1. What is the South Hams SAC?
The South Hams Special Area of Conservation (SAC) is a European Wildlife Site that has strong legal protection. The ‘special interest’ for which this SAC is designated is greater horseshoe bat plus a range of habitats. The SAC includes a scatter of important greater horseshoe bat roosts across Teignbridge, Dartmoor, Torbay and South Hams.
Legal protection of this site
The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 sets out how Local Planning Authorities must deal with planning applications that have potential to impact on SACs and other European wildlife sites. The Council must not grant planning permission that might harm the SAC or its bats, unless any harmful effects will be fully mitigated.
Harmful effects may be direct, indirect or in-combination. They may be to the designated land, to the 'special interest' of the designated site or to ‘functionally-linked land’. The bats fly in and out of the designated SAC roosts every night and between roosts seasonally. Functionally-linked land includes feeding areas, flyways and non-designated roosts used by the SAC bats.
Section 63 of the Habitat Regulations requires us to assess whether a significant effect is likely, and, if we consider it is, then we must undertake an Appropriate Assessment of whether or not the effect can be fully mitigated. We may ask the applicant to provide evidence to help undertake these assessments. We must consult Natural England on the completed Appropriate Assessment.
The legislation says that we MUST NOT grant consent for a development that would, either alone or in combination with other developments, have a likely significant effect on a European wildlife site, unless full mitigation is provided.
The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 allows certain development as Permitted Development in Schedule 2 of the Order. However, this is subject to regulations 75 to 78 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 which override this, stating that if the appropriate habitat mitigation is not provided then the development cannot be permitted development.