What is the Essex coast RAMS?
The Essex coast Recreational disturbance Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy (the “Essex coast RAMS”) aims to deliver the mitigation necessary to avoid significant adverse effects from ‘in-combination’ impacts of residential development that is anticipated across Essex; thus protecting the Habitats (European) sites on the Essex coast from adverse effect on site integrity. All new residential developments within the evidenced Zone of Influence where there is a net increase in dwelling numbers are included in the Essex coast RAMS.
The Essex coast RAMS identifies a detailed programme of strategic mitigation measures which are to be funded by developer contributions from residential development schemes.
The 11 Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) which are partners in and responsible for the delivery of the RAMS are listed below:
- Basildon Borough Council
- Braintree District Council
- Brentwood Borough Council
- Castle Point Borough Council
- Chelmsford City Council
- Colchester Borough Council
- Maldon District Council
- Rochford District Council
- Southend Borough Council
- Tendring District Council
- Thurrock Borough Council
Why is the Essex coast RAMS necessary?
The published Habitats Regulations Assessments (HRAs) for the relevant Local Plans have identified recreational disturbance as an issue for all of the Essex coastal Habitat sites.
Mitigation measures have been identified in the HRA (screening and/or Appropriate Assessments) for many of the Local Plans. There are similarities in the mitigation measures proposed, reflecting the identification of in-combination effects resulting from planned and un-planned growth in LPA areas.
Mitigation at this scale, and across a number of LPAs, is best tackled strategically and through a partnership approach. This ensures maximum effectiveness of conservation outcomes and cost efficiency. In recognition of this, Natural England recommended a strategic approach to mitigation along the Essex coast.
This strategic approach has the following advantages:
It meets the requirements of planning legislation: necessary to make a development acceptable in planning terms, directly related to the development and fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to a development;
- It is endorsed by Natural England and has been used to protect other Habitats sites across England;
- It is pragmatic: a simple and effective way of protecting and enhancing the internationally important wildlife of the Essex coast and will help to reduce the time taken to reach planning decisions;
- It allows for detailed evidence to be gathered to understand the recreational disturbance patterns and provide an effective mitigation package;
- It provides an evidence based and fair mechanism to fund the mitigation measures required as a result of the planned residential growth; and
- It provides developers, agents and planning authorities with a comprehensive, consistent and efficient way to ensure that appropriate mitigation for residential schemes within the Zone of Influence is provided in an effective and timely manner.
Ahead of the production of the Essex coast RAMS, LPAs have had an interim approach to delivering the requirements of the Habitats Regulations. The approval and publication of the Essex Coast RAMS begins the strategic mitigation phase and the Essex coast RAMS allows LPAs to collect developer contributions for applications for new residential dwellings which fall within the Zone of Influence of the Essex coast Habitats sites.
Existing visitor pressure at Habitats sites will need to be mitigated through alternative means and any pressure that would arise from different types of development would be addressed through the relevant project HRA.
What is the current status of the Essex coast RAMS?
There is a final draft of the Essex coast RAMS, which each LPA is taking to its elected members for approval. Each LPA has its own timetable of committee dates, therefore the RAMS will be approved by different LPAs at slightly different times this spring.
The LPAs have also drafted a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) which will facilitate the delivery of the Essex coast RAMS. This is being reviewed by officers at each LPA and will be taken to elected members during the spring to seek approval for public consultation on the SPD. This consultation will take place during the summer of 2019, once local elections have taken place and in accordance with each LPA’s Statement of Community Involvement. It is anticipated that the SPD will be adopted by each LPA in late summer 2019.