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Purpose built managed student accommodation

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Screening Report

Purpose Built Managed Student Accommodation Supplementary Planning Guidance Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Screening Report

Contents

1. Introduction
2. Strategic environmental assessment
3. Key facts
4. Likely significance of effects on the environmental criteria
5. Habitat regulations
6. Summary

1.0 Introduction

1.1 This document provides Belfast City Council’s Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Screening Report under the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2004 (the ‘2004 Regulations’) for the Purpose Built Managed Student Accommodation (PBMSA) in Belfast Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG). It also incorporates appropriate screening in relation to The Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended).

1.2 The SPG provides additional advice and guidance specific to PBMSA in Belfast and represents non-statutory planning guidance to supports and clarify existing policies included within the current planning policy Framework, including the Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) for NI, other Planning Policy Statements (PPSs) and the Local Development Plan. In particular, this includes the HMO Subject Plan for Belfast, the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP) and PPS7 Quality Residential Environments.

1.3 It complements information already set out in an associated Best Practice Guide published in January 2016 and is intended for use by developers, the public and by planning officers in the assessment of planning applications for PBMSA developments.

2.0 Strategic Environmental Assessment

2.1 Under the requirements of the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive (Directive 2001/42/EC) and 2004 Regulations certain plans and programmes that set the framework for the future development consent of projects require a strategic environmental assessment to be undertaken.

This requirement is subject to numerous exceptions including those outlined under regulation 5 (6) which states:

An environmental assessment need not be carried out – (a) for a plan or programme of the description set out in paragraph (2) or (3) which determines the use of a small area at local level; or (b) for a minor modification to a plan or programme of the description set out in either of those paragraphs, unless it has been determined under regulation 9(1) that the plan, programme or modification, as the case may be, is likely to have significant environmental effects.

2.2 It is Belfast City Council’s determination that a Strategic Environmental Assessment is not required for the PBMSA in Belfast SPG because it constitutes only minor modifications to existing plans and policies, each of which have already been subject to detailed appraisals of environmental impacts, and it is unlikely to have significant environmental effects. The remainder of this report considers the likely significance of effects on the environment under Regulation 9(1) and with direct reference to Schedule 1 of the 2004 Regulations.

3.0 Key Facts Responsible Authority Belfast City Council

Title of Document
Purpose Built Managed Student Accommodation (PBMSA) in Belfast, Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG)
Purpose of Document

The SPG has been prepared to provide additional advice and guidance in relation to PBMSA developments in Belfast. It supports and clarifies existing policies included within the local Development Plan (Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP) and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) Subject Plan) and regional planning policy framework.

What prompted the Document?
The Council has received an influx of planning applications for PBMSA developments, primarily in the City Centre, from mid-2015. The SPG has been prepared to help strengthen the Council’s
Subject
Planning policy advice and guidance in relation to PBMSA
Period Covered
2016 onwards
Frequency of Updates
The document will be superseded and replaced by relevant policies within the new Local Development Plan when adopted, currently anticipated to be in 2019
Summary of Nature / Content
The SPG will be supplementary to the existing suite of statutory plans and policies
Proposed objectives
The SPG aims to provide the Council with appropriate tools to deal with planning applications for the provisions of PBMSA in Belfast. By providing advice and guidance in relation to the existing planning policy framework, it offers greater certainty to developers of PBMSA and provides reassurance to communities that existing residential amenity will be protected.

4.0 Likely Significance of Effects on the Environment Criteria for determining the likely significance of effects on the environment1 Likely to have significant environmental effects Summary of significant effects (negative and positive)

1(a) The degree to which the plan or programme sets a framework for projects and other activities, either with regard to the location, nature, size and operating conditions or by allocating resources;
No
The SPG does not introduce new policy and will not set a framework for projects or other activities. The strategy will help inform and guide planning decisions made in relation to PBMSA in line with the provisions of the existing land use plan and planning policies.
Applications for planning permission will continue to be guided by existing statutory plans and policies and supplemented further by the provisions of the SPG.
1(b) the degree to which the plan or programme influences other plans and programmes including those in a hierarchy;
No
The SPG has been prepared in the context of BMAP, the HMOs Subject Plan, the Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS), the existing Planning Policy Statements (PPSs) and the City Centre Regeneration and Investment Strategy. The hierarchy of these documents will not be altered with the introduction of the SPG.
1(c) the relevance of the plan or programme for the integration of environmental considerations in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development;
No
According to the SPPS for Northern Ireland, the planning system exists to positively and proactively facilitate development that contributes to a more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable Northern Ireland. This PBMSA SPG has been prepared in accordance with the prevailing planning policy framework to ensure that the current needs for student accommodation can be met in a sustainable way, taking full account of any environmental
1 Schedule 1 of the 2004 Regulations

Criteria for determining the likely significance of effects on the environment1 Likely to have significant environmental effects Summary of significant effects (negative and positive)
considerations. Its preparation therefore helps the Council to meet its statutory obligations with regards to promoting sustainable development when exercising its planning functions in relation to PBMSA.
1(d) environmental problems relevant to the plan or programme; and
No
There can be a range of negative environmental impacts associated with the provision of PBMSA, from visual impact, works affecting the built heritage, to impact caused by residents, such as noise disturbance or anti-social behaviour. However, the SPG seeks to strengthen the existing planning framework with regards to avoiding such environmental problems.
Environmental problems will continue to be addressed on a case-by-case basis for each planning application for PBMSA in accordance with the prevailing planning policy framework. Addressing environmental problems is fully addressed in the existing statutory plans and polices which the SPG supplements.
1(e) the relevance of the plan or programme for the implementation of Community legislation on the environment (for example, plans and programmes linked to waste management or water protection).
No
It is not anticipated that the SPG will be relevant in this respect. Such environmental protections are addressed through the statutory Development Plan and regional planning policy framework (RDS). Reference is made within the SPG to the Local Government Waste Storage Guide for NI and the need to adequately plan for waste and recycling storage and collection.

Criteria for determining the likely significance of effects on the environment1 Likely to have significant environmental effects Summary of significant effects (negative and positive)
2(a) the probability, duration, frequency and reversibility of the effects;
No
The effects of any PBMSA development permitted following the adoption of the SPG will last for the duration of any building provided and its occupation. However, it is not considered that these effects will be significant as the application of existing statutory polices will ensure any negative effects are addressed and mitigated during the planning application process.
In addition, the SPG seeks to drive improvements in environmental quality by maximising regeneration benefits, ensuing high quality design, provision of high quality landscaped areas/amenity space and encouraging the re-use of existing buildings, particularly within Conservation Areas.
2(b) the cumulative nature of the effects;
No
It is widely recognised that an overconcentration of student accommodation, whether within the private rented sector or PBMSA, can lead to an imbalance in the community resulting in harm to the environment and residential amenity in the surrounding area. The SPG therefore seeks to ensure that the cumulative impacts of student housing, including PBMSA developments, are fully accounted for when assessing individual planning applications.
The HMO Subject Plan, which the SPG supplements, seeks to protect residential

Criteria for determining the likely significance of effects on the environment1 Likely to have significant environmental effects Summary of significant effects (negative and positive)
amenity in areas where multiple occupation is, or is likely to become, concentrated. Other cumulative impacts of PBMSA are addressed through the range of relevant statutory plans and polices and their inherent protection of the environment. It is therefore unlikely that the SPG provisions will lead to a significant negative effect on the environment caused by the cumulative nature of PBMSA development.
2(c) the transboundary nature of the effects;
No
No transboundary effects are anticipated due to the application of the SPGs policy to Belfast’s City boundary.
2(d) the risks to human health or the environment (for example, due to accidents);
No
It is not anticipated that there will be any risk to human health as a result of the SPG.
The Council has an obligation to regularly review, assess and report on air quality under the Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) regime. An initial assessment of air quality across the city was completed during 2003 and concluded that measures would be required in four specific Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) of the city in order to mitigate the effects of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter pollution. Whilst air quality is not specifically mentioned within the SPG, it seeks to locate PBMSA development in a way that reduces the need to travel and encourages walking, cycling and the use of public transport services. This should in turn help to

Criteria for determining the likely significance of effects on the environment1 Likely to have significant environmental effects Summary of significant effects (negative and positive)
improve air quality by reducing vehicle emissions.
In accordance with the adopted HMO Subject Plan, the SPG seeks to ensure adequate management arrangements are in place to prevent any harm to existing residents or future occupants arising from the operation of PBMSA developments.
2(e) the magnitude and spatial extent of the effects (geographical area and size of the population likely to be affected);
No
Whilst the policy is relevant to the entire City of Belfast, the SPG seeks to promote the City Centre as the preferred location for PBMSA, where there is at present a relatively small existing residential population.
In addition, the SPG, in accordance with the existing planning policy framework, seeks to minimise any environmental effects associated with the provision of PBMSA on the existing residential communities. This includes securing locations away from existing residential areas, minimising the impact upon surrounding residential neighbourhoods and assisting with integration into surrounding areas.
2(f) the value and vulnerability of the area likely to be affected due to –
(i) special natural characteristics or cultural
No
The SPG itself makes no reference to any areas with special natural characteristics or environmental quality standards or limits. Protection of the natural and built heritage will therefore continue to be provided through existing statutory polices and plans.
PBMSA in Belfast SPG: SEA Screening Report Page 8
Criteria for determining the likely significance of effects on the environment1 Likely to have significant environmental effects Summary of significant effects (negative and positive)
heritage;
(ii) exceeded environmental quality standards or limit values; or
(iii) intensive land-use;
However, the SPG recognises the value and promotes the protection of the built heritage through the aspiration for new PBMSA developments to be sensitive to existing listed buildings, and buildings that make an architectural contribution to Conservation Areas and Areas of Townscape Character. Such issues will be adequately addressed on a case-by-case basis through the planning application process, as proposals are assessed in accordance with the prevailing regional (PPS6) and local (BMAP) planning policy framework.
In relation to the intensive use of land, the SPG promotes the City Centre as a preferred location for major PBMSA development given that such locations are highly accessible and able to accommodate higher density development whilst minimising negative environmental impacts.
2(g) the effects on areas or landscapes which have a recognised national, Community or international protection status.
No
The SPG makes no reference to existing areas or landscapes with recognised national, European or international protection status. Planning applications for PBMSA developments would need to address any implications for such areas or landscapes in accordance with the wider planning framework.

5.0 Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA)

5.1 In accordance with Regulation 43(1) of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended) Belfast City Council has also considered whether the PBMSA in Belfast SPG is likely to have any significant effects on Special Areas of Conservation or Special Protection Areas, collectively known as Natura 2000 (N2K) sites. These designations seek to afford protection to habitats and species that are listed in the Habitats2 and Birds3 Directives.

5.2 As the SPG is not introducing any new planning policy or statutory guidance, there are unlikely to be any direct or indirect significant effects to the N2K sites located in the city. The HMOs Subject Plan is the main existing policy that is to be supplemented by the SPG and the draft Subject Plan was subjected to a screening exercise in December 2008. The summary of findings concludes that there are no likely significant effects that would impact on the integrity of any N2K or Ramsar sites.

5.3 In addition, BMAP, the development plan for Belfast as a whole, was also subjected to an HRA and the findings equally apply to the SPG. Although there are a number of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and other European environmental designations associated with the River Lagan and Belfast Lough within the plan area, the approach taken in BMAP’s HRA highlights that any issues arising will be addressed at the time of a planning application with a developer being “required to ensure that there will be no adverse impact on any European Site” as a result of the development (BMAP Part 3, Vol. 1, p72).

5.4 It is therefore considered that the risk of detrimental impacts on protected areas as a result of the PBMSA in Belfast SPG will be minimal. Appropriate controls on risk assessment and mitigation where there could be issues, for example with waste discharge from contaminated land, will be adequately addressed at planning application stage and utilised for further consideration of risk to N2K sites.

6.0 Summary

6.1 The PBMSA in Belfast SPG provides additional advice and guidance specific to PBMSA in Belfast and represents non-statutory planning guidance. Given that it is designed to support and clarify existing policies, it does not provide new policy, but rather supplements a range of existing policies contained within the national and regional planning framework, including:

  • 2 Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora
  • 3 Directive 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds (this is the codified version of Directive 79/409/EEC as amended)
    • Strategic Planning Policy Statement (SPPS) for Northern Ireland;
    • Relevant regional Planning Policy Statements (PPSs) (e.g.PPS7: Quality Residential Environments);
    • HMO Subject Plan for Belfast; and
    • Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP).

6.2 Each of these policy documents have been subject to sustainability appraisals and environmental assessments as part of their preparation and will continue to be the principle consideration when assessing planning applications for PBMSA in Belfast’s City Council’s operational area. The statutory planning system itself has environmental considerations and sustainability at its core and it is the Council’s determination that a full Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is not required for the SPG, given that its provisions supplement the existing policies and therefore only constitute minor modifications to existing plans and policies.

6.3 Whilst it is acknowledged that there is potential for PBMSA developments in Belfast to have an effect on the environment, the SPG itself is unlikely to have significant environmental effects. In fact, it is anticipated that the SPG should help to strengthen the existing planning policy framework in minimising the impact on natural environment and built heritage as individual PBMSA developments are assessed.

Appendix 1 – Correspondence with NIEA Re: SEA Determination

 

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