concerns. Natural England were quick to pick up on this:
"The application site is within or in close proximity to a European designated site (also commonly referred to as Natura 2000 sites), and therefore has the potential to affect its interest features. European sites are afforded protection under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, as amended (the 'Habitats Regulations').
The site is also notified at a national level as Berry Head to Sharkham Point Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)."
The greater horseshoe bat is often highlighted in planning applications. Here's why:
"Greater horseshoe bats are among the rarest and most threatened bats in Europe. During the last 100 years, numbers have declined significantly throughout northern Europe. South Devon represents an international stronghold for the species supporting the largest recorded roost in northern Europe.
The permanent loss of existing or potential habitat within the sustenance zone and in proximity to the Berry Head roost has the scope to adversely affect the favourable conservation status of the Berry Head maternity colony.
The proposals involve the net loss of land available for foraging greater horseshoe bats within the Berry Head sustenance zone, and impacts to the hedgerow network available to commuting greater horseshoe bats.
In addition, the masterplan (2013) for the site refers to a number of habitats that were not recorded as part of the information put forward with this application - semi-improved grassland occupied a significant proportion of the site, and scattered trees. Clearly the site is the subject of successional vegetation, with the potential to provide valuable and undisturbed habitats to support greater horseshoe bat activity."
Natural England provide the following advice; alongside requirements:
• We note that the greater horseshoe bat survey deviated from best practice guidance.
• The Ecological Appraisal that has been submitted fails to fully consider impacts and address the mitigation/enhancements requirements. Comprehensive avoidance/mitigation measures and enhancements need to be sufficiently detailed and unambiguous, providing certainty that they prevent detrimental impacts upon greater horseshoe bat activity. It will be important to demonstrate that the ‘mitigation hierarchy’ has informed the approach.
• A lighting assessment has been put forward with the application, but fails to consider ecological constraints or impacts. Once suitable mitigation and avoidance measures have been put forward, an updated lighting assessment will be required to demonstrate that those features are not subject to detrimental light impacts.
• Your authority will be required to carry out a Habitats Regulations Assessment, and this will need to be based upon a sufficient level of certainty and detail regarding potential impacts. Potential avoidance and mitigation measures will need to be sufficiently detailed and underpinned by robust delivery mechanisms that reflect the duration of impacts.
Biodiversity Net Gain
"... to future proof the proposed development, we advise that the proposals are reviewed in light of this commitment towards the delivery of biodiversity net gain. To objectively demonstrate the delivery of biodiversity net gain, the measures put forward to enhance and mitigate biodiversity need to be presented utilising a recognised biodiversity metric mechanism (e.g. defra metric)."
"As part of Torbay Council’s commitment towards Green Infrastructure, we are keen to see the integration of this important element into the proposals. This will facilitate a holistic approach and ensure that the development proposals are capable of contributing towards Torbay’s Green Infrastructure Delivery Plan."
We have highlighed the key findings from Natural England, you may wish to read the full response on Torbay Council's website.