Planning Policy

We work with a range of local authorities and agencies such as Natural England to ensure adequate protection for key nature conservation sites. In particular much of our work has focussed on the Habitats Regulations, considering the links between where new houses are built, recreation and impacts on European sites. Our work has included detailed mitigation strategies, work on Suitable Alternative Nature Greenspace (SANGS) and acting as Expert Witness at public inquires. We do not tend to carry out protected species surveys of development sites and do not work for commercial developers.

Habitats Regulation Assessments

Habitats Regulation Assessments

We undertake Habitats Regulations Assessments of plans & projects that may affect wildlife sites designated under European directives.

Mitigation & sangs

Mitigation & sangs

We design and advise on mitigation measures (including Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace) to avoid, cancel or reduce impacts on designated sites.

Expert Witness

Expert Witness

We act as Expert witnesses at Public Inquiries to provide specialist information to the Inspector on planning applications called in for decision by the Secretary of State.

Habitats Regulation Assessments

Habitat Regulation Assessments & related work

Footprint Ecology is acknowledged as a leading environmental consultancy in the preparation of Habitats Regulations Assessments (HRAs) for public bodies. Habitats Regulations Assessment is a requirement of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, as amended, which transposes the duties placed on European Member States within the Habitats Directive and Wild Birds Directive into domestic legislation.

Those duties include the protection, maintenance and restoration of European wildlife sites. Public bodies must, before undertaking or permitting others to undertake a project, or before adopting or authorising a plan, carry out a Habitats Regulations Assessment to give certainty that the plan or project will not adversely affect any European wildlife site before allowing it to proceed.

The Habitat Regulation Assessments process

The Habitats Regulations Assessment process includes a series of tests that must be considered in turn. Assessing potential impacts that may occur as the result of a plan or project can include gathering new survey information, researching wider literature, modelling, GIS mapping and statistical analysis and drawing on expert opinion. We have long-standing research and assessment experience in this field, which has led to a wide range of Habitats Regulations Assessment commissions. Footprint Ecology is a leading expert in the assessment of recreational impacts on birds, heath and coastal habitats, facilitated by an extensive library of research material and specialist skills in statistical analysis.

Our work on HRAs

Footprint Ecology prides itself on the production of high quality assessments that are evidence based and fit for purpose in each case, ensuring robust protection for European wildlife sites. We work closely with our clients, statutory nature conservation bodies and wildlife organisations to provide practicable approaches in complex situations. Footprint Ecology has led the Habitats Regulations Assessment work for a number of strategic mitigation schemes across the country, involving multiple authorities and multiple European wildlife sites. Some examples are listed below. See also the Poole Harbour case study for an example of how our HRA work can integrate with other work areas to help further the conservation of a particular important area.

  • Liley et al. - 2008 - Habitat Regulations Assessment Breckland Council Liley et al. - 2016 - Habitats Regulations Assessment of the strategy fo Liley and Tyldesley - 2011 - Habitats Regulations Assessment of Purbeck Core St
    HRAs at plan level for many different local authorities
    including Purbeck, Poole, East Devon, Teignbridge, the Broads Authority, Breckland, North Dorset, and Great Yarmouth

  • Strategic work on estuaries around the English coast
    identifying European sites at risk from increased housing development and recreation pressures (for Natural England)
  • Underhill-Day - Liley 2012 - Cannock Chase SAC Visitor Impacts Mitigation report
    Work with a consortium of local authorities around Cannock Chase
    to consider the implications of access and recreation impacts to Cannock Chase SAC
  • Stillman et al. - 2012 - Solent Disturbance and Mitigation Project Phase II
    Work with the Solent Forum and a consortium of local authorities
    building an evidence base around in-combination effects of housing and growth around the Solent European sites. A range of reports are available - please see downloads page for more.
  • Liley et al. - 2006 - Evidence to support the Appropriate Assessment of
    Evidence gathering work for Dorset County Council
    to inform appropriate assessment and planning policy relating to the Dorset Heaths
  • Underhill-Day - 2013 - An impact assessment for new faciliites on the Spu
    Impact assessment for a proposed new visitor centre at Spurn Point
    for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
Mitigation & sangs

Mitigation & SANGs

Measures that are intended to avoid, cancel or reduce potential effects on the natural environment are referred to as mitigation measures. Such measures are often incorporated into a plan or project to protect European sites and ensure compliance with the Habitats Regulations. Mitigation measures can avoid likely significant effects or may enable a competent authority to ascertain that a plan or project does not have an adverse effect on site integrity.

Developing mitigation schemes

Footprint Ecology has been involved in developing mitigation schemes and mitigation measures relating to plans and projects across the UK and is renowned as a specialist consultancy in developing strategic mitigation schemes for designated sites. In particular we have worked in a number of areas (such as Cannock Chase, the Dorset Heaths, North Kent, the Solent, South Devon and the Thames Basin Heaths) on strategic mitigation schemes relating to housing and recreation pressure on European sites.

Alternative greenspaces or SANGs

Alternative greenspace is one approach to resolving recreation from new developments. Such greenspace – often referred to as SANGs (Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace) - has to be carefully designed in order to be effective. Visitor data are often important to inform SANGs design and Footprint Ecology has undertaken visitor surveys, analysed visitor data, assessed individual SANGs sites and developed criteria relating to SANGs sites across the country. We are leading experts in this area of work and have undertaken visitor surveys or detailed assessments of over 30 individual SANGs.

Our work on mitigation

See the case study on urban development surrounding heaths for an insight into how our work on mitigation and SANGs can interact with our other work areas to address conservation issues in a given area. Examples of work on mitigation include:

  • Liley et al. - 2014 - South-east Devon European Site Mitigation Strategy
    South East Devon European Site Mitigation Strategy
    for East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council and Teignbridge District Council
  • Liley et al. - 2010 - The Solent Disturbance and Mitigation Project Phas
    Work for the Solent Disturbance and Mitigation Partnership
    to develop a mitigation strategy

Our work on SANGs

Examples of work on SANGs include:

  • Fearnley and Floyd - 2014 - Results of on-site visitor survey work at Diamond Fearnley and Floyd - 2014 - Results of on-site visitor survey work at Plough L Fearnley and Floyd - 2014 - Results of on-site visitor survey work at Rooks Ne Cruickshanks and Liley - 2014 - A report on the on-site visitor surveys at Engleme
    SANGs surveys and analysis of SANGs data across the Thames Basin Heaths
    for Natural England and a range of local authorities
  • Liley and Floyd - 2013 - Visitor surveys at potential SANGs sites in Wealde
    SANGs surveys, estimates of capacity and design advice for Wealden District Council
    in relation to Ashdown Forest
Expert Witness

Expert Witness

Footprint Ecology staff have acted for Natural England, Wildlife Trusts and a range of local authorities at Public Inquiry and we have considerable experience of giving evidence as expert witnesses. We have appeared at inquiries into local issues, such as works on common land, and at large inquiries for major housing and industrial developments considered to have impacts on European designated sites and species or on SSSIs.

Scientific advice & proof of evidence

Our work includes advising on statements of case and other matters leading up to the inquiry and advising advocates on ecological issues during inquiries, including for cross-examination and final submissions. We prepare proofs of evidence as well as supplementary and rebuttal proofs where required, and attend inquiries to give expert evidence and answer questions under cross-examination and from the Inspector.

Detailed assessment of research

Our advice and evidence is based on a detailed assessment of the proposals and the site and species which could be affected plus our own extensive experience. It is always soundly based on an assessment of the latest research; in a number of cases (e.g. visitor patterns and development pressures on sites and species), we have carried out research ourselves. Much of our work in this field is concerned with lowland heathland, but has also involved wetlands and woodland. Examples include:


  • Acting for Natural England at inquiries relating to small individual developments
    around the Thames Basin Heaths

  • Acting for Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
    in relation to Rufford Power Station

  • Acting for Poole Borough Council
    in relation to industrial development in Poole adjacent to a heathland site

In addition to these we have appeared at a range of local plan examinations and have also given evidence in support of proposals to manage common land by grazing and fencing. Our clients have included Local Authorities, Wildlife Trusts and Natural England.

Contact us to discuss your project

We’re always ready to talk about your requirements, so please do get in touch today

Tel: +44 (0)1929 552444