Planning and building
EFSAC Guidance for applicants
Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation
Guidance for applicants
A large part of the Epping Forest contains a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) which has been identified primarily for its value in respect of beech trees and wet and dry heaths and for its population of stag beetle. As an internationally important site it is afforded the highest level of protection due to its habitats and species that are vulnerable or rare within an international context.
The council, as a competent authority under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended), has a duty to ensure that plans and projects for whose consent it is responsible will not have an adverse effect on the integrity of these designated sites either alone or in combination with other plans and projects.
The council has identified 2 main issues (known as ‘Pathways of Impact’) that are currently adversely affecting the health of the Epping Forest:
- The first is recreational pressure. Surveys have demonstrated that most visitors live within 6.2km of the Epping Forest. As new residential development within 6.2km is likely to result in more people visiting the Epping Forest on a regular basis this will add to that recreational pressure.
- The second issue is atmospheric pollution which is caused primarily by vehicles travelling on roads in close proximity to the Forest emitting pollutants (Nitrogen Dioxide and Ammonia). Development proposals (regardless of their type, size and location within the district) which would result in even an increase in just one additional vehicle has the potential to contribute to increases in atmospheric pollution within the Epping Forest.
What information do I need to provide?
Planning applications need to be supported by sufficient information to enable the council to conclude that the proposals would not result in an adverse effect on the integrity of either the Epping Forest SAC. Such information may include the identification of specific avoidance or mitigation measures and how they would be secured and delivered. To help applicants identify such measures, the council has developed and adopted the following strategies:
Interim Epping Forest Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy – see pages 28 to 29 for tariff information.
Epping Forest Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMM) Strategy – Cabinet agreed on 11 April 2022 that a tiered level of financial contribution will be sought from net increases in new dwellings in the district within 0 to 3km and 3 to 6.2km radius of the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation arising from the granting of planning permissions and prior approval consents under permitted development rights as follows:
- Within 0 to 3km radius of the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation: contribution of £1,852.63 per dwelling
- Within 3 to 6.2km radius of the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation: contribution of £343.02 per dwelling
A map showing the 0 to 3km and 3 to 6.2km radius of the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation can be accessed on the interactive planning map.
Epping Forest District Green Infrastructure Strategy – see infrastructure enhancement projects document for tariff information page 176.
One of the primary ways of mitigating any impacts is by making a financial contribution towards the implementation of measures included in the adopted strategies. How much this will be and for what types of applications can be found using the links above. All financial related contributions required to mitigate a development’s impact on the Epping Forest will need to be secured by way of a section 106 planning obligation.
To make things as easy as possible for applicants the council has developed a standard S106 Unilateral undertaking template. Officers will also be able to advise of the precise nature of obligations to be secured and the process applicants will need to follow.
Overarching advice of Natural England
Applicants and planning agents are recommended to read the ‘Overarching Advice of Natural England in respect of all development applications.
Where there is uncertainty in the case of air quality impacts, particularly if the development is not in accordance with the modelled scenario and/or the mitigation relied upon in the modelled scenario, you will be required to consider the effects of your development under a ‘Site Specific HRA’. The following section (below) provides further guidance on this particular point.
The council’s planning validation guidance provides further information on what planning applications will be required to submit an assessment of impacts on the Epping Forest in the form that allows the council to undertake a project level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA).
Information relating to the issuing of decisions on all planning applications that have been held in abeyance: