At the recent Lightwater Village Design Statement open meeting, a popular concern of residents was the increasing number of proposals for care home and retirement flats.
It got me thinking that there must be a reason why developers choose this form of development over other forms of housing. First the conclusion then the research.
Conclusion and unintended consequences
Retirement flats and care homes are preferred because the residents are unlikely users of the local heathland, either by visiting themselves or by their cats or dogs. The Thames Basin Special Protection Area [SPA] was created specifically to protect the rare birds and their habitat from greater damage from the increase in population through housing development.
The unintended consequence is that property developers saw a way through these controls by submitting proposals for residential properties where the residents weren’t likely to have any effect on the bird life.
What I found out that led to the conclusion
Here’s what I found from digging around into the reasons why retirement flats and care homes are preferred:
- All new housing developments in Surrey Heath Borough must take account of the requirements of the Thames Basin Special Protection Area [SPA]. This is an area identified, in 2005, by Natural England to protect wildlife and its habitat, following the European Union directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds. Natural England’s Thames Basin Heaths document describes their policy in greater detail, and also includes this map of the area.
- Natural England’s policy on the effects of development on bio-diversity is described in great detail in their document – Going, going, Gone? the cumulative impact of land development on bio-diversity in England. It uses the Thames Basin Heaths SPA as its case study, providing lots of information of the our area, and Lightwater gets a mention.
- The SPA protects three rare birds and their habitat, the Nightjar, Woodlark, and Dartford Warbler. Protects them from what, you may ask, well here’s what:
- human disturbance [from trampling by walkers, increase in track size through mountain biking]
- predation and disturbance by cats and dogs. There’s a really detailed research paper on this topic and dog fouling entitled “Dogs, access and nature conservation“.
- nutrient enrichment from the effects of dog fouling and pollution
- ongoing fragmentation of the lowland heathland’s
There’s an interesting online mapping service provided by Natural England, called Nature on the Map. It’s where I grabbed this map of the Thames Basin Heaths SPA.
I know many of you will already know something about this subject, but I decided it would be fun to find out for myself, and surprisingly there’s plenty of information available.
I hope you enjoy the links.