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West Northamptonshire Supplementary Planning Documents

In April 2021 West Northamptonshire Council was formed comprising the legacy councils of Daventry District, Northampton Borough, South Northamptonshire and Northamptonshire County Councils.

The following SPDs have been adopted by West Northamptonshire Council.

Residential developments

For residential developments which result in a net increase in the number of dwellings within 3km of the Special Protection Area (SPA), it is necessary to avoid and mitigate likely significant effect on the SPA by making a financial contribution per dwelling towards Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMM) or provide other suitable infrastructure. For residential developments of 10 or more, please discuss your proposal with Natural England.

The mitigation strategy identified a fixed contribution per dwelling (indexed linked, with a based date of 2021). As of 1 April 2024, the rate is £469.11.

Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits Special Protection Area

The Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits Special Protection Area (SPA) was formally classified by the UK Government in 2011. It covers 1,358 hectares across West and North Northamptonshire local authorities and comprises of 20 separate blocks of water and land along the river Nene.

The SPA comprises eight units with Unit 1 of the SPA located in West Northamptonshire and Units 2-8 in North Northamptonshire.

The site is important as it is used regularly by 1% or more of the Great Britain populations of birds such as Golden Plover and Bittern. The SPA has been designated as an area to provide increased protection and management due to the importance of the area for over wintering birds.

Need for and provision of mitigation

The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (known as the 'Habitats Regulations') set out how Local Planning Authorities must deal with planning applications that have potential to impact on Special Protection Areas and other European protected sites. The legislation says that local planning authorities must not grant consent for a development that would, either alone or in-combination with other developments, have a likely significant effect on a European protected site, unless full mitigation is provided.

The mitigation strategy (linked at the top of this page) provides a way for development schemes to provide mitigation for the impact of additional recreation on the Special Protection Area which will be generated by new housing within a 3km radius.

If the developer commits to paying the developer contribution set out in that Strategy in order to mitigate the effect of their development, then it is possible to conclude that a significant effect on the SPA as a result of the development is unlikely. This enables development to go ahead in compliance with the Habitats Regulations and enables developers to deal with the issue quickly, simply and at minimal cost.

The alternative would be for the developer to gather their own evidence for a Habitats Regulations Assessment and then to implement the necessary bespoke mitigation measures (or demonstrate that none are required). This assessment would likely have a much higher cost than if the developer were to make a contribution to the implementation of the Mitigation Strategy (linked at the top of the page).

A proforma has been created to help developers in submitting mitigation contribution measures. This can be found in the mitigation strategy.

Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMM) contributions

The additional population from new dwellings situated will increase the recreational activity at the SPA. The ‘in-combination’ impact of proposals involving a net increase of one or more dwellings within a 3km radius of the SPA are concluded to have an adverse effect on its integrity unless avoidance and mitigation measures are in place. This is through an increase in visitors that will in turn increase the level of disturbance to the wintering waterbirds, particularly through off-lead dog walking.

Under the Habitats Regulations, a development which is likely to have a significant effect on a SPA must provide mitigation or otherwise must satisfy the tests of demonstrating 'no alternatives' and 'reasons of overriding public interest'. There is no precedent for a residential development meeting those tests, which means that all residential development must provide mitigation. Any residential proposal which did not provide mitigation would be refused by the local planning authority.

The financial contribution will go towards Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMM). It is a facility to provide suitable mitigation in the affected areas to reduce the adverse impact of people visiting the SPA through specific measures and monitoring.

The SPA and extent of the SPA 3km buffer area can be viewed using our mapping system. A map is also available in the mitigation strategy.

Functionally Linked Land (FLL)

Functionally linked land (FLL) is a term often used to describe areas of land or sea occurring outside a designated site and which is critical to, or necessary for, the ecological or behavioural functions in a relevant season of a qualifying feature for which a Special Area of Conservation (SAC)/Special Protection Area (SPA)/Ramsar site has been designated. See below for further information on FLL associated with the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits SPA.

Background evidence

Evidence demonstrates that visitors to the SPA come mainly from within a 3km zone around the SPA. Therefore, new development that falls within the 3km buffer will increase visitors to the SPA. The ‘in-combination’ impact of proposals involving a net increase of one or more dwellings within a 3km radius of the SPA are concluded to have an adverse effect on its integrity unless avoidance and mitigation measures are in place.

New evidence has been produced in relation to the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits Special Protection Area including a new bird disturbance study and visitor access study.

Other councils with similar strategies

There are more than 20 other local planning authorities collecting mitigation monies for SPAs around the country. Examples of SPAs where this happens include:

Last updated 19 April 2024