Reports by HBF and the DCLG say development on Surrey Heath will not impact on bird numbers

Housebuilders that are mounting a campaign against English Nature’s embargo on new homes in a key stretch of the Home Counties have been handed ammunition by two studies.

A study carried out for the Home Builders Federation by environmental consultancy EDP concludes that there is no evidence to prove that protected bird populations in the Surrey Heath special protection area (SPA) have been harmed by development.

English Nature told councils earlier this year not to accept developments because of concerns that they were driving birds away from their habitats.

The HBF report, seen by Building, claims there is “no significant correlation” between the numbers of protected birds and the amount of development on the borders of the SPA.

The study concludes that the 1.8% increase in the amount of housing planned over the next five years is unlikely to add to the pressure on the heath in the context of the 5 million visits it receives every year.

The study concludes that, apart for large developments close to the border, there is little justification for not building in the SPA, and that other factors, such as how the heath is managed, have a bigger impact on bird numbers.

Paul Calcutt, land director of Crest Nicholson, welcomed the report. He said: “English Nature has been acting as a single interest lobby group without considering the wider issues.”

A study by the DCLG backs up the HBF research. This concludes that the link between housing development and a decline in the number of bird species in the SPA is “weak”.

But it says the policy should not be relaxed without further investigation.