Moves to allow development to take place in the north of Wealden without harming the internationally-protected habitat of Ashdown Forest have been approved by the district council.
The council is to create a revolving infrastructure fund to support the creation of alternative natural green spaces which will allow new development to take place within the 7km mitigation area around the Ashdown Forest without damaging its wildlife.
A key requirement of these SANGS – Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space – will be the creation of circular walks in a natural landscape with adequate car parking. They will be particularly suitable for dog owners.
“These SANGS will be additional green spaces, similar to a country park, for the benefit of all Wealden residents,” said Councillor Ann Newton, Cabinet member for Planning and Development. ”To be successful they must make best use of the existing landscape to excite the feeling of wild, open spaces and woodland.”
“We are already working with private developers in Crowborough and Uckfield on suitable SANGS arrangements, but we will still need to consider investment in the early delivery of SANGS. These provisions will safeguard the outstanding ecology that is part of our growing district. They will help ensure that economic growth, and the benefits it brings, continue.”
The council is providing up to £5 million to set up a revolving infrastructure fund which will be replenished by contributions from the Community Infrastructure Levy and New Homes Bonus, paid as developments outlined in the District’s Local Plan take place. The council has also drawn up Guidelines for the creation of Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space, which is available on the its website.
The council is working with the Conservators of Ashdown Forest and neighbouring local authorities on agreeing access management and monitoring measures, known as SAMMs, to help alleviate visitor pressure on the Forest. The monitoring of nitrogen levels has already begun and a full year of air quality monitoring data is expected next year.
In approving the measures, Cabinet made it clear that they would not result in an increase of the housing allocation in the Local Plan. Developers will continue to be required to demonstrate that any developments not included in the Local Plan will not increase the amount of nitrogen deposits within the Ashdown Forest.