Recreational disturbance

Addressing the impact of development on the New Forest

Increased development leads to a number of environmental and other impacts which need to be mitigated to minimise harm. One of these impacts is from recreation causing erosion and disturbance on the internationally protected New Forest Special Protection Area (SPA), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Ramsar sites.

While Eastleigh Borough Council does not border the New Forest National Park, technical research commissioned by Councils in and around the New Forest shows that residents of the Borough choose to visit the area from time to time. This risks contributing towards erosion of the habitats and disturbance of the species they support.

New development cannot be approved where it could harm the integrity of specific designated sites including Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA). Mitigation is therefore required to avoid significant adverse effects on the protected sites and species and to enable planning permissions to be granted.

What we’re doing

This is an issue facing a number of Councils close to the New Forest. The Council is working in partnership with adjoining Councils and other organisations on a longer term strategic approach. Until this is delivered, the Council has an interim strategy for Eastleigh to address the impacts.

In March 2022, Cabinet approved an interim strategy based on providing Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) in the borough, contributions to measures within the New Forest National Park and monitoring. SANG are greenspaces that provide an attractive local alternative to some of the visits to the New Forest.

Following the approval of the interim strategy, the Council has further investigated the suitability of the proposed SANG site and reviewed the costs to deliver the strategy. In December 2022 Cabinet approved a revised interim charge of £2,220 per dwelling for the mitigation of recreation impacts on the New Forest using projects on Council-owned land. Work is now ongoing to implement the proposals in the interim strategy.

Read the Cabinet Report 8 December 2022

Read the New Forest interim strategy (Appendix 1 of the Cabinet report)

Read the Cabinet Report 24 March 2022

The Solent Special Protection Areas

The Solent & Southampton Water Special Protection Area is an internationally designated conservation site and is protected for its overwintering birds. Visits to the protected coastline are mostly made by people living within the local area and need to be managed to protect the environment and limit the impact on wildlife. It is recognised that new housing developments within 5.6km distance of Solent and Southampton Water are likely to increase visitor numbers to the Special Protection Area. Therefore, planning applications for new housing developments within this distance are required to provide mitigation for their increased recreational disturbance.

The mitigation is in the form of a Financial contribution towards the Bird Aware Solent Strategy (which is updated each April) and is based upon the number and size of the dwellings. An invoice will be sent for the contribution if the housing development is recommended for permission and payment needs to have cleared before planning permission can be issued. Alternatively, A unilateral undertaking or S106 legal agreement can be submitted with a planning application. However,  the Applicant will be responsible for the Council’s costs in preparing a legal agreement and this may delay the issuing of planning permission.