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28 November 2014

The Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area and Special Protection Area Avoidance Measures

Heather and grassWhat is the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area?

The Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (TBH SPA) was designated on 9th March 2005 and forms part of Natura 2000, a European-wide network of sites of international importance for nature conservation established under the European Community Wild Birds and Habitat directives. The TBH SPA is one of the South East's most important natural assets with the lowland heath supporting important populations of Dartford Warbler, Nightjar and Woodlark - vulnerable ground-nesting birds.

The SPA covers most of the heathland areas of the Borough and includes the following areas:

How does the SPA affect new development in Surrey Heath?

The European and national legislation that underpins the SPA seeks to ensure that any proposed development scheme or plan will not adversely affect the integrity of the SPA. Natural England is the Government agency that champions the conservation of wildlife throughout England. They have advised all Local Authorities with land in the Thames Basin Heaths that new housing within 5km of the SPA may harm the rare bird populations and that particular harm may occur from additional new development that lies within 400m of the SPA. This harm can be caused by disturbance to the birds from a growth in the number of walkers, cats and dogs frequenting the heathland, and other recreational uses created by additional housing.

A significant proportion of the Borough lies within 400m of the SPA and all of Surrey Heath lies within 5km of the SPA. In order to allow new development while safeguarding the integrity of the TBH SPA, the Council has put in place mitigation measures to avoid harm to the SPA arising from new housing development. These measures include:

  • The establishment of a 400 metre buffer around the SPA within which no net new residential development will be permitted;
  • The provision of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG);
  • Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMM) measures - coordinated visitor management across the whole of the publically accessible SPA.

These measures are set out in more detail within the TBH SPA Avoidance Strategy SPD, which was adopted in 2012. You can find out more about the Thames Basin Heaths SPA Avoidance Strategy SPD and download the document here: Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area Avoidance Strategy DPD

Current SANG Provision

The TBH SPA Avoidance Strategy SPD advises that it will usually be possible for developments of fewer than 100 net dwellings to take up capacity at Council-provided SANGs, subject to availability. At the present time, the availability of Council-provided SANGS for all locations is extremely limited. Therefore anyone considering submitting a planning application for residential development is asked to contact the Council before plans and other documentation are prepared.

The Council is continuing to explore potential SANG solutions for the Borough and hopes make available additional Council-provided SANG later this year.

The planning application process for sites requiring SANG capacity

Usually applications for new development are assigned SANG capacity upon their validation, however owing to the limited availability of SANG at this time, it is not expected that SANG capacity will be immediately available for new applications for development outside of Camberley Town Centre.

However in the event that an application benefitting from SANG capacity is refused planning permission, the SANG capacity will be withdrawn from that application and re-allocated to applications without capacity, where possible. In the event that capacity does not become available during the course of the determination of an application, the Council will need to have regard to the SANG situation at the time the application is determined. The Council will not delay the determination of planning applications pending the introduction of new SANG. If a refused application is subsequently appealed and capacity is available at the time that the appeal is submitted, capacity will be re-assigned. If no capacity is available, an Inspector will have to have regard to the SANG situation at the time the appeal is heard.

From 1st December 2014, CIL will be the only mechanism for collecting monies towards Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). However, Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMM) monies are required in addition to SANG, and SAMM monies will be collected by a legal agreement. For further advice please refer to the Community Infrastructure Levy Guidance.


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