(1) Development should conserve, protect and, where possible, enhance biodiversity and geodiversity interests and soils commensurate with their status and giving appropriate weight to their importance. All development must ensure that the importance of habitats and designated sites are taken into account and consider opportunities for the creation of a local and district-wide biodiversity network of wildlife corridors which link County Wildlife Sites and other areas of biodiversity importance.
(2) The highest level of protection will be given to potential and existing Special Protection Areas, candidate and existing Special Areas of Conservation and listed or proposed Ramsar sites. Proposals having an adverse impact on the integrity of such areas that cannot be avoided or adequately mitigated to remove any adverse effect will not be permitted other than in exceptional circumstances. These circumstances will only apply where there are:
(a) no alternative solutions;
(b) imperative reasons of overriding public interest; and
(c) necessary compensatory provisions secured to ensure that the overall coherence of the Natura 2000 network of European sites is protected.
(3) Development will only be supported where any necessary mitigation is included such that, in combination with other plans or projects, there will be no adverse effects on the integrity of European Nature Conservation Sites.
(4) Development proposals within or outside a Site of Special Scientific Interest or Marine Conservation Zone which would be likely to affect the designation adversely, either individually or in combination with other developments, will not be supported unless the benefits of the development at this site clearly outweigh both the adverse impacts on the site and any adverse impacts on the wider network of Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Marine Conservation Zones.
(5) Development likely to affect adversely locally designated sites, their features or their function as part of the ecological network, including County Wildlife Sites, County Geological Sites and sites supporting Biodiversity Action Plan habitats and species, will only be permitted where the need for and benefits of the development clearly outweigh the loss, and the coherence of the local ecological network is maintained.
Protected Species and Habitats
(6) Adverse impacts on European and UK protected species and Biodiversity Action Plan habitats and species must be avoided wherever possible, subject to:
(i) the legal tests afforded to them where applicable; or otherwise unless
(ii) the need for and benefits clearly outweigh the loss.
Ancient Woodland and Veteran Trees
(7) Development must avoid the loss or deterioration of ancient woodland and veteran trees, unless the need for, or benefits of development on that site clearly outweigh the loss.
Avoidance, Mitigation and Compensation for Biodiversity and Geodiversity Impacts
(8) Development should avoid adverse impact on existing features as a first principle and enable net gains by designing in biodiversity features and enhancements and opportunities for geological conservation alongside new development. Where adverse impacts are unavoidable they must be adequately and proportionately mitigated, If full mitigation cannot be provided, compensation will be required as a last resort.