Liz Hogger, Effingham Parish Councillor, and Guildford Borough Councillor says “If new houses are built, we have no choice but to provide SANGs under the council’s own strategy to steer people away from the Special Protection Areas“.
Wisley and Ockham Commons, within the Green Belt, are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which means they are protected at the national level, and also part of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA), which means they are protected at the European level. A large number of visitors can cause disturbance to nesting birds. Hence, new developments within 5km of the SPA require mitigation measures to encourage people to visit other sites. For example, part of Effingham Common is a SANG. This is why GBC are proposing lots more SANGs, so they can build more houses. Further details on the avoidance strategy can be found here.
The latest Guildford Borough Council press release states
Recreation and leisure choices highlighted in Local Plan for residents, visitors, shoppers and wildlife
Sizeable protected areas, especially AONBs and SPAs, lead to demand for more SANGs
Some 250ha of new open space to be created, larger than the area of Monaco
Local Plan addresses future needs of recreation, leisure, retail and tourism
Guildford Borough Council working to balance the needs of all, not just a minority
Proposals for new, large, open, green spaces for biodiversity, leisure and wellbeing can be delivered if the draft Local Plan published by Guildford Borough Council is adopted. Large areas of the countryside, including important landscapes and priority habitats, will continue to receive protection, and this safeguarding will be expanded to new sites. If accepted, all future planning applications will be decided in line with the Local Plan, helping to limit piecemeal and inappropriate developments that lack supporting infrastructure.
But opposition councillors are skeptical. Susan Parker leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group said: “The green spaces are already in existence, … they aren’t being “created” they are being “designated”.
And Liz Hogger, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats at Millmead, added: “This is a valiant attempt to make a virtue out of a necessity. If new houses are built, we have no choice but to provide SANGs [Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspaces].”
However, as Chris Venables BSc (Hons), who is a chartered biologist (CBiol) and a member of the institute of biology (MIBiol), writes:
Regarding biodiversity, despite recent assertions it is quite clear that those putting together the Local Plan do not have a basic understanding of the concept of biodiversity or what contributes to it