Surrey Heath Draft Local Plan Issues Options/Preferred Options, 2018

Biodiversity

6.2 Surrey Heath has a rich and varied landscape containing a wide range of habitats that support a diversity of plants and animals. The heathland of Surrey Heath is a defining characteristic of the Borough and in the setting of settlements within the Borough. Within and surrounding the Borough are large areas of international ecological importance, in particular those areas identified as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and areas designated as part of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA). The Heathland in Thames Basin Heaths identified as SPA and or SAC are:

  • Chobham Common North Heaths and South Heaths (SPA/SAC)
  • Colony Bog, Bagshot Heath and Deepcut Heaths (SPA)
  • Camberley and Broadmoor Heaths (SPA)

6.3 The Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) was designated in March 2005, through European Law and enshrined in UK Law. The SPA is fragile protected heathland and provides breeding habitat for three protected species of birds (Nightjar, Woodlark and Dartford Warbler) for which the SPA was designated. The breeding success of these ground-nesting birds is affected by disturbance from people and their pets using the SPA for recreational purposes. Avoidance measures including the provision of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) areas of greenspace to help ease recreational pressure on the Thames Basin Heaths SPA, have to be in place before residential development can take place within the Borough.

View more information of the SPA and avoidance measures, on the Council's website.

6.4 Within the Borough there are also a number of sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a National Nature Reserve. These sites were designated under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and development affecting these areas is assessed under that legislation. The SSSIs in Surrey Heath are:

  • Ash to Brookwood Heath
  • Basingstoke Canal
  • Broadmoor to Bagshot Woods and Heath
  • Chobham Common (also a National Nature Reserve )
  • Colony Bog to Bagshot Heath.

6.5 There are also a number of Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCIs) and Local Nature Reserves within the Borough. These are areas both important in their own right and as part of a matrix of wildlife sites across the Borough which provide wildlife corridors. These sites are designated by the Borough Council working with the Surrey Wildlife Trust.

6.6 The Council will work with the Surrey Nature Partnership to bring forward opportunities to conserve and enhance the natural assets of Surrey Heath, both green natural assets and Blue (water) natural assets including the River Blackwater, Basingstoke Canal, and The Bourne and its tributaries. The Council recognises that the enhancement of, and access to, these environmental assets can have a positive impact on the physical and mental health of Surrey Heath's residents.

6.7 The Council recognises the opportunities that can be provided through the development of sites to encourage biodiversity. These include provision of suitable native species landscaping, providing wildlife corridors and incorporating opportunities in construction methods, such as swift bricks.

 

National Policy Context

6.8 In the preparation of this section regard has been had to paragraphs 109-120 of the National Panning Policy Framework (NPPF), 2012 which sets out the Government's approach to enhancing the natural and local environment. It recognises at paragraph 119 that the presumption on favour of sustainable development does not apply where development requiring appropriate assessment under the Birds or Habitats Directives is required. This is relevant in relation to the Thames Basin Heaths SPA. Regard will also be given to the Government's 25 year Environment Plan, which is currently out to consultation.

6.9 The Planning Practice Guidance on Biodiversity and eco-systems sets outguidance for considering biodiversity in the local plan making process.

View the national policies relating to biodiversity in more detail, located within the online version of the Government's NPPF.

 

Sub Regional Context

6.10 Surrey Heath is one of 11 Local Authorities in Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey impacted by the Thames Basin Heaths SPA. The whole of Surrey Heath is within 5km of the SPA. In order to allow housing development while still complying with the Habitats Regulations, the affected local authorities established the Thames Basin Heaths Joint Strategic Partnership Board (JSPB) to agree a strategy for the long-term protection of the SPA. The agreed approach set out in the Delivery Framework, and in Policies NRM5 and NRM6 of the South East Plan, has been taken forward into local policies.

 

Local Strategies and Evidence

6.11 The preferred policy approach would support the objectives set out in Surrey Heath's Five Year Strategy 2016-2021. One of the Council's principal objectives is to work with partners to improve the health and wellbeing of our community.

6.12 The Council will also continue to work with the Surrey Nature Partnership to conserve and enhance the natural assets of Surrey Heath.

6.13 The following policies will be replaced in the new Local Plan (2016-2032).

Saved South East Plan Policies

SEP Policy NRM6: Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area

Relevant Policies in the adopted Core Strategy & Development Management Policies DPD 2012

Policy CP14A Biodiversity and Nature Conservation

Policy CP14B European Sites

Policy DM9 Design Principles

 

Draft Objectives for Biodiversity Policies

6.14 The following table sets out the draft objective for biodiversity in the Issues and Options/Preferred Options consultation draft of the Local Plan.

Objective E

  • Environmental (Biodiversity)
  • To ensure that development does not have a detrimental impact on designated international and national sites of important natural assets and that new development provides opportunities to improve biodiversity and provide for environmental net gain.

Policy Approaches to Biodiversity

6.15 The preferred policy approach and alternative approaches to biodiversity are set out below.

Preferred Policy Approach to Biodiversity

The aim of this policy approach is to ensure that avoidance measures can be provided to mitigate the impact of development on the Thames Basin Heaths SPA and to conserve and enhance biodiversity within the Borough by.

  • Carrying forward Core Strategy Policy 14A (Biodiversity and Nature Conservation) into a new Local Plan.
  • Carrying forward Core Strategy Policy 14B (European Sites) into a new Local Plan.

Introducing opportunities to improve biodiversity in new development by the use of native planting and landscaping and construction methods.

Alternative Approaches to Biodiversity

  • With regard to Biodiversity and Nature Conservation and European sites the Council consider that there are no suitable alternatives as policies refer to sites protected by international or national law.
  • To include Biodiversity in a Design Principles Policy