National Character Area 110

Chilterns - Detailed Statements of Environmental Opportunity

This section expands on the Headline Statements of Environmental Opportunity and provides further detail on each of the Statements of Environmental Opportunity.


SEO 1: Manage the wooded landscape, the woodlands (including internationally important Chilterns beechwoods), hedgerows, commons and parklands with the aims of conserving and enhancing biodiversity and the historic landscape and its significant features; maximising the potential for recreation; and securing sustainable production of biomass and timber.

For example by:

  • Planning for landscape restoration, creation and enhancement activities with reference to the special qualities of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and North Wessex Downs AONB.
  • Building on existing stakeholder groups and strategies involved in woodland conservation including, for example, AONB management plans and county green infrastructure strategies.
  • Working across administrative boundaries to develop a resilient ecological network that supports wooded habitat and species.
  • Bringing as many wooded features as possible into appropriate management, drawing support from woodland grant schemes and agri- environment schemes. Restore management to those woodlands that have fallen out of management, particularly those with already poor woodland structure, declining timber prospects and deteriorating visitor infrastructure. Secure sustainable management in all cases.
  • Seeking to secure woodland and tree health in the long term. Maintain and enhance a heterogeneous woodland resource to ensure that it is resilient to climate change and to pests and diseases such as ash dieback. In existing woodlands and in new plantings, allow for positive species composition changes and maintain woodland on varying terrain, soils and aspect. Conserve the genetic diversity of the woodland resource.
  • Co-ordinating deer population management across ownership boundaries. Protect woodlands and trees from deer damage as appropriate. Restore key woodlands and other wooded features that have been severely damaged by deer and squirrels, including important beech woodlands.
  • Monitoring impacts of climate change, pests and diseases on native beechwoods, including the Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation (SAC), and implementing appropriate adaptation and mitigation strategies. Recognise and conserve all habitats and species of principal importance, including those within SAC, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Local Wildlife Sites. Restore and conserve all native beechwood types and conserve other semi-natural woodland types that are less extensive than the beechwoods.
  • Identifying current and future threats to wooded features in the Chilterns and reviewing ecological, historic and landscape designations to ensure that there is appropriate protection of the range of wooded features. Consider ecological designations for parklands, orchards and hedgerows in particular. Consider Tree Preservation Orders in relation to ‘landmark’ and veteran trees.
  • Maintaining woodland on ancient woodland sites and conserving ancient hedgerow boundaries. Conserve ancient trees and veteran trees, planting or identifying nearby successors in order to secure the deadwood resource and associated biodiversity in the long term. Continue restoration of Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites.
  • Conserving the diverse arrangements and particular species compositions of wooded features in designed landscapes, incorporating native and exotic species in avenues, groves, belts, shrubberies and so on. Carry out historic landscape character assessments and devise management plans to inform conservation efforts. Ensure that succession planting respects the original plantings and seeks to maintain the historical continuity and sense of place. Target Registered Parks and Gardens, particularly those ‘at risk’, but also consider parklands of local importance and ‘landmark trees’.
  • Managing all wooded features to benefit biodiversity, considering the needs of woodland species including woodland butterflies, birds and deadwood invertebrates.
  • Conserving and recording archaeology in ancient and secondary woodland. Draw on best practice developed by, for example, the Chilterns AONB and North Wessex Downs AONB.
  • Using historic landscape information to engage the public in discussion about change in the landscape, particularly in relation to tree clearance and scrub management on once-open common land and downland.
  • Drawing on best practice developed by, for example, the Chiltern Woodlands Project, to ensure appropriate management of woodlands across the Chilterns.
  • Drawing on the best practice example of the Chilterns Special Trees and Woods Project to engage the public in recording and celebrating wooded features beyond the Chilterns AONB. Focus such efforts in green spaces and along routes that are publicly accessible. Manage and enhance field boundaries and small woodlands as connections in the woodland network and also as part of a diverse habitat mosaic. Plant hedgerows where there is poor connectivity, particularly where this will also restore historic boundaries. Manage large, species-rich woodlands, such as the Chilterns Beechwoods SAC, as core areas in the ecological network. Focus particularly on conservation of ancient hedged boundaries and ancient woodlands in order to secure their high species richness.
  • Conserving historic boundary features, including veteran trees, and creating optimal edge habitat along the woodland or boundary edge.
  • Planning clearance of secondary woodland where it would restore species- rich and fragmented open habitats and restoring key views and historic landscapes. Due to the sensitivities of tree clearance and major landscape change, undertake this work in partnership with local stakeholders. Ensure that historic features are not negatively impacted by clearance. (Open habitats include grassland and heathland in downland, common land, farmland and flood plain settings.)
  • Strengthening and developing new local markets for ‘local’, ‘sustainable’, ‘traditional’ woodland products, including wood fuel, which delivers climate regulation benefits.
  • Managing the woodland resource to accommodate and drive appropriate woodland-based recreation activities that generate an income to support suitable woodland management. Draw from existing successful examples such as the visitor attractions at Wendover Woods and at Aston Hill Bike Park, the mountain bike course at Halton. Promote and manage demand for recreation to avoid unsustainable visitor numbers, recognising that recreational uses are not appropriate in some woodlands.
  • Managing visitor pressure and forestry impacts on the woodland’s ecological and historic environment features.
  • Strengthening and enhancing multi-user access links between settlements and woodlands, facilitating greater community stewardship of local green spaces. Prioritise access to woodlands near to people’s homes and workplaces, creating new woodlands where appropriate.
  • Managing small woods associated with farmland as part of the wider ecological network and as a resource that can be managed to provide small-scale products of value to the farmer. Secure buffers in farmland adjacent to woodlands, veteran trees and hedgerow boundaries, particularly where high chemical input and deep ploughing is undertaken.
  • Creating new forestry infrastructure that makes sustainable woodland management more viable, such as rides and sawmills.


SEO 2: In pockets of historic land use where natural and cultural heritage are both particularly rich, aim to restore and strengthen the historic landscape, ecological resilience and heterogeneity, and to conserve soils. Ensure that species-rich habitats are conserved and extended, including internationally important species-rich Chiltern downland. Secure environmentally and economically sustainable management to ensure conservation in the long term.

For example by:

  • Building on existing stakeholder groups and strategies involved in landscape conservation including, for example, AONB management plans and county green infrastructure strategies.
  • Designing any new development to accommodate and sustainably conserve the historic and ecological features and functions of historic land uses and their setting. Avoid negative impacts upon historic setting and the ecological network, working across administrative boundaries within and adjacent to the NCA.
  • Using understanding of the area’s traditional and historic architecture, and its distinct patterns of settlement, to inform appropriate conservation of historic buildings and settings, and planning for and inspiring any new development so that it makes a positive contribution to local character. Where an existing structure is negatively impacting on a historic setting, consider removal or concealment where it is not possible to improve the structure.
  • Identifying and conserving semi-natural habitats that are often associated with historic land uses in the Chilterns, such as chalk grassland, heathland, species-rich scrub, lowland meadow, species-rich hedgerow, traditional orchards, chalk streams and acid grassland. Recognise and conserve all habitats and species of principal importance, including those within SAC, SSSI and Local Wildlife Sites.
  • Managing the landscape around pockets of habitat to provide buffers, connections and food for wildlife, for example by locating field margins, field corners and low-input grassland where they will most benefit the ecological network and nearby species populations.
  • Identifying where bats, owls and other species are making use of historical structures such as barns, and manage structures and the surrounding ecological network accordingly. Prioritise management of protected species and species of principal importance.
  • Confirming the specialist species associated with historic land uses and establishing management that reflects the requirements of specialist species; that is, niche management, or traditional management. Develop management strategies for species with restricted distributions, particularly in light of climate change.
  • Restoring historic features associated with chalk streams, such as mills, ponds, watercress beds and watermeadows, particularly where restoration of the historic land use will support traditional management that can sustain valued habitats.
  • Identifying current and future threats to historic land uses and features in the Chilterns and reviewing ecological, historic and landscape designations to ensure that there is appropriate protection. Consider ecological designations for parklands, orchards, chalk streams and hedgerows in particular. Develop a strategy for conserving historic features that are not recognised by Scheduled Monument or Registered Park and Garden designations, such as co-axial fields.
  • Establishing resilient core areas from which to expand by targeting conservation in those locations where existing ancient natural and cultural features are particularly numerous and accessible to the public, including the strip parishes along the scarp, parklands, pockets of ancient field systems and areas of open access common and downland.
  • Maintaining and enhancing habitat heterogeneity to support specialist and generalist species associated with historic land uses and to provide connections to assist species movement through the landscape. Develop a strategy to address northward and southward migration of species at the northern and southern ends of the Chilterns working across administrative boundaries.
  • Restoring historic inter-visibility, long-distance views and viewpoints as appropriate, targeting historic assets that have since become wooded, such as prehistoric monuments on the escarpment.
  • Beyond concentrations of habitat, working with neighbouring landowners to restore and create new areas of habitat and establish ecological and access connections, particularly in relation to fragmented chalk grassland and commons that are important to communities.
  • Ensuring that planned change in the landscape, such as restoration and creation, is informed by an understanding of the area’s historic landscape in order to avoid destruction of historic features and to identify opportunities to restore historic landscapes.
  • Planning to strengthen networks or co-operatives of farmers, estates and land managers in order to facilitate landscape-scale approaches, including commercially viable large-scale downland grazing systems and catchment-scale resource protection.
  • Ensuring that soil conservation is integrated into management objectives for historic landscapes, particularly where there is a long history of limited or no disturbance and chemical use. In doing so, secure climate regulation, soil quality and water quality benefits.
  • Strengthening and creating new markets that support sustainable grazing and woodland management, including those around ‘local’/’sustainable’ products and recreation, for example visitor pay-back and charged car parking. Pursue opportunities to bring abandoned or neglected areas into productive management, particularly where losses to biodiversity and historic environment are high, such as on scrub-covered downland. Wood fuel and sheep’s wool as insulation material are examples of products recently under demand which could potentially drive commercially viable management on a small or large scale.
  • Creating new visions for habitat management and scenery where continuing tradition is not possible as a result of climate change or long-term economics. Explore possibilities such as non-traditional livestock on the downs, commercial recreational activities in woodlands, new species compositions and different vegetation structures in woodlands and grasslands. Planning to engage local communities in helping to conserve their local landscape by recruiting ‘volunteer wardens’ or ‘lookers’, attracting sponsors and establishing positive community uses of green spaces and rural buildings. Support and build capacity among existing community groups, for example the Chiltern Society, to conserve their local landscapes.
  • Maximising visual and/or physical public access to restored historic landscapes, particularly near to settlements. Provide interpretation and education to enhance visitor experiences and encourage support for conservation activities, particularly near to settlements and at popular destinations.
  • Enhancing visitor experience by providing a fit-for-purpose access network that links features across the landscape and appropriate visitor facilities that are sustainable and do not impact negatively on the rural scene.


SEO 3: Conserve the Chilterns’ groundwater resource, River Thames and chalk streams by working in partnership to tackle inter-related issues at a catchment scale and also across the water supply network area. Seek to secure, now and in the future, sustainable water use and thriving flood plain landscapes that are valued by the public.

For example by:

  • Working in partnership to meet Water Framework Directive objectives for good ecological status (surface water) or good status (groundwater) across the Chilterns. Working at a catchment scale, continue to investigate and implement measures that improve river morphology and river ecology, including measures to tackle low flows.
  • Building on existing stakeholder groups and strategies involved in water resource management and conservation including, for example, catchment management plans, AONB management plans and county green infrastructure strategies.
  • At the parish and neighbourhood level, providing information that will enable residents to recognise, conserve and enjoy their local chalk streams, ponds and other waterbodies. Strengthen the identity of chalk streams as positive focal points for settlements and communities.
  • Drawing on best practice developed by the Chilterns Chalk Streams Project and others to deliver work along the entire length of chalk streams in the Chilterns.
  • Reviewing ecological designations for chalk streams and other flood plain habitats in the Chilterns to ensure appropriate protection and conservation management.
  • At a catchment scale, strengthening engagement with resident, workplace and farmer communities regarding water usage, pollution, flood risk and low flows in the Chiltern environment. Support consumers in bringing consumption rates down to average or below average levels.
  • Through a partnership of water companies operating across the water supply network area, securing sustainable abstraction and consumption across the water supply network area. Recognise and address the links of supply and environmental impact between the Chilterns and other National Character Areas (NCAs), including Berkshire and Marlborough Downs, Inner London and North Downs.
  • Building public and consumer support across the water supply network area for the conservation of groundwater and surface water by enhancing access to watercourses. Consider Local Nature Reserve declaration for chalk stream green spaces and hold events and volunteering activities at waterside locations.
  • Providing information about chalk stream ecology and the negative impacts on the landscape of unsustainable water use. Enable consumers to recognise the visual/obvious signs of positive and negative impacts of their water use on Chiltern chalk streams.
  • Bringing together the various recreational user groups relating to the Thames and Chilterns chalk streams so that they can shape the future of local watercourses as recreational assets and secure sustainable recreational use. Enable them to support conservation activities.
  • Planning to review and build networks of stakeholders across a catchment and/or abstraction area to help conserve the water resource and develop approaches to deliver sustainable development, sustainable land management and sustainable water use. Focus particularly on achieving sustainable water use in areas where rivers and groundwater are considered to be over-abstracted and around growth areas such as Luton. Plan for climate change impacts and future consumer demands.
  • Minimising soil compaction and soil sealing in order to facilitate infiltration to the aquifer and minimise the volume and rate of run-off.
  • Maximising opportunities arising from waterside development to restore and enhance the adjacent watercourse. In relation to any development, seek planning gain that will restore modified sections and enhance visual and/or physical public access to a watercourse.
  • Drawing from best practice and developing innovative solutions that restore watercourses constrained by existing development and that improve poorly engineered channels. Restore urban sections so that watercourses are attractive focal points within the urban environment.
  • Expanding the areas of semi-natural habitat in chalk stream flood plains with the aim of improving the ecological network and increasing the extent of habitats of principal importance, such as wet woodland. Conserve and create new ponds. Create habitat so that it also provides recreation, floodwater storage, pollution filtration and biodiversity benefits, as appropriate.
  • Designing any work on the ground to contribute positively to the ecological network and natural processes that operate across the landscape, both within and beyond the catchment and within both urban and rural settings. Where possible, restore natural channels to allow natural river processes to take place and create areas of floodwater storage in the flood plain. Seek to extend and connect fragments of semi- natural habitat in the flood plain and nearby.
  • Planning any developments to minimise demands and impacts on the water resource, including incorporating features such as sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS).
  • Seek opportunities to address negative impacts of existing development, including tackling pollution pathways from industry.
  • Supporting farmers and other land managers in preventing pollution, conserving soils, using water efficiently and managing and creating flood plain habitats. Draw on best practice, for example catchment sensitive farming techniques.
  • Ensuring that there is adequate understanding of future water resource challenges among all key stakeholders, particularly in relation to resources and habitats that are already under stress, such as the Colne catchment.


SEO 4: Enhance local distinctiveness and create or enhance green infrastructure within existing settlements and through new development, particularly in relation to the urban fringe and growth areas such as Luton. Ensure that communities can enjoy good access to the countryside.

For example by:

  • Building on existing stakeholder groups and strategies that influence development, including, for example, AONB management plans and county green infrastructure strategies.
  • Designing and locating development to maintain landscape character and enhance green infrastructure provision across the NCA, drawing on best practice as undertaken by, for example, the Chilterns AONB and North Wessex Downs AONB. Adapt or remove existing development where to do so would significantly strengthen landscape character, enhance views and address barriers to natural processes and public access to the countryside.
  • Seeking to conserve the setting of the two AONB landscapes outside of their boundaries when undertaking development and land management, working across planning authority boundaries as necessary.
  • Maximising the benefits of planning gain by strategically allocating gain across the NCA and across planning authority boundaries. Ensure that planning gain supports an ecosystems approach. Prioritise such efforts where there are development pressures, for example in growth areas.
  • Ensuring that there is an accurate and up-to-date understanding of green infrastructure needs, particularly in relation to growth areas such as Luton.
  • Responding to recreation demands and visitor pressures strategically. Manage green spaces and routes across the landscape as a connected network that can dissipate or concentrate visitor pressure.
  • Addressing deficits in greenspace and access links, integrating the public transport and cycle network and creating new or improved multi-user routes and green spaces working across administrative boundaries as necessary.
  • Supporting farmers in providing public access routes and areas and hosting school visits, particularly where this fills gaps in provision and secures access near settlements. Target farmers around Watford, Hemel Hempstead and Amersham.
  • Maximising the appeal of existing and new green spaces and sustainable transport routes close to people’s homes and workplaces, including in the urban fringe where it could also strengthen landscape character.
  • Considering declaration of additional Local Nature Reserves and new country parks, particularly near to settlements. Ensure that visitor needs are well met at Local Nature Reserves and country parks.
  • Establishing improved and new green infrastructure that supports natural processes through securing resilient ecological networks and functioning flood plains. Identify major barriers to significant ecological processes and seek to restore better ecological function working across administrative boundaries as necessary.
  • Enhancing the rural and urban scene by promoting the use of traditional local building materials and vernacular styles and utilising appropriate infrastructure. Draw on best practice as developed by, for example, the Chilterns AONB.
  • Addressing negative impacts on tranquillity associated with traffic and large visitor numbers across the NCA. Promote alternative routes and destinations at a strategic scale to disperse impacts where appropriate. Design new and existing green spaces, routes and visitor facilities to better manage noise, high visitor numbers and multiple user groups or activities. Identify those locations where improved tranquillity will significantly enhance people’s experience of key places and routes across the landscape.
  • Designing all development and transport infrastructure to support sustainable soil and water use, flood management and pollution prevention, incorporating features such as SUDS. Focus particularly on areas where pollution, flooding and/or low flows have a negative impact. Co-ordinate activity on a catchment scale. Consider opportunities to combine with green space, to realise biodiversity and access benefits.
  • Adapting traditional building designs and materials as appropriate to ensure resilience to climate change.
  • Supporting suppliers and contractors who can help to conserve the traditional built environment and incorporate traditional materials into new constructions.
  • Identifying key viewpoints where the appearance of the landscape is particularly valued. Monitor and conserve these viewpoints as a priority and promote them as visitor destinations as appropriate.

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