Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) can be a key consenting risk to Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects and other major developments, particularly due to their potential large zone of influence. For the HRA, it is necessary to determine whether or not a project is likely to have a significant effect on a designated feature (i.e. a protected habitat or species) and whether there is the potential for adverse effects on integrity of a European site as a result (either alone or in combination with other projects).
The assessment methods required for protected habitats and species can be complex and particularly stringent because the precautionary principle underpins the HRA. A rising challenge is the increasing potential for in combination effects, especially in the offshore environment with an increasing number of large developments.
Photo credit: Graham Tarrant
Royal HaskoningDHV has unrivalled knowledge of the HRA issues facing major projects as a result of our leading consenting role for large infrastructure projects. From our experience of sectors from ports to offshore wind we have in-depth knowledge of the latest issues, risks and stakeholder positions. We are therefore able, from an early stage in the development of a project, to anticipate potential HRA problems and build in solutions from the outset. HRA should be a major consideration from the earliest stages of feasibility and site selection. Early engagement is vital to provide an understanding of the likely issues for the developer and provide an understanding of the project for stakeholders.
We ensure the baseline data is robust, agree principles and methodologies with stakeholders to ensure high quality, sound assessments. We recognise the interrelationships between the Environmental Impact Assessment and the HRA and look for efficiencies, dependencies and coordination with developing the assessments in parallel, whilst recognising the distinct requirements.
The first stage of the challenge is to avoid issues by designing out conflicts, understanding potential problems and providing a robust evidence base, these are the bedrock of a solid HRA case. If there are continued disagreement with stakeholders over effects, then the sound evidence base and Royal HaskoningDHV expertise and experience, provide the basis for meeting this challenge successfully.
- Royal HaskoningDHV marine mammal specialists developed the innovative Site Integrity Plan (SIP) as a method of securing mitigation commitments to allow for a conclusion of no adverse effect on integrity for the East Anglia THREE Offshore Wind Farm during its Examination.
- Royal HaskoningDHV developed the full derogation case for the Norfolk Vanguard Offshore Wind Farm, including the alternatives case, Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest (IROPI) arguments and compensation measures agreed with Natural England (but not ultimately required).
- Royal HaskoningDHV lead the HRA for Wylfa Newydd New Nuclear Build and progressed the derogation case early to minimise the risk to programme. This precaution included early engagement with statutory bodies to discuss compensation measures design and we developed the Compensation Strategy. At Examination, the derogation case was requested ‘without prejudice’ and presented as evidence.
- For the Bathside Bay Port Development Royal HaskoningDHV developed and secured a compensation scheme with early stakeholder engagement. Royal HaskoningDHV provided expert witness during the public inquiry and the port development was awarded consent.
- Royal HaskoningDHV pioneered the Evidence Plan Process to provide an audit trail of stakeholder agreements and the basis for Statements of Common Ground which is now adopted as common practice.
In line with Secretary of State advice, we include early preparation for the potential for HRA derogation prior to submission of the Development Consent Order (DCO).
Royal HaskoningDHV multidisciplinary team have internationally recognised experts and technical specialists for key designated site features. Our experts work alongside the HRA specialists and consenting leads to develop an integrated assessment, to ensure the highest quality and minimise the risks to consent. We can provide a full range of HRA services, these include:
- In house ornithology, marine mammals, benthic and terrestrial habitats and species specialists
- Site appraisal and selection to consider consent risks and minimise interaction with designated sites
- Advice on baseline data requirements, data collection and surveys
- Advice on HRA assessment methodology
- Stakeholder engagement including transboundary consultation, Evidence Plan Process, Statements of Common Ground
- Assessment including statistical analysis and modelling
- Production of HRA Screening Report, HRA Report and Integrity and Screening Matrices
- Development of deliverable and workable mitigation measures and monitoring programmes
- Development of a derogation case including:
- IROPI case
- Compensation measures that are deliverable and workable.
- DCO Examination and Judicial Review support, attendance and expert witness
- Post consent compliance support