Sustainability Appraisal Main Modifications Report
Chapter 8 - Cumulative Effects
8.1 This chapter describes the likely cumulative effects of the Local Plan as proposed to be modified.
The description of cumulative effects draws from that previously set out in the Regulation 19 SA Report but has been updated to take into account the SA findings for the Local Plan as proposed to be modified, as set out in the previous chapter.
8.2 The cumulative effects of the Local Plan on each sustainability theme are described below. References to the Local Plan should be taken to refer to the latest version of the Plan, i.e. the submitted plan as now proposed to be modified.
Communities: Housing, Services and Facilities, Identities
8.3 The Local Plan is likely to have significant positive effects on SA Objective 1: Housing by meeting the identified needs of all in Central Bedfordshire and helping to deliver some of the unmet need for neighbouring Luton Borough. Most of the development is proposed in major strategic developments of town extensions and new villages that have the scale and scope for a wide range of sustainable homes for all needs. Smaller scale allocations are proposed throughout the area and are aligned with a Settlement Hierarchy that recognises the capacity of services and facilities. Some smaller growth is proposed in the Green Belt for settlements that have not previously benefitted from development.
8.4 Site-specific requirements in strategic allocation policies, supported by Core/Development Management (DM) policies H1-5 and 7-9 and HQ1-11 will ensure that the development and its supporting infrastructure is delivered in a phased and timely manner. Where relevant, new development is required to ensure that it will not compromise existing services and facilities, avoiding negative effects on SA Objective 3: Services and Facilities.
8.5 A particular concern for CBC has been to retain the special character and identity of the settlements in the area. By focusing on town extensions and new villages, the potential for cumulative negative effects on SA Objective 2: Communities as a result of impacts on the identities of existing settlements has been mitigated by avoidance. The selection of the small-medium sites has aimed to ensure that new development can be integrated well and any negative effects minimised. Where necessary, site-specific requirements are made in policy HA1 to ensure a visual and physical separation between existing and new development.
8.6 CBC has carefully considered the scope for development within the Green Belt that covers much of the south-west area of Central Bedfordshire. By proposing allocation adjacent to the urban area of Luton and carefully realigning Green Belt boundaries to protect local biodiversity and landscape character, and supported by Policy SP4: Development in the Green Belt, the Local Plan minimises potential negative effects on the Green Belt and helps to ensure that the objectives for Green Belt are maintained.
Economy and Employment
8.7 Proposals for strategic employment allocations have been identified with careful consideration of the characteristics and needs of the Central Bedfordshire area, including strategic warehousing, location on key transport corridors, helping to discourage out-commuting, and optimising opportunities on previously developed land – all with significant positive effects on SA Objective 4: Economy.
Health and Equalities
8.8 Proposals for new development adjacent to Luton and near to Dunstable help to resolve an existing sustainability issue with some deprivation in these areas; new development can be a catalyst and with positive effects on SA Objective 5: Health and Equality that can be synergistic. The provision of good quality homes, supporting services and facilities, and local employment will all have inter-related major positive effects on health; Policies H1-5 and 7-9 ensure that this is inclusive and for all needs. The separate EqIA has concluded that the Local Plan is unlikely to have any negative effects on protected characteristics or persons identified under the Equality Act 2010.
8.9 The provision of, and access to, open/green space and sports/leisure facilities are important for health and well-being. The Strategic Allocations all include requirements for green/blue infrastructure and sports facilities with positive effects for health. Policy requirements typically include new, enhanced, and links to existing green infrastructure – with synergistic and cumulative positive effects, particularly in the longer-term as green infrastructure becomes established.
Transport and Air Quality
8.10 The strategic allocations include specific policy requirements to ensure that the necessary improvements to the highway network are made in a timely manner and such that there is capacity for both the new development and existing communities. CBC has focused development in town extensions and new villages that are of a scope and size that they can establish sustainable transport networks of cycling and walking routes, linking with improved public transport and optimising opportunities such as the East West Rail Link. The potential cumulative negative effects on SA Objective 6: Highways and Air Quality should be mitigated through the site-specific transport requirements, including masterplanning and transport assessments, and strong Development Management Policies T1-6. Requirements will be identified and confirmed through ongoing transport studies.
8.11 Ensuring capacity on the highway network should minimise congestion and associated emissions with poor air quality. In the longer-term, it is likely that emissions from vehicles will reduce as stronger regulations are implemented and the number of electric vehicles increases. The strategic developments can help improve the sustainable transport network that should facilitate use of public transport, cycling and walking routes, with positive effects on SA Objective 7: Sustainable Transport that extent beyond the new developments with cumulative effects in the longer-term.
Energy and Climate Change
8.12 The focus on strategic developments means that they are of a size and scope that can accommodate exemplar sustainable design including requirements for energy and water management. This, supported by strong Development Management policies CC1-3, will mitigate the potential cumulative negative effects of new development on SA Objective 8: Energy and Climate Change with the possibility for some positive effects overall in the longer-term.
Water Resources, Quality, and Flood Risk
8.13 The focus on strategic developments means that they are of a size and scope that can accommodate exemplar sustainable design, including policy requirement that seeks to aim for water neutrality. The location of the strategic developments has avoided risk to water quality and flood management with likely neutral effects on SA Objectives 9: Water and 10: Flood Risk overall. Policy EE11: The River and Waterway Network recognises the particular character and opportunities available to protection, conservation and enhancement of the waterways' heritage, built environment, landscape character and biodiversity, together with promotion of the waterway and riverside paths as part of the green infrastructure network.
Soils and Land
8.14 Most new development will involve loss of the best and most versatile agricultural land – this is an area that is characterised by its rural nature and agricultural use – with significant negative effects on SA Objective 11: Soils that are cumulative and permanent. However, CBC has sought to mitigate the effects by allocating town extensions that are adjacent to the existing urban form, and the smaller non-strategic sites are distributed throughout the area in settlements and proportionate to the existing services and facilities. The strategic employment allocations include redevelopment of previously developed land with significant positive effects.
Biodiversity and Geodiversity
8.15 CBC has recognised the inter-relationships and multi-functionality of green infrastructure networks for people and wildlife; where necessary policy requirements draw attention to any need to separate uses to avoid conflicts and avoid negative effects on SA Objective 12: Biodiversity. Policies EE1-4 ensure that biodiversity is protected and enhanced for net gain, while site-specific requirements ensure that biodiversity at all levels of importance from national to local is protected and enhanced. There are no internationally designated European Sites within the Central Bedfordshire area but some in the areas around. The HRA for the Local Plan as proposed to be modified has concluded that it will not have adverse effects on the integrity, individually or in-combination with other plans or projects, of European Sites.
Landscape and Townscape
8.16 The potential for cumulative negative effects on SA Objective 13: Landscape through impacts on visual amenity and landscape character was recognised at an early stage of plan-making and assessment. The town extensions and new villages are of a scale and scope that can ensure high quality design and landscaping through creative masterplanning at an early stage to minimise and potential negative effects. All the strategic development sites are required to have masterplanning, phasing and design codes that will have to be approved by the Council. The smaller non-strategic sites have been selected to minimise negative effects and integrate with existing settlements throughout the Central Bedfordshire area such that negative cumulative effects should be minimised.
8.17 The SA had indicated potential negative effects for the area north of Luton and adjacent to the AONB. By proposing an allocation adjacent to the urban area of Luton and carefully realigning Green Belt boundaries to protect local biodiversity and landscape character, and supported by Policy SP4, the Plan reduces potential negative effects. This suggests that the significant negative effects will be mitigated to at least minor negative with the potential for neutral effects in the longer-term as enhancements become established.
The Historic Environment
8.18 The proposed allocations have generally avoided potential effects on SA Objective 14: Historic Environment. Where there are particular issues for Listed Buildings or archaeological potential, site-specific policy requirements ensure that there is protection of the heritage asset. This, supported by Development Management Policies HE1-3, will ensure that there are neutral effects on the historic environment, including cumulative effects.
8.19 The inter-relationships between sustainability topics and the synergistic, indirect and cumulative effects of emerging elements of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan have been considered as the SA has progressed in line with the development of the Plan. However, Central Bedfordshire already has allocated and committed new development, and further new development is expected from the surrounding areas as the Local Plans for these authorities are progressed – all with the potential for cumulative effects. The Council has taken these considerations into account when developing the proposals for the Local Plan.
8.20 Biggleswade has allocated/built developments to the east and north. There is also the Arlesey Cross development at Arlesey. Houghton Regis has major development around 7,000 new homes. Where there is committed growth, and new allocations are being proposed nearby, future growth will need to take into account the committed development and careful masterplanning will be needed.
8.21 The proposal for major development north of Luton locates the town expansion to the north edge of Luton, optimising possibilities for housing, employment, services/facilities, road/public transport improvements. By locating the strategic site at the edge, negative effects on landscape/visual amenity are reduced as the site adjoins an already urban area, the housing contributes to the unmet need for Luton, and employment provision can help to reduce out-commuting.
8.22 There is major growth planned along the East-West Rail corridor – to optimise possibilities for using sustainable transport. East-West Rail will link Bedford to the north-east and Cambridge to the west, with the Central Bedfordshire area located in the Western and Central section of the route. Bedford Borough Council has a major development proposed to the north, and Milton Keynes Council has major developments proposed near to the M1 and East-West Rail adjacent to the west of the Central Bedfordshire area. It will be necessary for the local authorities to continue liaising and ensure that major developments are phased such that capacity can be maintained for existing and new communities.
8.23 Such major developments proposed through the East-West Rail Link corridor are of a scale and scope to enable sustainable transport (cycling and walking routes) to be implemented and linked, thereby enhancing the existing network. When aligned with aspirations for green/blue infrastructure, such as the Waterway Park linking new villages in the Marston Vale, there can be synergistic and cumulative positive effects for both human health and wildlife. This will need to be planned and implemented in a strategic way, acknowledging ecosystems services. The cumulative increase in recreational activities and likely effects is uncertain at this stage but ongoing careful planning and management can mitigate, including separation of conflicting uses for people and wildlife.
8.24 Whilst individual elements of major developments may be able to mitigate for negative effects on landscape and visual amenity, there may be cumulative effects throughout the East-West Rail Link Corridor as essentially rural areas become more urbanised. However, exemplar and innovative design with creative masterplanning should offer mitigation measures and such development change can provide new environments for communities that are sustainably built and occupied. The important natural areas are protected and can be enhanced through the Environmental Framework.
8.25 By aligning major new development along the East-West Rail Link corridor, CBC has optimised possibilities for high-tech, educational, and innovative employment development that is likely to be synergistic with similar new technology planned around Cambridge and Milton Keynes. The provision of such high-quality jobs in the Central Bedfordshire area and nearby should reduce the current out-commuting that is characteristic of the area. This should have further indirect and cumulative effects on transport and use of local services/facilities – all with positive effects in the longer-term.
8.26 It is uncertain how poor air quality associated with emissions from road vehicles will develop in the medium to longer term. Tighter emission controls and increasing use of electric vehicles, together with increasing use of improved sustainable transport networks, should provide mitigation. The wider extent of new development growth will have effects on water resources and wastewater treatment works/sewerage networks. Whilst water resources are planned on a regional scale and can be provided from beyond, principles of sustainable water management including aspirations for water neutrality can be implemented in major new development – especially in the wider area of water scarcity in East Anglia and increasing issues through climate change. It will be important that the local authorities continue liaising carefully with the water companies and environmental regulators to ensure that water infrastructure can be planned, funded and built in time to align with the phased proposals for new development.