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Section 3. Assessments

Large scale or more complex developments often have to be supported by assessments that show what the impact of the development proposals would be on the local natural and man-made environment. Such assessments are required to supplement the relevant consent application and the cost will need to be met by the applicant. Developers must also factor in sufficient time for these assessments to be made and must be prepared for conditions to be attached to the consents if granted where an issue has been raised. For example, work may only be allowed at certain times of the year to prevent disturbance of nesting birds or migrating fish. This page reviews the following commonly required assessments:

Type of Assessment Authority that will Receive the Assessment
1. Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA) Marine Management Organisation (waterside) or local planning authority (shoreside)
2. Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) Competent authority (normally Marine Management Organisation or local planning authority)
3. Water Framework Directive Assessment (WFD) Environment Agency
4. Flood Defence Assessment (FDA) Environment Agency
5. Design and Access Statement Local planning authority

Advice should always be sought from the relevant organisation before commencing an assessment to ensure that its scope is correct and to see what other research or guides are already available that may assist. Assessments must be completed before consent will be given. Please also refer to the MMO Guidance on assessments


1. Environmental Impact Assessment

Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) are a way of determining, in a systematic way, a projects likely significant environmental effects. They are required under Council Directive 85/336/EC, more commonly known as the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive or EIA Directive. The Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2007 (as amended) puts into practice the EIA Directive in relation to marine licences.

Typical types of development that require an EIA are:

An EIA is a multi-stage process. The main steps are:

  1. Screening – deciding whether an EIA is required. For marine works it is the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), in consultation with its statutory consultees, that decides whether an EIA is required and they will base their opinion on a report prepared by the applicant. This report should contain a plan showing the proposed location of the development, a brief description of the nature, purpose and size of the proposal and an indication of its possible environmental effects. All screening opinions are published on a public register along with any reports the applicant provides to inform the assessments. For shoreside developments it is the local planning authority (LPA) that will decide the need for an EIA (in consultation with statutory consultees) and give the screening opinion; the Department for Communities and Local Government has published a Guidance Note on the EIA Procedure. Where the development crosses the land/sea boundary the MMO and the LPA will decide who will be the 'lead authority' to process the application. This will depend on the exact nature of the development.
  2. Scoping – deciding the impacts that are to be considered.
  3. Preparation of the Environmental Statement.
  4. Consideration of and consultation on the Environmental Statement.
  5. Decision.

The MMO have produced a Guidance Note on Marine Licensing and Environmental Impact Assessment that gives detailed information for those conducting an EIA in coastal waters.

The Environmental Statement is the concluding information from the EIA which is put forward by the applicant in conjunction with application for planning permission/Marine Licence for the project. Where projects need an Environmental Statement, Defa advises that applicants should seek pre-application advice from the MMO as soon as possible prior to making an application, this is due to the long term trend data sometimes required to support some assessments, for example, ornithology reports for offshore wind farms.

Examples of MMO Screening requests in the Solent

Environmental Impact Assessment Consent Decisions by the MMO in the Solent

Example of Environmental Statement


2. Habitats Regulations Assessment and Appropriate Assessment

A Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) is carried out for a development which is within or adjacent to a European Site. This assessment is a formal way of applying the Habitat Regulations to a development. As part of the HRA process, an Appropriate Assessment (AA) will be required if Natural England or the Environment Agency believe that the proposals are likely to have a Significant Effect upon the site’s features. An AA may also be required even if the proposals are not located within a European Site but are still likely to impact upon it. An AA is a specific part of the HRA and is a way of appraising the potential effects of a plan or a project on European Sites (Special Protection Areas (SPA), Special Area for Conservation (SAC) or proposed SPAs and Ramsar sites), or in an area recognised as important for marine species such as seals and cetaceans. See Natural England's Habitats Regulations Guidance Note for more information.

There is an onus on the applicant to contact Natural England to check that their proposals will not have a significant effect on a European Marine Site even if it is considered to be permitted development. Please read Natural England's Guidance Note  on European Protected Species and the Planning Process for detailed information on this topic. Your local planning authority will be able to advise as to whether your plans are considered permitted development.

Defra have published guidance on how competent authorities should coordinate their input on Assessments.  Sometimes numerous competent authorities are involved in the process and this guidance clarifies how and when they should coordinate - see www.defra.gov.uk/publications/files/pb13809-habitats-guidance.pdf.

From September 2012, a new process allows developers of nationally significant infrastructure projects to agree evidence plans with relevant statutory nature conservation bodies. This was a commitment from the Habitats and Wild Birds Directives Implementation Review.  An evidence plan is a formal mechanism to agree upfront what information the developer needs to supply to the Planning Inspectorate as part of a Development Consent Order application to help ensure compliance with the Habitats and Wild Birds Directives.

Appropriate Assessments and Fishing Activities

There has been a recent change in government policy; fishing activities must now be treated as a plan or project under Habitats Regulation 48, and they will require appropriate assessment. The IFCAs are leading on this and are collecting an evidence base. Once fully implemented and fully introduced across the range of fishing sectors, this will remove fishing from European Management Schemes as it will no longer be an activity.  More information is available on the Marine Management Organisation website.

The competent authority (most likely the local planning authority or MMO) will write the AA based on data supplied by the applicant. The AA will be a key tool used to decide whether to grant the relevant consents and licences for development, for example, issuing planning permission or a marine licence. Natural England are a statutory consultee in this process. The information required for it has to be supplied and paid for by the applicant. The assessment must determine whether the plan would adversely affect the integrity of the site in terms of its nature conservation objectives. Natural England will advise on exactly what the objectives are at a site; activities likely to affect these objectives are listed below.

Where negative effects are identified, mitigation options should be examined to avoid any potential damaging effects.

Maintenance Dredge Protocol

The Maintenance Dredge Protocol was established by Defra to provide a mechanism for assessing the potential impacts of maintenance dredging upon European Sites (SAC, SPA and/or Ramsar sites). The Protocol recommends the preparation of a ‘Baseline Document’, which will use existing information to describe the current and historical patterns of dredging in relation to the conservation status of European sites. The Baseline Document should cover all maintenance dredging within a single estuary or appropriate unit of area.

The Baseline Document is prepared and primarily kept up to date by the Statutory Harbour/port/navigation Authority(s) in the area covered by the document, with assistance from those ports, berth operators and marinas wishing to undertake or commission maintenance dredging operations. In the Solent, most of the harbours and ports are either working on, or have completed their baseline documents. Natural England contributes to the initial drafting and periodic review of baseline documents and all subsequent effect/impact assessments undertaken in light of information contained within them. If Natural England is satisfied with the document’s conclusions then it will formally endorse the document.

Where dredging proposals fit within the tolerance range described and defined within the baseline document, a standard consideration letter will be issued by Natural England and it should be possible for the MMO to determine a consent in the knowledge that there will not be an adverse affect. The tolerance range is set by Natural England. However, where the scale of dredging departs significantly from the tolerance range described in the document, Natural England may ask the applicant to give additional consideration to the possible effects of the proposed dredge and it may require an Appropriate Assessment.

This Protocol only applies to the process of dredging and not the subsequent disposal of spoil.

Most of the Solent's coastline lies within a European Marine Site so early consultation with Natural England on the likely impact of development is recommended. The relevant Natural England office for the Solent is the Winchester Office. Use the JNCC interactive map of Marine Protected Areas to view European Marine Sites boundaries. AA findings are normally made public and open for consultation.

Solent Examples of Appropriate Assessments


3. Flood Defence Assessment

Where a development is proposed within an area shown to be located within a flood risk zone a Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) will need to be submitted with the planning application. The FRA will need to assess the flood risk to a development over it's lifetime and provide mitigation measures to demonstrate how the development would remain safe in flood risk terms. The Environment Agency's flood zone maps can be used by the public to identify whether a site is located within a flood risk area. If a site is located within a risk area it is advisable to contact the local Environment Agency, Development & Flood Risk team, to gain further site specific information and advice on how to mitigate flood risk.


4. Water Framework Directive Assessment

The EC Water Framework Directive (WFD), which came into force on 22 December 2000, establishes a new, integrated approach to the protection, improvement and sustainable use of Europe's rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters and groundwater. It introduced new, broader ecological objectives, designed to protect and, where necessary, restore the structure and function of aquatic ecosystems. It is implemented by the Environment Agency.

The WFD is particularly relevant for projects involving dredging or the disposal of dredged material at sea. The Water Framework Directive applies in estuaries and in coastal waters out to one nautical mile from low water. The Environment Agency has produced Guidance on Marine dredging for compliance with the Water Framework Directive.

The Environment Agency has recommended that decision setting policy, including large-scale plans such as Shoreline Management Plans (SMPs), take account of the requirements of the Directive. It has published ‘Water Framework Directive Guidance for the Assessment of SMPs’. This guidance describes the methodology for assessing the potential hydromorphological change and consequent ecological impact of SMP policies and ensuring that SMP policy setting takes account of the Directive.

The Directive also introduced a river basin management planning system which is a mechanism for ensuring the integrated management of: groundwater; rivers; canals; lakes; reservoirs; estuaries and other brackish waters; coastal waters; and the water needs of terrestrial ecosystems that depend on groundwater, such as wetlands. The Solent lies within the South East River Basin Management Plan.

Examples of WFD Assessment in the Solent


5. Design and Access Statement

A design and access (DAS) statement is a short report accompanying and supporting a planning application. It explains the design principles and concepts that have been applied to particular aspects of the proposal – these are the amount, layout, scale, landscaping and appearance of the development.