There is a need to balance residential development against safeguarding the habitats of protected bird species on the Thames Basin Heaths.

Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area

The Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (TBH SPA) includes areas of heathland across Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire.

The special protection area has been identified as an internationally-important habitat for three rare species of bird - the dartford warbler, woodlark and nightjar.

Natural England has advised that residential development within five kilometres of the special protection area may result in harm to these bird species. This means we can only grant planning permission for new residential development where there would be no likelihood of significant impact on the special protection area, taking into account proposed mitigation or avoidance measures.

Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy

We have published an Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy 2022 that enables residential development to take place in Rushmoor, which the special protection area legislation would otherwise prevent. This document was updated in April 2022 to reflect annual inflation price increases for Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) capacity for the 2022/23 financial year.

We will consider all residential planning applications against the requirements of the Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy (as amended) and Policy NE1 of the Rushmoor Local Plan (adopted February 2019).

We have an number of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspaces (SANG) which are part of an important network of parks and woodlands in Rushmoor. This includes Rowhill Nature Reserve, Southwood Country Park and Southwood Woodlands. Please see our parks and outdoors pages for more information.

You can find more about the protection area on the Thames Basin Heaths Partnership website, including the location of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace in the local area. 

Working with other councils

We are continuing to work other councils and Natural England to create further opportunities for Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) provision. As these arise, we will update the Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy.

Recently, we worked on a joint project to investigate alternative and complementary avoidance and mitigation measures, which could be delivered in order to mitigate net new residential development within the Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath Housing Market Area (HMA).


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