Cotswold Beechwoods Mitigation

Although there are no internationally important biodiversity sites Habitats Sites in Gloucester, new developments within the City can still have the potential to impact on important and sensitive sites that are close by such as the Cotswold Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

The Cotswold Beechwoods are highly valued in that they represent the most westerly extensive blocks of Asperulo-Fagetum beech forests in the UK. Unfortunately there is evidence that the woods are being damaged by visitors – walking, cycling, exercising their dogs etc – and that damage (recreational impact) is likely to increase as more houses and other sorts of accommodation are built, leading to more visitors. It is crucial that ways are found to prevent and mitigate this damage.


Gloucester City Council, as a “competent authority”, is legally obliged under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) to consider whether planning applications would affect the biodiversity of any SAC; and can only approve a planning application where the proposals will not impact on the special biodiversity of the SAC. This consideration is undertaken by a process called Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA). Similar provisions also apply in respect of permitted development proposals which will likely have an impact, in that written approval of the Council under regulation 77 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) must be obtained before development can be begun and the Council may only provide such approval after having ascertained that the development will not adversely affect the integrity of the SAC.

Cotswold Beechwoods SAC

The Cotswold Beechwoods SAC is mainly designated for its woodland flora and is very popular with visitors. The majority of the SAC sits within Stroud District, but it also extends into Tewkesbury Borough and Cotswold District. The woods are owned and managed by a number of owners.

Recreation Mitigation Strategy

To assist planning applicants to progress their applications and to ensure that there is a strategic approach to delivering mitigation for recreational impacts at the Cotswold Beechwoods SAC the Local Authorities in the area and Natural England have worked together to produce a Recreation Mitigation Strategy (PDF, 5.6 MB) for the Cotswold Beechwoods SAC.

Which applications are likely to impact on the Cotswold Beechwoods SAC?

The Strategy sets a SAC Zone of Influence (ZoL) at 15.4 km based on an analysis of visitors to the site. All of Gloucester City is well within the ZoL. The following planning applications (and prior approvals) for residential or holiday accommodation within the 15.4 km ZoL, will be subject to Habitats Regulations consideration:

  • Dwellings (C3).
  • Houses in Multiple Occupation (sui generis).
  • C2 Residential institutions but where residents are not severely restricted by illness or mobility.
  • Student accommodation.
  • Sites for gypsies, travellers and travelling showpeople.
  • Tourist accommodation, including self-catering, caravan and touring holiday accommodation.
  • Residential annexes and other ancillary accommodation.

The need to address Habitats Regulations issues for other types of development will be considered on a case by case basis.

How can planning applicants mitigate the impacts of their development?

There are two main options for planning applicants in considering mitigation –


Submit mitigation proposals for your individual development setting out the level of impact that could be caused by your development (including ‘in-combination’ with other developments) and how that impact will be mitigated. This is often done using the format of a shadow Habitats Regulations Assessment. You may find it helpful to seek further guidance on these issues from an appropriately qualified and experienced ecologist via the CIEEM website. Or you could seek advice from Natural England using their Discretionary Advice Service.

OPTION TWO – Strategic Approach through the Mitigation Strategy

Contribute financially to a more strategic approach to mitigation. The Council has worked with our partners, including other adjacent Local Authorities and Natural England to prepare a recreation mitigation strategy for the SAC. This includes:

  • an analysis of where visitors to the site come from, (providing the evidence to set the ZoI at 15.4 km).
  • the type and scale of any impacts.
  • the measures necessary to mitigate the impacts. The measures are divided into:
    • on-site measures, e.g. provision of rangers, signage, fencing etc.
    • off-site measures involving the provision of areas of suitable alternative natural green space (SANG).
  • the costs of those measures per new unit of residential / holiday accommodation.


The cost of the strategic mitigation contribution has been calculated at –

  • On-site measures – £193 per dwelling/unit.
  • Off-site measures – £480 per dwelling/unit.

So the total is £673 per dwelling/unit plus the legal/admin fees outlined below. Payment for both sets of measures (on-site and off-site) is required to deliver effective mitigation.

Strategic mitigation financial contributions can be paid:

a. Through a standard s.106 legal agreement if the application requires one anyway to address other matters.

b. Through the appropriate a ‘Short Form’ s.106 Unilateral Undertaking legal agreement with payment on completion of the deed. The admin fee will be £125.

c. Through the appropriate a ‘Long Form’ s.106 Unilateral Undertaking legal agreement with payment on commencement of the development. The admin fee will be £510 (including a monitoring fee of £200).

You can access the appropriate form using the above menu on this page.

The contributions received will be spent on the mitigation measures set out in the strategy, working with relevant partners. These costs are subject to regular review and may be amended from time to time.


If an applicant for permission wishes to use the strategic approach and either the short form or long form Unilateral Undertaking to resolve the HRA issues for their site, then they should complete one of the relevant s.106 Unilateral Undertakings ensuring a plan of the application site edged red is attached and submit the Unilateral Undertaking (undated) with their planning application, together with landownership evidence of signatories and the relevant admin fee. 

Signatories will need to sign both the plan of the site and the signatures page.  Individuals will need to have their signature on the signatures pages witnessed by someone who is not a family member.  It is not necessary for signatures on the plan to be witnessed.  The Unilateral Undertaking will be dated once the Council has been able to check the draft and obtained confirmation in respect of landownership.   

If proposing to use the short form Unilateral Undertaking (payment of the Mitigation Contribution on completion of the Unilateral Undertaking) you will also need to have send the Council the Mitigation Contribution.  In such cases, the Council will issue an invoice for the Mitigation Contribution on receipt of the draft Unilateral Undertaking, please do not send the Mitigation Contribution until you receive this invoice. 

If using the long form Unilateral Undertaking (payment of the Mitigation Contribution on commencement of development), you will need to comply with the notification obligations in respect of commencement of development sending the implementation notice (as set out within the annex of the long form Unilateral Undertaking) and payment of the Mitigation Contribution to the Council in accordance with the Unilateral Undertakings provisions prior to commencement of the development.