Context and reasoned justification
Haslemere occupies a unique location, with the South Downs National Park abutting the town’s southern edge and Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) wrapping around the remaining three sides of the town.
Significant biodiversity assets within and near the Plan area include a number of European, nationally and locally designated sites (ref maps in Figures 7a-d attached to Policy H14, pages 43 and 44). Two extensive Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) border the town to the north (the Devil’s Punchbowl) and west (Bramshott and Ludshott Commons) which together with two other areas to the west constitute the internationally important Wealden Heaths Phase II SPA.
20 Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCIs) fall either wholly or partially within the Plan area which contains a significant mix of ancient and deciduous woodland, heathland and priority habitats, much of which is of identified local importance. A number of iconic bird and mammalian species have been recorded within the area including the Common Dormouse and various bat species protected under European law (and designated as European Protected Species).
Parts of the area also fall within two Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (BOAs): the Devil’s Punchbowl and Hindhead Heaths (WG04) and Chiddingfold and West Weald Woodlands (LW01). BOAs have been identified as the most important areas for wildlife conservation in Surrey where the main aim is to restore biodiversity at a landscape level through the protection, restoration and creation of priority habitats.
The Woodland Trust recognises the benefits of trees even in urban areas, including:
- Providing shade and reducing ambient temperature
- Providing habitats for wildlife
- Producing oxygen and reducing carbon dioxide
- Lowering levels of noise and dust
- Providing a sense of place and community
- Reducing surface flood water run-off
Forestry Commission research states that compared to many historic environment features veteran/ancient trees are often forgotten parts of our cultural heritage and many are not recorded or actively managed. The National Planning Policy Framework defines veteran trees as ‘A tree which because of its age, size and condition is of exceptional biodiversity, cultural or heritage value.’ Local residents will benefit from the protection of significant trees and hedgerows by cleaner air and water, outdoor recreation and spiritual wellbeing.
This policy aims to conserve and enhance the habitat and biodiversity within the Plan area by:
- protecting ancient woodland, veteran trees, and species-rich hedgerows;
- conserving and enhancing the landscape and scenic beauty of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and its setting
H11.1 Development that damages or results in the loss of trees, of good arboricultural or amenity value, including veteran trees will not normally be permitted. Proposals should be designed to retain ancient trees or trees of arboricultural and amenity value. Proposals should be accompanied by a tree survey that establishes the health and longevity of any affected trees. Where damage intentional or otherwise does occur prior to or during the development of any site, new trees must be planted, at a minimum, to compensate for the loss that has occurred.
H11.2 Development that adds, retains and protects substantial hedgerows will be supported.
H11.3 Development proposals should ensure that trees or hedgerows which are to be retained are adequately protected during construction to avoid damage including activities causing soil compaction or severance of roots.
H11.4 Development proposals which have a positive net impact on the surrounding ecology and habitat or which fund and sustainably manage improvements to remote habitats within the Plan area will be supported.