Local planning authorities (LPA's) in England will be able to assess whether a proposed development is likely to affect the country's 4,128 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI's) thanks to a simple-to-use online tool produced by Natural England.
The Impact Risk Zones (IRZs) dataset is a GIS tool which maps zones around each SSSI according to the particular sensitivities of the features for which it is notified and specifies the types of development that have the potential to have adverse impacts.
Natural England uses IRZ's to make an initial assessment of the likely risk of impacts on SSSI's and to quickly determin which consultations are unlikely to pose risks and which require more detailed consideration. Publishing the IRZ's will allow LPA's, developers and other partners to make use of this key evidence tool.
LPA's have a duty to consult Natural England before granting planning permission on any development that is in or likely to affect a SSSI. The IRZs tool will help planners and developers to consider whether a proposed development is likely to affect a SSSI and determine whether they will need to consult Natural England to seek advice on the nature of any potential SSSI impacts and how they might be avoided or mitigated.
SSSI's cover 8 percent of England and safeguard the country's most important wildlife and/or geological sites. SSSI's include some of the nation's most spectacular and beautiful habitats, ranging from wetlands and chalk rivers to flower-rich meadows and remote upland peat bogs.
The IRZs tool has now been published as a downloadable GIS dataset on the Natural England website, click here for details.
The IRZ's only relate to consultations likely to impact on SSSI's and currently do not cover potential risks from coastal schemes such as coastal defences, cliff stabilisation, cross-beach structures, harbour and marine development. Also, IRZs do not alter or remove the requirements to consult Natural England on other natural environment impacts or other types of development proposal under the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure)(England) Order 2010 (as amended) and other statutory requirements.