Ashdown Forest Special Protection Area, Special Area of Protection and Site of Special Scientific Interest
Following the adoption of the Core Strategy Local Plan on 19th February 2013, there continues to be a change in the Council's approach to facilitating development both in rural areas and within development boundaries. This position is supported by the policies of the National Planning Policy Framework (pdf), especially by the clear terms of advice at paragraph 119. The main reason behind this change relates to the high status of protection afforded to the Ashdown Forest's Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA), which has been further embellished by the development growth strategy of the CSLP along with policy WCS12 in particular.
The policy position which the Council is now obliged to follow, in line with the Core Strategy Policy WCS12, is that all development within 7km of the SAC, SPA and SSSI which would, either individually or in combination with other development, increase recreational and traffic pressures upon these European significant habitats must mitigate its own impact. The main impacts are from recreational pressures, and from the deleterious effects of traffic pollution. In cases of large scale development and those which generate significant volumes of traffic outside the 7km area, the Council will also be obliged to assess the likely significant effects of development upon the SAC and SPA of the Ashdown Forest. Permission must be withheld where a likely significant effect is predicted, or can not be discounted.
The Council is actively working on developing an interim (off site) mitigation strategy, as well as visitor management strategies within the Forest area to enable otherwise acceptable development to proceed.
After some twelve months of prominence to this issue, most agents are familiar with the main issues involved, and are mainly seeking updates to the original letters and information issued last year. We have prepared a short briefing note (pdf) which runs through the chain of events leading up to this initial position in March 2012, the implications, and the way forward.
In addition there are two recent reports to the Council's Environment and scrutiny Committee dated 28th January 2013 (external link), and 27th March 2013 (external link), which offer helpful updates upon mitigation measures, advice to agents, and implications of the Habitats Regulations for planning applications/economic development.
The following documents have also been recently produced regarding the on-going situation:
- General Guidance on the Habitats Regulations and its impact upon development which requires planning permission within and around the Ashdown Forest (pdf)
- Progress on the development of an Interim SANGs Mitigation Strategy (pdf) (This summary is more dated than the January and March C&E reports referred to above, but still includes some useful background.))
Map and Assessment
Please view the following map illustrating the zones of influence around the Ashdown Forest, and the Wealden District (Incorporating Part of the South Downs National Park) Local Development Framework: Assessment of the Core Strategy under the Habitat Regulations document, which the map has been taken from.