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Section 4. Designations

Locations can be designated under legislation to help preserve and protect their special features, either natural or man-made. Works or development taking place in designated sites are often subject to additional constraints and restrictions, so that the integrity of the site remains intact. It is not the case that no development can take place in such sites, but it may have to take place in a certain way or at certain times of the year to prevent damage to the features of interest. Designations can also be used to warn of potential hazards at locations such as flood risk areas.

Looking at the relevant Local Development Documents, prepared by local planning authorities, is a good starting place to see what shoreside designations or planning constraints may be in place at your location for development or works. In the future, the same information for waterside designations will available in the Marine Plans. Shoreline Management Plans are also good sources of information and provide themed maps of designations and information on habitats. See the North Solent Shoreline Management Plan appendix J and appendix D, and the Isle of Wight Shoreline Management Plan appendix I and appendix D.

Listed Buildings

A 'listed building' is a building, object or structure that has been judged to be of national importance in terms of architectural or historic interest and included on a special register, called the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest.  Listed building control is a type of planning control, which protects buildings of special architectural or historical interest. These controls are in addition to any planning regulations which would normally apply. Contact your local planning authority if you need to find out whether your building is listed.

Conservation Areas

Local authorities have the power to designate as conservation areas, any area of special architectural or historic interest. This means the planning authority has extra powers to control works and demolition of buildings to protect or improve the character or appearance of the area.  Conservation areas are usually chosen as places of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which should be preserved or enhanced.  For further information about conservation area consent, refer to Government Guidance on Conserving and enhancing the historic environment. Contact your local planning authority if you need to find out whether your site is in a conservation area.

Protected Wreck Sites

The Protection of Wrecks Act (1973) allows the Government to designate a wreck to prevent uncontrolled interference. Historic England takes the lead in identifying important historic wreck sites in England which should be designated by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Development and other activities affecting Protected Wreck Sites requires prior consent. 

Scheduled Monuments

'Scheduling' is shorthand for the process through which nationally important sites and monuments are given legal protection by being placed on a list, or 'schedule'. Historic England takes the lead in identifying sites in England which should be placed on the schedule by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Scheduled Monument Consent is required to carry out works to a Scheduled monument. 

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are areas of high scenic quality that have statutory protection in order to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of their landscapes. Natural England has a statutory power to designate land as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. This Act also gives all public bodies a duty of regard for the purposes of AONBs when undertaking their work, therefore, this designation will be taken into account when consents such as planning permission are determined.

In the Solent, Chichester Harbour and parts of the Isle of Wight coast have been given AONB status.

Heritage Coast

Heritage Coasts represent stretches of our most beautiful, undeveloped coastline, which are managed to conserve their natural beauty and, where appropriate, to improve accessibility for visitors. They are ‘defined’ rather than designated, as there is no statutory designation process like that associated with National Parks and AONBs. Definition is formalised by agreement between the relevant maritime local authorities and Natural England. Most are within the boundaries of National Parks or AONBs. The Heritage coast around the Solent is the Hamstead/Tennyson coast on the Isle of Wight.

Flood Risk Areas

The Environment Agency produces flood risk maps to help inform people about the likelihood of flooding taking place in their area. Its Flood Maps show areas that could be affected by flooding, either from rivers or the sea. The Flood Map also has information on flood defences and the areas benefiting from those flood defences.

The Flood Map is designed to increase awareness among the public, local authorities and other organisations of the likelihood of flooding, and to encourage people living and working in areas prone to flooding to find out more and take appropriate action. The Flood Map can also be used by those people who wish to apply for planning permission in England to see whether the site they plan to develop is in a flood risk area.

National Park

The designation of National Park status confers a duty on the National Park Authority to preserve the aesthetic qualities, protection of wildlife, historic and architectural interests. The National Park that covers part of the Solent coastline is the New Forest National Park from Hurst Castle to Fawley. This Authority is the local planning authority for the part of the New Forest covered by the National Park, so permission for coastal development above MLWM on this part of the coast will be decided by the NFNPA. Its Development Management team is responsible for determining planning applications based on national planning guidance and local planning policies. This team is also responsible for monitoring compliance with approved plans and investigating reported breaches of planning control.

Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are zones of our oceans, seas and coasts where species and habitats are protected from activities that are damaging or cause disturbance. This protection can cover the whole ecosystem from the sea floor to the surface. Much of the Solent, its harbours and estuaries are covered by designations under the MPA umbrella. Natural England has a statutory duty to provide conservation advice for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in England’s inshore waters (up to 12 nautical miles) under regulation 37 of The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) and section 127 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

There are five designations which together form the MPA network in England:

  1. Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) - protects marine habitats or species of European importance (for example sea caves and reefs).
  2. Special Protection Areas (SPAs) - protects populations of specific species of birds of European importance.
  3. Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). - protect wildlife and geological sites. Most SSSIs are on land and in the intertidal area, but they can extend into the marine environment below low water mark.
  4. RAMSAR sites - protect internationally important sites for wetland birds.
  5. Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) - protect nationally important habitats, species and geology.

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee have launched an interactive map to display UK Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

Natural England's Conservation Advice packages will show you how to determine whether your proposal will have an impact on a MPA. In September 2019 they published documents on how to use these Packages for Environmental Assessments; MCZ Assessment Process and Component Flowcharts; and HRA Process and Component Flowcharts.

The MMO Marine Conservation Team is responsible for managing the impacts of fishing and marine non-licensable activities on MPAs. They can do this through voluntary measures or byelaws. MMO has the power to make byelaws to further the conservation objectives of:

Functionally Linked Land

‘Functionally linked land’ (FLL) is a term often used to describe areas of land or sea occurring outside a designated site which is considered to be critical to, or necessary for, the ecological or behavioural functions in a relevant season of a qualifying feature for which a Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)/ Special Protection Area (SPA)/ Ramsar site has been designated. These habitats are frequently used by SPA species and supports the functionality and integrity of the designated sites for these features. There is a requirement for competent authorities to consider the importance of functionally linked habitats in Habitats Regulation Assessments (HRAs) when assessing new plans or projects to ensure the Conservation Objectives for the site can still be delivered.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

SSSIs are the country's very best wildlife and geological sites. Natural England has responsibility for identifying and protecting the SSSIs in England under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). This legislation gives Natural England powers to ensure better protection and management of SSSIs and safeguard their existence into the future. Owners and occupiers of SSSI's have a duty to notify Natural England and gain their consent if they want to change the way in which the SSSI is managed or wish to undertake works or development.

Use Natural England's Designated Sites System to search for the locations of MPAs and SSSIs.

National Nature Reserves

Natural England is the body empowered to declare National Nature Reserves (NNRs) in England, the Reserves being a selection of the very best parts of England’s Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI); it is this SSSI designation which gives NNRs their legal protection. The majority also have European nature conservation designations. NNRs in the Solent are the North Solent, Titchfield Haven and Newtown Harbour.

All district and county councils have powers to acquire, declare and manage Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) . To qualify for LNR status, a site must be of importance for wildlife, geology, education or public enjoyment. Some are also nationally important SSSIs. LNRs must be controlled by the local authority through ownership, lease or agreement with the owner; the main aim is to care for the natural features which make the site special. You can search for the locations of LNRs on Natural England's website.

Solent Marine Sites

Natural England works as the government’s statutory advisor to identify and propose examples of marine habitats in inshore waters (0 – 12 nautical miles) around the coast of England for designation as marine Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to meet the requirements of the European Habitats Directive. Additionally, it proposes sites of particular importance for seabirds for designation around the coast of England as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) to meet the requirements of the European Birds Directive. Much of the Solent's coastline is designated as a SAC and/or SPA; locations covered by these designations are known as European Marine Sites (EMS). EMS sites are just one of the types of designation that fall under the Marine Protected Area umbrella.

There are three EMS in the Solent:

For the locations of these sites please use Natural England's Designated Sites System. The Solent Forum runs the Management Scheme for the Solent Marine Sites.

The key issue for those wanting to undertake coastal works is that if a location lies within an EMS and requires either planning permission or a Marine Licence, then an Appropriate Assessment (AA) may be required. Appropriate Assessments are required where plans or projects that are not directly linked to the management of that site are likely to have a significant effect on the conservation objectives and would ultimately affect the integrity of the site. The Assessment will be carried out by the consenting authority based on information supplied by the applicant. Please see our section on Assessments for more information.

Natural England have a chargeable Pre-Submission Screening Service that enables potential applicants for a European Protected Species licence to find out whether their plans are likely to meet licensing requirements prior to the submission of a formal application. They also have a Discretionary Advice Service (DAS) to provide discretionary pre-application and post-consent advice on planning/licensing proposals to developers and consultants.

Landscape and Seascape

County landscape types and character areas for Hampshire and West Sussex have been identified through the Hampshire Landscape Character Assessment and the Landscape Character Assessment for West Sussex. These assessments provide guidance for planners and developers to ensure that the distinctive character of the two counties is preserved. For the Isle of Wight please visit the West Wight Landscape Partnership website and the East Wight Landscape Character Assessment.

The concept of the marine equivalent of landscapes, 'seascapes' are increasingly becoming important. Marine plans are likely to include policies that look at maintaining the seascapes of local areas which could in turn determine if or how developments are consented. See the Dorset C-Scope for an example of a seascape assessment.

Water Framework Directive (WFD), Bathing Waters and Shellfish Waters

You may need to provide a Water Framework Directive (WFD) assessment as part of your application to the public body that regulates and grants permissions for your activity. A WFD assessment helps you and your regulator understand:

Any beach or inland water used by a large number of bathers can be designated as a bathing water, provided it meets the criteria for designation. Local authorities usually apply for the designation, but if the site is privately owned the landowner must support the application.

The aim of the Water Framework Directive: shellfish protected areas designation is to protect or improve shellfish waters in order to support shellfish life and growth. It is designed to protect the aquatic habitat of bivalve and gastropod molluscs.

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