Protecting rare birds could cost council £100m, says ex-mayor
“Not only that but in March this year NE evaluated the whole scheme in 11 districts and counted only 894 nests (which works out at one nest per 10 hectares), and made it quite clear that bad weather was the problem, visitors and SANGs did not get a mention.”
Councillor Paul Spooner, leader of Guildford Borough Council, said: “The issues surrounding Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are complex and wide-ranging, so protection measures are implemented regionally rather than at a local level.
“The council adheres to the SPA policy that remains in the South East Plan, and information was available to all councillors and the public about the recent update to the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area Avoidance Strategy.
“The Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area is an internationally protected habitat covering 8,274 hectares across three counties.
“It is known that delivering new residential development within the vicinity of the SPA is likely to lead to negative impacts on the SPA through increased recreational pressure, among other things.
“The SPA is protected from the effects of new residential development by policy NRM6 of the South East Plan and the Habitats Regulations.
“Under the Habitats Regulations, doing anything to damage the habitat of the SPA is an offence.
“The approach to protecting the SPA from the effects of new residential development, set out in policy NRM6, is based around the provision of SANG, publicly accessible natural or seminatural open spaces which are designed to attract people away from the SPA, and Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMM) measures on the SPA, which encourage visitors to use the SPA sensitively.
“Policy NRM6 was not withdrawn with the other policies of the South East Plan, and consequently, local planning policy and practice must conform to it.
“This has been confirmed by the council’s barristers. Therefore, implementing the SANG/SAMM approach is not discretionary for the council.
“The SANGs are beneficial to all our residents across the borough. They provide a place for everyone to enjoy open space, take their families and walk their dogs, knowing that this will remain and not built on.
“At its meeting on July 18, the executive was asked to approve an update to the council’s Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area Avoidance Strategy.
“The strategy provides guidance on how the provisions of policy NRM6 and the Habitats Regulations will be delivered and applied.
“The executive was not asked to consider whether the SANG/SAMM approach should continue as the council does not have discretion over this matter.
“The report considered by the executive contained references to comments raised during the consultation on the new strategy, including Mr Bridger’s comments.
“The points he raises, and the responses, were available to all executive members, councillors and the public.”
The art installation by Giles Miller on on Winterfold Hill
Endangered: The Dartford Warbler