Natural England announce a strategic mitigation solution to be introduced at Hatfield Forest SSSI/NNR located near Stansted Airport in Essex.

An emerging evidence base links adverse effects from recreational pressure to a deterioration of the SSSI’s interest features which include ancient forest mosaic of wood pasture, coppice, old grassland plains, wetlands and associated faunal assemblages. Natural England propose that these adverse effects are most effectively addressed via a strategic solution, now a common approach for addressing strategic issues at designated sites country wide.

The strategic mitigation package  is likely to comprise two elements:

  1. a) A package of on-site (i.e. within the SSSI) Strategic Access Management Measures (SAMM) which new housing projects can contribute towards. This package is currently being worked up and once finalised and costed it will enable a tariff based system to be worked up, towards calculating proportionate financial contributions to be secured within s106 agreements.
  1. b) In addition, for the largest, strategic housing sites (100+ units), Natural England further advises that recreational pressure impacts to Hatfield Forest SSSI / NNR are additionally mitigated via the provision of Accessible Natural Greenspace (ANG), a specific form of Green Infrastructure, to be provided within the red-line boundary of the proposed development. Such green infrastructure should be designed to absorb significant proportions of the day to day recreational needs of new residents, such as walking, dog walking, jogging / exercise, children’s play facilities, and other informal recreation. It should also aim to provide a semi-natural character, with significant proportion of tree / woodland cover, and as may be appropriate, café / basic refreshment facilities.

The zone of influence around the SSSI where mitigation will be relevant will extend to initially some 10.4km (on the basis of winter visitor draw data) which is expected to be extended to 14.6km plus (on the basis of summer visitor draw data) shortly as the visitor data analysis is completed.

Whilst the strategic solution is finalised, Natural England proposes that interim mitigation measures are put in place for projects of 50 units or more. These would likely comprises of a package of SAMM measures negotiated on a case by case basis.