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Chilterns Beechwoods SAC

Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation (SAC)

We have been advised by Natural England and Dacorum Borough Council about damage to Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation (CBSAC). The sites, impacted by high visitor numbers, are Ashridge Commons and Woods Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The CBSAC is in Dacorum, however, there is an impact on St Albans City & District through an area known as a Zone of Influence (ZOI). This takes in some of the western parts of our District including Redbourn. 

The CBSAC has legal protection which requires tests to be met before planning approvals in the ZOI, which could impact on the areas, are made by the Council.  

Chilterns Beechwoods SAC


Planning Applications

The Zone of Influence has an impact on our ability to grant planning permission for new residential development where there would be additional housing within the zone. 

We are not able to issue planning permissions until a strategy on mitigating the impacts of such developments on the Chiltern Beechwoods is agreed and relevant costs paid or solutions delivered by those seeking planning permission.

We appreciate this news causes some disruption and uncertainty in the planning process in the ZOI, but we are following the correct legal process to protect the Beechwoods for the future.

Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMMS)

Dacorum as the lead Authority, St Albans, Central Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire Councils have agreed Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMMS) measures and costs for mitigation measures within the Chiltern Beechwoods SAC. These have also been agreed with the landowner, the National Trust and Natural England as the Government’s adviser. 

All potential developments within the Zone of Influence will potentially be able to utilise the SAMM solution by paying the required per dwelling figure. The developers will be required to pay a tariff of £828.61 for each new home built.

Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG)

All new developments within the Zone of Influence will also need to make provision for a new Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG), or alternatively contribute towards the maintenance of a suitable SANG project elsewhere.

Larger developments (10 or more new homes) must provide their own suitable SANG that meets the guidance from Natural England. Smaller developments (1-9 homes) can contribute towards an existing SANG. A Council SANG site in the District has been identified at Jersey Farm Open Space and agreed as being suitable with Natural England. For smaller developments (1-9 homes) applicants will be able to request use of the Council SANG solution and the Council will consider if it meets relevant criteria. If the criteria are met and capacity is available, applicants will be able to use the Council SANG solution by paying the required per dwelling figure of £6,603.

This position has been agreed as of October 2023.  It is anticipated that appropriate practical arrangements will have been made that enable those seeking planning permission to use the SAMM and SANG contributions approach from late 2023 onwards.

Local Plan

The strategy is also being taken into consideration as we move forward with the Local Plan for the whole District.

Further information

For more detailed information, please see Dacorum’s website as the lead authority on this.