Residential development secured within 400m of Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area through careful negotiation with regulator.
Baker Consultants, experts in Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA), has achieved a landmark decision when the inspector at the inquiry into the redevelopment of Bramshill House, Hampshire, granted permission for conversion to unrestricted residential use.
The house is a magnificent Jacobean Mansion and a grade 1 listed building set in a beautiful landscaped garden. The house had no current use and City & Country sought planning permission to convert the house back a private residency.
400m SPA exclusion zone: The house was located close to the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) within the 400m zone where there is normally a strict ban on any new housing. In the lead up to the inquiry Natural England had raised objections to the planning application citing the close proximity of the SPA.
Negotiation and agreement: Baker Consultants held detailed negotiations with Natural England to overcome the objection and using a clause in the extant regional policy managed to get an agreement with Natural England that the proposed development represented ‘exceptional circumstances’. Ultimately Natural England signed up to a statement of common ground and indeed appeared at the public inquiry in support of the application.
RSPB objections: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) maintained its objection to the development and threw considerable legal and expert witness resources into opposing residential development within the 400m zone. Baker Consultants’ managing director Andrew Baker was City & Country’s expert witness on HRA issues and successfully challenged the RSPB evidence.
This landmark decision is a first on a number of counts. As far as we are aware it is the first time that the regional policy (which anticipates exceptional circumstances) has been used, secondly, it is highly unusual for Natural England to come to an inquiry in support of a development, and finally it also demonstrated that the perceived impacts of residential development within 400m of the Thames Basin Heaths can be mitigated in certain circumstances.
Richard Winsborough, City & Country’s Associated Director said, “Securing residential development for Bramshill House was a major achievement, Baker Consultants played a key role in turning around Natural England’s initial objection to the scheme into active support for the development at the inquiry.”
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