Pro­tect­ing rare birds could cost coun­cil £100m, says ex-mayor

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“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

Ja­son Bon­sey

En­dan­gered: The Dart­ford War­bler

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