Landscape, Heritage and Green Infrastructure
Re: Issues paper for draft Kilkenny County Development Plan 2020-2026
On behalf of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, I refer to correspondence received in relation to the above.
Outlined below are heritage-related observations/recommendations of the Department under the stated heading(s).
The Plan and SEA should take account of the Biodiversity Convention, the Ramsar Convention, the EC Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC), the EC Birds Directive (Directive 2009/147 EC), the Wildlife Acts of 1976 to 2012, and the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 to 2015. The Planning Authority should also refer to the relevant circular letters which have been circulated to Local Authorities and which are available at
The Plan should include a natural heritage section. All designated sites within or adjoining the Plan area should be listed and mapped, including, if applicable, candidate Special Areas of Conservation (cSAC) designated under the Habitats Directive, Special Protection Areas (SPA) designated under the Birds Directive, Natural Heritage Areas (NHA), Proposed Natural Heritage Areas (pNHA), Nature Reserves, and Refuges for Fauna, designated under the Wildlife Acts. Details of these sites are available on http://www.npws.ie/. All such sites should be zoned appropriately and policies and objectives should be devised to ensure their protection. The Plan should take cognisance of boundary changes to sites made during the lifetime of the Plan. For information on Geological and
geomorphological NHAs the Geological Survey of Ireland should be consulted. Where designated sites are within more than one Planning Authority area the relevant Planning Authorities should ensure they do not have conflicting policies for such a site.
The proposed Plan should recognise that protected species also occur outside designated sites and should take note of the National Biodiversity Plan and the need to protect the County’s biodiversity. Examples of protected species include protected plants listed in SI 355 of 2015, mammals such as badgers (Meles meles) and the Irish Hare (Lepus timidus hibernicus), protected under the Wildlife Acts and listed on Appendix III of the Berne Convention, and bat species and
otters, protected under the Wildlife Acts and listed on Annex IV of the Habitats Directive. All birds are protected under the Wildlife Acts and some, such as the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), are listed on annex I of the Birds Directive.
Article 10 of Habitats Directive
In accordance with Article 10 of the Habitats Directive, Plans should include provisions to encourage the management of features of the landscape which are of major importance to wild fauna and flora. This includes linear landscape features which act as ecological corridors, such as watercourses (rivers, streams, canals, ponds, drainage channels, etc), woodlands, hedgerows and road and railway margins, and features which act as stepping stones, which include marshes and woodlands. These provide pathways for the dispersal and genetic exchange of wild species and can help improve the coherence of the Natura 2000 network. Such features should be maintained and, where possible, enhanced. Hedgerows, bats and other protected species Hedgerows form important wildlife corridors and provide areas for birds to nest in. In addition badger setts may be present. If suitable trees are present bats may roost there and they use
hedgerows as flight routes. Hedgerows also provide a habitat for woodland flora. Where a hedgerow forms a townland or other historical boundary it generally is an old hedgerow. Such hedgerows will contain more biodiversity than a younger hedgerow. Hedgerows should be maintained where possible. Where trees or hedgerows have to be removed there should be suitable planting of native species in mitigation. Where possible hedgerows and trees should not be removed during the nesting season (i.e. March 1st to August 31st). Birds nests can only be intentionally destroyed under licence issued under the Wildlife Acts of 1976 to 2012. Bat roosts may be present in trees, buildings and bridges. Bat roosts can only be destroyed under licence under the Wildlife Acts and a derogation under the Birds and natural Habitats Regulations and such a licence would only be given if suitable mitigation measures were implemented.
Rivers and wetlands
Wetland habitats such as rivers are an important source of biodiversity and contain species such as otters (Lutra lutra), Salmon in freshwater (Salmo salar), kingfishers (Alcedo atthis), crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes ) and Lamprey species, all protected under the Wildlife Acts of 1976 to 2012 and/or listed on the annexes of the EC Habitats Directive and Birds Directive. It is important that the proposed Plan should recognise the importance of wetland habitats and ensure that such sites are protected. Flood plains, if present, should be identified in the Plans and left undeveloped to allow for the protection of these valuable habitats and provide areas for flood water retention. The plan should take account of the guidelines for Planning Authorities entitled “The Planning System and Flood
Risk Management” and published by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in November 2009.
IFI should be consulted with regard to impacts on fish species and the Local Authority may find it useful to consult their publication entitled “Planning for watercourses in the urban environment” which can be downloaded from their web site at http://www.fisheriesireland.ie/fisheriesmanagement-
Where Freshwater Pearl Mussels are present the Plan should have due regard to, and incorporate any measures from, the Freshwater Pearl Mussel sub-basin plans, as appropriate. Copies of the draft sub basin plans and Programmes of Measures for Freshwater Pearl Mussels can be downloaded from http://www.wfdireland.ie/docs/5_FreshwaterPearlMusselPlans/ or through www.environ.ie.
Ground and surface waters should be protected from pollution and the Planning Authority should ensure that adequate sewage treatment facilities are or will be in place prior to any development proposed in the Plan. The Planning Authority should also ensure that adequate water supplies are present prior to development. Care should be taken to ensure that any proposed water abstractions or waste water discharges do not negatively impact on Natura 2000 sites.
Where roads are listed for improvement and upgrading in the Plan the opportunity should be taken to address inadequate existing mitigation measures or impeded passage (e.g. include mammal underpasses or dry ledges where there is poor culvert design). In making provision at plan level for transport, including reserving lands and integrating or upgrading routes, this should be based on information on ecological constraints, and should allow sufficient flexibility for impacts to be avoided or mitigated
Alien invasive species
Alien invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed can be damaging to local biodiversity. The Plan should have a policy to protect against the accidental introduction of such species during development. Information on alien invasive species in Ireland can be found at
http://invasives.biodiversityireland.ie/ and at http://invasivespeciesireland.com/ .
Negative impacts on biodiversity and designated sites, particularly in the mountains, by the coast and along rivers, can occur as a result of development such as walking routes, cycleways, seating, lighting, canoe trails, loss of riparian zone and mowing of riparian zone, and can lead to habitat loss, erosion and added disturbance by humans and dogs. Such developments along waterways for example could impact on species such as otters and bats which are strictly protected under the Habitats Directive and Kingfishers listed on Annex I of the Birds Directive. One of the main threats identified in the threat response plan for otter is habitat destruction (see http://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/2009_Otter_TRP.pdf ). In addition a 10m riparian buffer on both banks of a waterway is considered to comprise part of the otter habitat. Any proposed walkways, cycletracks or greenways marked on the Plan maps along
rivers should therefore be a suitable distance from the waters edge. In general, pedestrian and cycle routes need ecological assessment in their planning and design and should not target sensitive ecological sites or parts of sites, as such routes have potential for disturbance to habitats and species, including as a result of noise, lighting, etc. Otherwise their development may not be consistent with nature conservation objectives and legal compliance requirements
From a biodiversity point of view it is important to take note of the EU Green Infrastructure Strategy. Further information on this can be found in the EU commission’s document of 2013 which can be accessed at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/ecosystems/docs/green_infrastructure_broc.pdf. Care
should be taken to ensure that green infrastructure involves greening existing infrastructure rather than adding built infrastructure to existing biodiversity corridors.
It is recommended that the natural heritage section of the Plan should also contain a policy on implementing the All Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020. In particular uncut road verges, where safety allows it, can provide wild flowers as food for pollinators, and should be encouraged. SEA Integrated assessment
In line with the EPA publication on integrated biodiversity impact assessment it is particularly important that the SEA process should take place in consultation with the teams working on the draft Plan and appropriate assessment, as each process can help inform the other to ensure that the objectives and policies in the draft Plan will have no significant effects on the natural heritage. The SEA should examine the effects of policies, objectives and any indicative maps or zonings, as well as cumulative impacts with other plans and projects both within and outside of the Plan area.
The SEA should take account of the Biodiversity Convention, the Ramsar Convention, the Birds and Habitats Directives, the Wildlife Acts of 1976 to 2012, and the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations, 2011 to 2015. A revised (consolidated) version of the Wildlife Act 1976 (in PDF and HTML) is now available on the Law Reform Commission website http://revisedacts.lawreform.ie/revacts/alpha#W . It is annotated to show the source of all
changes, and for convenience an un-annotated PDF is also available.
With regard to the scope of baseline data, details of designated sites can be found at http://www.npws.ie/ . For flora and fauna in the SEA, the data of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) should be consulted at http://www.npws.ie/ . Where further detail is required on any information on the website http://www.npws.ie/ , a data request form should be submitted. This can be found at ttps://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/general/Data%20request%20form.doc
Further information may be found at http://dahg.maps.arcgis.com/home/index.html.
Other sources of information relating to habitats and species include that of the National Biodiversity Data Centre (www.biodiversityireland.ie), Inland Fisheries Ireland (www.fisheriesireland.ie), BirdWatch Ireland (www.birdwatchireland.ie) and Bat Conservation Ireland (www.batconservationireland.org). Data may also exist at a County level within the Planning Authority.
It is recommended that the Biodiversity SEOs in the SEA cover habitats and species both within and outside of designated sites as below where applicable;
Natura 2000 sites, i.e. Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) designated under the EC Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC) and Special Protection Areas designated under the EC
Birds Directive (Directive 2009/147 EC),
Other designated sites, or sites proposed for designation, such as Natural Heritage Areas and proposed Natural Heritage Areas, Nature Reserves and Refuges for Fauna or Flora, designated under the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2012,
Species protected under the Wildlife Acts including protected flora,
‘Protected species and natural habitats’, as defined in the Environmental Liability Directive (2004/35/EC) and European Communities (Environmental Liability) Regulations, 2008, including Birds Directive – Annex I species and other regularly occurring migratory species, and their habitats (wherever they occur) and Habitats Directive – Annex I habitats, Annex II species and their habitats, and Annex IV species and their breeding sites and resting places
(wherever they occur),
Important bird areas such as those as identified by Birdlife International,
Features of the landscape which are of major importance for wild flora and fauna, such as those with a “stepping stone” and ecological corridors function, as referenced in Article 10 of the Habitats Directive,
Other habitats of ecological value in a national to local context (such as those identified as locally important biodiversity areas within Local Biodiversity Action Plans and County Development Plans),
Red data book species,
and biodiversity in general.
With regard to the SEOs for Water in the SEA it is important that the needs of protected species such as freshwater pearl mussels, crayfish, salmon and lamprey species, all protected under the Wildlife Acts of 1976 to 2012 and/or listed on the annexes of the EC Habitats Directive, are considered in relation to water quality. The SEOs and targets should be also compatible with the relevant River Basin Management Plans.
Water issues and wetland habitats
The impact of any water abstraction and wastewater discharge schemes that result from the Plan should be fully assessed. Impacts on surface water or groundwater should be assessed on a catchment or aquifer basis. In addition where a proposed policy would result in a development in or alongside a river or other waterway the cumulative impact on species and habitats would need to be assessed cumulatively on a catchment basis. Indicators, targets and monitoring Indicators, targets and monitoring should be realistic, measurable and achievable.
Appropriate Assessment Guidance
Guidance is available in the Departmental guidance document on Appropriate Assessment (AA), which is available on the NPWS web site at:
http://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/NPWS_2009_AA_Guidance.pdf: and in the EU Commission guidance entitled “Assessment of plans and projects significantly affecting Natura 2000 sites. Methodological guidance on the provisions of Article 6(3) and (4) of the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC” which can be downloaded from: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/management/docs/art6/natura_2000_assess_en.pdf
However CJEU and Irish case law has clarified some issues and should also be consulted.
In order to carry out the appropriate assessment screening and/or prepare a NIR information about the relevant Natura 2000 sites including their conservation objectives will need to be collected. Details of designated sites and species and conservation objectives can be found on http://www.npws.ie/ . Site-specific, as opposed to generic, conservation objectives are now available on the web site for some sites. Each conservation objective for a qualifying interest is defined by a list of attributes and targets and are often supported by further documentation. Where these are not available for a site, an examination of the attributes that are used to define site specific conservation objectives for the same QIs in other sites can be usefully used to ensure the full ecological implications of a proposal for a site’s conservation objective and its integrity are analysed and assessed. It is advised, as per the notes and guidelines in the site-specific
conservation objectives, that any reports quoting conservation objectives should give the version number and date, so that it can be ensured and established that the most up-to-date versions are used in the preparation of Natura Impact Statements and in undertaking appropriate assessments. Integrated assessment
In line with the EPA publication on integrated biodiversity impact assessment it is particularly important that the appropriate assessment procedure, commencing with screening, should take place in consultation with the teams working on the draft Plan and SEA as each process can help inform the other to ensure that the objectives and policies in the draft Plan will have no significant effects on any Natura 2000 site. The appropriate assessment should examine the effects of policies, objectives and any indicative maps or zonings, as well as cumulative impacts with other plans and projects both within and outside of the Plan area.
Cumulative and ex-situ impacts
Other relevant Local Authorities should be consulted to determine if there are any projects or plans which, in combination with this proposed Plan, could impact on any Natura 2000 sites. A rule of thumb often used is to include all Natura 2000 sites within a distance of 15km. It should be noted however that this will not always be appropriate. In some instances where there are hydrological connections a whole river catchment or a groundwater aquifer may need to be included. Similarly where bird flight paths are involved the impact may be on an SPA more than 15 km away. You are requested to send further communications to this Department’s Development Applications Unit (DAU) via eReferral, where used, or to email@example.com; if emailing is not possible,
correspondence may alternatively be sent to:
Development Applications Unit (DAU)
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht