How Thames Basin Heaths impacts new development

Information about the Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area, how it impacts new developments and the mitigation measures in place.

The Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (TBH SPA) was designated on 9 March 2005 and is protected from adverse effects by law. 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 all of which are vulnerable ground-nesting birds.

The Special Protection Area covers most of the heathland areas of the Borough. Both the Special Protection Area and the 400m buffer zone around all parts of the SPA can be seen on the below map.

How the Special Protection Area impacts new development in Surrey Heath

The national legislation that underpins the Special Protection Area seeks to ensure that any proposed development scheme or plan will not adversely affect the integrity of the Special Protection Area. 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 Special Protection Area may harm the rare bird populations and that particular harm may occur from additional new development that lies within 400m of the Special Protection Area. 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.

Mitigation measures

A significant proportion of the Borough lies within 400m of the Special Protection Area and all of Surrey Heath lies within 5km of the Special Protection Area. 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 Special Protection Area 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 publicly accessible Special Protection Area.

These measures are set out in more detail within the Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area Avoidance Strategy SPD, which was adopted in March 2019.