Talbot Heath forms a heathland fragment to the south of the Talbot Project area. It is statutorily protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (The Habitats Regulations). In addition, a small area of land adjacent to Talbot Heath is protected by policies in the BoP Core Strategy as being of county importance. Ecologically, Talbot Heath is recognised through inclusion in three statutory nature designations:
- Dorset Heathlands Special Protection Area (SPA) – in recognition of the international importance of the heathland for breeding, feeding and wintering of the vulnerable bird species including Dartford warbler and Nightjar;
- Dorset Heathlands Special Area of Conservation (SAC) – designated for wet and dry heath habitats and Annex IL species including sand lizard and smooth snake;
- Dorset Heathlands Ramsar Site – designated in recognition of its wetlands of international importance, species richness and ecological diversity of wetland habitat type.
These special designations afford great protection for the heath. Talbot Heath also forms part of the Bourne Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The views of Natural England play an important part of the future management and any changes to the heath, as does the Dorset Heathlands Planning Framework (DHPF) (2006), developed by the South East Dorset local planning authorities.
The DHPF has been prepared to avoid and prevent harm to the heathlands, including an expectation that no net additional residential development will be permitted on, or within 400m of a European site. A Development Plan Document has been drafted and it identifies a strategic role for land adjacent to Talbot Heath as Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). The SANG will act to alleviate pressures on Talbot Heath. The three fields within Talbot Heath itself are viewed as heathland support areas by Natural England for grazing, and do not form part of the SANG. In addition, land will be required to mitigate additional access to Talbot Heath through establishing a pedestrian/cycle link towards Bournemouth seafront from the Universities. Land at High Moor Farm could also be used to accommodate a SANG if associated development takes place.
Any development within the 400m zone will need to provide a buffer to the heath and be of a suitable type. Relatively low-density university uses could be accommodated subject to detailed design.
Talbot Village Woods
Until as recently as 2012, Talbot Village Woods was designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI), on account of the ecological value of the mixed woodland, thick under storey and old oaks along boundaries. However, the site was de-designated due to the loss of the already poor ground flora and the invasive spread of holly, laurel and Spanish bluebell.
The opportunity is now presented for better management, clearing of invasive species, and improvements to pathways, to enhance the biodiversity of the area and to encourage public access through the woods. The woodland could function as a SANG to support other development opportunities within the Talbot Project, linking to opportunities at Slade Farm and possibly reducing the requirement for an additional SANG at High Moor Farm to the south of the Universities. Full details of a management strategy for this area will be developed with the officers at Bournemouth Borough Council.