Even the most environmentally protected areas of Waverley could be developed under ‘liberalised’ planning laws.

Government documents show zones with ‘liberalised’ planning laws could get the go-ahead even in the most environmentally protected areas. 

Details of the government’s new zones to increase housebuilding and commercial development councils can apply for zones in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) and on green belt land.

The documents say the investment zones, which are being organised by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, will benefit from the following:

“planning liberalisation”, remove “planning matters impeding delivery”, and will be “streamlining the planning system”.

Investment zones with “liberalised” planning laws to accelerate development could be designated within national parks, and in the most environmentally protected areas of the UK, including those in Waverley, government documents reveal.

However, it better be quick if ‘Your Waverley’ wants to fill in the request form.  The deadline for councils to apply to host an investment zone is 14 October. The government says the zones “will benefit from tax incentives, planning liberalisation and wider support for the local economy” and will be granted after a “rapid” selection process.

The WW believes this could be described as bribery in the best of circles or a bung in others! 

Councils applying for the zones are asked: “For each proposed investment zone, please provide details about whether the proposed development would be on land which is in:

  • A national park.
  • An area of outstanding natural beauty. 
  • A site of special scientific interest or equivalent designation.
  • The buffer zone of a world heritage site.
  • Designated green belt.

The document states:

“Key planning policies to ensure developments are well designed, maintain national policy on the green belt, protect our heritage and address flood risk, highway and other public safety matters along with building regulations will continue to apply.”

Councils will also have to answer one question, with a yes or no, on whether they agree to mitigate the environmental impacts of the investment zone and have to agree to accept…

“a streamlined overarching planning system within the zones.”

There is no mention of environmental constraints on building in protected habitats under the habitat regulations, which provide protections for some of the most vulnerable habitats and wildlife in a network across England. This includes the Special Protection Area (SPA) around Farnham.

The Thames Basin Heaths SPA covers an area of 8,275 ha across Hampshire (the former county of) Berkshire and Surrey. It is part of a complex of heathlands in Southern England that support important populations of breeding birds, including the Dartford Warbler, Nightjar and Woodlark. More general information on SPAs is available from Natural England.

Only a small part of the SPA (about 80 ha) lies within Waverley, north of Farnham. There is, however, a “Zone of Influence” around the SPA within which measures are required to avoid adverse impacts on its conservation interests. This ‘buffer zone extends from 400 metres to 5 km from the perimeter of the SPA and covers most of the built-up area of Farnham. 

The regulations also aim to prevent water pollution from excessive nitrates and phosphates, for example, from sewage discharges and ensure that new developments do not lead to over-abstraction of water from rivers.

Richard Benwell, the chief executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said the documents showed environmental protections being removed and downgraded. He said that they also went against the government’s proposals to make every new development provide a “net gain” for nature.

“There are countless examples of where mitigation is simply inappropriate or ineffective. You can’t mitigate for the loss of ancient woodland or wetland. In many cases, supposed mitigation simply fails. Sometimes, you simply have to say nowhere precious nature is at risk. The false philosophy that everything can be traded or replaced would be seriously damaging for nature,” he said.

“If large swathes of the country were made investment zones where environmental planning rules were weakened, all the government’s hopes of reversing the decline of nature could be dashed.”




2 thoughts on “Even the most environmentally protected areas of Waverley could be developed under ‘liberalised’ planning laws.”

  1. Since when has any MP really cared about Nature? and I mean NATURE. We are destroying Productive Farmland, where high grade farmland can still be concreted over – regardless of the fact that this land could be used to feed this country rather than importing goods from all over the world. We are building too close to Ancient Woodland and removing trees with TPOs for the sake of housing, in places that are slowly becoming dormitories because there are no facilities or employment opportunities in the area.
    People make a big stink about Green Belt – some of which, WW as you will be more than aware of, is NOT most precious Green Land, but as a per the NPPF:

    “Green Belts serve five purposes:
    • to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
    • to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;
    • to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;
    • to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and
    • to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land”

    And this is why we have none here around the Eastern Villages. So Godalming, Haslemere (Farnham to a degree) hang onto their Greenbelt tooth & claw… we here have no protection what so ever

    Who knows what the latest incarnation of the Conservative Government will come up with, but I bet it won’t be protecting the Countryside Beyond the Greenbelt!

    As for Developers having to provide a Net Gain for their developments, it is a “Numbers Game” anyone can put on paper that planting 20 new saplings to replace an ancient Oak tree is a “Net Gain” Destroying Hedgerows which provide a habitat to local wildlife and replacing them with new plantings that will take decades to come to anything like maturity. Or better still offering land to relocate existing wildlife from a new Development, then deciding that having moved the wildlife once…. they need to relocate them AGAIN for yet more housing…..It is a joke, and until we have a Government that isn’t pocketing large Donations from Developers – it will carry on..

    1. As usual, the nail hit right on the head. Hopefully Mr Sunak will govern with a better all round view of the country’s needs than those post-Therese May. Good luck to him if he does.

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