Last updated:

10th October 2023

Thames Basin Health Special Protection Area

What is it?

The Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area is an internationally important habitat that is home to 3 rare species of ground nesting birds - the Dartford Warbler, Nightjar, and Woodlark. To protect these, the government has designated the Thames Basin Heaths as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the European Commission Birds Directive and placed mitigation zones around the heaths to lessen the impact of human activity on them.

For more information about the SPA please see the Thames Basin Heath's Partnership website.

How does it affect new development within Wokingham Borough?

A series of mitigation zones have been established around the SPA to protect it against the impact of development. The first zone is drawn to a buffer of 400m from the SPA, the second to 5km from the SPA and third to 7km. Parts of the borough lie within these zones. You can view the areas affected by this designation on the planning constraints interactive map.

The national legislation that underpins the SPA seeks to ensure that any proposed development scheme or plan will not adversely affect the integrity of the SPA. Natural England is the Government agency that oversees the protection of nationally designated sites throughout England. They have advised all Local Authorities with land in the Thames Basin Heaths (TBH) that any new housing within 5km of the SPA may harm the rare bird populations and that particular harm may occur from additional new development that lies within 400m of the SPA. Where development will lead to an increase of 50 dwellings within the 5 - 7km zone, this is also considered likely to contribute to significant effects on the designated features of the SPA.

If you are intending to submit a planning application in the south of the borough, you will need to check to see if your land is within one of these zones. If so, there is a chance that you might be asked to make contributions towards mitigation.

The approach to mitigation

A small proportion of the borough lies within 400m of the SPA, and significant areas in the south of the borough lie within the 5km and 7km zones.

In order to allow new development while safeguarding the integrity of the TBH SPA, the Council has adopted a delivery framework of measures to mitigate harm to the SPA arising from new housing development. These measures include:

  • The establishment of a 400 metre buffer around the SPA where no net new residential development will be permitted    
  • The provision of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG)   
  • Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMM) measures - coordinated visitor management across the whole of the publicly accessible SPA

The Strategy is for relevant developments to provide SANGs, or more commonly, make financial contributions towards the provision of existing SANGs, to be managed in perpetuity as an alternative recreational location to the SPA. Additionally, relevant developments must provide financial contributions towards SAMM measures.

Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG)

SANGs are new or existing open spaces designed to attract visitors away from the SPA by providing an enjoyable natural environment for recreation. The expectation is that by providing these alternative areas for outdoor recreation, there will not be an increase in recreation pressure on the SPA as new households can use the SANG instead of the protected heathland. SANGs are high quality open space that will remain in perpetuity.

Proposed developments that are located within one of our four Strategic Development Locations (see the major developments page for more info) will have to provide new SANG at a minimum of 8ha per 1,000 new residents for any dwellings within 5km of the TBH SPA, or SANG between 1.73 - 2.16ha per 1,000 new residents for any dwellings between 5 - 7km from the TBH SPA.

Proposed developments outside of the SDLs that cannot provide SANG to the required standard as part of the development will need to make a payment contribution towards strategic SANG.

A site at Rooks Nest Wood (formerly Rooks Nest Farm) in Barkham was approved for use as a strategic SANG in August 2009 and opened in 2011. Further details relating to this site can be viewed on the Rooks Nest Wood Country Park webpage.

The SANG contributions relating specifically to purchasing capacity at Rooks Nest Wood SANG are as follows:

Within the 5km zone

  •   1 bedroom: £1,567.98   
  •   2 bedroom: £2,049.59   
  •   3 bedroom: £2,690.93   
  •   4 bedroom: £3,546.86   
  •   5 bedroom: £4,240.62   

Within the 5 - 7km zone

  •   1 bedroom: £423.35   
  •   2 bedroom: £553.39   
  •   3 bedroom: £726.55   
  •   4 bedroom: £957.65   
  •   5 bedroom: £1,144.97   

Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMM)

This is a project delivered by Natural England to implement standard messages and additional wardening and education across the TBH SPA and promote the use of SANGs. The project is overseen by the Joint Strategic Partnership Board.

From 1 April 2023 SAMM contributions have been updated across the 11 Local Authorities affected by the TBH SPA. Following engagement with Natural England, the Joint Strategic Partnership Board agreed this change is necessary to ensure sufficient income is raised to cover the costs of the SAMM project in perpetuity. Without this change the SAMM project would be at risk of being unable to deliver its objectives, and therefore secure positive outcomes for the SPA.

SAMM contributions are secured through s106 agreement. The uplift applies to any s106 which is signed from 1 April 2023 onwards, regardless of whether the application was submitted prior to this date.

The level of contributions are calculated on a per bedroom basis and dependent on the zone within which the development falls. From 1 April 2023 the level of SAMM payments are calculated as follows:

Within the 5km zone

  •   1 bedroom: £540.00   
  •   2 bedroom: £752.00   
  •   3 bedroom: £999.00   
  •   4 bedroom: £1,175.00   
  •   5 bedroom: £1,342.00   

Within the 5 - 7km zone

  •   1 bedroom: £155.00  
  •   2 bedroom: £216.00   
  •   3 bedroom: £287.00   
  •   4 bedroom: £338.00   
  •   5 bedroom: £385.00   

Give website feedback