Background

The West Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy

2.1   The JCS, as submitted, provides a planning framework for the West Northamptonshire area up to 2026. It sets out the long term vision and objectives for the whole of the area and includes strategic policies for steering and shaping development. It identifies locations for strategic new housing and employment and details the infrastructure (such as transport improvements, schools, open space and community facilities) required to support this development. It also defines where development will be limited.

2.2   The 'Emergent' version of the JCS was consulted on during the Summer of 2010. Feedback on the Emergent JCS consultation was used to inform the policy direction and proposed development areas detailed in the next version of the JCS, known as the 'Pre-Submission Joint Core Strategy'. The Pre-Submission JCS, accompanied by an HRA Report, was subject to a formal stage of consultation during February-March 2011. The amount of development proposed in the Pre- Submission JCS was significantly reduced from that proposed in the Emergent JCS which reflected changes to the economic landscape, results of detailed studies and consultation responses.

2.3   In light of the representations received on the Pre-Submission JCS and changes to national planning policy, further 'Proposed Changes' were made to the JCS with this version of the JCS published for consultation during July-September 2012. The JCS was then submitted for Examination with hearings taking place during April-May 2013.

2.4   Proposed Main Modifications to the JCS, as submitted, have now been prepared by the JPU. These Proposed Main Modifications set out changes identified before, during and soon after the Examination Hearings in April and May 2013 as well as changes which have resulted from the Objectively Assessed Housing Needs and the SA Addendum work carried out alongside the modifications. The Proposed Main Modifications are shown in a schedule as further changes to the July 2012 Tracked Changes version of the West Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy Pre- Submission version as amended by Proposed Changes (Examination document SUB04). The Proposed Main Modifications are listed in the HRA Screening tables in Appendix 1 which also set out the JPU's reasons for each Proposed Main Modification's inclusion in the JCS.

Previous HRA work

2.5   An HRA screening exercise [3] was undertaken of the JCS Issues and Options Discussion Paper [4] in 2007. The screening exercise identified that the JCS could result in likely significant effects on European sites and therefore a full Appropriate Assessment was needed. The European sites which could be subject to likely significant effects were Rutland Water SPA and Ramsar site and Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits SPA and Ramsar site[1] and these were 'screened in' to the HRA. Other European sites considered in this and subsequent HRA screening exercises were Portholme SAC, Oxford Meadows SAC, and Ensor's Pool SAC.

2.6   The next stage in the preparation of the JCS was the preparation of an 'Emergent' JCS which was subject to HRA in 2009 [5]. The Emergent Joint Core Strategy presented some new options which were not considered at the screening stage and therefore it was necessary to 're-screen' that version of the plan to confirm the European sites which needed to be considered in the HRA. The re-screening exercise concluded that in line with the original screening report, the European sites that needed to be considered in the HRA were Rutland Water SPA and Ramsar site and Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits SPA and Ramsar site.

2.7   The Emergent JCS was then assessed to identify potential adverse effects on the integrity of these two European sites and the results consulted on alongside the Emergent JCS, including with Natural England. A number of potential adverse effects on the integrity of Rutland Water SPA and Ramsar site and Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits SPA and Ramsar site were identified. Natural England confirmed that they were happy with the HRA presented and the impact avoidance measures put forward to address the potential adverse effects identified in the HRA.

2.8   One of the measures recommended in the HRA of the Emergent JCS was to undertake survey work in the vicinity of the Clifford Hill Gravel Pits to inform the avoidance and mitigation measures required. Clifford Hill Gravel Pits is the component of the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits European site which lies closest to Northampton and which performs a key role in the functioning of the site. The scope of the survey work was agreed with Natural England and survey work undertaken during 2009 and 2010 to provide data for the HRA of the Pre-Submission JCS (see Chapter 5 of this Addendum for further detail).

2.9   The HRA of the Pre-Submission JCS was published in 2011 [1]. A re-screening of the JCS policies confirmed that likely significant effects existed in relation to Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits SPA and Ramsar Site whilst likely significant effects on Rutland Water SPA and Ramsar site were able to be screened out for the reasons described in Chapter 5. No likely significant effects were identified for any other European sites. As also described in Chapter 5, changes to the JCS since the Emergent stage and addition of further mitigation recommended by the HRA of the Pre- Submission JCS allowed a conclusion of no adverse effects on the integrity of Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits SPA and Ramsar site. The HRA report was published for comment alongside the Pre- Submission JCS.

2.10  Following consultation on the Pre-Submission JCS and accompanying HRA Report, West Northamptonshire JPU published Proposed Changes to the JCS in July 2012. These were subject to HRA screening and the results published as an addendum to the HRA of the Pre-Submission JCS [2]. The HRA Screening of the Proposed Changes to the Pre-Submission JCS did not identify any likely significant effects on any European site and no previously recommended impact avoidance measures were outstanding. It was therefore concluded that the Proposed Changes to the Pre-Submission JCS would not result in adverse effects on the integrity of any European site. Although not necessary to support this conclusion, two recommendations to improve the JCS in light of the HRA were made at that stage:

  • "Appendix 4: For completeness and in order to ensure impacts on European sites are considered it is suggested that the wording is amended to include clause  specifying that all developments will need to be in compliance with the Habitats Regulations."
  • "Policy BN7a could be strengthened so that it is consistent with the supporting text which directly references the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pit SPA "New developments will need to have the necessary means of water supply but this must not affect the water levels at the Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits Special Protection Area (SPA) or overall water quality".
1. Upper Nene Valley Gravel Pits was classed as a potential SPA (pSPA) and Proposed Ramsar (pRamsar) site until April 2011 when it was formally designated. The requirements for Habitats Regulations Assessment are the same for formally proposed sites as for fully designated sites. [back]