Waltham Forest Council published its Local Plan in 2020. The Plan details developments over a 15 year period; 2020-2035. A significant element is the building of a minimum of 27,000 new homes to deal with the projected population increase from 277,000 to 328,000 by 2035.
Waltham Forest falls within the ‘zone of influence’ for the Epping Forest Special Area of Conversation (SAC). This means that the council has legal duties under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 and must ensure that any planning decisions do not adversely impact the SAC. The Trust has carefully examined the full details of The Plan, and at present accepts that the council has drafted substantive polices that set out to mitigate the potential harmful effects to the neighbouring Forest. The Trust will keep an eye on ongoing developments.
The above increase in housing may lead you to assume more vehicle traffic and more undesirable emissions. However, Policy 68 of The Plan dismisses this assumption by proposing that new developments will be car-free. The Council emphasises this point by stating that deviation from this position will require a compelling justification.
“In order to encourage and promote active and sustainable transport as the main means of travel in Waltham Forest to improve air quality, improve personal health and well-being and respond to the Climate Emergency, all new residential developments (major and minor) in the borough should be car-free.”
It is also important to note that developments that take place within 6.2km of the Forest will be caught by the Strategic Access Management and Monitoring Strategies (SAMMS). This means that the Council will require those developers to financially contribute to the mitigation of the impact that those new developments will have of on Epping Forest.
The SAMMS agreement, currently in the final stages of sign off, covers a period of 80 years and comes to a total value of £24,817,469.05. The sum will be met through contributions from the five Local Authorities within 6.2km of the SAC, each of whom contributes more than 2% of visitor numbers to the Forest.
The SAMM encompasses a formal governance agreement between the local authorities within the Zone of Influence and the City of London as the Conservators of the Forest and delivery body for the mitigation. The measures put in place provide a comprehensive approach to mitigating the effects of future development. It is important to note that the measures do not seek to address existing issues, or issues that are the responsibility of the landowner.
The three main focuses for the SAMM are:
- a site-wide approach to physically manage additional ‘wear and tear’ on surfaced and unsurfaced tracks and paths, provision of enhancements to wayfinding and interpretation, and the on-going monitoring of ecological conditions and visitor usage;
- managing increased use of the three ‘visitor hubs.’ Their facilities act as ‘attractors’ and, as has been evidenced by the Visitor Surveys undertaken in 2017 and 2019, are used on a regular basis by residents. This places focused pressure on these parts of the Forest;
- on-going visitor engagement activities to help raise awareness of the issues facing the Forest, to encourage ‘Forest- friendly’ behaviours (through on-site engagement with visitors and with local resident user groups) and to manage the use of ‘access pressure points’ by encouraging people to use different routes at times when some routes may temporarily be more vulnerable to over-use.
A Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) on the Waltham Forest Local Plan has also been conducted to assess the potential effects of recreational pressure, water pollution, water demand, air pollution and urbanisation, that may result from the Council plans, on the SAC. As we mentioned above the Local Plan has set itself a goal to produce a minimum of 27,000 new homes by 2035. The HRA found, not surprisingly, that this creates potential negative impacts on the SAC. The next step was the consideration of SANGs (Suitable Alternative Natural Green Spaces) as a means to combat the negative impacts on the SAC. This is because the Local Authority is required to provide SANGs to reduce visitor and recreational pressure on ecologically sensitive arears.
Policy 83, as outlined below, mandates that developers actively participate in the provision of SANGs. We support this policy as an increased number of housing units will proportionally increase the impact on the Forest, which will require continued robust mitigation measures.
“Developments of 100+_ units within the borough will be required to contribute to the mitigation of development impacts on the SAC via the provision of SANGS (Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space) as set out in the Council’s Mitigating the Impact of Development on SAC/SPA SPD”
We hope you found this brief to be useful and informative.
Amaris Raveneau, Policy Volunteer