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 (SPA) includes areas of heathland across Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire.

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

In 2007 we, along with other local authorities and organisations, helped to create a Joint Strategic Partnership Board to help with joint working and exchange of information within the Thames Basin Heaths SPA area.

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

In 2009, the Joint Strategic Partnership Board adopted the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area Delivery Framework. We have signed up to this framework and it underpins the approach we have adopted in our Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy.

Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy

We have published an Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy that enables residential development to take place in Rushmoor, which the special protection area legislation would otherwise prevent. This document was updated in April 2024 to reflect annual inflation price increases for Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) capacity for the 2024/25 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 a number of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspaces (SANG) that are part of an important network of parks and woodlands in Rushmoor, which includes Southwood Country Park. Please see our parks and outdoors pages for more information.

You can find out more about the SPA 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 with 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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