Habitats Regulations Assessment
It is a statutory requirement for local authorities to undertake an 'appropriate assessment' of land use plans to ensure the protection of the integrity of sites designated as Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC).
The Council is currently in the process of updating the Appropriate Assessment for the emerging Site Allocations DPD.
Special Protection Area
The Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) is made up of a number of designated sites that contain species of rare birds of international nature conservation importance. As a whole these sites span across eleven districts and within Woking it includes Horsell Common and Sheets Heath Common. The regulations covering this designation require that any plan or proposal should have regard to whether it would have a significant effect on the rare birds that the sites contain. Particular concerns that have been raised by Natural England in this respect is that new housing development may have an adverse effect on the SPA as a result of:
- The rare birds being hunted by cats from new houses sited close to the SPA.
- Increased risk of fires/rubbish dumping as a result of new houses sited close to the SPA.
- An increase in recreational activity on the SPA, for example dog walking, that may disturb the ground nests.
The Council is working with Natural England to establish how the above issues will be addressed.
Special Area of Conservation
A part of the Thursley, Ash, Pirbright and Chobham Special Area of Conservation (SAC) lies within the borough boundary. The SAC contains important North Atlantic wet heaths and European dry heaths, for example, and like the SPA, is protected through the Habitats Regulations.
Appropriate Assessment of the Site Allocations DPD
Woking's Draft Site Allocations DPD was subject to HRA in 2015, to identify any aspects of the emerging DPD which would cause a likely significant effect on SPA or SAC sites. This HRA report was subject to 'Regulation 18' stage public consultation, along with other Draft Site Allocations DPD documentation. As part of the next stage in the DPD process, and in order to meet the requirements of the Habitats Regulations, the Council has undertaken further HRA/Appropriate Assessment. The current HRA document considers the recent Ashdown Forest court judgement; and reflects the findings of the People Over Wind and Sweetman v Coillte Teoranta ECJ Judgement (known as the Sweetman judgement). The latest HRA/Appropriate Assessment report can be found below:
The Core Strategy was subject to HRA that was able to conclude that no sigificant effects on European protected sites would occur as a result of the policies contained therein. The Core Strategy was adopted in 2012 and covers spatial planning witihn the Borough from 2010-2027.