Anyone who has been developing in the eastern half of Dorset area over the last few years will be all too familiar with the ramifications of the Dorset Heathlands on new residential development in the area. The Dorset Heathlands comprise hundreds of fragmented heathland remnants which are internationally designated habitats primarily for their ground nesting birds. Around six years ago, having had their knuckles rapped by Europe, the Government’s advisory body Natural England began to take a harder line on residential development within 5km of these designated sites.
The rules at present are reasonably clear (if somewhat crude) – within the 400m zone of any of the sites new residential units are effectively embargoed. Between 400m and 5km new residential units are required to pay a flat fee – flats around £1034 and houses £1724 regardless of size or location within the zone. These rules are set out in the hastily put together Dorset Heathlands Interim Planning Framework originally published in 2006 and rolled forward every couple of years with a round of consultation each time.
The Local Authorities have just published the latest consultation which runs to Friday 16 March 2012. This time around the Local Authorities involved are seeking to put it on a more formal status by turning it into a Supplementary Planning Document but the document is otherwise the same. All the figures used to calculate the contributions have been updated with the cost of mitigation and the population increase both for some reason shooting up. However the upshot of these changes is that the above costs are proposed to increase by just £1 (yes £1!) per unit.
This may well be the last incarnation of this document however, as the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations prevent pooling Section 106 contributions in this way from April 2014 – and any mitigation will then need to be funded from the CIL pot. Whilst this probably won’t remove the standard 400m embargo it will presumably have the effect of spreading the Heathlands costs right across the affected Local Authority areas rather than only developments within 5km contributing.
If you have any queries about any aspect of the Dorset Heathlands policy then do give Pure Town Planning a call. Incidentally if you are stuck with a great development site in the 400m zone have you thought of a residential care home?