Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation (SAC)

Habitat Regulations Assessment

As part of the emerging Local Plan, we are developing some evidence called a Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA). It is focused on whether the growth proposed within the plan (or project) will harm the integrity of the Special Area of Conservation (rather than seeking to improve any existing pressures on the site/sites).

This work will be proportionate for our Local Plan by containing impartial findings and conclusions to meet the legal requirements. This work must evidence beyond all reasonable scientific doubt. The HRA will involve dialogue with numerous specified stakeholders.

Background information

Much of the borough is rural, although it does also contain the large settlements of Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted and Tring. Dacorum lies within the densely populated Home Counties. Consequently, environmental pressures from this large population may include:

  • high levels of access to the SAC from the urban area
  • recreational pressure (trampling damage to vegetation)
  • nitrogen deposition (unhealthy environs close to highly travelled roads)
  • water supply (changes in water availability) and
  • wastewater discharge (changes in volume of sewage measured properties which classify water quality - such as acidity PH values, particulate matter, suspended sediment or dissolved solids).

These will all require scrutiny within the HRA. 

The Chilterns Beechwoods SAC is the only SAC in Dacorum. This large site is protected for its:

  • beech forests
  • semi-natural dry grasslands and scrub, and
  • its population of stag beetles.

The SAC is extensive and made up of several components within:

  • Dacorum
  • the Vale of Aylesbury
  • Wycombe, and
  • South Oxfordshire. 
In all, it extends to nearly 1,300 hectares. With the exception of Bisham Woods, all elements of the SAC lie within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). 

It is an extensively wooded and farmed landscape, which is underlain by chalk bedrock. This forms a distinctive north-west facing escarpment. Individual woodlands occupy a variety of landscape settings including:

  • scarp slope
  • dry valleys and
  • plateau.

Varying environmental conditions result in a range of woodland types, although this is strongly dominated by the beech forests which give the site its name. All parts represent popular visitor attractions. All components are located within the Chilterns Natural Character Area.


 Chiltern Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation (PDF 979KB
 Chiltern Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation within Dacorum (PDF 1.4MB)

Chilterns Beechwoods SAC
Chilterns Beechwoods SAC within Dacorum


A topic paper on the Chilterns Beechwoods SAC was published as part of our Local Plan consultation in November 2020. This presented all of the known and available evidence for the site in one place to assist in providing an initial ‘baseline’ for the site.

 Topic Paper for the Chilterns Beechwoods SAC - Main Report (PDF 2MB)
 Topic Paper for the Chilterns Beechwoods SAC - Summary of Evidence (PDF 10MB)
 Topic Paper Chilterns Beechwoods SAC - Appendices 1 to 16 (PDF 6MB)
 Topic Paper Chilterns Beechwoods SAC - Appendices 17 to 19 (PDF 9MB)
 Topic Paper Chilterns Beechwoods SAC - Appendices 20 to 21 (PDF 9MB)
 Topic Paper Chilterns Beechwoods SAC - Appendices 22 - part 1 (PDF 13MB)
 Topic Paper Chilterns Beechwoods SAC - Appendices 22 - part 2 (PDF 14MB)
 Topic Paper Chilterns Beechwoods SAC - Appendices 22 - part 3 (PDF 13MB)
 Topic Paper Chilterns Beechwoods SAC - Appendices 23 to 26 (PDF 11MB)

On-site evidence has been commissioned to quantify recreational pressure at the sites. This will also extend to air quality and hydrology matters in due course.

Please come back to see the latest evidence related to this site and, in time, our commitments on how we will seek to protect the site for the enjoyment of future generations.

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