In March 2022 Natural England announced emerging evidence which identified significant recreational pressure on Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation (SAC), more specifically Ashridge Commons and Woods Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) component.

Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) which were identified as partly or wholly with the 12.6km Zone of Influence (ZOI) were contacted and asked to find a strategy to mitigate the impacts of future residiential developments on the Chiltern Beechwoods.

The following LPAs are working together to provide a solution:

  • Buckinghamshire Council(Aylesbury Vale and Chilterns Districts);
  • Central Bedfordshire Council;
  • Dacorum Borough Council;
  • St Albans City and District Council;

Dacorum Borough Council have now produced a mitigation strategy and associated processes to satisfy the requirements of the Habitats Directive.

The mitigation strategy includes the following elements:
1. Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMM)
2. Identification of SANG sites to provide compensation
3. Identification of a Gateway Project

Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMM)
The first arm of the Mitigation Strategy will address issues at Ashridge Estate. All new development (one house or greater) will need to pay a new SAMM tariff which will contribute towards a range of projects that will be implemented to mitigate the impact of new development on the Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The projects are designed to mitigate the likely scale of development that will come forward within the 12.6 kilometres Zone of Influence.

The final figure is apportioned across all growth taking place across the affected local authorities.

The local authorities have agreed to the following apportioned costs:

Council/admin area SAMMS apportionment Indicative cost per dwelling (subject to change in line with how each authority chooses to implement its respective cost)
Dacorum Borough Council £9,420,290 £913.88 per dwelling
Central Bedfordshire Council £1,626,536 £182.49 per dwelling
St. Albans City and District Council £212,123 £828.61 per dwelling
Buckinghamshire (north and central) £6,998,025 £566.23 per dwelling
Buckinghamshire (south) £18,536 £87.03 per dwelling

 

Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG)

In addition to the above SAMM payment all new developments within the zone of influence must contribute towards either

a) a new (bespoke) SANG; or

b) contribute towards suitable SANG projects elsewhere.

Any development seeking to deliver 10 or more net new residential dwellings (or equivalent) must be located within (or on the edge of) the catchment of a SANG project. That SANG must have existing capacity and meet any further criteria necessary to accommodate the proposed scheme. Smaller development proposals for up to 9 net new residential dwellings (or equivalent) are not restricted to catchment areas of SANG. If such a development is not within the catchment area of a SANG with sufficient capacity, it can contribute towards an existing SANG elsewhere.

Dacorum Borough Council approved the Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation Mitigation Strategy in November 2022. It also approved two Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) Management Plans for Bunkers Park and Chipperfield Common.

Larger developments (10 or more new homes) must be located close to a suitable SANG. Smaller developments can contribute towards an existing SANG. Developers that are unable to provide a suitable new SANG will be required to make a payment towards the long-term management and maintenance of these sites, which equates to £4,251.71 per new home.

Central Bedfordshire have also finalised its mitigation strategy and successfully designated seven open spaces, as Strategic Alternative Green Spaces (SANGs), to mitigate the impact of development in parts of southern Central Bedfordshire on the Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation.

They are now determining planning applications within the Zone of Influence again, with opportunities available for developers to contribute towards strategic SANG solutions by way of mitigation.

The mitigation strategy can be downloaded here.

The SANG standard per unit tariff will be £4,273 (where a SANG is not provided on site). Exceptions to this tariff are as follows:

  • One-bedroom dwellings will be charged at three quarters of the standard rate – £3,205 per unit (£4,273*0.75)
  • HMOs, of up to and including 6 bedrooms, will be charged the standard tariff. HMOs of over 6 bedrooms will be charged the standard tariff plus 1/6th of the standard rate for every bedroom over the 6-bedroom threshold.

In St Albans District larger developments (10 or more new homes) must provide their own suitable SANG that meets the guidance from Natural England. Smaller developments (1-9 homes) can contribute towards an existing SANG. A potential Council SANG site in the District has been identified and agreed in principle as being suitable with Natural England. For smaller developments (1-9 homes) applicants will be able to request use of the Council SANG solution and the Council will consider if it meets relevant criteria. If the criteria are met and capacity is available, applicants will be able to use the Council SANG solution by paying the required per dwelling figure of £6,603.

Buckinghamshire Council have recently published an updated document of Frequently Asked Questions. This document advises that the Council is confident that it will have certainty over the delivery of its first Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace at Kingsbrook Meadow, Aylesbury by Spring 2024 with an anticipated reserved matters application due in March 2024. This will be subject to the necessary legal agreements being completed and planning permission being granted. All developments within the Zone of Influence for 9 dwellings or less can be mitigated within the Kingsbrook strategic SANG. Sites of 10 dwellings or over will be required to be within 5km catchment area of the Kingsbrook strategic SANG to be used for mitigation. Sites outside the 5km catchment will be required to make their own provision for bespoke SANG. The Council advise that they are also in discussion with landowner/developers regarding a further strategic SANG to the southern part of the 12.6km zone of Influence.

The Buckinghamshire Cabinet are due to consider a Mitigation Strategy on 9 July 2024.

Keep checking our website for updates and contact us for further assistance and advice with your projects.