Closure of the existing A3 around the Devil’s Punch Bowl is an integral part of the scheme. This would provide opportunities to re-unite the National Trust land on either side of the road, to restore tranquillity to areas of international ecological importance, and to regenerate the centre of Hindhead, which has been badly affected by traffic congestion.
Draft Orders were published in October 2003, together with a comprehensive Environmental Statement. Objections to the scheme will be heard at a Public Inquiry in 2004. Depending on the outcome of the Public Inquiry, it is anticipated that work will start in late 2005 with the new road and tunnel opening to traffic in 2009.
The Statement of Principles
The Hindhead tunnel is more than just a road improvement; it is important to look ahead and to recognise that construction of the tunnel will inevitably bring fundamental changes to the character of Hindhead and the surrounding countryside.
This document marks the outcome of a partnership approach between the officers from organisations dealing with the Hindhead area. It contains a set of key principles that will set the vision and tone for determining the future of the Hindhead/Punch Bowl area. The principles also enable consideration of the relationship between the built-up area of Hindhead and its rural setting.
How the Statement of Principles Relates to the A3 Tunnel Timetable
It is intended that the Statement of Principles will be available at the Public Inquiry as a background document to set the land-use context for the road improvement. This will provide the Inspector with an indication of the way in which the scheme will influence the future management and development of land in Hindhead and surrounding areas.
Progress on implementation of the key principles will clearly be dependent on the outcome of the Public Inquiry.
Waverley Borough Local Plan
The Waverley Borough Local Plan 2002 sets out the Borough Council’s policies for guiding and controlling the way in which buildings and land are used and developed. It seeks to reconcile protection of Waverley's outstanding environment with promotion of a healthy local economy and higher living standards. The Plan aims to ensure that new development minimises impacts on the environment and contributes to the special and distinctive character of the Borough.
The strategy underlying the policies and proposals in the Movement Chapter is to promote a balanced and sustainable approach to transport provision within the Borough. Of relevance to the Hindhead tunnel are policies that seek to minimise the impact of Heavy Goods Vehicles and other traffic, and to improve facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.
Local Plan Policy M18 specifically supports the proposed improvement of the A3 at Hindhead by means of a bored tunnel, and safeguards land for that purpose. The route of the tunnel and new dual carriageway is shown on the Proposals Map.
The Local Plan seeks to give clarity and certainty as to how development proposals will be assessed. However, the Borough Council has also tried to keep the Plan as succinct as possible by avoiding too much site-specific detail; where necessary, further detail will be added through a programme of Supplementary Planning Guidance.
Supplementary Planning Document (previously called Supplementary Planning Guidance)
In July 2001, Waverley Borough Council agreed a brief for Supplementary Planning Guidance (then called SPG) on Hindhead. An SPD has to relate to a policy in a local plan, and in this instance the SPD would amplify Policy M18 on the A3 in the Waverley Borough Local Plan 2002. It has been decided to await the outcome of the Public Inquiry on the tunnel to be held in the spring of 2004 before proceeding with the SPD. In the mean time the Principles, the subject of this document, are being published to coincide with the Traffic Orders for the A3.
The purpose of the SPD is to set out in detail how the centre of Hindhead could be improved, once the A3 is closed, and also to identify opportunities for beneficial change during the period before the tunnel is completed in 2009.
The SPD will look at the character of Hindhead centre, the community, at tourism, land use and development, retail and commerce, opportunities for enhancement, and funding. There will be full public consultation on the document, which will relate to the Principles.
The National Trust Hindhead Commons Management Plan and the Post Tunnel Strategy for Hindhead Commons
The National Trust produced a Hindhead Commons Management Plan in April 2002 for the care of the commons. The vision for the commons is set out and ways of improving conservation, as well as how affairs will be managed, and their people and knowledge developed. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are considered. Objectives are put forward and a Statement of Significance devised.
The draft Post Tunnel Strategy for Hindhead Commons was published on 1st July 2003. It focuses on the main forms of recreational access, and provides a framework for the management of access, and it will be reviewed. It links to other National Trust strategies for the interpretation marketing and promotion, nature conservation, landscape management, archaeology and the historic landscape. The document will be the subject of consultation with key partners and then circulated widely.
Consultation Document on a Management Plan for the Surrey Hills.
The Surrey Hills Partnership produced the Plan in May 2003. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) places a statutory duty on all Local Authorities to prepare and adopt a Management Plan for Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The Plan will formulate the policies of the Local Authorities for the AONB and define their functions in relation to it.
The Local Authorities agreed that the Surrey Hills Partnership would coordinate the preparation of the Management Plan on their behalf. All the Local Authorities will be required to adopt the Plan independently by March 2004. The primary purpose of the Management Plan is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the Surrey Hills.
The South Downs National Park
The Countryside Agency advises that the proposed South Downs National Park is to be designated in 2 to 3 years. The proposed boundary adjoins the south-west boundary of Waverley in the Haslemere area.
It is likely that the new National Park will generate more tourism and this will have a spin-off effect on nearby tourism venues like the Devil’s Punchbowl.
Wealden Heaths Phase II : English Nature 1994
The Wealden Heaths Phase II Special Protection Area (which includes the Devil’s Punchbowl) is of special importance within Britain and the EC for breeding birds of lowland heath and associated habitats. The site supports an important assemblage of species, including nationally important breeding populations of nightjar, woodlark and Dartford warbler. The site also supports an assemblage of winter species including low numbers of merlin, hen harrier, woodlark and Dartford warbler.
The 1994 report states that the main threat to the nationally important species is posed by habitat deterioration through lack of appropriate management. The National Trust has been carrying out comprehensive management in the Punchbowl over the last decade, to enhance the heathland.
All new documents plans and strategies will need to go through the process of rural proofing in accordance with government guidelines to ensure that the proposals are not detrimental to rural interests.
AIM OF THE PRINCIPLES
To work together to optimise the community, economic, landscape and ecological benefits arising from the construction of the A3 tunnel.
1. Enhancing the Surrey Hills as nationally important landscape, to reveal old and new views where possible