Report by Sustainability Officer (attached)
The Committee considered a report by the Sustainability Officer (circulated previously) regarding the finalised Visitor Mitigation Strategy for Braunton Burrows Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
Councillor Lane declared a personal interest as a builder and a developer.
In response to questions from the Committee, the Sustainability Officer advised the following:
· The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 sets out a duty to maintain and restore European Designated Sites. Local authorities were required to have regard to the implications of plans or projects on the integrity of protected site’s conservation objectives.
· Evidence produced since the adoption of the North Devon and Torridge Local Plan (the “Local Plan”) concluded that, as a result of increasing visitor pressure, adverse effects on the integrity of the SAC could not be ruled out and development which contributed to the harm of the SAC should not be granted without appropriate mitigation measures being in place.
· Natural England had advised that a formal mitigation strategy must be produced to provide certainty on what mitigation measures are required and the cost of delivery.
· In 2019, the Council commissioned Footprint Ecology, who were national experts, to assess potential impacts on Braunton Burrows SAC as a result of further non plan-led development in-combination with that allocated for within the Local Plan. The Braunton Burrows SAC – An Assessment of the Potential Recreational Impacts Linked to Non Plan-Led Development report was finalised in March 2019. Footprint Ecology assessed visitor behaviour, type of impact and origin of impact.
· Natural England had responded to the report produced by Footprint Ecology and advised that the appropriate assessment to accompany all new applications would need to address measures for mitigation.
· The developer contributions sought could only legally be used for Braunton Burrows SAC and could not be transferrable to another area. In accordance with the Habitat Regulations, only potential impacts on Braunton Burrows SAC were perceived to be significant and warrant further assessment and mitigation.
· The costs included within the action plan of the Mitigation Strategy were estimates to mitigate impacts for the remainder of the Joint Local Plan. The Strategy was provided by a reputed consultant. The figures would be kept under constant review.
(a) That the Local Authority commence collection of developer contributions at a revised rate of £190 per unit (including administration fees) on any development resulting in a net gain in temporary or permanent residential or holiday accommodation within the identified Zone of Influence (ZoI);
(b) That the rate of contributions be placed under constant review to ensure that the delivery of development within the ZOI was sufficient to fund the strategy’s capital costs and recurring costs as set in Table 1 of the Strategy;
(c) That the Braunton Burrows SAC Mitigation Strategy action plan be reviewed in two years time;
(d) That Full Council be recommended to amend the Scheme of delegations to provide delegated power to the Senior Solicitor to enter into undertaking and obligations under section 106 Town and County Planning Act and/or section 111 Local Government Act 1972 to secure contributions;
(e) That Full Council be recommended to amend the Scheme of delegations to provide delegated power to the Senior Solicitor to develop a legal agreement with Christie Estates for developer contributions collected for the purpose of Braunton Burrows SAC mitigation to fund a Christie’s appointed 60% full time equivalent Engagement Officer.