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Natural habitat sites

The law aims to protect biodiversity through the conservation of natural habitats and species of wild animals and plants. It sets rules for the protection, management and exploitation of such habitats and species.

Habitat sites are protected at the highest level and are of international importance.

Thames Estuary and Marshes Special Protection Area

Special Protection Areas are sites that are strictly protected because they are the habitat of rare and vulnerable birds and used by regularly-occurring migratory species.

Thames Estuary and Marshes Special Protection Area (SPA) lies partly within Thurrock. It covers the north bank of the outer estuary from Coalhouse Point in East Tilbury, to the most western part of the reclaimed land at Mucking Flats.

Thames Estuary and Marshes is also designated a Ramsar site, meaning it is a wetland of international importance.

For more information, go to Natural England: Thames Estuary and Marshes SPA.

A Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA) is needed for any land use plan or planning application that is likely to have significant effects on a habitat site. Go to GOV.UK: appropriate assessment.

Avoiding and mitigating recreational disturbance

Population growth in Essex is likely to affect habitat sites significantly due to an increase in recreation and the combined effects of local plans and projects ('in-combination' effects).

In partnership with other public bodies, we have prepared a Recreational disturbance Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy (RAMS) for the Essex coast. It sets out the necessary measures to avoid and mitigate likely significant effects.

You can download the strategy and related documents from the Bird Aware Essex Coast website.

The eastern half of Thurrock – including Grays, Chadwell St Mary, Orsett, Bulphan, Horndon on the Hill, Corringham, Stanford-le-Hope, Fobbing, Tilbury, East Tilbury and West Tilbury – is within a 'Zone of Influence' (ZoI) for the Thames Estuary and Marshes SPA.

The RAMS sets a tariff of £122.30, which applies to all residential development within the ZoI.

All residential proposals within the ZoI should make a contribution:

  • to avoid and mitigate adverse effects from increased recreational disturbance
  • to make sure that habitat sites are not adversely affected
  • to make sure the proposal complies with habitat regulations

Proposals for 100 dwellings or more also require a shadow appropriate assessment report to be submitted with the application, which assesses likely significant effects alone. This must clearly show how necessary avoidance measures are incorporated into the proposal. Payment of the RAMS tariff will address the 'in-combination' effects. 

The alternative to paying the tariff is for applicants to submit a shadow appropriate assessment report that includes details of bespoke avoidance and mitigation measures. It must be prepared: