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Evidence to support the Dorset Heathland Planning Framework

Evidence is being gathered to support the long term proposals for a planning framework to manage pressures on sensitive heathlands resulting from development. Formally the Dorset Heathland Joint Development Plan Document (DPD), this will now be contained in the Dorset Heathland Planning Framework Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).

The documents and further information on the key pieces of evidence are provided below. 

IPF Monitoring Annual Reports and Monitoring Strategy

Following the inception of an Interim Planning Framework (IPF) monitoring strategy in 2007, a number of south east Dorset-wide monitoring initiatives are ongoing. These include a network of automated visitor counters, car park counts, incident reporting and the monitoring of bird species.  Short reports are produced on an annual basis and where appropriate compares and contrasts the information gathered from previous years.

Analysis and presentation of IPF monitoring and projects to inform the Heathland DPD

The Analysis and presentation of IPF monitoring and projects to inform the Heathland DPD report considers the impact of the mitigation approach that has been taken.  A monitoring system was established to test the impact of projects implemented through the Interim Heathland Planning Framework. In summary it shows that:

  • Annex 1 bird numbers have been increasing, but there have been fluctuations in recorded numbers
  • Studies in Dorset and across the Country show that mitigation measures should be tailored and site specific
  • Household survey information shows that different sites have different draws in relation to car and pedestrian borne visitors.  This again indicates that mitigation and management should be on a heath-by-heath basis
  • Capital projects to improve accessibility to areas of non-heathland adjacent and near to heathlands have been effective.  However, it is still unclear as to whether this increased usage has diverted people from using the heaths
  • With no major Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspaces delivered in South East Dorset it is not possible to establish how successful they will be
  • The management of heathland and Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspaces offers the opportunity to divert harmful recreation activities from the heaths.

Access Patterns in south-east Dorset

While studies have been done on the use of heathlands, less was known about residents' use of other open spaces. To address this, a study was carried out by Footprint Ecology, which took the form of a household survey that looked to:

  • Provide a strategic overview of current levels of access to different sites
  • Determine which factors influence the choice of site which people visit
  • Identify which households visit the designated heathland sites
  • Identify how many visits are made to heathland and other types of site
  • Explore how people travel to different sites and types of sites
  • Explore why people visit heaths and other types of sites
  • Determine the importance of geographical location and the distances people travel to different types of sites
  • Assess the extent to which people who visit heaths also visit other sites

The results of the study provide us with evidence that can be used to make predictions about the effects of any proposals that may be made in the Dorset Heathland Joint DPD.  The study is split in two parts:

Evidence to support the Appropriate Assessment of development plans and projects in south-east Dorset

The  Evidence to support the Appropriate Assessment of development plans and projects in south-east Dorset report relates to the former draft Regional Spatial Strategy of June 2006 (RSS), as it applied to south-east Dorset and focuses on the European heathland sites which could be potentially affected by the RSS and subsequent Local Development Framework (LDF) development policies.  The report looks to:

  • Describe application of Appropriate Assessment
  • Present and summarise the evidence for urban effects on Dorset's heaths
  • Show the current level of visitor pressure across the whole of the Dorset heaths
  • Predict how this will change as a result of the implementation of development policies in the RSS, in the absence of mitigation
  • Highlight policy directions, geographical restrictions and mitigation proposals which will achieve the outcome of no adverse effects on the heaths
  • Summarise further work which might be necessary 

Additional Evidence Reports

Further reports are available from the  Dorset Heathland pages on Natural England's website.

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