Monday, 20 June 2016

Habitats Regulations Assessment - AI supplies another report on nutrients

As a Natura 2000 site, the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths are protected under the Habitats Directive, transposed in the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010; a Habitats Regulations Assessment is required for any proposal that could affect it. Western Power, for example, had to go to the lengths detailed in this report to underground 1600m of power lines across Aylesbeare Common.

With respect to Aggregate Industries' planning application to process material from Hillhead at Blackhill, Natural England wrote in its previous objection to DCC:
...there is currently not enough information to determine whether the likelihood of significant effects can be ruled out. We recommend you obtain the following information or consider the following to help undertake a Habitats Regulations Assessment:
1) The potential implications the raised PH levels of the imported material may have on the sensitive habitats of the adjoining designated site. Particularly the impacts of long term leaching from the solid material with a higher PH that is proposed to fill the settlement lagoons.
2) The long term impact of filling the settlement lagoons with imported material with a high phosphorus content and the risk of continued leaching of Phosphorous into the designated site overtime.
As Natural England pointed out (and who by now is surprised by such glaring omissions?):
[AI's Technical Note] makes no reference to the potential long term impact of importing solid material with high Phosphorous levels and leaving it in the ground so close to these sensitive habitats where it will have the potential to leach into the designated site over many years.
AI has just supplied another Technical Note, and Natural England will be consulted again. If enough information has now been provided, a Habitats Regulations Assessment would go something like this:

Note the "Not sure" outcome; note the "If there is any doubt about adverse effects on site integrity, the proposal will fail this test"; note the "Conclusions must be made on the basis of there being no reasonable scientific doubt as to the absence of adverse effects".

Where it cannot be demonstrated beyond doubt that there would be no adverse effects, a proposal could only proceed if i) there are no alternative options, and ii) there are "imperative reasons of overriding public interest", and iii) there are ecologically viable compensatory measures "to ensure that the overall coherence of Natura 2000 is protected".

AI would have difficulty meeting any of those, let alone all three; it is not an insignificant hurdle that the company now faces to continue processing at Blackhill.