Wealden Council is ready to proceed with the introduction of measures to protect the Ashdown Forest from the impact of a growing number of visitors.
The council has approved policies and charges for developers towards providing Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space (SANGS) and Strategic Access Management and Monitoring Strategy (SAMMS), writes Cathy Watson.
Work on the district’s first SANGS is due to begin this year with 28 hectares – about 70 acres – of green open space, with a car park, to the south of Crowborough near the new Walsh Manor Farm development.
According to a press release from the council it will provide recreational space for walkers and dog owners, taking pressure off the Ashdown Forest “whose wildlife and ecology may be at threat from any unmanaged increase in visitor numbers”.
The SAMMs is also set to come into force. This will be implemented by the Ashdown Forest’s Board of Conservators, who have legal responsibility for managing the forest, with the help of the council.
“The strategy will help protect the forest’s special protection area status, including safeguarding rare birds such as the nightjar and Dartford warbler, by introducing a range of measures to reduce the problems arising from visitor numbers,” says the council press release.
Dog ranger volunteers
It adds that a code of conduct for dog walkers is already in operation but new roles are to be created including that of dog ranger volunteers as well as measures to monitor visitors and birds.”
Cllr Ann Newton, the district council’s cabinet member for planning and development said: “SANGS and SAMMs are a tremendous step forward to ensure managed growth takes place in the north of the district while putting in place careful measures to protect the international environmental importance of Ashdown Forest.
“SANGS are already protecting valuable habitat in the Thames basin, Hampshire and the New Forest.
“Using a revolving infrastructure fund, Wealden District Council has begun to set up recreational spaces in the north of the district, and will be seeking contributions from developers in affected areas in the coming years to recompense the council.
“These contributions will the reload our revolving infrastructure fund to begin forward funding new infrastructure investment across the district.”
The council says a further SANGS is being secured in another part of the district. This and the Crowborough land are expected to be open for public access later in the year.
“They will provide not only the necessary protection for the Ashdown Forest, but also give existing residents a great place to visit and walk in a traffic-free environment.
• A SANGS area of more than 73 acres is proposed as part of a 1,000 homes development at Ridgewood Farm, Uckfield. Read more in a previous Uckfield News story: SANGS area would cover 73 acres.