Find out more about the protection of natural habitats and their species in Aldershot and Farnborough.

Many important habitats and the species they support are protected in the UK. Their level of protection reflects the habitat's relative importance geographically.

These range from sites that are important in Hampshire, to sites that are important to the whole of Europe. The level of legal protection for these sites increases with the importance they are given.

Sites of local importance

Sites of importance for nature conservation

In Hampshire, there are more than 3,800 sites of importance for nature conservation (SINCs). At present, 38 of these sites are in Rushmoor, covering more than 480 hectares.

We work with the Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre (HBIC) to identify and designate sites of importance for nature conservation in our area and then to monitor and help maintain these sites. The process of monitoring existing sites of importance for nature conservation and surveying new areas means that the areas designated as sites of importance for nature conservation can change annually.

The Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre assesses each site against criteria drawn up by Hampshire County Council, Natural England and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.  These identify the key features and social value of a site in the local area.

Sites of importance for nature conservation are important because they contain habitats and features that cannot be re-created, such as ancient woodland, or species that are rare in other areas.

In Hampshire, sites of importance for nature conservation fall into seven broad habitat types and can contain a broad range of habitats from ancient woodland to lakes. You will find more details about the criteria for selecting sites of importance for nature conservation in Hampshire on Hampshire County Council's website.

In Rushmoor, our local plan policies on biodiversity and green infrastructure protect the nature conservation and recreational value of sites of importance for nature conservation. These policies also seek to make sure that these sites of local importance are improved where opportunities arise through new development.

Local nature reserves

There are 600 local nature reserves in England and these cover a wide variety of sites, such as heathlands, woodlands, meadow and abandoned railway tracks.

Councils are responsible for designating these areas as places for people and wildlife. Nature reserves allow people access to places with wildlife and geological features of local interest and importance.

Rushmoor has two local nature reserves that partly fall within its boundaries. These are Rowhill Nature Reserve in the south-west and Lakeside Park in the Blackwater Valley. There is no access into Lakeside Park from the Rushmoor side of the River Blackwater.

Sites of national importance

Sites of special scientific interest

Sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) represent the best examples of the UK's flora, fauna, geological and physiological features. Natural England identifies and protects them under section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

There are five sites that wholly or partly fall within Rushmoor:

  • Basingstoke Canal
  • Bourley and Long Valley
  • Eelmoor Marsh
  • Castle Bottom to Yateley and Hawley Commons
  • Foxlease and Ancells Meadows

These sites cover more than 450 hectares in Rushmoor and more than 98% of them are in either a 'favourable' or 'unfavourable recovering' condition because of active management.

Bourley and Long Valley, Castle Bottom and Eelmoor Marsh are excellent examples of lowland heathland, bog and mire habitats. They support a number of specialist birds, such as the Dartford warbler, woodlark and nightjar and insects, such as the silver-studded blue and grayling butterflies. They also have important populations of common reptiles, such as adder, common lizard and grass snake. The small part of the Foxlease and Ancells Meadows SSSI in Rushmoor is an example of flower-rich, acid grassland.

The Basingstoke Canal is designated for its rich aquatic ecology. It has some unique ecological communities because of its varied water chemistry, which results from the different underlying geology throughout the length of the canal. In Rushmoor, there are also a number of associated wet flashes, which border the canal and are included in the SSSI boundary.

Sites of international importance

Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are large sites that support populations of rare and vulnerable birds, either throughout the year or during their migration.

Classified under article 4 of the EC directive on the conservation of wild birds, these sites have strong protection laws in place to limit the negative effects of development and land use on the sites. The government has to protect SPAs from pollution, disturbance or deterioration.  Special Protection Areas are made up of a number of SSSIs.

Part of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area is in Rushmoor.  This site is important for its breeding bird populations of Dartford warbler, nightjar and woodlark.

There is concern that increased disturbance from people using the Special Protection Area for recreation, such as dog walking, will have a negative effect on these ground nesting birds.

Bird breeding season is February to August, and it is at this time that the birds are most affected by disturbance. If you can walk on the paths and keep your dog on its lead during these times, you will greatly reduce the impact on the rare bird populations. Alternatively, you could visit one of the many parks or green spaces in Aldershot and Farnborough instead of visiting the SPA.

Our Biodiversity Duty

As part of the Environment Act 2021 we have a duty to look after the biodiversity in our local area. This means that we must:

  1. Think about what we can do to conserve and enhance biodiversity
  2. Agree policies and objectives based on what we have found out
  3. Deliver these policies and complete the objectives

To meet the first requirement, we have a Biodiversity duty (first consideration) report.

In the report, we set out what we are doing and consider what else we can do, to look after the biodiversity within Rushmoor.

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Ecology and biodiversity

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