Wealden District Council Sustainability Appraisal / Strategic Environmental Assessment Adoption Statement
Wealden District Council authorised making the Herstmonceux Neighbourhood Plan part of the Development Plan on 24th July 2019.
This statement has been prepared in accordance with the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004 (16) (3) and (4), which require a statement to be produced on adoption of a plan or programme, to detail:
- How environmental (sustainability) considerations have been integrated into the plan or programme;
- How the Environmental Report (Sustainability Report) has been taken into account;
- How opinions expressed through public consultation have been taken into account;
- The reasons for choosing the plan or programme as adopted, in the light of the other reasonable alternatives dealt with;
- The measures that are to be taken to monitor the significant environmental effects of the implementation of the plan or programme
This is in line with the Planning Practice Guidance (March 2014) Paragraph: 004 Reference ID: 11-004-20140306 and this statement examines each of these points in turn.
How environmental (sustainability) considerations have been integrated into the plan
The Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Report for the Herstmonceux Neighbourhood Plan sets out the baseline information about the Parish as the Neighbourhood Plan Area. It identifies the environmental and sustainability issues affecting the plan area, both now and in the future.
In addition to the baseline information, the SA/SEA Report identifies the key plans, policies and guidance that have influenced the content of the Herstmonceux Neighbourhood Plan. This has enabled sustainability issues affecting the Neighbourhood Plan Area to be identified including environmental issues. The issues that were identified informed the sustainability objectives, against which the options for the Herstmonceux Neighbourhood Plan were assessed. By having a number of objectives that reflected current environmental issues ensured that the most sustainable options were generally the most beneficial/least detrimental in environmental, economic and social terms. The identification of environmental issues, as well as economic and social issues, also helped shape the policy requirements for the Herstmonceux Neighbourhood Plan.
How the Environmental Report (Sustainability Report) has been taken into account
The SA/SEA has contributed to the development of the Herstmonceux Neighbourhood Plan by providing an independent assessment of the options (or reasonable alternatives) considered through the preparation of the Neighbourhood Plan and subsequently the policies contained within the Neighbourhood Plan. The SA/SEA demonstrates how sustainability considerations have been taken into account and provides an audit trail and formal statement on the consideration and assessment of all policy options.
The SA/SEA was prepared alongside the Herstmonceux Neighbourhood Plan by the Herstmonceux Parish Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, comprising of parish councillors and the parish clerk. It was reflected within, and supported, the draft Herstmonceux Neighbourhood Plan that was subjected to public consultation both at the Neighbourhood Plan Regulation 14 stage and the Regulation 16 consultation stage conducted by Wealden District Council as the Local Planning Authority.
SA/SEA process began with the request for a Screening Opinion from Wealden District Council, which was produced in June 2016 and consulted upon with the statutory nature conservation bodies – Natural England, the Environment Agency and Historic England. Following this was the production of the SA/SEA Scoping Report in November 2016 by the Steering Group. This involved identifying the current baseline situation for Herstmonceux, along with the sustainability issues and objectives that were linked to a number of indicators. The identification of environmental baseline information, issues and objectives was a key part of this document. The statutory environmental bodies along with a number of other consultees were invited to comment on this document.
The comments received on the Scoping Report helped create a final set of sustainability objectives, which were used to test a number of options as well as the policies that were identified at both the Regulation 14 stage and the Regulation 16 stage.
The significant effects of the options and subsequent policies were analysed against the sustainability objectives. This enabled the potential economic, social and environmental impacts of each potential policy/allocation to be identified. Those options that had the most negative potential economic, social and environmental impacts were not recommended for inclusion within the Herstmonceux Neighbourhood Plan. The opposite was the case for those options that were identified as having a number of potential positive impacts.
The draft policies included within the Regulation 14 and the Regulation 16 stage were analysed against the sustainability objectives. This involved assessing the impacts in the short, medium and long-term as well as any cumulative, secondary and synergistic impacts.
Following the assessment of the effects of the policies, measures to limit and mitigate against environmental, social and economic impacts of the policies were identified. These measures were generally in the form of certain policy requirements.
As a result of the SA/SEA analysis, policies have been modified at various stages in their development to make them more sustainable.
How opinions expressed through public consultation have been taken into account
Key Environmental Bodies
The Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive requires that the authorities referred to in article 6(3) shall be consulted when deciding upon the scope and level of detail of the information to be included in the Environmental Report. In England the key bodies are the Environment Agency, Historic England and Natural England.
The Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive requires the public to have an early and effective opportunity within appropriate timeframes to express their opinion on the draft plan or programme, and the accompanying Environmental Report, before the adoption of the plan or programme or its submission to the legislative procedure.
The Herstmonceux Sustainability Appraisal was consulted upon alongside the Herstmonceux Neighbourhood Plan for six weeks at the Neighbourhood Plan Regulation 14 stage and then for a further six weeks alongside the Neighbourhood Plan Regulation 16 stage.
The Sustainability Appraisal and policies within the Neighbourhood Plan were amended to take into account representations received at the Neighbourhood Plan Regulation 14 stage.
The reasons for choosing the plan or programme as ‘made’, in the light of the other reasonable alternatives dealt with
The Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes 2004 (12) (2) requires environmental reports to examine reasonable alternatives for the plan or programme whilst taking into account the objectives and scope of the plan or programme. This statement is required to set out the reasons for choosing the plan or programme as ‘made’ in light of other reasonable alternatives dealt with.
The Herstmonceux Neighbourhood Plan has been ‘made’ on the recommendations of a suitably qualified Independent Examiner. No new evidence has been brought to the attention of Wealden District Council since the examination took place to bring into question those recommendations. During the Neighbourhood Planning process three separate consultations were held. The first was that of the Sustainability Scoping Report to consider the baseline data and sustainability objectives. The second consultation included the Neighbourhood Plan with its policies which had been tested against reasonable alternatives such as not having a neighbourhood plan and relying on higher level policies. Subsequently changes and modifications were incorporated to take into account representations received. The Neighbourhood Plan and Sustainability Appraisal were then published for a further consultation prior to the Independent Examination.
The measures that are to be taken to monitor the significant environmental effects of the implementation of the plan or programme
Following the publication of the examiner’s report, the SA/SEA is now published alongside the Herstmonceux Neighbourhood Plan. Despite this, the SA/SEA process does not finish with the publication of this document. The effect of the Herstmonceux Neighbourhood Plan will need to be monitored using the Sustainability Objectives identified and contained in the Herstmonceux SA/SEA. Linked to the sustainability objectives are a number of indicators that, where feasible, will be included within Wealden District Council’s Monitoring Reports and by Herstmonceux Parish Council. The results of this monitoring will then be considered and inform any review of the Herstmonceux Neighbourhood Plan. This will also ensure that any unforeseen effects, which have not been identified in the SA/SEA Report, can be acted upon in a timely manner