Fringe Box



Letter: Money for Unneeded SANGS is a Tax on New Housing

Published on: 5 Feb, 2019
Updated on: 5 Feb, 2019

Dartford warbler on Whitmoor Common. Photo Malcolm Fincham

From Gordon Bridger

hon alderman and former Mayor of Guildford

In response to: Whitmoor Common Recognised For Highest Standard Of Heathland Management

What a delightful story of how good management has preserved the environment. I note there is no mention of locals and their dogs causing problems for Dartford warblers.

Your readers will, therefore, be intrigued to know that according to a Natural Environment (NE) survey in 2017, there were only two Dartford warblers’ nests counted (three nightjars and no woodlarks) on Whitmoor Common. These were three species of birds which the EU declared were endangered and needed protection.

In order to protect them (and a small number on Witley/Ockley Common, Guildford Borough Council has now collected £6 million, so far, and over the next 13 years will probably collect up to £70 million to protect the birds from “the impact of urbanisation and recreational use by local people” (NE policy).

These funds are being collected from the tax on almost all new housing in Guildford (expected to be 12,450 under the submitted Local Plan) and will grow to be far more, as the policy extends for 125 years and, in fact, covers 12 other districts. These must surely be the most expensively protected birds in the world. But they do not need protection.

The funds are being used to establish Special Areas of Natural Green Space which are to act as magnets to draw local people away from protected areas and stop molesting virtually non-existent birds on Whitmoor Common which the warden correctly says have been affected by cold weather rather than human activity.

I was one of the councillors who approved this dotty scheme because we were told we had no alternative as it was an EU Directive. But it wasn’t! The Directive as we found out years later was “discretionary” and more costs effective solutions would have been possible. However, we are now told that since it is now government policy there is nothing that can be done about it.

It is a huge tax on new housing, which means that less affordable housing is available. All to protect birds who do not need protection.

But, of course, councils and parks departments welcome the money. It’s a nice income earner and whenever a developer wants to get approval for building on the green belt he spends several £millions in financing SANGS for 125 years, even though it has no effect on Whitmoor Common which some locals do not even know exists.

I drew this massive misuse of tax to the attention of Dominic Raab when he was Minister of Housing but was told that it was the “EU Parliament” who were responsible. He was misled by his officials. That is not true.

Actually, all a council planning committee has to do is to state that if “a development has no significant impact on one of a Special Protection Area (eg Whitmoor Common) normaL planning rules apply”. But officers do not tell them this. Few councillors really want more housing and why not collect this tax? Developers pay because they have to in order to get planning permission and it keeps the officers happy.

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Responses to Letter: Money for Unneeded SANGS is a Tax on New Housing

  1. David Carter Reply

    February 6, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    I look forward to the time when a big housebuilder takes the council’s SPA mitigation policy to court and wins! Will the council then be liable to pay back all the SANG money (£7,500 per four-bed house) they have collected over the years?

    The SANG policy today is all about making money for the council and, year on year, they put their rates up which as Gordon Bridger correctly points out is at the expense of more affordable housing provision. Don’t forget the Solum application that had to pay this £2 million tax but could only justify providing 10% affordable provision.

  2. Gordon Bridger Reply

    February 7, 2019 at 9:19 pm

    Our council, in fact, all councils, will be in a terrible financial jam when it is finally exposed as a gigantic con on new householders, to fund one of the most ridiculous and unjustified environmental projects I have ever come across.

    It only requires a householder to make a complaint to the ombudsman, not costly or difficult, to expose it. I would make a complaint but since I am not the financial loser I am unable to.

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