Sevenoaks District Draft Local Plan Consultation July 2018

Draft Local Plan July 2018

3 Safeguarding places for Wildlife and Nature

 

Looking after our Wildlife

As part of the Local Plan we need to protect the natural environment. It is important to minimise negative impacts on internationally important sites – such as Ashdown Forest. We also need to create new spaces for nature and wildlife. 

 

Supporting Evidence

  • Kent Biodiversity Strategy 2015 - 2025
  • Biodiversity Analysis Evidence Base 2018
  • River Basin Management Plans 2015
  • Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA)

www.sevenoaks.gov.uk/localplan 

Ashdown Forest

3.1 Sevenoaks District is rich in biodiversity and wildlife due to its range of different habitats and protected areas. There are no internationally important sites in the District although there are four such sites within 10km of the boundary of the District, the most significant of which is Ashdown Forest which lies approximately 6km south of the District boundary. It is internationally important for nature conservation, reflected in its designation as a Special Protection Area (SPA) due to the presence of breeding Nightjars and Dartford Warblers and as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), primarily due to heathland habitats. The European designations cover around 3,000ha. The District's nearest settlement to Ashdown Forest is Edenbridge, which is approximately 12km from the site and a 2016 visitor's survey found that less than 1% of visitors to the Forest are from within Sevenoaks District.Yellow and purple 2

3.2 The Local Plan is accompanied by a 'Habitats Regulations Assessment' (HRA) which ascertains whether there is an adverse effect on the integrity of the European site(s), either alone or in combination with other plans or projects. We will continue to work proactively with Natural England, neighbouring authorities and any other relevant bodies to understand the impact of the Local Plan on the Ashdown Forest. We are members of the Ashdown Forest Officer Working Group and have signed a Statement of Common Ground to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to joint-working on this important issue.

3.3 To date, neighbouring authorities have sought modest developer contributions towards mitigating the impact of recreational pressure from new development, within a 7km zone of the forest. This zone just reaches into the District (a very small area around Fordcombe and Cowden), but there is no development proposed in these areas as it is entirely washed over by the Green Belt. However, due to the possibility of windfall development, Natural England has recommended that Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMMs) contributions are sought, to allow any windfall development within the 7km zone to proceed, whilst addressing their impact on the forest. As there are no proposed site allocations within the 7km zone in the District, a strategic Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) is unlikely to be feasible. 

  

Policy 5 - Ashdown Forest

Any residential development within the 7km zone of Ashdown Forest (see map) will provide a Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMMs) contribution, to address visitor impact on Ashdown Forest, in line with the SAMM strategy. This is currently set at £1,170 per new residential unit (https://www.sevenoaks.gov.uk/downloads/file/1140/ashdown_forest_special_protection_spa_strategy_tariff_guidance).

If any major development is proposed in or adjacent to the zone, applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis to determine any additional mitigation requirements. 

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Biodiversity and Ecosystems

3.4 Nationally designated sites including Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are already afforded protection from development due to their biological or geological importance. These designated areas play an important role in the ecosystem of the District and will be shown on the policies map.

3.5 The District has a number of locally designated sites including Local Wildlife Sites, Local Nature Reserves, Roadside Nature Reserves (8 currently defined within the District) and Kent Wildlife Trust Reserves. These are protected for their biodiversity and ecological value.

3.6 Biodiversity is not confined to designated and protected areas but is found throughout rural and urban areas. It is important to conserve existing biodiversity and create new habitats, either large scale such as wildflower meadows and flood prevention schemes, or through small scale solutions, such as new planting or bat and bird boxes. It is important to remove invasive species and to ensure new planting is native and appropriate for the location.

3.7 It is also important to provide means by which wildlife can move and thrive. Interconnected habitats allow wildlife to move freely in accordance with natural patterns and changing climates. The Kent Biodiversity Strategy includes the designation of "Biodiversity Opportunity Areas" across Kent approved by the Kent Nature Partnership. There are 4 such areas within Sevenoaks District. Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (BOA) indicate where the greatest gains can be made from habitat enhancement, restoration and recreation. The Biodiversity Analysis Evidence Base also indicates areas suitable for enhancement.

3.8 Access to the natural environment and areas of high biodiversity value can also have a positive impact on health and wellbeing and can help reduce social and health inequalities. We are supportive of projects such as community led habitat management, health walks and wildlife/nature experiences especially those which encourage children and young people to engage with the natural environment.

3.9 The District has a high quantity of woodland much of which is designated as Ancient Woodland. This extensive ancient woodland (11% of the District) is a particularly rich source of biodiversity and a sensitive and irreplaceable habitat.

3.10 The rivers and areas of open water within the District are also an important aspect of its character. They provide important habitats as well as recreational, educational and community opportunities.

Blue Green Infrastructure and the Natural Environment

3.11 jb043Blue green infrastructure and natural environment features should be incorporated into development schemes at the early stages of design in order to make the most of any existing features and providing new provision where possible. This can include suitable landscaping and planting as well as more innovative solutions such as living walls and roofs, bird bricks and permeable paving. Trees, woodlands and hedgerows within both the urban and rural areas form an important part of the District's character and the setting of buildings and settlements. They are an integral part of an area and play an important role in cleaning the air we breathe.

3.12 All blue green infrastructure is essential to mitigating and adapting to climate change ensuring that future generations can still enjoy a healthy and thriving environment for years to come. Plants and trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen, acting as a carbon sink by storing it in the soil and vegetation. Natural landscaping can also help to adapt to a changing climate, by reducing localised flooding, surface water run off and providing floodwater reservoirs. Deciduous trees can help manage high temperatures by providing shading in the summer but still allowing heat and sunlight through in the winter.   

  

Policy 6 - Safeguarding Places for Wildlife and Nature

Designated Areas

In addition to national designations, local areas of importance for biodiversity will be protected from any development which may cause a loss in biodiversity value or habitats. Areas included are, but not limited to:

  • Local Wildlife Sites
  • Local Nature Reserves
  • Kent Wildlife Trust Reserves
  • Roadside Nature Reserves
  • Country Parks
  • Ancient Woodland

Opportunities will be sought for the enhancement of biodiversity through the creation, protection, enhancement, extension and management of sites.

New Development

Proposals for new development must retain as many existing natural features and existing blue green infrastructure as is feasible and must result in no net loss in biodiversity value. This will include, but is not limited to, retaining the existing:

  • Trees and vegetation
  • Hedgerows through the site and along the boundary
  • Connections to offsite blue green infrastructure
  • Nesting sites and areas of high ecological value
  • Ponds and wetlands

Ancient and Veteran trees will also be protected and must be incorporated into any potential development proposals.

Invasive species must be fully removed before any development takes place. 

Applicants must demonstrate that the proposals have adopted a strict approach to the biodiversity mitigation hierarchy (i.e. avoid, mitigate, compensate) and are able to justify all unavoidable impacts on biodiversity.

Proposals for new development must also include new habitat and biodiversity features taking account of the local context and character of the site, in accordance with the advice of an ecologist and secured for the lifetime of the development. This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Using suitable new planting and trees to extend existing habitats, create green corridors and encourage wildlife
  • Incorporating living walls and roofs
  • Incorporating new habitats and nesting sites such as bat boxes, hedgehog boxes, bird boxes, bird bricks, bug boxes, bug hotels and crevice nesting areas
  • Incorporating natural SuDS and permeable surfaces
  • Creation of ponds and wetlands
  • Incorporation of amphibian friendly kerb/drains
  • Holes in fences for hedgehogs
  • Creation of meadow areas
  • Additional features such as log piles, stone piles and rockeries

Information on the wildlife and biodiversity measures and how they can be easily maintained should be provided to all new residents alongside onsite interpretation panels of ecological features and habitats where appropriate.

New planting must be native and wildlife friendly and should include a range of nectar rich and berry producing plants which flower at different times of the year. Small areas of landscaping can be designed for biodiversity through the incorporation of climbers on walls and fences.

Applicants will also be required to set out the maintenance and management arrangements to ensure the longevity of any new features.

Proposals close to rivers or areas of open water will be permitted where it does not have an unacceptable impact on the river in terms of water quality, river flow, and the impact on habitats and species.