Planning and Ecology
Phosphorus nutrient neutrality across Pembrokeshire
Advice to support nutrient neutral development across Pembrokeshire
Guidance for Local Planning Authorities from Natural Resources Wales regarding phosphorus levels in SAC Rivers in Wales published 2022 is below:
For agricultural developments, the following advice has been provided by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) outlining the specific information required to process planning applications: What to provide with your planning application for an agricultural development (opens in a new tab)
Launch of the ‘Teifi Demonstrator Catchment’ project
On Friday 24th November, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) launched a new multi-year initiative - the ‘Teifi Demonstrator Catchment’ project. This is a cross-sectoral collaboration project supported by Welsh Government and aimed at improving water management in the Teifi catchment. The launch of the project was marked by a stakeholder engagement event convened by NRW Chair Sir David Henshaw and attended by key partners including the Rivers Trusts, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, the Farming Unions and Local Authorities.
The Teifi is in an unfavourable condition and data suggests that discharges from wastewater treatment works are having a significant impact on the river, in addition to diffuse pollution from agriculture, forestry, and legacy mining. Recent research has indicated that salmonoid fish stocks are in rapid decline, with modelling predicting the species could be lost within the next ten years unless urgent action is taken.
There is already significant work underway throughout the Teifi catchment to improve water quality. This project is about thinking differently and using innovative solutions to make things happen, with focus on how value and additionality can be demonstrated. It is hoped that the work in the Teifi catchment will be used to develop a ‘best practice’ model which can subsequently be replicated across all of Wales’ catchments. This project will form part of the wider holistic approach being taken to improve water quality and riverine ecology.
As member of the Teifi Nutrient Management Board, Pembrokeshire County Council look forward to collaborating with stakeholders on this project.
The project is managed by Jon Goldsworthy and you can read more about what he has to say about it here (opens in a new tab)
Pembrokeshire County Council advisory note - how new phosphate targets may impact on your development:
How the new phosphate targets may have an impact on your development proposals
In January 2021 Natural Resources Wales (NRW) published new targets to reduce the concentration of phosphorus in Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) (opens in a new tab) across Wales.
The revised targets followed evidence from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (opens in a new tab) that warmer and drier weather, predicted as a result of climate change, could reduce river flows during the summer and, therefore, increase phosphate concentrations. It is also based on new evidence about the damaging effect of excess phosphate to water ecosystems and species. The importance of this is recognised through the references made to a nature emergency by the Pembrokeshire Public Service Board in its Well-Being Plan for 2023-2028, which includes a project plan for biodiversity and the nature emergency.
NRW Guidance (opens in a new tab) states that Local Authorities are responsible for upholding the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 through monitoring development within SACs.
At present, over 60% of waterbodies in Wales fail against the tighter targets, and Local Planning Authorities are being asked to take more action to avoid further deterioration of the environment. This means all future development proposals within failing SAC River Catchments (opens in a new tab) that will generate an increase in the volume of wastewater must now prove that the ensuing development will not contribute to increased phosphorus (opens in a new tab) levels.
In Pembrokeshire, the Afon Teifi and Afonydd Cleddau are designated as riverine SACs. At present, the Afon Teifi and Afonydd Cleddau are failing against NRW’s targets. In neighbouring Carmarthenshire, the Afon Tywi is passing, although with limited headroom. Further details on status against these targets can be found within The NRW Compliance Assessment report of Welsh River SACs against Phosphorus Targets Report (opens in a new tab).
Developments in proximity to these rivers may have limited capacity to connect to the public sewerage system and alternative solutions must be found that will meet the new targets, either by meeting nutrient neutrality or betterment.
What action have we taken?
The joint Nutrient Management Boards for the Teifi, Tywi and Cleddau have collectively written to Welsh Government outlining concerns about the impact on development and the necessity to find a solution as quickly as possible. In a Pembrokeshire context, the following proactive steps have been taken:
- Nutrient Management Boards (NMBs) for the Afon Teifi and Afonydd Cleddau have been established by Ceredigion County Council and Pembrokeshire County Council respectively. Working with a further NMB for the Afon Tywi, which was established by Carmarthenshire County Council, these boards are responsible for producing a Nutrient Management Plan to improve the condition of the rivers and to facilitate nutrient neutral development to proceed. Further details of these Boards, including a webpage displaying live updates will be posted on this page when they becomes available. The Tywi, Teifi and Cleddau NMBs are working collaboratively under a common manager.
- A West Wales Nutrient Calculator has been prepared to help developers calculate the level of nutrients their developments will generate. The calculator was originally prepared for Carmarthenshire, but has been modified and expanded so that can be used in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, and Ceredigion and in the river catchments of the Teifi, Tywi and Cleddau, under the supervision of the newly established NMBs.
- In conjunction with the publication of the West Wales Nutrient Calculator, comprehensive Mitigation Guidance (opens in a new tab) has also been prepared, which explains the most effective types of mitigation that could be utilised across the three Counties and the three river catchments.
- In recognition of the leadership demonstrated, Carmarthenshire County Council was invited to the Phosphate Solutions Summit (opens in a new tab) held in July 2022 by the First Minister at the Royal Welsh Show. In March 2023, the second Phosphate Solutions Summit (opens in a new tab), again attended by representatives from Carmarthenshire County Council, further highlighted the need for a River Pollution Action Plan (opens in a new tab) and to develop solutions with haste. Pembrokeshire County Council and Ceredigion County Council are working closely with Carmarthenshire County Council to address nutrient issues in river catchments in West Wales and the three west Wales Nutrient Management Boards are also working collaboratively and under a common manager in this regard.
West Wales Calculator
The West Wales Calculator (opens in a new tab) is now live.
Carmarthenshire County Council’s original Nutrient Budget Calculator, the first in Wales, has been extended and modified to form the West Wales Nutrient Budget Calculator. This calculator functions in the same way as the previous one but has additional features and has undergone refinement to cater to all three SAC catchments. This is an important first step in allowing nutrient neutral development to proceed in all catchments within West Wales.
This is a free resource, designed specifically for the Tywi, Teifi and Cleddau SAC catchments. It will support you to understand the impact of your development by confirming a proposed development’s total phosphorous budget, enabling you to consider the mitigation requirements. A Calculator Guidance document (opens in a new tab) and a Calculator Technical Review (opens in a new tab) have also been published as an instructional guide to help you use the calculator. These documents also explain from where data has been gathered and how calculations have been deduced. Separate mitigation guidelines have been produced for each river catchment. These can be accessed here:
Although it is not required that you use this calculator, we strongly encourage you to do so. Any applications submitted using alternative calculators will be subject to additional scrutiny to determine their relevance to conditions in Pembrokeshire.
If the answer is yes to the questions below in any of the following combinations:
- 2 and 3
- 2 and 4
Please use the West Wales nutrient budget calculator to assess whether development will increase nutrient loading to a European site/SAC (opens in a new tab) and whether the development is within a catchment that drains to an affected European site.
The questions are:
- Whether the development is within a catchment that drains to an affected European site.
- Whether the receiving Wastewater Treatment Works discharges to an affected European site.
- Whether the development will lead to an increase in ‘overnight stays’.
- Whether the development will lead to an increase in the number of customers / users or employees coming into the catchment of the SAC river from outside of the catchment to work (in this context a user is defined as a person who may use a service or facilities provided by the development without being directly considered as a customer).
How it works
Simply input the information specific to your development, and site, into the calculator and work through the stages - instructions have been provided to help you.
The calculator will produce a value of total phosphorus in kg per annum. This end value can be used to help you consider your phosphate mitigation options. However, the calculator will not estimate the amount of land required for any form of mitigation due to the numerous variables in nature-based solutions that may vary depending on proposed maintenance, maturity, and site-specific conditions.
The Local Authority does not accept liability for any direct or indirect damage, loss or inconvenience caused by the downloading and/or use of the Nutrient Budget Calculator.
The calculator will be subject to periodic reviews and updates to ensure it is based on the best available evidence and accurately reflects the local conditions. Please refer to the Calculator Guidance (opens in a new tab) for an explanation of the data sets and methodology used in the calculator. If you have any comments, please let us know by emailing the Pembrokeshire County Council nutrient management mailbox, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mitigation Guidance (opens in a new tab) outlines potential options for phosphate mitigation, and includes Wetlands and Buffer strips. Such measures will need to reflect site-specific circumstances.
Any mitigation measures intended to avoid or mitigate potential phosphorus impacts must demonstrate that they are based on the ‘best available evidence’, will be effective ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, are based on estimates that are ‘precautionary’, and can be secured ‘in perpetuity’ (80-125 years).
The proposed measures must also be legally enforced.
For each measure, we need to receive information:
- Detailing how the measure(s) would avoid or reduce adverse effects on the SAC (considering the predicted duration of the effects);
- Demonstrating how the measure(s) would achieve nutrient neutrality;
- Confirming how the measure(s) will be implemented, and by whom;
- Detailing how the measure will be maintained and who will be responsible for maintenance;
- Showing how the measure will be monitored to ensure it is effective.
Further information on mitigation measures can be found in the latest NRW Phosphate Planning Advice (opens in a new tab)
- A Technical Advice Group (TAG) has been established through the joint west Wales NMBs, to provide evidence review, scenario modelling and proposals that will be presented to the Nutrient Management Boards for approval.
- A River Stakeholder Group has been established, also through the joint west Wales NMBs. This will operate as one cross-region group. Membership of this group is open, and we welcome all contributions to help facilitate constructive and lasting change for river health. If you are interested in joining this group please contact the Nutrient Management Board Suppor Officer via email - CNDixon@carmarthenshire.gov.uk for more information.
- The challenges of addressing excess phosphate are complex, and there is no easy solution. Long lasting solutions will require collaboration with neighbouring Local Authorities, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, the rural land use sector, NRW, Welsh Government and other key stakeholders. Active collaboration and information sharing amongst all parties will be undertaken on a regular basis.
- A Strategic Mitigation programme that maximises mitigation and delivers the benefit of that via a credit exchange is being explored. This will remove many of the mitigation barriers that developers are having to address.
We recognise that this situation is frustrating for developers - we want to work with you to find solutions that improve the condition of our rivers that are feasible and can be implemented quickly and successfully. We want to engage with a wide range of people representing homebuilders, employers, the rural land use sector, residents, environmental groups and more to discuss these issues.
Pembrokeshire County Council is working proactively with its neighbour Local Planning Authorities and other organisations such as NRW and Dwr Cymru Welsh Wales to minimise disruption and provide a solution to this unprecedented issue. The lead role of Carmarthenshire County Council and the joint NMBs Manager in this regard is acknowledged. The focus is planning strategically and recognising the necessity for fast and effective action, setting an example for the rest of Wales.
NRW have started issuing their review of wastewater treatment works (WwTW) permits. A backstop P limit is being applied to sites that previously had none in the past. Tighter P limits may be placed on WwTW permits where a limit is already present. There may be no change to existing P limits at certain sites. The new backstop limit of 5mg/l applies to sites with a dry weather flow of <20m3/day.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is phosphorus and why is it affecting our rivers?
Phosphorus is an element and occurs naturally as inorganic and organic phosphorus containing compounds. Phosphate is a compound and is the most bioavailable form of phosphorus. Naturally it occurs in low levels and is an essential nutrient for all organic life.
Excess concentrations of phosphate in rivers can trigger a process known as eutrophication. This process has devastating effects to river health and aquatic ecosystems. Excess nutrients, in the form of phosphate, can trigger an algal bloom. Algal blooms stop sunlight penetrating water. Without sunlight aquatic plants cannot photosynthesise, they die as a result and microbes respire on the decomposing organic matter. During photosynthesis plants produce oxygen which aquatic life rely on to breathe. When microbes respire on dead plants and sewerage, they consume oxygen. Deoxygenated waters cause aquatic organisms such as fish, to die through suffocation. Eutrophication collapses entire ecosystems, and the result is an essentially ‘dead’ water body.
The main sources of phosphorus are the rural land use sector (fertilisers and manure) and wastewater sewerage (sewage, food waste, detergents). Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water have undertaken a review of P sources. This will help better inform our approach and where to place specific mitigation strategies. You can access the source apportionment data here.
What sort of development is affected?
Types of development that may be affected include (this list is not exhaustive and is subject to review):
- New residential units including homes, gypsy and traveller sites / pitches;
- Tourism attractions and commercial developments where overnight accommodation is provided;
- New large commercial or industrial developments where customers will be attracted from outside of the catchment such as large retail sites, conference facilities, or major tourist attractions;
- Agricultural development, including prior notifications (developments that don’t require planning permission, but where the local planning authority needs to check that it is allowed) including additional barns and slurry stores likely to lead to increased herds;
- Prior notifications for change of use of office to homes and agricultural buildings to homes.
Further guidance and advice can be found on the NRW Phosphate Planning Advice Page (opens in a new tab).
What sort of development is not affected?
The following developments can be screened out as not likely to have a significant effect on a river SAC in relation to phosphorus inputs, as there is unlikely to be a source of additional phosphorus or pathway for impacts:
- Any development that does not increase the volume and phosphorus concentration in wastewater.
- Any development that improves existing water quality discharges by reducing the phosphorus concentration of wastewater without increasing volume or by decreasing the volume of wastewater produced without increasing the concentration of phosphorus
- Developments intended to provide services, facilities, commercial sites, or places of employment (e.g., community buildings, schools etc.) for a local population already served by residential connections to existing public or private sewers discharging within the SAC river catchment.
- Any development that reduces the frequency, or volume of irregular phosphorus discharges within a SAC river catchment such as the erection of agricultural structures and drainage schemes to separate rainwater from manures and slurries by covering yards and existing manure/slurry stores. Note that any such development must not be linked to an increase in livestock numbers or the capacity for an increase in livestock numbers through provision of additional infrastructure.
- Private sewage treatment systems discharging domestic wastewater to ground, which are built to the relevant British Standard (BS 6297:2007+A1:2008) (opens in a new tab), the maximum daily discharge rate is less than 2 cubic metres (m3) and the drainage field is located more than 40m from any surface water feature such as a river, stream, ditch or drain and located more than 50m from a SAC boundary and at least 200m from any other known discharge to ground.
Further guidance and advice can be found on the NRW Phosphate Planning Advice Page (opens in a new tab)
I want to submit a planning application for development within a special area of conservation (SAC). What do I do?
If your planning application is within a SAC river catchment area, you will need to:
- Ascertain if the development can be ‘screened out’ as not likely to have a significant effect on a river SAC in relation to phosphorus inputs. This stage is called ‘the Test of Likely Significant Effects (TLSE)’. Please refer to ‘What sort of development is affected?’ If you feel that your application will not have a significant effect, you will need to provide us with information in support of this.
- If the development cannot be ‘screened out’, you will need to calculate the additional phosphorous loading from the proposed development using the Nutrient Budget Calculator. There is a written instructional guide and a video to assist you in using the calculator.
- You will then need to submit a Mitigation Proposal that demonstrates how the additional phosphorous generated will be mitigated. Please see the Mitigation guidelines for detailed information on the most appropriate measures that could be employed within Carmarthenshire.
You could withdraw your application and wait for further progress on solutions or speak to your planning officer to agree an extension to your application.
You could also exercise your right of appeal if no decision has been made after eight weeks from when your application was registered/validated, however the Planning Inspectorate will also consider the impacts of the development on phosphate levels. Please see the link below:
We also advise you to monitor the progress of your application on a regular basis.
My planned extension is for my existing family and there will be no increase in foul wastewater. Am I still affected?
Domestic extensions can provide increased living space within existing properties. They may not result in a change in the number of occupants and, in our opinion, it would appear reasonable for domestic extensions to be screened out at the test of likely significant effect. Our view is that unless the proposal would result in the creation of independent living accommodation, a separate planning unit and/or a change in use, where it can no longer be said to be ancillary to the main residence, such developments are unlikely to lead to significant effects on a SAC through changes in discharge of wastewater. However, proposals that lead to the creation of independent living accommodation as a separate planning unit may lead to an increase in occupancy by residents from outside a SAC river catchment, and in these instances, proposals require further assessment.
I want to build a house and use a private treatment plant to comply with the requirements, even though I’m in a mains sewer area. Will you accept my application?
It is not normally considered environmentally acceptable to install a private sewerage treatment facility in areas where there are main sewers because there is greater risk of failure, which could lead to pollution.
Welsh Government planning guidance states that, where possible, new development foul drainage should be discharged into a public sewer.
If, because of cost and / or practicability, it can be demonstrated that connection to a public sewer is not feasible, then a private treatment plant - or non-mains foul sewage disposal - could be considered.
Please note that you must have an environmental permit, or register an exemption with Natural Resources Wales, to operate a private drainage system. NRW will not normally grant a discharge permit for a private sewerage treatment system where it is reasonable to connect to the public foul sewer.
For more information on the use of private treatment plants in relation to phosphate removal please refer to the NRW Phosphate Planning Advice page (opens in a new tab)
I want to apply for a change of use from existing commercial (or other similar) to residential - is this affected?
When there is a change from existing commercial (or other non-residential) use to residential use, it is assumed that this will result in more wastewater being produced and therefore more nutrient discharges to wastewater treatment plants.
Such plants have a capacity, and when reached there is no easy way to create more space. This creates greater risk of overloading which could increase nutrient discharges into watercourses.
This type of change of use will therefore require a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRS) (opens in a new tab) and mitigation.
I am concerned about the environmental quality of our rivers. Is there anything I can do?
Healthy rivers support social, economic, and environmental resilience and the capacity to adapt to change. Pembrokeshire County Council, and its partners in other Local Planning Authorities in west Wales, want to find solutions that enhance biodiverse natural environments and promote healthy functioning ecosystems. We want to collaborate with environmental and river groups in finding solutions and would welcome your involvement. Please contact the nutrient planning mailbox, at: email@example.com
What is phosphate mitigation?
Mitigation simply means finding a way to prevent excess phosphate from entering the protected waterways. Measures may include the control of nutrient sources, restoration of damaged ecosystems, catchment management, and features such as Sustainable Drainage Systems and river buffer zones that can be used to reduce run-off. Mitigation closest to the source of nutrients is preferable.
What is phosphate off-setting?
Offsetting simply means taking action to reduce phosphorus production to compensate for increased levels elsewhere. However this must be localised.
Using agriculture as an example - phosphate is produced by the spreading of fertiliser and livestock manure on agricultural land. Rainwater carries these nutrients to water courses, particularly on sloping land. Taking a section of agricultural land out of production could halt the addition of phosphates creating an off-set.
The area of land needed to offset new homes would depend on the lithology and gradient of the land, and how intensively it was farmed.
In Pembrokeshire, the amount of agricultural land in the highest Agricultural Land Classifications categories (those considered to be Best and Most Versatile Agricultural Land) is significantly higher than in many other parts of Wales, so decisions to take land out of agricultural production for phosphate off-setting purposes need careful consideration, taking account of the value of that land for future food production.
What is nutrient neutrality?
This phrase refers to the removal of nutrients by developers or local planning authorities to create capacity for growth without causing additional nutrient input. Principles of nutrient neutrality in relation to development or water discharge permit proposals are described by NRW on their Nutrient Neutrality page (opens in a new tab).
Are there any solutions?
Yes, sometimes these will arise through investments by a water company at or near a Wastewater Treatment Works (WwTW), while others are nature based. The issue can be complex and a range of measures (such as removal of phosphate at source, removal of phosphate at or near a WwTW, mitigation and offsetting) are currently being explored on a catchment-wide and site-specific basis. Please see our mitigation guidance to explore potential solutions.
I am a farmer in a phosphate sensitive area. How am I affected and what should I do?
New agricultural developments involving the storage, management and spreading of fertiliser slurry and manure within the protected riverine SAC catchment has the potential to contribute excess nutrients to the watercourse. It is likely that such developments will be affected and need to provide mitigating measures.
There are nutrient management, land, manure, and habitats management measures that can be put in place to reduce the amount of phosphate entering rivers from diffuse sources. For example riparian buffer strips, wooded/vegetated wetland, and drainage pools and ditches. There are also immediate changes that can be made, for example erecting fencing along riverbanks to prevent livestock entering the rivers.
Pembrokeshire County Council, and its partners in other Local Planning Authorities in west Wales, would like to explore catchment management ideas with the farming community. Please contact the nutrient planning mailbox, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
What is Infiltration and Percolation Testing?
Percolation testing is now a requirement as per the latest Natural Resources Wales (NRW) advice for planning applications proposing private sewage treatment systems that discharge (less than 2m3 per day) to a drainage field. This is to ensure that the waste effluent from the private sewage treatment system can infiltrate the soil matrix (to avoid pooling) and percolate at an appropriate rate to minimise risk of groundwater table and/or surface water contamination.
Infiltration is the downward entry of water into the surface of soil and rock. When rain hits the ground, water may either infiltrate into the soil or run-off across the ground. Generally, infiltration is a faster movement of water. The infiltration rate is the rate at which the soil absorbs water. The infiltration rate is measured in millimetres (mm) per hour.
Percolation is the downward movement of water through soil and rock. Gravity and capillary forces are the multiple factors that drive percolation. After infiltration, water starts to move downward through the soil and rock passing different layers of the ground. The initial surface entry of water is called infiltration. Percolation occurs underground and concerns the underground downward movement of water.
Below is the recommended method as outlined in Part B6.5 Natural Rescources Wales Environmental Permitting Regulations guidance (opens in a new tab) to determine the potential drainage field’s percolation value (Vp).
- Avoid carrying out this test in extreme weather conditions such as drought, frost and heavy rain.
- Excavate at least two holes 300mm2 to a depth 300mm below the proposed invert level (bottom of pipe) of the infiltration pipe and space them evenly along the proposed line of the subsurface irrigation system.
- Fill each hole with water to a depth of at least 300mm and allow to seep away overnight.
- Next day, refill each hole with water to a depth of at least 300mm and observe the time in seconds for the water to seep away from 75% full to 25% full (i.e. a depth of 150mm).
- Divide this time by 150. This answer gives the average time in seconds (Vp) required for the water to drop 1mm.
- The test should be carried out at least three times with at least two trial holes. The mean average from the tests should be recorded.
- This is the percolation value Vp (in seconds)
- The average figure for the percolation value (Vp) is obtained by summing all the values and dividing by the number of values used.
- Drainage field disposals should only be used when percolation tests indicate average values of Vp between 15 and 100 and the preliminary assessment of the trial hole tests has been favourable.
- The minimum value of 15 ensures that untreated effluent cannot percolate too rapidly into groundwater.
- Where Vp is above the limit of 100, effective treatment is unlikely to take place in a drainage field as there will be inefficient soakage in this location which may lead to sewage ponding on the surface.
Provide the surface area of your infiltration system. For domestic premises, the floor area of the drainage field (A in square metres m2) required may be calculated from:
A = p × Vp x 0.25 for septic tanks
A = p × Vp x 0.20 for package sewage treatment plants where p is the number of people served by the tank (this should be the maximum number of people that could live in the house)
Vp is the percolation value described above. If in doubt, consult your professional advisor or local authority building control officer for advice.
Use the following calculations:
- For a sewage treatment plant:
- Vp (percolation value) × P (number of inhabitants) × 0.20 = surface area
- For a septic tank:
- Vp (percolation value) × P (number of inhabitants) × 0.25 = surface area
The method set by NRW must be the one followed but to consolidate understanding of the method and processes surrounding percolation and infiltration testing, resources including instructional videos can be found online.
Will this affect preparation of the revised Local Development Plan?
Unfortunately, yes. The revision of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Local Development Plan (the Council’s replacement LDP, also known as LDP 2) has been severely delayed and the publication of the NRW phosphate guidance in 2021 and the need to evaluate its implications for the policies and proposals of the emerging plan within non-tidal phosphate sensitive river catchments is one of the reasons for that. If you require any further information about the review of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Local Development Plan, please see the Council’s website Local Development Plan Review (opens in new tab), or send an email to email@example.com.
What do you mean by Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA)?
Certain areas, (known as European sites (opens in a new tab) are protected by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 as amended (known as the Habitats Regulations).
These areas include Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) (opens in a new tab).
If a development is proposed in such an area, we must carry out an assessment under the Habitats Regulations, known as the Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) (opens in a new tab), to test if whether the proposal could significantly harm the designated features of the site
The appropiate assessment (opens in a new tab) would look at the potential adverse effects of a plan or project (in combination with other plans or projects).
European Protected Species (EPS) Otters and Planning
Introduction to otters
Otters are semi aquatic, living mainly along rivers and are fairly shy, solitary animals, most active around dusk and into the night. Otter numbers were in severe decline due in part to habitat loss and as a result of poor water quality but as conservation measures have taken hold population numbers are recovering.
The otter is still at risk and as a result is a UK and European Protected Species afforded protection under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). It is an offence to capture, disturb, injure or kill an otter or to damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place.
Planning Applications and Surveys
When considering a planning application the presence of an otter as a European Protected Species (EPS) is a material consideration if the proposals are likely to result in disturbance or harm to the species. The Local Planning Authority will consider the potential impact of the development upon the species based on information provided by the applicant to support their application.
If there is evidence of otters on site an Otter Survey will be required to accompany any submitted planning application. The survey can confirm if otters are present and recommend mitigation to protect the otters and reduce or remove the impact of development. This report along with plans showing the mitigation should be provided with the planning application at the time of submission.
Otters as a feature of a Special Area of Conservation
The Cleddau Rivers Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Pembrokeshire Marine SAC and Pembrokeshire Bat Sites and Bosherston Lake SAC management plan lists otters as a qualifying feature. As a result if a development site is close to either of these SACs, or connected via a watercourse additional information may be required in the assessment of the proposal on the species. For further information see Protected Sites (opens in a new tab) or consult the Planning Ecologist.
If you are undertaking development or an activity that will affect otters or any other European Protected Species then it is likely you will require a licence from Natural Resources Wales (NRW). If the development requires planning permission this must be granted prior to obtaining a licence. Once approved it is the applicant's responsibility to apply for a licence and further information can be found by searching "European Protected Species licence" on the Natural Resources Wales website (opens in a new tab)
Any queries relating to protected species and sites should be directed to:
European Protected Species (EPS) Dormice and Planning
Introduction to dormice
Dormice are recognisable for their bright golden colour and thick furry tail. They are nocturnal and are commonly found in woodland and hedgerows, favouring coppiced woodland with hazel. These habitats provide a varied diet throughout the year and allow the dormice to move through the trees as they seem to avoid travelling over open ground.
Dormouse populations are rare in Pembrokeshire and are threatened by the loss and fragmentation of habitat and poor woodland management. As such they are afforded protection under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).
Planning Applications and Surveys
When considering a planning application the presence of a dormouse as a European Protected Species (EPS) is a material consideration if the proposal is likely to result in disturbance or harm to the species. The Local Planning Authority will consider the potential impact of the development upon the species based on information provided by the applicant to support their application.
If there is evidence of dormice on or adjacent to the development site a Dormouse Survey will be required to accompany any submitted planning application. The survey can confirm if dormice are present and recommend mitigation to protect the dormice and reduce or remove the impact of development. This report along with plans showing the mitigation should be provided with the planning application at the time of submission.
If you are undertaking development or an activity that will affect dormice or any other European Protected Species then it is likely you will require a licence from Natural Resources Wales (NRW). If the development requires planning permission this must be granted prior to obtaining a licence. Once approved it is the applicant's responsibility to apply for a licence and further information can be found by searching "European Protected Species licence" on the Natural Resources Wales website (opens in a new tab)
Any queries relating to protected species and sites should be directed to:
Planning and Ecology
In the role of Local Planning Authority (LPA) Pembrokeshire County Council has a responsibility to protect, conserve and enhance the natural environment when considering proposed development, planning applications and land use changes.
Vulnerable species and habitats can be adversely affected as a result of development and it is the responsibility of the LPA to consider the potential impact of the proposal upon the ecology of the site. If there is potential for any adverse impact, mitigation or compensation may need to be incorporated into the scheme to offset any negative consequences.
European and UK legislation, national and local plans place responsibilities on the LPA which include the protection of European Protected Species (EPS), UK protected species and Sites and Species of Principle Importance. The level of protection afforded to these species and habitats varies but it is a material consideration that their protection be considered at all stages of the planning and development process.
Relevant plans and legislation include:
Local Planning Policy
Pembrokeshire County Council Local Development Plan
GN.1 and GN.37
National Planning Policy
- Planning Policy Wales (Edition 5, November 2012) Chapter 5
- Technical Advice Note 5 (TAN 5), Nature Conservation and Planning (2009)
- Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (transposes European legislation, the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive, into UK law)
- Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
- Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000
- Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006
The Local Development Plan for Pembrokeshire County Council considers the potential impact of proposed development on the natural environment, species and habitats, under the headings GN.1 and GN.37.
GN.1 General Development Policy, criterion 4 provides that
Development will be permitted where it respects and protects the natural environment including protected habitats and species.
GN.37 Protection and Enhancement of Biodiversity
All development should demonstrate a positive approach to maintaining and, wherever possible, enhancing biodiversity. Development that would disturb or otherwise harm protected species or their habitats, or the integrity of other habitats, sites or features of importance to wildlife and individual species, will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances where the effects are minimised or mitigated through careful design, work scheduling or other appropriate measures.
The British Standards for Biodiversity - Code of practice for planning and development (BS 420202:2013) amalgamates best practice and guidance for those in the planning and development sector. Pembrokeshire County Council will take into account the British Standard for Biodiversity and would encourage those in the planning, development and environmental sector to adopt the processes and recommendations as published.
In accordance with Town & Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Wales) Order 2012 and the British Standards for Biodiversity applications which require ecological surveys will not be validated until such information can be provided. The level of information should be necessary, relevant and proportionate to the development and adequate to inform the determination of the application.
The Trigger List for bats provides further information on proposals likely to require bat surveys, other activities likely to require ecological surveys include wind turbines, hydroelectric schemes and development adjacent to internationally and nationally important sites (see Protected Sites). Pre-application discussions provide an opportunity for applicants to identify if surveys are required and are recommended at an early stage.
For more information regarding ecological issues in relation to planning and development contact:
This notice explains why we collect and keep your personal information, how your information is used and what we do with the information we collect.
A surprising number of unique species can be found in Pembrokeshire and more information about this can be found through the Biodiversity pages.
Species commonly affected by planning applications in Pembrokeshire include:
European Protected Species (EPS)
UK Protected Species
- All wild birds, their nests and eggs
- Barn Owl (additional protection from disturbance)
European Protected Species
When determining a planning application the presence of a European Protected Species (EPS) is a material consideration if the proposal is likely to result in disturbance or harm to the species and in some cases their habitat.
TAN 5 states:
"It is essential that the presence or otherwise of protected species, and the extent that they may be affected by the proposed development, is established before the planning permission is granted, otherwise all relevant material considerations may not have been addressed in making the decision."
The Local Planning Authority will consider the potential impact of the development upon the species based on information provided by the applicant to support their application. This may include a Protected Species or Extended Phase 1 Survey, proposals for compensation, mitigation or enhancement and drawings to support the inclusion of such features. Consultation will also take place with Natural Resources Wales (NRW), the Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation for the Welsh Government.
Having protected species on site rarely prevents development but the applicant will need to take steps to secure the protection of the species and that they comply with relevant legislation and licensing.
Consider ecological issues early to ensure they do not result in avoidable delays!
Any queries relating to protected species and sites should be directed to:
A surprising number of unique habitats and sites can be found in Pembrokeshire and more information about this can be found through the Biodiversity pages.
Internationally Important Sites and Planning
Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protected Areas (SPA) have been designated in Pembrokeshire under the EC Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive respectively as sites that will make a significant contribution to conserving habitat and species identified as most in need of conservation throughout Europe.
There are several designated SACs in Pembrokeshire and certain aspects of development may impact upon features of the SAC. The Local Planning Authority must make an assessment of the implications of development on the SAC before approving any plan or project by screening the proposals through a Test of Likely Significant Effect (TLSE). If the proposals are likely to have a significant effect an Appropriate Assessment may have to be carried out.
Nationally Important Sites and Planning
Within the UK sites that are nationally important for plants, animals or geological or physiographical features are protected by law as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). Within Wales there are 1,019 SSSIs and the smallest of these, a Lesser horseshoe bat roost, is to be found in Pembrokeshire.
Any proposed development that has the potential to harm nationally, regionally or locally important sites will be carefully assessed in accordance with national planning policy guidance. This is to ensure that sites and species dependent on the sites are protected from any potentially adverse impacts as a result of proposed development.
Any queries relating to protected species and sites should be directed to:
European Protected Species (EPS) Bats and Planning
Introduction to bats
Bat populations have declined drastically in recent years, many of our bats are under threat and several are very rare. This decline is due to a range of factors including loss of roosting sites and foraging habitat and the fragmentation of commuting routes.
Each species of bat has its own preferred types of roost including buildings, churches, caves, mines, cellars, hollow or damaged trees and bridges. Bats feed on insects and will catch thousands every night while foraging in areas such as traditional pasture, gardens, woodland, marshes and ponds.
Bats breed slowly, producing only one offspring per year, or every other year with the females gathering in maternity colonies to give birth and rear their young. Consequently changes to their breeding site, brought about by development, can significantly impact a local population for a long time.
Bats are creatures of habit and return to the same roost sites year after year and for this reason the sites are legally protected, even when bats are absent. All bats and their roosts are fully protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.
It is an offence to:
- Deliberately kill, injure, catch or keep bats
- Damage or destroy bat roosts
- Deliberately disturb bats, for example by entering known roosts
Planning Applications and Surveys
- Consider bats EARLY on in the planning process to avoid delays
- Seek advice from the Planning Ecologist and Natural Resources Wales if you think your application will impact on European Protected Species
- Commission a local licensed bat surveyor early - some surveys can only be done from May-September
- Remember to carefully read your survey report - it may identify further work required prior to the submission of your planning application
- Ensure your architect has incorporated all aspects of any mitigation on your final drawings prior to submission
If there is evidence of a confirmed roost on the site to be developed, or the development is listed on the following then a Protected Species Survey for Bats will be required as part of your planning application. This should be included at the time of submission and cannot be conditioned.
The optimum survey period is between May and August however in limited circumstances scoping surveys can be undertaken outside this period. If you are in any doubt contact the Planning Ecologist for pre-application advice or contact a Licensed Bat Surveyor.
The following list details local Licensed Bat Surveyors () and Ecologists however inclusion on this list does not constitute a recommendation by Pembrokeshire County Council. For further guidance on survey reports see Ecological .
Bats as a feature of a Special Area of Conservation
The Pembrokeshire Bat Sites and Bosherston Lake Special Area of Conservation (SAC) management plan lists the Greater horseshoe and Lesser horseshoe bat as qualifying features. The North Pembrokeshire Woodlands SAC management plan lists the Barbastelle bat as a qualifying feature.
If a development site is close to or directly affects any of the SAC features additional information may be required in the assessment of the proposal on the species. For further information see Protected Sites or consult the Planning Ecologist.
If you are undertaking development or an activity that will affect a bat roost or any other European Protected Species then it is likely you will require a licence from Natural Resources Wales (NRW). If the development requires planning permission this must be granted prior to obtaining a licence. Once approved it is the applicant's responsibility to apply for a licence and further information can be found by searching "European Protected Species licence" on the Natural Resources Wales website (opens in a new tab)