The ‘Strategic Environmental Assessment and Habitat Regulations Assessment Screening Report’ (Screening-Report-Revised), ‘Scoping Report for the Sustainability Appraisal/Strategic Environmental Assessment’ (Scoping-Report-Revised), and the ‘Sustainability Appraisal (SA) for the Durham City Neighbourhood Plan’ (Durham-City-NP-SA-Report-021019) together comprise a Sustainability Appraisal of the Durham City Neighbourhood Plan.
The Background to the Scoping Report and the Sustainability Appraisal Report
We consulted on our Draft Neighbourhood Plan with the statutory consultees (the Environment Agency, Historic England and Natural England) in December 2016 along with a Screening Report that gave our position, with the advice and support of Durham County Council, that a Sustainability Appraisal was not necessary.
Although the Environment Agency and Natural England responded that they did not feel that a Sustainability Appraisal necessary, Historic England came to a different view and advised that a Sustainability Appraisal would be required.
Historic England’s response explained that it took this view because:
- the Neighbourhood Plan will come into effect before the Durham Local Plan and therefore form the most up-to-date development plan document for the area;
- undeveloped sites and allocations must be subject to watertight policies following environmental assessment;
- particular housing development sites raise concerns regarding their effects on heritage;
- there is insufficient information on how the impact of development would need mitigation measures;
- there is insufficient evidence that the potential impacts have been assessed in an area which has such a high number of designated heritage assets including sites of national and international significance.
Accordingly, the Screening Report was updated with the requirement for a sustainability appraisal. The Durham City Neighbourhood Planning Forum, working with colleagues in Durham County Council, wrote the Scoping Report which was accepted by the statutory consultees. AECOM (consultants working for Locality, the national organisation appointed to support groups producing neighbourhood plans) carried out the sustainability appraisal of the Neighbourhood Plan.
Sustainability Appraisal (SA) is a process for assessing the social, economic and environmental impacts of a plan or programme and aims to ensure that sustainable development is at the heart of the plan-making process. Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is also a systematic process to predict and assess potential impacts but focusses on specific environmental issues to ensure they are considered and integrated at the earliest opportunity. Given the similarities between the SA and SEA processes, they are often combined to avoid duplication. Such an approach is also widely recognised as best practice with regards to Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans in England. This is the approach adopted for the Durham City Neighbourhood Plan.