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Thames Basin Heaths SPA Supplementary Planning Document

The main purpose of the Thames Basin Heaths SPA SPD is to provide guidance to ensure that new development does not have adverse effects on the SPA. It provides an avoidance and mitigation strategy to show how the effects of new (principally) residential developments on the Thames Basin Heaths SPA should be avoided and mitigated. It was adopted on 18 April 2018.

The Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) is a network of heathland sites that provides a habitat for important ground-nesting bird species. It was designated as a Special Protection Area in March 2005 and is protected from adverse effects by law.

The SPA zone of influence affects eleven local authorities across Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey. Two areas of the SPA lie within Bracknell Forest. These are the Broadmoor to Bagshot Heaths Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the Sandhurst to Owlsmoor Bogs and Heaths (also known as Wildmoor Heath) SSSI. See the Thames Basin Heaths Partnership website for further information.

How does the SPA affect new development in Bracknell Forest?

The European and national legislation that underpins the SPA seeks to ensure that any proposed development scheme or development 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 us, and the other ten local authorities with land in the Thames Basin Heaths, that new housing within 5km of the SPA may harm the rare bird populations. Larger developments located between 5 and 7km of the SPA may also be affected. 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. Particular harm may occur with additional new development that lies within 400m of the SPA.

The majority of development within Bracknell Forest lies within 5km of the SPA and a significant proportion lies within 400m. Both Policy NRM6 of the South East Plan, and Policy CP14 of the Core Strategy DPD contain policies prohibiting additional housing within 400m of the SPA. Developers wishing to promote additional housing in the 400m to 5km zone (and possibly the 5 to 7km zone) will be required to demonstrate that their proposals can avoid any likely significant adverse effect on the SPA. This can be done using the mitigation measures known as SANG (Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace) and SAMM (Strategic Access Management and Monitoring Measures).

Council-owned SANG capacity

Council-owned Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (strategic SANG) is limited and capacity is quickly being used up.

Strategic SANG capacity has been provisionally allocated to the planned development sites that do not require a bespoke SANG solution as set out in the Site Allocations Local Plan (SALP) Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) and agreed with Natural England.

Where policy requires large allocated developments to provide their own SANGs (in accordance with policy and guidance) or for any unplanned development such as Prior Approval applications, any release of council-owned strategic SANG for such developments would put planned development on allocated sites at risk of not being able to meet Habitats Regulations and gain planning permission.

The council therefore reserves the right not to provide available SANG capacity if the proposal is considered to undermine the council’s SPA avoidance and mitigation strategy and/or the delivery of allocated development sites.

The SPD sets out a two-prong approach:

The SPD can be downloaded below along with relevant supporting information: