Please read below and via the attached link an explanation by Wealden District Council of the impact of new building around the Ashdown Forest on its rare heathland ecysystem.
Impact from general development and nitrogen oxide emissions from motor vehicles are threatening the rare heathland ecosystem of the Ashdown Forest. Local communities still need to remain vibrant and Wealden District Council is seeking 21st century solutions to the problems modern development is causing.
The Wealden Local Plan places a high priority on protecting the District’s valuable landscape assets including the Ashdown Forest and the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It has successfully argued the case against a larger increase in housing in the north of the District as too much growth would cause significant environmental harm to these assets.
The Local Plan Core Strategy, approved last year, allows for 1300 new homes, 10,700 m2 of retail space and 12,650 m2 of work premises in the north of the District at the main settlements of Uckfield and Crowborough. A further plan, looking at the growth needs of the District’s principal villages, will be produced.
Increases in traffic, caused by growth beyond that envisaged in developments proposed in the Local Plan, are likely to have a detrimental effect on the Ashdown Forest’s ecosystem. The continued increase in nitrogen deposition, causing eutrophication, will result in the rare lowland heathland of this internationally important site being further damaged through invasive new vegetation. Similarly unplanned-for visitor pressure could destroy some of the Forest’s special flora and fauna, including marsh gentian, and protected birds such as Nightjars and the Dartford Warbler.
Limiting overall levels of housing and other growth, and setting a 7km protection zone around the Forest, to manage recreational pressure is necessary to meet the Council’s responsibility under international Habitat Directives to protect this site. This covers both Uckfield and Crowborough and will affect all developments that are not already accounted for in the Wealden Local Plan and lead to increased traffic within the protection zone.
The Council recognises that development providing economic and social benefits may be vital to local communities and is keen for business and tourist proposals to go ahead in the area provided they do not breach Habitats Regulations.
In developing its plan it has therefore specifically allowed for some significant increases in allocations of land for employment and retail uses in areas where this will not cause problems. Growth beyond this level, that may otherwise be acceptable in planning terms, will not be permitted unless it can show that it can be accommodated without causing any environmental damage.
Wealden is working with environmental consultants to provide guidance and assistance to local applicants looking to bring forward planning proposals inside the 7km protection area. This includes identifying alternative green spaces in the north of the District to relieve some of the recreational pressure on the Forest, and carrying out a detailed survey of the sources and impact of nitrogen deposition in the protection area, with a view to providing examples of how traffic connected to new developments can be managed and reduced.
This guidance is expected to be available later this year.
Following an independent Examination of Wealden’s Core Strategy last year, the total number of new homes proposed for the District will be reviewed in 2015.
Further information about the Ashdown Forest Protection Area is available from Wealden’s Planning Policy Team. tel 01892 60207, email firstname.lastname@example.org.