I am at the very earliest stages of my examination of the Central
Bedfordshire Local Plan, having just started initial reading. However, an
issue with the evidence base has come to my attention, which may
necessitate further work.
On 12 April 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)
issued a judgement1
, which ruled that Article 6(3) of the Habitats
Directive must be interpreted as meaning that mitigation measures
(referred to in the judgment as measures which are intended to avoid or
reduce effects) should be assessed within the framework of an appropriate
assessment (AA) and that it is not permissible to take account of
measures intended to avoid or reduce the harmful effects of the plan or
project on a European site at the screening stage.
The implication of this judgement is that competent authorities cannot
take account of any integrated or additional avoidance or reduction
measures when considering at the Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA)
screening stage whether a plan is likely to have an adverse effect on a
I note that the HRA Screening Report (C33), dated December 2017,
submitted by the Council in support of the Plan, concludes, at paragraph
4.4, that some European sites were at risk from increased air pollution,
disturbance and changes to water levels and water quality as a result of
policies and allocations in the Local Plan, but that the Plan’s policies
provide sufficient mitigation, such that no significant effects are likely to
occur, either alone or in combination. On the basis of this conclusion, it
appears the HRA may conflict with this judgement.
People over Wind & Sweetman v Coillte Teoranta Case C-323/17
In the circumstances, therefore, at this stage I would be grateful to know
whether the Council considers its HRA report is legally compliant in the
light of the judgement. To answer this it may be necessary to re-visit the
screening assessment. If it is found not to be compliant, I would be
grateful to know what further work would be required to rectify this and
what the timescale would be to complete and consult on that work.
If the Council has any questions on this matter, please do not hesitate to
contact me via the Programme Officer.
I look forward to hearing from you.