Woking Borough Council

Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Areas Avoidance Strategy

In March 2005, the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) was classified under the EC Birds Directive. It includes areas of heathland across Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire, covering 11 different local authorities, including Woking. The sites in Woking Borough are parts of Horsell Common, Sheets Heath and Brookwood Heath.

The SPA has been identified as an internationally important breeding habitat for three rare species of bird - the Dartford warbler, woodlark and nightjar.

Natural England has demonstrated that the new population arising from housing developments at a distance of up to 5km from this SPA can cause significant disturbance to the breeding success of these rare bird populations, due to the impact of residents recreational activities, particularly walking and walking with dogs. As a result, all housing developments within 5km of the SPA will now be subject to stringent tests and impact assessments.

As a statutory consultee on planning applications within 5km of an SPA, Natural England has the right to object to applications which it considers will have a negative impact on an SPA. However, it has established that impacts on the SPA can be avoided through the provision of suitable alternative natural greenspaces to divert recreational pressure away from the SPA. These alternative greenspaces can either be new or improved existing greenspaces.

Natural England has produced standards for the provision of suitable alternative natural greenspaces and Woking Borough Council has applied these to produce a strategy to enable housing developments to continue. In producing this Strategy officers have worked closely with Natural England.

Avoidance Strategy (February 2022)

The latest Thames Basin Heaths SPA Avoidance Strategy can be downloaded below. This latest strategy was adopted on 10 February 2022, and has been updated to reflect changes in national policy, up-to-date information, and to take into account representations made during consultation on the document in Autumn 2021. The document has the status of a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), and is a material consideration in determining planning applications and other planning decisions.

The Avoidance Strategy contains an overview map of the Borough. A large detailed map of the Borough can be downloaded which shows individual dwellings.

In order to avoid harm to the SPA planning applications for residential development are expected to financially contribute towards works to improve existing greenspaces within the Borough. The Avoidance Strategy states that the tariff set out within it will be subject to annual review in line with the Retail Price Index.

Supporting Documents

Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMM)

The SAMM tariff is a separate payment from CIL which is secured by a S106 Agreement. The SAMM tariff is indexed linked year on year. The following table demonstrates the tariff as of 1 April 2024 - 31 March 2025:

Joint Strategic Partnership Board

The Joint Strategic Partnership Board (made up of relevant local authorities, Natural England, Homebuilders Federation, RSPB, Open Spaces Society and Wildlife Trusts) has produced a Delivery Framework. Each affected authority has adopted the framework which details the introduction of SPA access management measures to inform visitors about the impacts their visits are having on rare birds, to encourage changes in behaviour.

Further information

For more information on Special Protection Areas visit the Joint Nature Conservation Committee website.

Advice is also available from Natural England on 01273 476595 or email Natural England. Natural England website http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/

Natural England have also produced a Strategic Access Management and Monitoring Project Tariff Guidance document.