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					        SOUTH EAST PLAN – DRAFT REVISED REGIONAL SPATIAL STRATEGY
        CONSULTATION

        CABINET: 22 JUNE 2006

        MEMBER REPORTING: COUNCILLOR MRS HOWES.


1.      PURPOSE OF REPORT

        To inform Cabinet of the draft revised South East Plan which was submitted by the South
        East of England Regional Assembly (SEERA) to the Secretary of State on 27th March 2006
        and published for consultation until 23rd June 2006. To recommend that Cabinet submits
        comments on the draft revised Plan for consideration at the forthcoming Examination in
        Public into the Plan. Copies of the Plan will be available in the Group offices prior to the
        Cabinet meeting.


2.      MEMBER RECOMMENDATION: That Cabinet agrees the detailed comments set
        out in paragraphs 3.2.5-3.2.14 of the report, together with the comments set out in
        Appendix 1 and the objections set out in Appendix 2 of this report, and that these
        form the basis of this Council’s representations to the Panel for the Examination in
        Public into the South East Plan. The agreement of detailed evidence in support of
        these comments be delegated to the Lead Member for Planning, Property and
        Maidenhead Town Centre.


3.      SUPPORTING INFORMATION

3.1     Wards Affected

        All wards

3.2     Relevant Matters Upon Which Decision is Based


3.2.1   Following publication of the draft South East Plan in 2005 and further consultation on the
        distribution of housing later that year, SEERA has submitted to Government the revised
        draft of the regional spatial strategy (RSS). Under the provisions of the Planning and
        Compulsory Purchase Act and the Regulations, the RSS will be subject to an independent
        Examination in Public (EIP) by a Panel appointed by the Government. Arrangements have
        been made for an EIP to be held between November 2006 and March 2007

3.2.2   Previously this Council has submitted comments on the two draft stages of the South East
        Plan preparation. The Borough’s views on the proposed level of housing distribution are
        reflected in the submission document, which retains a proposed annual rate of housing
        development of 281 dwellings per annum for the Borough or 5,620 dwellings for the
        period 2006-2026. The Royal Borough falls within the Western Corridor and Blackwater
        Valley Sub-Region (WCBV). In common with a number of other planning authorities in
        the sub-region and adjoining areas, the Royal Borough is affected by the Thames Basin
        Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA). English Nature are concerned at the possible impact
        on threatened bird species of new housing development within the vicinity of the SPA.
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        Whilst the authorities are working together with the Regional Assembly and English
        Nature to resolve the implications of the SPA for housing development, the submitted Plan
        in Policy WCBV1 says that if the matter cannot be resolved then the scale of housing
        allocation in the sub-region and its distribution will need to be reviewed.

3.2.3   The Berkshire authorities have been working together to provide a joint approach towards
        the South East Plan since the main participants at the forthcoming Examination in Public
        will be the County authorities and it is by no means certain that the individual Unitary
        Councils will automatically have a seat at the examination. A shared County-based view
        will potentially carry more weight at the examination whilst still allowing authorities scope
        to raise matters of detail of individual concern. To this end the Leaders of the six Berkshire
        Unitary authorities have agreed the principle of making a common Berkshire response to
        the latest consultation on the South East Plan, and the broad headings that that submission
        should cover. The main points to be contained in this submission are set out in Appendix 1.

3.2.4   Whilst the Berkshire position includes reference to the SPA, this is a matter that is of more
        detailed importance to the Royal Borough. The affected authorities have been working
        together on a possible shared position on the SPA. To achieve this, it is proposed that there
        should be an objection to the South East Plan based upon the joint report prepared on
        behalf of the 15 authorities affected by the SPA. This submission is attached to this report
        as Appendix 2.

        Areas for specific RBWM comment

3.2.5   Apart from the matters of shared concern referred to above, there are some policy areas
        included in the draft South East Plan where the Borough has particular views and where
        specific comment is recommended. These are set out in the following paragraphs.

        Section E6
        Western Corridor and Blackwater Valley Sub-Region                                                Formatted
3.2.6   Policy WCBV3: Scale and Distribution of Housing Development. This specifies the level
        of housing allocations to the authorities within the sub-region. The Borough supports the
        figures set out in Table WCBV 1 but notes that the table should refer to 'Windsor and
        Maidenhead' rather than 'Windsor'. Apart from the caveats relating to the Thames Basin
        Heaths Special Protection Area included in the Policy, the Borough Council accepts the
        rate of growth for the Borough but would have serious concerns about any increase above
        this figure.

        Section D2
        Economy
3.2.7   Policy RE2: Employment and Land Provision. Local authorities are required to allocate
        employment land to provide a range of sites and premises to meet the needs of businesses.
        The Borough supports the approach towards meeting local employment needs and agrees
        the emphasis on locations that maximise the use of public transport and the intensification
        of existing sites, with a focus on urban areas and previously developed land. The Borough
        supports the retention of accessible and well-located commercial sites where there is a
        good prospect of employment use. The Borough also supports the approach to the rural
        economy and this will be reflected in Local Development Documents.




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         Section D1
         Green Belt
3.2.8    Policy CC10a. The Borough strongly supports this policy which says that Green Belts will
         be retained and supported. Also, para 1.32 – the Assembly considers that there is no case
         for any strategic review of Green Belt within the region. This is strongly supported.

         Section D4
         Airports
3.2.9    Policy T9: this policy supports the development of Heathrow airport within currently
         agreed levels of growth only. The Plan does not consider that it would be appropriate to
         include proposals for further expansion at Heathrow. The Borough supports this approach
         and the views expressed in para 1.25 regarding the difficulty in accommodating forecast
         levels of growth in the Aviation White Paper, especially in the already congested, over-
         heated and polluted area around Heathrow. The Borough is particularly concerned with the
         potential environmental and social impacts of a third runway and sixth terminal at
         Heathrow. The Borough would also wish to see the number of movements limited to
         480,000 per annum as recommended by the Inspector at the fifth terminal Inquiry.


         Section 10
         Tourism
3.2.10   Policy TSR4: Tourism Attractions: The Borough considers that priority should be given to
         improving both the quality and accessibility of existing attractions. This is particularly
         relevant to Windsor as a national tourist attraction. It is important that attractions should
         be accessible by a range of transport modes. This authority agrees the proposed sequential
         approach to new regionally significant attractions with priority towards location in areas of
         recognised economic regeneration need or growth areas. The Royal Borough is not a
         location to which new attractions should be encouraged to locate.

3.2.11   Policy TSR7: Priority Areas for Tourism: Windsor and surrounds is identified as an area
         where cross-border working to manage the associated pressures of high business and
         leisure tourism impact would be beneficial. This is supported.

         River Thames
3.2.12   The Borough would support the River Thames Society in its desire to see an overarching
         policing policy for the River Thames. The South East Plan refers to the value of the River
         Thames and its potential for leisure and tourism. However in promoting the aims of the
         Thames Waterway Plan, the Borough, as a partner organisation in the River Thames
         Alliance, supports the development of a broad range of policies relating to the river
         corridor and its contribution to landscape heritage and bio-diversity as well as recreation
         and tourism. The River Thames is of considerable regional importance, and it would be
         appropriate for the South East Plan to acknowledge this wider importance at a strategic
         level.

         Implementation Plan

3.2.13   Supplementing the core document is an ‘Implementation Plan’ setting out a variety of
         measures and infrastructure improvements together with their delivery agencies. This
         contains a Sub-regional Investment Framework. At the time of submission of the Plan
         some of this was work in progress and the intention is to submit further developed
         programmes to the Panel in advance of the Examination in Public.

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3.2.14   For the Western Corridor and Blackwater Valley sub-region, there are a number of
         transport schemes listed which include:

         -   M40/A404/M4 “Motorway Box”
         -   M4 widening (J5-9)

         Whilst details of these have yet to be fully specified together with their timing, the
         Borough would wish to reserve its position regarding their justification, scope and
         implementation. The Borough is particularly concerned with the potential impact of any
         proposals affecting residents in the Borough along the routes of the A404(M) and M4.


3.3      Options Available and Risk Assessment


3.3.1    Option 1 Do Nothing – Note the submitted Plan produced by SEERA, but offer no
         comment. By not making any representation it would not enable the Council to take the
         opportunity at this initial stage to influence the outcome of the Panel’s consideration of the
         Plan at the EIP.

3.3.2    Option 2 Comment on the draft Plan (the recommendation of this report) – This
         consultation provides an opportunity for the Borough to influence the Regional policy
         framework within which it will need to draw up its Local Development Framework. A
         joint approach agreed with the other Berkshire Unitary Councils will provide the
         opportunity to participate in the debate to be held at the EIP later this year.

3.3.3    Bearing in mind that there may be pressures to increase the overall provision for housing
         development if the region upto 2026, any increase in rates of housing growth could have an
         impact on the Borough’s ability to accommodate additional development within existing
         constraints. Any potential future growth options that could severely prejudice the Green
         Belt in the Borough would be unacceptable to this Council.

3.4      Reasons Supporting Recommendation

         It is recommended that Option 2 is agreed in order to influence the eventual outcome of the
         Regional Spatial Strategy. The Borough is at a key stage in developing its own policies in
         the Local Development Framework and it would be advisable to comment on the
         submitted Plan as detailed in the report. The areas of concern outlined in Appendix 1, will
         be expanded in more detailed evidence to be prepared jointly by the Berkshire authorities
         for presentation to the EIP Panel.


3.5      Relevant National/Regional Guidance

         PPS11 Regional Spatial Strategies
         RPG9 Regional Planning Guidance for the South East

3.6      Relevant Council Policies/Strategies

         The relevant Council policies and strategies are:

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         Berkshire Structure Plan 2001-2016
         RBWM Local Plan

4.       CONSULTATION CARRIED OUT

4.1      No public consultation has been carried out in the preparation of this report.

5.       IMPLICATIONS

5.1      Financial

         There are no financial implications arising from this report.

5.2      Legal

         The Regional Spatial Strategy will be one of the statutory plans that make up the
         Development Plan, and which forms the basis of the decisions made on planning matters in
         the Royal Borough under the provisions of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act
         2004. The sub-regional strategy will, therefore, be important in setting the statutory
         strategic planning framework for the Borough and for the preparation of the Local
         Development Framework.

5.3      Human Rights Act

         The report does not have any Convention rights relevant to it.
         The proposal does not affect any victims as defined under the Human Rights Act 1998.

5.4      Planning

         The sub-regional strategy ultimately incorporated in the Regional Spatial Strategy will
         replace the Berkshire Structure Plan in providing the strategic planning context for
         planning decisions in the Borough.

5.5      Sustainable Development

         In terms of sustainable development policy, the recommendation of this report will have
         the following beneficial sustainable development implications:
              Promoting sustainable forms and locations of development.

      Background Papers:
      Draft South East Plan, Part1, 2005




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                                                                  APPENDIX 1

South East Plan – A Berkshire position – a summary
  1. At their meeting on 27th March, the Leaders of the six Berkshire authorities agreed:
     (a) the principle of making a common Berkshire response to the latest consultation on
     the South East Plan, and (b) the broad headings that that submission should cover.
     Evidence has now been prepared by your officers, based on those headings, and the
     main points covered by that evidence are summarised below:
  2. Infrastructure and housing: The delivery of housing should be linked to the
     strongest possible guarantees about the timely and adequate provision of the
     infrastructure needed to support it. In view of the considerable uncertainties
     surrounding the delivery of key items of infrastructure, considerable caution needs to
     be exercised towards any proposals from other sources, seeking to increase the
     allocations to the Berkshire authorities. Examples of these uncertainties are given in
     relation to transport, water and sewerage, and affordable housing.
  3. Subsidiarity: This evidence proposes, as a general principle, that the Plan should
     apply the approach that decisions will be made at the local level wherever possible.
     Additional policies should not be included in the South East Plan unless there is clear
     evidence that they add value and perform a function that could not be carried out at
     the level of the individual Local Development Framework.
  4. Affordable housing: In line with the principle of subsidiarity, the Western Corridor
     and Blackwater Valley authorities agreed not to set any targets for affordable housing
     for the sub-region or at more local levels. These will be decided individually by the
     local authorities, and any departure from regional guidelines will be justified in the
     light of local circumstances. With regard to affordable housing, the point is made that
     the central issue is not one of planning policy, but of public subsidy. The delivery of
     even the amount of affordable housing currently required by the South East Plan
     would require a level of public funding vastly higher than is available at present.
     Increases in the requirement would therefore be academic, unless it can be shown
     where the public subsidy to make them affordable is coming from.
  5. Housing density and design: Another subsidiarity point. We argue that the Plan’s
     single overall target of 40 dwellings per hectare (one-third above the national
     minimum required by Government) is insufficiently sensitive to local circumstances. It
     cuts across the more detailed guidance set out in PPS3. Local authorities should
     work to PPS3 standards, which at least allow for some flexibility to reflect the
     character of the area in which the development is set.
  6. Employment land: A final subsidiarity point. This evidence explains why we do not
     want the Plan to specify more local releases of employment land, which we again say
     is something that should be addressed at the more local level. Our evidence seeks to
     demonstrate: (a) that there are considerable difficulties in forecasting how much new
     employment land would be needed and (b) that to do so would encourage the release
     of greenfield land, rather than the more efficient use of existing employment land. We
     also raise some concerns about the proposal, introduced by Hampshire County
     Council into the sub-regional strategy, to release some 40-60 hectares of new
     employment land in the Basingstoke area. We suggest a form of words that would
     make this proposal subject to further review.
  7. Road user charging: Any evidence the Berkshire authorities give on transport will
     tend to be regarded as flawed, unless it is shown that we have at least given some
     consideration to road user charging. In view of the diverse opinions among the
     Berkshire authorities on this subject, the line we have taken is to say that the current
     policy on road user charging is flawed, in appearing to put all the onus on local
     authorities to introduce it. The evidence sets out why – if it is to happen at all – road
     user charging in this area would need to be a central, not a local, government
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       initiative. The evidence does not come down either for or against its introduction by
       central government.
   8. Transport: This evidence (still in preparation) is designed to make Panel aware of
       the serious transport challenges Berkshire faces, and the need to give priority to
       investment in transport in Berkshire. It will draw only upon sources to which the
       Berkshire authorities have already signed up – the Berkshire Structure Plan, the sub-
       regional transport strategy to which the Berkshire authorities agreed as part of the
       evidence submitted to the Assembly in December 2005, and individual authorities’
       Local Transport Plans.
   9. Special Protection Area: This evidence explains why a fundamental review of the
       level and distribution of housing proposed for the sub-region will be needed, in the
       event that the English Nature delivery plan proves not to be a viable basis for solving
       the problems resulting from the SPA.
   10. Waste: This raises an objection to the policy requiring Berkshire to take some 1.4
       million tonnes of London’s waste by 2015 and a further 0.9 million tonnes thereafter,
       which will require us to find additional landfill capacity.

Joint Strategic Planning Unit
May 2006




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                                                                        APPENDIX 2




                                JOINT REPORT TO
                       BERKSHIRE PLANNING OFFICERS’ GROUP
                       HAMPSHIRE PLANNING OFFICERS’ GROUP
SURREY PLANNING OFFICERS’ASSOCIATION
 _________________________________________________________________________

SOUTH EAST PLAN: CONSULTATION ON DRAFT PLAN
SUBMITTED TO GOVERNMENT - THAMES BASIN HEATHS
SPECIAL PROTECTION AREA
                                                                     Wards Affected: All
_________________________________________________________________________
Summary and purpose:
The South East Plan (SEP) was approved by the Regional Assembly (SEERA) at its Plenary
meeting on the 1st March 2006 and was submitted to the Government on the 31st March.
The formal consultation period commenced on the 31st March and will continue to the 23rd
June. All responses must be submitted by the 23rd June 2006.

This report deals solely with the issue of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area
(SPA) as it affects the South East Plan and has been prepared jointly by all the fifteen
authorities affected both directly and indirectly by the SPA. It identifies common principles
which could form the basis of a composite objection on behalf of the fifteen authorities with a
view to securing a place at the EiP when these issues are debated.

The report has been written on the basis of finding a solution to the impasse that has come
about as a result of the ECJ judgement in October 2005. The 15 authorities are anxious to
see both the housing allocations met and the SPA protected. The report has not been
written with a view to using the SPA as a mechanism for securing a reduced housing
allocation.

Each authority will be making its own representations on the South East Plan as it affects
that authority. These representations may include specific issues on how the SPA affects
that authority.


Introduction and Background
1.     The South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA) has prepared the new
       Regional Spatial Strategy for the region, known as the South East Plan. This
       document sets out the vision for the region through to 2026 and, once approved, will
       become a legal document which local authorities and other government agencies will
       have to follow. The draft Plan has been approved by SEERA and has been
       submitted to the Government.

2.     SEERA is currently undertaking a major piece of public consultation on the
       submission document which ends on the 23rd June. Separate reports are being
       prepared which deal with the issues as they affect the respective Councils.

3.     The Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area was designated on the 9th March
       2005 and is protected under the European Habitat Regulations. It comprises a series

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      of fragmented areas of land straddling the boundaries of Berkshire, Hampshire and
      Surrey which are home to the Dartford warbler, nightjar and woodlark, all of which are
      threatened species. The designated area covers some 8,400ha (20,750 acres) in
      Bracknell Forest, Elmbridge, Guildford, Hart, Rushmoor, Surrey Heath, Waverley,
      Windsor and Maidenhead and Woking. The Heathlands provide not only an
      important habitat, but are a high-quality recreational asset which is particularly
      important for informal recreation, including walking and dog exercising. The habitats
      are therefore both vulnerable and fragile. English Nature has identified that housing
      developments, through the resultant increase in recreational disturbance, may affect
      the integrity of the SPA. English Nature believes that this effect occurs from housing
      developments within a 5km linear distance from the SPA. Significant areas of land
      within Runnymede, and Wokingham and to a lesser extent within Basingstoke and
      Deane, East Hants, Mole Valley and West Berkshire, are therefore affected.

4.    In all fifteen Boroughs and Districts are affected by the designation. These Districts
      and Boroughs lie within two of the sub-regional areas (London Fringe and Western
      Corridor and Blackwater Valley) and also within the area outside the sub-regions.

5.    This report has been prepared jointly by the fifteen authorities and deals solely with
      the issues raised by the designation as they affect the delivery of housing. Each
      authority will be making its own representations on the South East Plan as it affects
      that authority. These representations may include specific issues on how the SPA
      affects that authority.

Context and Current Practice

6.    The European Court of Justice ruling on the 20th October 2005 means that UK
      development plans, which include the SEP, must now be tested against the rules
      protecting SPAs set out in the Habitats Directive.

7.    In practice this means that an “Appropriate Assessment” is required to identify the
      potential conflict (in the case of the SEP, at the strategic level) and to identify and
      build in strategic mitigation measures to avoid damage to the SPA and provide long-
      term certainty for planners and the development industry. In short, the challenge is to
      find a way to plan for the housing that is needed without destroying an important
      wildlife resource.

8.    English Nature has identified the provision of alternative open space as a method of
      mitigating impact on the SPA as a result of recreational disturbance. The alternative
      open space can comprise new areas of accessible land or improvements to existing
      areas to increase their capacity. Such mitigation, it is argued, would prevent the net
      increase in usage of the SPA. A crucial task, therefore, is to establish whether there
      is sufficient alternative open space which can be offered as “mitigation” to divert users
      away from the SPA. For this reason SEERA has appointed a firm of consultants
      (Land Use Consultancy) to carry out an audit of open space in public ownership in the
      Districts and Boroughs affected which is due to be completed in July 2006.

9.    Defence Estates, with support from SEERA, is also undertaking a review of its land
      holdings in the whole of the South East. This work will also inform the audit and
      assessment of mitigation land.

10.   English Nature is preparing a Delivery Plan and template Supplementary Planning
      Document which Local Authorities will be asked to consider, with a view to adoption.
      The Delivery Plan has been published in draft form on the English Nature web-site
      and copies of the template Supplemntary Planning Document were circulated to local
      authorities in early May 2006. The draft Delivery Plan sets out measures to control

                                            106
      the location of housing development and to ensure that adequate mitigation
      measures (which will include the provision of new and improvement of existing
      recreational land) are set in place, together with their funding and implementation.
      The Supplementary Planning Document will be considered in due course by the local
      authorities and will be subject to normal consultation procedures. It is unlikely that
      these procedures could be completed in less than 18 - 24 months. It is therefore not
      likely that the SPD would be adopted by most of the fifteen authorities before the
      middle of 2008.

11.   In order to provide a degree of certainty for developers for the interim period, work is
      under way between the fifteen authorities to develop consistent working practices and
      information sheets/web-pages. Some authorities have also commenced work on their
      own “mini mitigation plans” and Appropriate Assessments of their own Development
      Plan Documents.

12.   Annexe 1 sets out in summary form the current position in each of the Districts.

SEP Policies relating to the SPA

13.   The specific policies in the SEP which relate to the SPA are to be found in the
      London Fringe and Western Corridor Blackwater Valley sub regional chapters in
      Policies LF11, WCBV3 and WCBV9.

SEP Housing Allocations

14.   The main District-level housing allocations are set out in Policies WCBV3 and LF2. It
      is estimated that some 40,000 – 45,000 of these dwellings lie within the 5km zones of
      the SPA.

Common Themes

15.   The key issue for objection relate to those policies and parts of the draft SEP relating
      to the SPA and its impact on the delivery of housing. As a result the housing
      requirements of the plan have not proven to be deliverable and the Plan has not
      proven to be sound.        The Councils have identified the following common
      themes/issues:

         a) Whether the policies relating to the SPA are clear and consistent;
         b) Need for an Appropriate Assessment and the absence of any consultation;
         c) Whether the LUC study and Defence Estates Study will deliver what is
              needed;
         d) Whether the Delivery Plan is a practical solution in soundness/policy terms;
         e) Whether the Sustainability Appraisal Report of the SEP deals adequately with
              the SPA issue;
         f) Whether there is sufficient scientific evidence for the requirements stated in
              the Delivery Plan; and
g)    Not all authorities are signed up to the SPD
h)    Whether the consultation process is sound


a)    Whether the SEP Policies relating to Housing Allocations and the SPA are clear
      and consistent

16.   The issues surrounding Thames Basin Heaths SPA are sub-regional in nature. Not
      all the authorities affected by the Thames Basin Heaths SPAS lie within the two sub-


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      regional areas (London Fringe and Western Corridor Blackwater Valley). This
      discrepancy is likely to lead to confusion.
17.   Secondly, the two sub-regional chapters deal with the issue differently. The London
      Fringe sub-regional chapter deals with the matter in a single section and policy
      (Section E5 paragraphs 2.24 – 2.29 and in Policy LF11) whilst the Western Corridor
      Blackwater Valley chapter deals with the matter in in two separate texts and policies
      (Section E6 paragraph 2.7 and Policy WCBV3 and paragraphs 2.24 – 2.29 and Policy
      WCBV9). This discrepancy in the way the policies affecting the SPA are set out is
      likely to lead to further confusion.

18.   Policies LF11 and WCBV3 recognise that district level housing allocations pre-
      suppose that a workable approach can be found for dealing with the issues
      surrounding the SPA. However they also clearly indicate that should it not be
      possible to resolve these uncertainties, both the scale and distribution of housing
      allocation “will be fundamentally reviewed from first principles”.

19.   Given the geographical spread of affected local authorities both within and outside
      the two sub-regional areas, the inconsistent manner in which this matter is dealt with
      and the requirement for a fundamental review should a workable solution not be
      found, the issue should be dealt with in a consistent manner through a “high-level”
      cross-cutting policy.

b)    Need for an Appropriate Assessment and the absence of any consultation

20.   Whilst Policies LF9 and WCBV3 accept that there may need to be a review of the
      scale and distribution of the housing allocation in the two sub-regions and implicitly
      recognise that an Appropriate Assessment (AA) needs to be carried out, ther is no
      recognition of the judgement of the European Court of Justice in October 2005 which
      requires that development plans, including Regional Spatial Strategies, should
      undertake Appropriate Assessments and take the necessary action arising, including
      the consideration of mitigation. It is a matter of serious concern to all the authorities
      that SEERA has not recognised this issue and undertaken the necessary work in
      respect of any of the SPAs or SACs. The absence of this work is wholly inconsistent
      with the Government’s commitment to sustainable development. The approach of the
      Plan may therefore need to be reviewed in the light of a proper assessment of its
      impact on all Natura 2000 sites. Specifically, in respect of the Thames Basin Heaths
      SPA, an Appropriate Assessment would ascertain whether the housing allocations in
      the Plan would have a significant effect on the SPA, whether there would sufficient
      mitigation and whether there are alternatives to the proposals in the Plan. The lack of
      an Appropriate Assessment clearly hinders consideration of this central issue as,
      crucially, without an Appropriate Assessment, there is no guarantee that the strategy
      proposed in the South East Plan can be delivered or that the Plan is “sound”.

21.   Whilst the SEP implicitly accepts that there is a need for an AA and it is understood a
      study is to be undertaken, , current indications are that this work will not be available
      until the Examination later this year. If the AA is not made available until the
      Examination, there will be no chance to consult the public, local authorities and other
      bodies on its results. Not allowing consultation on the AA is contrary to:
       a) Aarhus convention;
       b) Regulation 48 (4) of The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &C). Regulations
          1994;
       c) Paragraph 19 of ODPM Circular 06/2005/DEFRA Circular 01/2005;
       d) Article 6 (3) of The Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC; and




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       e) Section 3.2.6 (2nd paragraph) of EU Guidance “Assessment of plans and
          projects significantly affecting Natura 2000 sites: Methodological Guidance on
          the provisions of Article 6(3) and (4) of the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC”.

22.   The 15 local authorities affected by the SPA would welcome an opportunity to
      comment on the Appropriate Assessment and to revise representations on the South
      East Plan in the light of any findings. The timetable appears to provide no opportunity
      to do this or to provide for SEERA/GOSE to take due regard of these further
      comments. This is contrary to established practice and to Regulations and Guidance.
      The Government Office and SEERA should therefore give urgent consideration to
      ensuring that the timetable provides for a six-week consultation on the Appropriate
      Assessment and for proper consideration of further comments.

c)    Whether the LUC Study will deliver what is needed

23.   SEERA has appointed a firm of consultants (Land Use Consultancy) to carry out an
      audit of open space in public ownership in the Districts and Boroughs affected. This
      is due to be completed in July 2006. Defence Estates is also undertaking a review of
      its land holdings to inform the audit and assessment of mitigation land

24    These studies will provide an assessment of the potential mitigation land available in
      the affected local authority areas and an analysis of the ownership, acquisition and
      management costs. Their purpose is to help assess the impact of the SPA on
      housing allocations. They are not a substitute for a full Appropriate Assessment.

25.   The overall aim of the project is welcomed as it intends to take a comprehensive and
      strategic view of the opportunities for providing alternative open space as mitigation
      for housing affecting the SPA. Much helpful information is expected to arise out of
      the project which will provide a basis for enabling the provision of much of the
      housing requirement identified in the draft South East Plan. However, not all
      authorities have the same levels of data and this may affect the robustness of the
      conclusions. Moreover, there are a number of weaknesses to the project and its
      integration into the preparation of the South East Plan, such that it will not establish
      the soundness of the draft Plan in respect of the SPA as intended.

26.   The studies are tasked to make recommendations on the mechanisms to secure land
      for mitigation. The key weakness is that it is difficult to envisage at present how
      funding can be achieved to enable mitigation to be implemented over a timescale
      commensurate with the requirements for housing delivery of the South East Plan.
      The main option which has been considered to date is that housing developments will
      make commuted payments to fund the provision of alternative open space. However,
      the acquisition of open space, or obtaining agreement to manage it for mitigation
      land, is likely to take several years to achieve and will cost large sums of money.
      This is especially the case in view of its enhanced value in facilitating residential
      development, and of the large costs of maintenance. English Nature is also likely to
      advise that this open space must be provided before the housing is occupied. It is
      also questionable as to whether any developer will enter into an agreement requiring
      payments up front with no prospect of development for several years. The
      incremental accruing of funding from housing developments, and the gaining of
      agreement from public bodies to release land, is therefore likely to take many years
      before the open space can be practically provided. This will certainly prejudice the
      provision of housing on an annual basis as proposed in the South East Plan, and may
      prejudice the overall district allocations. It is considered that it will only be through
      significant intervention by central government in the form of providing pump-priming
      funds to obtain land, and in the form of coordinating the release of public land, that

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      quicker progress can be made. However, there is every indication at present, that
      this intervention will not take place, and therefore the implementation of the open
      space, and the soundness of the draft Plan is called into question.

27.   There are a number of other concerns over the project which call into question its
      effectiveness. These include:
          a. that the studies concentrate very heavily on identifying public land which
              could be used for open space, and do not explore the opportunities for using
              private land which may be available;
          b. the studies are heavily reliant on identifying more natural and semi-natural
              land, and omit identification of opportunities for improving the access and
              habitat management within the SPA itself and mitigation on more formal land
              such as recreation grounds;
          c. similarly, whilst the Brief identifies the opportunities from linear routes, it is not
              clear to what extent the improvement of the public footpath network is to be
              examined.

d)    Whether the Delivery Plan is a practical solution in soundness/policy terms

28.   The Delivery Plan (which is still not yet formally published) is anticipated to be only a
      3-5 year pilot. If the Delivery Plan is to be a practical solution in terms of the SEP, it
      should demonstrate that it can deliver to 2026, otherwise the SEP cannot rely on its
      results.

29.   As the results of the LUC and Defence Estates audits are not yet complete there is no
      evidence that sufficient land of the right quality and in the right location will be
      available or could be made available to meet Delivery Plan standards to mitigate for
      amount of housing proposed to 2026 and beyond.

30.   A number of authorities affected by the SPA are considering the adoption of “mini
      plans” as an interim solution. Others have identified solutions for particular
      development projects. Neither demonstrates that a long-term solution to 2026 can be
      found.

31.   If the Delivery Plan is not a Practical Solution, it cannot be relied upon as evidence
      towards implementing the AA. Because the Delivery Plan is, by itself, not a practical
      solution and cannot be relied upon as evidence towards implementing the AA, this in
      turn prejudices establishing the soundness of the SEP.

e)    Whether the Sustainability Appraisal Report of the SEP deals adequately with
      the SPA issue

32.   The Sustainability Appraisal Report (SAR) acknowledges issues of biodiversity, and
      the need for appropriate assessments for European sites. Specific mention of the
      constraint of the Special Protection Area is made in the SA on the Sub-Regional
      Policy Framework in the sections on the London Fringe and the Western Corridor and
      Blackwater Valley. However, it is considered that the SAR does not properly
      recognise the significance of the impact of housing on the SPA, and therefore the
      constraint of the SPA on the strategy of the South East Plan and the Regional and
      Sub-Regional Policy Frameworks. The wording of the SA does not acknowledge the
      uncertainty of the implementation of mitigation measures such as through the
      provision of alternative open space. A proper appraisal of the impact of the regional
      and sub-regional housing strategy on biodiversity has therefore not been made.

33.   Although the SA acknowledges the need for an Appropriate Assessment (see
      Biodiversity section in para 5.2.5), this Assessment should already have been

                                              110
        undertaken to inform the preparation of the SAR. In the Appraisal of the Regional
        Policy Framework (see Table 7.1), the comments on objective 13 on conserving and
        enhancing the region’s biodiversity should recognise the potential need for mitigation
        following an Appropriate Assessment. It is noted that paragraph 8.5.7 on the
        Western Corridor and Blackwater Valley acknowledges the need for an Appropriate
        Assessment in the Biodiversity section; however there should be a similar reference
        in the London Fringe section.

34.     The Sustainability Report is deficient in its examination of the social, economic and
        other environmental implications of providing the quantity of mitigation required. For
        example, providing large areas of semi-natural open space may have negative
        impacts on social objectives if less S106 money is available for education, transport,
        affordable housing etc. These issues have not been addressed at all in the SAR.

f)      Whether there is sufficient scientific evidence for the requirements stated in the
        Delivery Plan

35.     The Delivery Plan has not yet been published, however informal drafts have been
        circulated and are on the English Nature web-site. There is considerable concern
        from local authorities and others that the scientific evidence (so far available) that
        English Nature has used in drafting its Delivery Plan is unsubstantiated and has not
        been satisfactorily tested. The basis of the mitigation standards set out for Zones B
        and C (16 ha and 8a / 1000 new residents respectively) appears to be based solely
        on the levels set down for the Queen Elizabeth Barracks development proposal in
        Hart District1. English Nature has accepted that the 16 and 8 hectare standards have
        no scientific basis, and may be altered in the future.

36.     The Thames Basin Heaths local authorities have been consulted by English Nature
        several times on various drafts of the Delivery Plan but EN has failed to respond
        adequately to the comments made by the authorities. Of particular concern for local
        authorities is whether the level of mitigation being sought can be provided. It is a
        particular concern that the present focus of attention is on publicly owned land. It
        cannot be assumed that local authorities will either be prepared or be able to release
        their land holdings for mitigation because of other calls on those land holdings and
        the duty to achieve the best value on disposal. Moreover, purchasing land at
        agricultural values is an unrealistic assumption within any of the 15 local authority
        areas. It is particularly questionable whether land could be purchased at agricultural
        values if the underlying purpose was to enable housing development to proceed and
        there is no recognition in the Delivery Plan of the timescale, legislative and cost
        implications of using the Compulsory Purchase Order route to acquire land or the
        cost of maintaining the land in perpetuity.

37.     There is strong evidence that the level of dog ownership is declining nationally in line
        with the decline in the average household size and the increase in the number of
        households living in flats and apartments rather than houses. There is no reason to
        believe that this national trend is not being reflected locally in the Thames Basin
        Heaths area.

38.     Similarly, there is highly likely to be a significantly different level of dog ownership for
        flat dwellers as opposed to house dwellers. However, the Delivery Plan does not
        distinguish between the two. The HBF has indicated that covenants on pet
        ownership in flats is enforceable by managing agents, and this has been supported
        by some inspectors at appeal.

1
 Hart District Council refused the planning application for the Queen Elizabeth Barracks site because of
uncertainty over the effect on the SPA. A Public Inquiry into the appeal is due to commence in May 2007.

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39.      Evidence from visitor surveys in both Rushmoor and Elmbridge suggests that English
         Nature’s assumptions are questionable. For instance, surveys from Aldershot Urban
         Extension suggests that the number of people travelling the two/three kilometres from
         the postcode area GU11 to the Ash-Brookwood Heaths SSSI is very minimal (0.021%
         of the population). Furthermore, visitors to the SPA sites recorded as travelling from
         Elmbridge post code areas, only 40% came from within the 5km zone and 60% from
         beyond . This survey information suggests that the English Nature presumptions
         regarding the number of people travelling up to five kilometres to visit SPAs is at best,
         variable.

40.      The evidence provided for the draft versions of the Delivery Plan was based on
         surveys of the Dorset Heaths SPA, an area very different and subject to very different
         pressures to the Thames Basin Heaths. A visitor survey of the Thames Basin Heaths
         was not carried out until 2005, well after the establishment of the Delivery Plan’s
         mitigation standards.

41       A particular point that has been made several times to English Nature is that it has
         drawn the 400 metre, 2km and 5km isochrones from the SPA as the crow flies.
         However, access to the SPA – especially for visitors coming beyond 1500 metres is
         generally by car and therefore the distance/length of journey to car parking locations
         by road is of primary importance. Furthermore the zones pay no regard to local
         features and barriers to movement such as major roads and motorways which may
         deter users.

42.      Finally, the draft versions of the Delivery Plan take no account of the reduction in
         population and reductions in household sizes in some of the local authorities affected.
         In some cases, although household numbers are increasing, populations are falling.
         The net impact of these trends means that there may be a reduction in the impact on
         the SPA in parts of the area which the Delivery Plan should take into account.

g)       Not all authorities are signed up to an SPD

43.      Several of the 11 local authorities affected significantly by the Thames Basin Heaths
         Special Protection Area are not anticipating progressing English Nature’s proposed
         Delivery Plan as a Supplementary Planning Document as they do not believe it is the
         most appropriate way forward. There is also the possibility that those authorities that
         do pursue the Delivery Plan SPD route may amend the SPD (including the standards)
         for their individual areas and this may result in several different versions of the
         Delivery Plan.

44.      The point was made strongly at the meeting with SEERA on 20th March 2006 that an
         SPD must hang from an existing local plan or LDF policy, and that it must go through
         the proper consultation and sustainability appraisal process.

45.      In addition, Local Authorities will need to demonstrate that the proposals are
         implementable, and until the SEERA open space work has been satisfactorily
         completed there is no evidence that this achievable.

46.      For these reasons it has been suggested that the matter should be taken up at
         regional level.

h)       Whether the consultation process is sound

      47. Whilst this concern is a generic concern of all authorities, it is of specific relevance to
          the SPA issue because of the late attempts to address the SPA issue and the fact that
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         the Appropriate Assessment may require a fundamental rethink of the Housing
         Distribution Strategy, which will affect all Local Authorities, not just those affected,
         and will certainly require a revised sustainability report and has therefore been
         included in this objection. There is no opportunity for stakeholders to comment on
         this work and therefore the Plan fails soundness test vii.

48.      The local authorities are concerned that the consultation process currently under way
         does not accord with the statutory requirements. Regulation 13(2) of the Town &
         Country Planning (Regional Planning) Regulations 2004 indicates that when
         consultation on a revision to the Regional Spatial Strategy commences, each local
         planning authority must make copies available from its principal offices. It is
         understood that copies of the SEP were not available at each of the offices of the15
         affected authorities from the start of the consultation period (31st March 2006). It
         appears that most authorities did not receive their copies until a few days before
         Easter, nearly two weeks into the Consultation period.

49.      Furthermore, whilst the Government is allowing 12 weeks consultation on the SEP,
         part of this period overlaps with the run up to local government elections in a number
         of authorities. Regulation 13(5)(b) allows the regional planning body to increase the
         period for consultation to compensate for this. An extension to the timing may have
         been appropriate to enable the affected authorities greater time to ensure community
         involvement in the process. This would therefore ensure compliance of the SEP with
         PPS1. With regard to allowing consultation during an election period, it is noticeable
         that the Government avoids such periods when it seeks views from the wider
         community. The Government should have followed the same principles for the SEP.

Conclusion

      50. An objection to the South East Plan by the 15 affected authorities can therefore be
          made on the following grounds. The objection has been formatted to accord with the
          objection comments form:

      51. It is the following Sections B, C and D2 alone which are the subject of the joint
          response. Section D1 does not form part of the joint response, but is attached to
          explain the background to the views put forward in the other sections.

          Section B (list of polices/issues subject to representation)
      52. The Policies and parts of the draft South East Plan (March 2006) that are objected to
          are:
              a. Policy LF11: London Fringe Sub-region: Thames Basin Heaths Special
                 Protection Area;
              b. Policy WCBV3 (para 3 only): Western Corridor Blackwater Valley Sub-region:
                 Scale and Distribution of Housing Development;
              c. Policy WCBV9: Western Corridor Blackwater Valley Sub-region: Thames
                 Basin Heaths Special Protection Area;
              d. The Sustainability Appraisal Report;
              e. That there should be a specific cross-cutting policy to address the constraint
                 of the SPA as it applies to districts other than those just within the London
                 Fringe and Western Corridor Blackwater Valley Sub-regions.

         Section C (Summary of why these parts of the Plan are opposed)
53.      The key objection is that those policies and parts of the draft Plan relating to the
         Thames Basin Heaths SPA and its impact on the housing strategy and allocations set



                                               113
out in the draft Plan have not been proven to be sound and the housing requirements
have not been shown to be deliverable for the following reasons:

Note: Following each issue are the soundness criteria in paragraph 2.49 of PPS11
“Requirements for Preparing a Regional Spatial Strategy Revision” which are
considered not to have been met.

a)         The implementation of the housing policies in the Plan has not been proven.
           This in turn is due to:

      i)   The alternative open space required to provide mitigation has not been
           demonstrated to exist, and the Land Use Consultants study aiming to identify
           this land may not be able deliver what is needed (soundness criteria (viii)
           relating to availability of resources and implementation, and (xii) relating to
           implementation). This late attempt to address the issue, which remains
           unresolved, reveals the Plan to be contrary to soundness criteria (vii) in
           respect of satisfactory community involvement. The unproven nature of the
           Study and what can be delivered is also contrary to soundness criteria (i) in
           respect of being sufficiently related to policy initiatives and programmes to
           deliver the desired spatial change.

ii)        The Delivery Plan does not appear to be a practical solution in soundness or
           policy terms; nor has the scientific evidence supporting the Delivery Plan been
           properly demonstrated to be adequate to justify the Plan’s requirements
           (soundness criteria (vi) relating to a robust evidence base, (viii) relating to
           availability of resources and implementation, and (xii) relating to
           implementation).

b)         No Appropriate Assessment has been undertaken to support the policies in
           the draft Plan (soundness criteria (xi) relating to proper procedures).

c)         The policies relating to the SPA are neither clear nor consistent, and do not
           address the constraint of the SPA for all affected districts (soundness criteria
           (v) relating to consistency of policies).

d)         Not all local planning authorities are committed to preparing an SPD to deliver
           their housing provision through ensuring mitigation against the impact on the
           SPA (soundness criteria (viii) relating to availability of resources and
           implementation, and (xii) relating to implementation).

e)         The Sustainability Appraisal Report does not properly address the SPA issue
           (soundness criteria (x) relating to a satisfactory SA).

f)         By not fully addressing the SPA issue, the Plan has failed to reflect
           government planning policy in respect of contributing to sustainable
           development. The Plan therefore does not meet one of the objectives for an
           RSS (soundness criteria (ii) in respect of contributing to the achievement of
           sustainable development in line with section 39 of the Act - ref. para. 1.7 of
           PPS11). Similarly the Plan has not been proven to meet one of the
           government’s objectives for planning set out in PPS9 “Biodiversity and
           Geological Conservation” which is to “conserve, enhance and restore the
           diversity of England’s wildlife and geology”. It is therefore contrary to
           soundness criteria (iii) in respect of consistency with national planning policy.

g)         The consultation process for the draft South East Plan is not sound
           (soundness criteria (vii) relating to community involvement).

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     Section D1 (expansion on the response)

     These views have been agreed by the fifteen authorities affected directly and
     indirectly by the Thames Basin Heaths SPA and have been endorsed by the
     Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey Planning Officers. The full objection is set out in
     the attached joint report.

     Section D2 (suggested changes to the draft Plan)

     a) The necessary Appropriate Assessment work and consultation should be
        completed in response to the objections raised in Section C in order to
        demonstrate the soundness of the draft Plan in time for the Examination. This
        option should pay particular attention to the identification of the resources and
        land necessary to provide the alternative open space needed to mitigate against
        the impact of housing on the SPA.

     b) The Government Office and SEERA should take the lead in developing, with
        English Nature and in consultation with the affected authorities, a comprehensive,
        integrated and consistent approach to the delivery of mitigation land, including the
        provision of appropriate pump-priming funding to obtain and improve mitigation
        land.

     c) The SPA issue should be dealt with in a cross-cutting policy


Recommendation:

     It is RECOMMENDED that a joint objection to the South East Plan be made for the
     above reasons.




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                                                                                      ANNEX 1

Current position in each of the Districts (at April 2006)

Basingstoke and Deane


Bracknell Forest

Currently all planning applications and appeals, which are deemed to have a significant
impact on the SPA, are being addressed on a case-by-case basis. This involves requesting
information from applicants on potential mitigation measures and completing an appropriate
assessment pro-forma accordingly. As a result most applications are being refused. English
Nature removed their objection to Bracknell town centre redevelopment after suitable
mitigation measures were proposed and a detailed appropriate assessment was carried out.

The Core Strategy and Site Allocations DPDs are being taken forward together and are
currently due to be submitted in July 2006. As part of the appropriate assessment for these
documents, the Council is in the process of classifying existing open space according to:
        - levels of visitor use
        - perceived 'busy-ness' of site (by current users)
        - access in terms of car parking facilities, entrance points and length of footpath
        - accessibility from the surrounding area by foot and car (using computer modelling
                instead of straight line distances)
        - type and quality of habitat
This study should identify any capacity in existing open space and where/how this can be
increased by various enhancements (e.g. parking provision, expanding footpath network).
Any sites which have the capacity to provide mitigation will then be linked to relevant
developments within the Site Allocations DPD.

A specific SPD relating to the SPA is not in Bracknell Forest's LDS. It is envisaged that the
most robust way to proceed is by a policy in the Core Strategy DPD, identification of
mitigating land in the Site Allocations DPD and a detailed chapter in the Limiting the Impact
of Development SPD (relating to Section 106 contributions) which is underway.


East Hants


Elmbridge
Planning Applications
The Council is consulting English Nature on all applications for net additional residential units
within the 5 km zone and, where recommended, refusing permission where it is impossible to
ascertain there would be no adverse impact on the SPA. Potential applicants are being
advised to defer submission of applications until a mechanism for providing mitigation is in
place.

LDF Policy Approach
There will be an appropriate strategic policy in the Core Strategy DPD re habitat
protection/enhancement and textual reference to the SPA. It is intended that the SPD route
to incorporating the Delivery Plan into the statutory framework will be progressed unless the
need is removed through regional policy. We have submitted a revised LDS which includes
a programme for preparation of a Thames Basin Heaths SPA Mitigation SPD, linked to a
current saved Local Plan policy, to be adopted in April 2007.

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Proposed Interim Mini-Plan
In order to attempt to overcome the immediate impasse, work is being undertaken on a
proposed interim mitigation plan which will be informed by the template SPD and further
guidance prepared by English Nature. The proposal centres on two schemes – a new
community park, opening in December, which will provide some 22 ha of publicly accessible
semi-natural recreational and dog-walking terrain – and a habitat management plan for the
358 ha Esher Commons which will see over 22 ha cleared for open
heathland/grassland/wetland restoration, allied to some access improvements.


Guildford

A report is to be considered by the Council's Executive on 25 th May recommending that
agreement is given to preparation of a "mitigation mini-plan" which will cover the interim
period until the SPD is adopted. This approach involves the identification of sufficient land
around the urban areas that would constitute mitigation open land and a programme of work
that will enhance the recreational potential of it to attract new residents. It is hoped to have
the mini-plan in place by the summer 2006. The effect of the mini plan will be to end the
moratorium on new residential planning permissions which is at present affecting the
Council's ability to meet its housing targets and deliver new affordable dwellings.

Prior to agreement of the "mini-plan" Guildford is advising applicants not to submit
applications which involve a net increase in residential units up to 5 km from the SPA.
Applications which are submitted are being refused on the basis that it is not possible to
ascertain "no impact " on the SPA.

With regard to the Council's LDF, it is intended that the Draft Core Strategy Preferred
Options which includes a policy addressing the SPA issue, will go out for public consultation
in June/July 2006.


Hart

Where a planning application is submitted to Hart District Council which has the potential to
affect the SPA (i.e. for plus one residential development within 5km of the SPA) English
Nature is consulted. Unless there are overriding reasons, if English Nature objects to the
application then Hart will refuse the application. If mitigation is proposed for the development
then this will be taken into account, and if the Council is considering approving the
application then it will go through an Appropriate Assessment.

In addition, the Council is reconsidering all outstanding applications which have the potential
to affect the SPA which have been agreed subject to the completion of a Section 106
Planning Obligation but where the obligation has not been completed. These are to be
considered at a meeting of the Planning Committee on 26 April 2006. This meeting will also
undertake a review of applications in line with Regulation 50 of the Habitats Regulations.

The Hart LDF will incorporate a Supplementary Planning Document covering the issue of the
SPA which will utilise as far as possible the document to be produced by English Nature in
the near future. The contents of the draft Delivery Plan will also inform the production of the
other LDF documents.




                                              117
Mole Valley
Mole Valley’s current position on the SPA is as follows. Mole Valley is termed a ‘peripheral
authority’ by English Nature and has only recently been contacted by EN, since the outer
edge of the 5km zone proposed in their Delivery Plan touches on the north west corner of the
built-up area of Bookham. In the Council’s estimation this small section of the District’s built-
up area is not likely to deliver much more than a limited number of small-scale infill and
redevelopment housing schemes over the next 10 years.

Mole Valley met with English Nature for the first time on 21 st April and is currently exploring
the possibility of producing a ‘mini plan’ in conjunction with EN, similar to those being
prepared by Woking and Waverley. This would set out improvements to existing areas of
open space and provide an interim basis for securing a financial contribution for each
development through a Section 106 agreement to provide the necessary mitigation. The
Council is considering how the ‘mini plan’ could be progressed to become SPD as part of the
LDF.


Runnymede

The 5 km mitigation zone of the Thames Basin Heaths SPA affects 68% of the Borough,
within which planning applications for residential development are currently being refused if
the required alternative open space is not provided as part of the proposal.

The Council completed an Open Space Audit in April 2006. This has identified potential
mitigation open space in the Council’s ownership that could be improved to provide public
access for dog walking, and would go some way towards providing the mitigation required to
meet at least the first 5 years of the Borough’s housing allocation. Commuted sums would
be sought to fund the improvements, secured by a Section 106 agreement attached to
residential planning permissions.

Runnymede will draft an Open Space SPD guided by the advice in English Nature’s Delivery
Plan, to provide the required open space standards to serve as mitigation. It is anticipated
that this will be completed for consultation in late 2006.


Rushmoor

Rushmoor has accepted on the balance of probability that very large scale developments
(e.g. Westgate Site and Aldershot Urban Extension) are likely to have an impact on the SPA
and is prepared to carry out AA and pursue mitigation. A mitigation package has been
accepted in principle on the Westgate site which received committee approval on 26th April.

With regard to smaller residential sites Rushmoor Borough Council is not convinced by the
assertions supporting EN objections, by the substance of their representations in individual
cases, nor by the suggested mitigation ‘solution’ in the draft Delivery Plan. Currently
therefore Rushmoor Borough Council is not prepared to refuse planning permission on SPA
grounds in most cases.


Surrey Heath



The whole of the Borough is within 5km of the SPA. The Borough Council is therefore
currently refusing all planning applications for housing in the whole Borough unless adequate

                                              118
mitigation is provided. The Council is following the advice of English Nature that mitigation
must include the provision of alternative open space. Virtually all planning applications for
housing are therefore being refused as there is currently very limited scope for providing
alternative open space.

The Council has approved its own “SPA Mitigation Study” dated January 2006. This Study
has identified minor improvements to its own recreation grounds to provide mitigation for up
to 131 dwellings. It is intended that these improvements will be funded by commuted
payments secured by a Section 106 legal agreement attached to a planning permission for
housing. However, as it is envisaged that only 131 dwellings can be mitigated by these
improvements, this Study only provides a very small contribution to meeting the housing
requirements of the Borough.

“The Preferred Options of the Core Strategy were published in September 2005, which
contain a policy addressing the SPA. The Submission Document will be published in
January 2007, with adoption in March 2008.

The Surrey Heath LDS includes a Thames Basin Heaths SPA SPD which is intended to be a
local version of the Delivery Plan. A draft is expected to be published in January 2007 with
adoption in March 2008.

It is expected to allocate any large, alternative open space mitigation sites in an
Infrastructure DPD. Issues and Options are to be published in July 2006 with adoption in
May 2009”.

Waverley
Waverley is currently producing, in conjunction with English Nature, a 'mini plan' prior to the
SPD similar to that being produced by Woking. This will set out improvements to existing
areas of open space and will provide an interim basis for a financial contribution (to be
secured through a S106 agreement) per development to provide the necessary mitigation. It
is anticipated that the Council will enter into a separate legal agreement with English Nature
to ensure that the mitigation, as agreed with the S106, will be provided. As yet we do not
have a Committee timetable.

Prior to agreement of the “mini plan” Waverley will continue to consider individual planning
applications on their merits. A few applicants have started to offer their own mitigation land.
These are considered on their individual merits with advice from English Nature. As yet no
proposals supported by applicants’ own mitigation land have been considered by Committee.

Waverley is currently undertaking an “appropriate assessment” on its Core Strategy.


West Berkshire

Zone C covers 256 hectares of West Berkshire or less than half of one per cent of the Local
Authority area. There have been no new housing applications within this area in the last 5
years and this area is not seen as a housing area by West Berkshire in the developing LDF
process and, to the Council’s knowledge, is not being promoted by any developers. In the
light of the above an SPD for this matter is not seen as a priority.
West Berkshire will probably deal with any application on an individual basis and will
consider improving local open spaces and/or discuss opportunities with Wokingham, Hart or
Basingstoke and Deane.




                                             119
Windsor and Maidenhead

Planning Applications:
The Council is refusing planning applications proposing a net increase in residential
development within 5km of the SPA. To date there have been four appeals all of which have
been refused. One of these appeals was not dismissed on grounds relating to the SPA. The
Council is reviewing this decision in consultation with English Nature. A number of further
appeals are pending. The number of planning applications for residential development within
the SPA ‘sphere of influence’ has reduced.

LDF:
The Council’s Core Strategy and Policies DPD proposes a strategic policy on the Thames
Basin Heaths SPA. The policy has been framed using the Habitat Regulations. The Council
propose to submit the Core Strategy and Policies DPD in September 2006. The Housing
and Employment Policies and Major Site Allocations DPD is current scheduled for it’s
preferred options consultation in October 2007, however discussions have been held with
GOSE concerning revisions to the timetable to allow for the completion of supporting studies.
The preferred options consultation is likely to be undertaken in the first quarter of 2007, with
submission in the autumn of that year.

The Council has yet to amend the Local Development Scheme to incorporate the proposed
Supplementary Planning Document on the SPA. The Council understands that GOSE are
relaxed about changes to the LDS to accommodate this area of work.

A review of open space is within the Council’s work programme, however, resources have
yet to be confirmed to this project. In the absence of such a review, the Council is currently
unable to demonstrate that further residential development can be delivered within SPA
sphere of influence without harm to the integrity of the site.


Woking

Woking is currently producing, in conjunction with English Nature, a 'mini plan' which will set
out improvements to existing areas of open space and provide the basis for a financial
contribution per development. This will be secured through a S106 agreement, to provide the
necessary mitigation. In addition the Council will enter into a separate legal agreement with
English Nature to ensure that the mitigation, as agreed with the S106, will be provided. It is
intended to take the mini plan to the 1 June Executive meeting for approval.

Prior to agreement of the mini plan the Council is considering individual planning applications
on their merits. Where an applicant offers a financial contribution to provide mitigation
consideration is being given as to whether, on the basis of the contribution, it can be
concluded there would be no likely significant effect. Where this is the case, and applications
are considered to be acceptable in all other aspects, Officers are recommending to the
Planning Committee that they be approved subject to the completion of a bilateral legal
agreement. A meeting has been arranged for 26 April to discuss this approach with English
Nature.

With regard to the Council's LDF, we recently consulted on our Core Strategy Preferred
Option which included a draft policy to address the SPA. We have also identified in our LDS
production of a SPA SPD with adoption timetabled for October 2007.




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Wokingham

Wokingham District Council (WDC) reflecting English Nature (EN) advice that all proposals
for net increase of 1 unit within 5 km of the Special Protection Area (SPA) require an
Appropriate Assessment (AA). As WDC does not have information to undertake an AA it is
refusing applications.

LDF – Core Strategy preferred options consulted upon 9/11/05-21/12/05. Due to submit in
August following Exec & Council on 27/7/06. Submission document to include an AA.
Initial options for Sites document due August 2006.
SPA SPD – WDC consulted upon Scoping Report for SEA until 12/4/06. Due to consult on
draft SPD from August-October.


                                                      pnhart/southeast plan/SPA report May 2006




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