Planning policy and the Local Plan

Epping Forest Mitigation Zones

Natural England has issued formal advice concerning the handling of Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) in the vicinity of Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation and the impacts on the integrity of the conservation that may arise from new residential development. 

Natural England’s advice has great weight and the Council has a duty to follow it. At present, in order to comply with the 2017 regulations and March 2019 advice, all residential development that falls within the 6.2km ‘zone of influence’ will be subject to a project-level HRA screening and where necessary, appropriate assessment. 
From 1st April 2019, the Council (as the ‘competent authority’ under 2017 regulations) will carry out the screening and any required appropriate assessment at the planning application stage. 

Residential developments which will be subject to screening include: 

  • New dwellings of 1+ unites (excluding replacement dwellings and extensions 
  • Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) 
  • Student accommodations 
  • Residential care homes and residential institutions (excluding nursing homes) 
  • Residential caravan sites (excluding holiday caravan and campsites 
  • Gypsy, traveller and travelling show-person plots. 

Our starting point considers that residential development applications within the 6.2 km zone are likely to have a significant effect on the integrity of the Epping Forest SAC - as a result of increased recreational pressure. As such, suitable mitigation will be required in order for a conclusion to be reached, via appropriate assessment, that no adverse effects on the integrity of the SAC will arise in order for planning permission to be granted. 

‘Suitable mitigation’ may be in the form of financial contributions to management of the SAC and/or contributions (physical or financial) to suitable alternative natural green space (SANGs) that can alleviate recreational pressures on the SAC. In partnership with Natural England, we will assess how specific contributions and/or measures are calculated and identified for each development according to the scale and location of the proposal.  

Our Interim Habitat’s Finding Statement (April 2019) contains more information on the expected financial contributions towards the Epping Forest Strategic Access Management and Monitoring Strategy – also known as the SAMMS contribution.