Statutory consultees including Natural England (NE) and the Environment Agency (EA) are consulted by the relevant Mineral Planning Authority (MPA) when a planning application for hydraulic fracturing development is received. NE is consulted if the proposed development is likely to affect a protected site (Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Area (SPA), Ramsar Wetland, or a potential SPA, possible SAC or a proposed Ramsar Wetland). NE has published ‘Impact Risk Zones’ which can be used to check if the planning proposal relates to land on or near a protected site. In addition MPAs will assess impacts on locally protected sites.
MPAs use NE’s standing advice for protected species when reviewing planning applications and will contact NE if the matter is not covered by the advice. NE may need to issue European Protected Species Licences in certain circumstances. Developers are also encouraged to contact NE at pre-application stages to help ensure that their applications fully take account of potential impacts and that measures are put in place to avoid or mitigate those impacts as well as maximising opportunities for biodiversity.
In applying to the EA for environmental permits, operators are also required to consider the effect that their activity may have on protected sites, habitats and species. Where any sites of heritage and nature conservation, or protected species and habitats are identified, they may need to consult other bodies such as NE and can enforce permit conditions to protect habitats.