Report says moratorium on development near ground-nesting birds is ‘disproportionate’

A moratorium on housebuilding across a large stretch of the Home Counties looks set to be overturned after the publication of a government-sponsored report this week.

An assessment of the embargo, carried out by planning inspector Peter Burley for the Government Office for the South East, recommends lifting the recently introduced embargo on new housing development within a 5km radius of the Thames Basin special protection area (SPA).

The embargo was introduced by English Nature to protect the habitats of ground-nesting bird species found in the heathland area, including the Dartford warbler and the nightjar.

The conservation quango acted in response to concerns that the birds were not nesting because they were being disturbed by local people and their pets.
The moratorium has crippled housing provisions across 13 local authorities in Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey.

The moratorium has crippled housing provisions across 13 local authorities

Burley’s report concludes that the existing embargo is “unsound” and “disproportionate”.

It recommends that the current blanket ban on development in the area should be overturned, although it supports maintaining some restrictions on housing within the 5km zone.

It recommends that all developments within 1km of the SPA and all schemes containing more than 10 dwellings within a 5km radius should furnish open spaces for recreational activities.

Stewart Baseley, chairman of the Home Builders Federation, said: “This report explodes some of the myths that have grown up round this issue. Councils should follow its recommendations in lifting the moratorium on new homes as a matter of urgency.”