Natural England has written to local district councils to confirm its continued support for a 7km protection zone around Ashdown Forest.
Ashdown Forest is internationally recognised for its special environment of habitats and bird life. It is designated as a Special Area of Conservation and a Special Protection Area as well as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
A Mid Sussex District Council spokesperson said although Ashdown Forest lies outside the Mid Sussex boundary, it is extremely close to the border and any housing development on nearby land in Mid Sussex could have an impact on the forest.
To help reduce the potential effects of new house building on the forest, developers in Mid Sussex face additional restrictions if they seek to build within a 7km zone around Ashdown Forest.
Potential developers are required to make financial contributions to visitor management at the forest and towards the provision of suitable alternative natural greenspace (SANG) to reduce visitor pressure on the habitat.
A recent Court of Appeal decision overturned Wealden District Council’s planning policy on the 7km zone because the Court concluded that there had been insufficient consideration of alternative strategies to protect the Forest from visitor disturbance.
However, Natural England continues to support the way Mid Sussex District Council is using a 7km zone around Ashdown Forest to determine current planning applications and recommends its inclusion as a policy in the Mid Sussex District Plan.
Councillor Andrew MacNaughton, cabinet member for planning, said: “I know some people have been confused by the implications of the Court of Appeal decision so we are really grateful to Natural England, as the experts on these matters, for making it clear that it continues to support the 7km zone.
“We have considered different ways of protecting Ashdown Forest from increased visitor numbers and agree with Natural England that a 7km protection zone is the right strategy.
“Our planning officers continue to work on this issue, so that we further strengthen our evidence base on the alternative strategies and ensure that our District Plan is legally robust”.
For more information, contact the Mid Sussex District Council Planning Policy team on 01444 477053.