What 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. Both the SPA and the 400m buffer zone around all parts of the SPA are shown on the following map:
The ‘My Maps’ function of the My Surrey Heath interactive mapping service can be used to check whether a specific property is located within either the SPA or its 400m buffer zone.
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 March 2019. Find out more about the Thames Basin Heaths SPA Avoidance Strategy SPD