Woking Borough Council

CS7 Biodiversity and nature conservation

For the purpose of the Core Strategy, biodiversity describes the entire living natural environment of plant and animal life. It encompasses the whole variety of habitats, species, and their ecosystems.

The Government's vision for conserving and enhancing biodiversity is set out in `Working with the Grain of Nature: A Biodiversity Strategy for England.' It has a broad aim that planning, conservation, regeneration and development should have minimal impacts on biodiversity and enhance it wherever possible. The document sets out a number of key principles to be considered in development plan policies, including:

  • use of up-to-date information to underpin plan policies
  • plan policies should aim to maintain, restore and enhance or add to biodiversity and geological conservation interest
  • spatial distribution of development should take a strategic approach to the conservation, enhancement, and restoration of biodiversity and geology
  • policies should promote a design approach that incorporates beneficial biodiversity and geological features within development
  • schemes where the principal objective is to conserve or enhance biodiversity and geological interest should be permitted
  • where opportunities arise designated sites should be linked to other open spaces as part of the green infrastructure for the area.

The Core Strategy will apply these principles in local planning decisions.

In Woking Borough, the following key environmental designations of either international, national, regional or local significance exist that need to be maintained, conserved and/or enhanced because of their biodiversity or geodiversity interest.

  • Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) and Thursley, Ash, Pirbright and Chobham Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
  • Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI).
  • Local Nature Reserves (LNR).
  • Ancient Woodlands.

The designations listed above are illustrated on the Proposals Map. The designated areas provide important habitats to a variety of important species. The habitats and the species within them, both flora and fauna comprise the biodiversity of the area.

CS7: Biodiversity and nature conservation

The Council is committed to conserving and protecting existing biodiversity assets within the Borough. It will require development proposals to contribute to the enhancement of existing biodiversity and geodiversity features and also explore opportunities to create and manage new ones where it is appropriate. This will include those habitats and species listed in the Surrey Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP). Any development that will be anticipated to have a potentially harmful effect or lead to a loss of features of interest for biodiversity will be refused.

The Council will pay particular consideration to the following hierarchy of important sites and habitats in the Borough.

  1. Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) (European).
  2. Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and National Nature Reserves (National).
  3. Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI), Local Nature Reserves (LNR), and other Ancient Woodland not identified in 1 and 2 above (Local).

These sites are identified on the Proposals Map.

Within locally designated sites development will not be permitted unless it is necessary for appropriate on-site management measures and can demonstrate no adverse impacts to the integrity of the nature conservation interest.

Development adjacent to locally designated sites will not be permitted where it has an adverse impact on the integrity of the nature conservation interest that can not be mitigated.

The Council will encourage new development to make positive contribution to biodiversity through the creation of green spaces, where appropriate, and the creation of linkages between sites to create a local and regional biodiversity network of wildlife corridors and green infrastructure. It will seek to retain and encourage the enhancement of significant features of nature conservation value on development sites.

Any development with potential impact on the SPA or the SAC will be subject to a Habitats Regulations Assessment to determine the need for Appropriate Assessment.

Reasoned justification

Thursley, Ash, Pirbright and Chobham Special Area of Conservation

Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) are protected by the EU Habitats Directive. The designations provide increased protection to a variety of wild animals, plants and habitats and are a vital part of global efforts to conserve the world's bio-diversity. The key conservation objective of the Thursley, Ash, Pirbright and Chobham SAC is to protect and enhance wet heath, depressions on peat substrates and dry heath. The designation of SAC is also part of a range of measures aimed at conserving important or threatened habitats and species. These internationally important sites of nature conservation value are to be given the highest degree of protection. There will be a presumption against any new development that will damage a SAC.

Potential damage to the SAC and the SPA arising from applications for development within the SAC/SPA or located outside their boundaries but with the potential to affect features within them will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, taking account of local circumstances, including the nature and scale of the application. Issues to be considered include whether the development would:

  • cause changes to the coherence of the SAC/SPA such as presenting a barrier between isolated fragments
  • cause reduction in the area of the protected habitat
  • cause change to the physical quality of the environment or habitat
  • cause ongoing disturbance to qualifying species or habitat
  • alter species composition.

The effective avoidance and/or mitigation of any adverse effects must be demonstrated and secured prior to approval of the development.

Judgements will often be based on existing information. However, where this is unavailable or inadequate, further work will be necessary to confirm whether an application will have a significant impact.

National and regional designations

The majority of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI), and Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) are within the Metropolitan Green Belt. There is no conflict between protecting them and implementing the Core Strategy, because they are not the preferred locations for development.

SSSIs are sites of national importance because they support distinctive flora and fauna creating a distinctive landscape of value in the Borough. SNCIs are of county importance and are a non-statutory designation but are afforded protection in the planning process. There is a programme of reviewing SNCIs to provide up-to-date information on their current state. LNRs are a statutory designation, allocated because of their local nature conservation and educational importance. All of these designations are illustrated on the Proposals Map.

It is important that the landscape of the Borough is conserved and enhanced, but this must be integrated with the need to accommodate change, to address social or economic objectives and meet the needs of the communities. Harm to these environmental designations should be minimised, and opportunities should be taken to bring about improvements where possible.


The important habitats and species within the Borough form the biodiversity of the area. In the Woking area the most common examples of protected species are bats, badgers and newts. The aim of the Core Strategy is to protect, enhance and ensure effective management of biodiversity.

Where development is proposed that would affect sites or features of nature conservation importance, appropriate mitigation and management measures will be taken to ensure that this is prevented or minimised. New biodiversity proposals should be appropriate to the local landscape character. Any creation, habitat restoration or enhancement schemes should be based upon existing habitats and landscape features. New development can promote biodiversity with sensitive design and landscaping. The Council will require prior assessment of the development site by the developer to provide information on species and features of the landscape important to Woking's biodiversity. The Council will apply a design approach that enhances biodiversity where it is possible to do so.

The Council is committed to protecting and enhancing green corridors, links and stepping stones for wildlife, river valleys, waterways and open space networks because they provide important sources of habitat and biodiversity. Opportunities will be taken to link designated sites and other green spaces to create integrated wildlife corridors. The Council is committed to avoiding habitat fragmentation and increasing connectivity. River corridors will be protected by the incorporation of undeveloped buffer zones. Policy CS17 Open Space, Green Infrastructure, Sport and Recreation deals with this matter.

Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (BOAs) are part of the South East Biodiversity Strategy (SEBS) which aims to be a clear, coherent and inspiring vision and framework that guides and supports all those who can impact biodiversity in the region. BOAs identify the most important areas for wildlife conservation in Surrey, where targeted conservation action will have the greatest benefit. The main aim within BOAs is to restore biodiversity at a landscape scale through the maintenance, restoration and creation of BAP priority habitats.

Delivery strategy

The condition of SSSIs will be monitored to ensure they are not declining.

The Council will support the Surrey Biodiversity Action Plan which provides specific habitat and species targets and the Surrey Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (BOAs).

The Council will work with the Surrey Wildlife Trust to carry out a rolling programme of SNCI surveys.

Monitoring and review

  • Number, area and condition of regionally or locally designated wildlife sites.
  • The total area designated for sites of national and regional importance, or a decline in their condition.
  • The enhancement and creation of Surrey Biodiversity Action Plan Habitat.
  • Status of Surrey Biodiversity Opportunity Areas.
  • The percentage of major applications incorporating measures to protect and enhance biodiversity.

Key evidence base

Surrey Biodiversity Action Plan, 1999

Biodiversity & Planning In Surrey, November 2010 (Surrey Wildlife Trust and Surrey Biodiversity Partnership).

Habitats Regulation Assessment, June 2011.