Environmental dataset released to councils

A new dataset is available for council planners to help them assess whether proposed developments are likely to affect environmentally protected sites.

The Impact Risk Zones (IRZ) dataset is a GIS tool released by Natural England which maps zones around each of England’s 4,128 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The environmental watchdog uses the data to make initial assessments of the likely risk of impacts, to determine which consultations are unlikely to pose risks and which are likely to have an adverse impact. Now local authorities, developers and consultants will be able to make use of the evidence tool.

Rob Cooke, Natural England’s sustainable development director, said the new tool would save local authorities’ time and resources.

“This innovative tool should cut out the need for a number of consultations with Natural England and provide clear advice on what should or should not be built on land close to SSSIs,”

“This innovative tool should cut out the need for a number of consultations with Natural England,” he said.

Local planning authorities are required by law to consult Natural England before granting planning permission for any development likely to affect an SSSI.

The IRZ tool will help them determine whether they need to consult the body to seek advice about impacts and how to avoid them. 

SSSIs cover 8% of England and safeguard the country’s most important wildlife and/or geological sites, ranging from wetlands and chalk rivers to flower-rich meadows and remote upland peat bogs.

The IRZs tool has now been published as a downloadable GIS dataset on the Natural England website.

Colin Marrs

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