St Albans Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation: Mitigation Strategy

by Jo Hanslip

As explained in our previous blog, a mitigation strategy is required for the Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The affected competent authorities have been working together to agree the mitigation strategy as led by Dacorum Council.  

This blog examines the key areas of the mitigation strategy that St Albans Council has adopted, following work with Dacorum as lead Authority and other competent authorities relating to the Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMMS) and Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) to be provided to reduce recreational pressures on Ashridge Commons and Woods, and Tring Woodlands. The agreement of the mitigation strategy and adoption by St Albans Council and other authorities, enables progress on the Local Plan to continue – which for St Albans is targeted for Regulation 18 consultation at the end June 2023.

On 16th March 2023, at St Albans City and District Planning Policy Committee, officers secured a favorable resolution to approve the Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area Conservation (SAC) Mitigation Strategy Appendix A and the emerging draft Jersey Farm Open Space SANG Management Plan Appendix C

In addition to these Appendices, a Statement of Common Ground between Dacorum Borough Council; Buckinghamshire Council; Central Bedfordshire Council; and St. Albans City and District Council was included in the committee pack Appendix B dated November 2022.

In Statement of Common Ground between the Authorities, it is indicated that the overall costs of the Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMMS) is £18,275,510, which is to be apportioned on the following basis:

Council/Admin AreaSAMMS ApportionmentCost Per Dwelling (1)
Dacorum Borough Council £9,420,275.04£913.88 per dwelling
Central Bedfordshire £1,626,533.37£182.49 per dwelling
St. Albans City and District £212,124.16£828.61 per dwelling
Buckinghamshire (North & Central) £6,998,036.57£566.23 per dwelling
Buckinghamshire (East) £18,537.39£87.03 per dwelling
Source: Statement of Common Ground Joint Mitigation Strategy

(1) Based upon the total number of dwellings planned within adopted or emerging local plans and they exclude administration and associated costs. 

What Sites Are affected?

The Joint Mitigation Strategy indicates that for developments (10 or more new homes) – Larger Developments – a suitable SANG that meets the guidance from Natural England should be provided by the site.

Smaller developments (considered to be of 1-9 homes) are able to contribute towards an existing SANG and will be able to request the use of the Council (approved) SANG. The Council will review and determine if the relevant criteria have been met. The required fee will need to be pay and St Albans indicate that this solution will be finalised in March-May 2023.

What to Do Before Submitting an Application

Prior to submitting a planning application several facts must be considered:  

  • What mitigation is to be applied?
  • SAMMS rate must be contributed towards
  • Contribute towards SAMMS at a rate of £828.61 per dwelling in St Albans (other figures apply in other authorities as detailed above).
  • Contribute towards SANG either on site in a bespoke manner or by paying the required rate. The required rate is due to be considered on the St Albans web site but is currently not live.
  • Engagement in pre application discussion is considered essential to agree approach and where applicable reserve SANG capacity.

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