Central Bedfordshire Draft Local Plan (July 2017)

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(35) 16 Environmental Enhancement

16.1.1 Central Bedfordshire's environment is key to its identity and widely valued by our residents, visitors and businesses. The varied and contrasting landscape, ecology and settlement pattern contributes to the much valued character and nature of the area.

16.1.2 We also depend on the ecosystem services are services provided by the natural environment that benefit people. These include:

  • The provision of food and fuel:
  • Cultural services that provide benefit to people through recreation and appreciation of nature.
  • Regulation of the climate, purification of air and water, flood protection.
  • Supporting services, underpinning the provision of the above ecosystems services, such as soil formation, and nutrient and water cycling.

    16.1.3 This section sets out the planning policies that will be applied to ensure that development in Central Bedfordshire protects and enhances our environment, and supports the ecosystem services that it provides.

    16.1.4 This section is underpinned by the Council's Environmental Framework, which summarises a range of local studies, assessments, strategies and guidance, and forms part of the technical evidence base for the Local Plan and is the supporting document for these policies.  It covers natural environment enhancement and protection and the challenge of both mitigating the impact of climate change and adapting to the inevitable impacts.  It provides an overview of national policy requirements, including those for Local Plans set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), and the accompanying guidance (NPPG).   It also details and summarises the key elements of the environmental evidence base for Central Bedfordshire, as well as providing sign-posting to these more detailed documents.

    16.1.5 The Environmental Framework was the subject of a public consultation in Spring 2016, the responses to which have helped shape the policies included in this section/chapter.

    16.1.6 In addition, the Council has produced a Design Guide, which sets out the key principles and standards to ensure all new development is of the highest quality.

    16.1.7 Chapter Two of the Guide shows how to embed green infrastructure, climate change, sustainability and the broader environmental principles covered in this chapter/section of the Local Plan into the design and development process in order to deliver well designed development. In addition to the policies set out in this chapter/section, developers should refer to the Design Guide for more detailed, practical advice on how these policy requirements can be included to improve the design quality of proposed developments.

    16.2 Green Infrastructure

    16.2.1 Green Infrastructure (GI) is the network of natural and semi-natural features, green spaces, rivers and lakes that intersperse and connect villages, towns and urban areas. Individually, these elements are GI assets, and the roles that these assets play are GI functions. 'Green infrastructure' covers biodiversity, landscape, the historic environment, access and accessible green space. 

    16.2.2 When well planned and provided for, GI has many wide ranging benefits.  These include supporting mitigation and adaptation to the impacts of climate change (extreme weather, flooding, drought and heatwaves), improve health and well being, facilitate stronger and more cohesive communities, support economic growth and investment, regenerate land and soften the impact of development and provide protection for, as well as enhancing biodiversity and natural habitats.  

    16.2.3 The planned GI network is set out in the GI Plans that cover Central Bedfordshire on a number of scales.  GI plans are based on the spatial analysis of existing assets for protection, and identification of opportunities to buffer, extend and create new resources across Central Bedfordshire, and linking across administrative boundaries.

    16.2.4 With regards to Central Bedfordshire, GI plans exist on a number of scales.  These include (ranging from large scale to smaller scale):

    • The strategic level Green Infrastructure Plan, covering the whole of Bedfordshire,
    • District level green infrastructure plans, which cover the former district authority areas of Mid Bedfordshire and South Bedfordshire, as well as Luton.
    • Parish and community green infrastructure plans.

    16.2.5 The approach to these plans is similar, but the difference is in the level of detail, and the level of community involvement which increases to the smaller scale plans, and the strategic overview, which decreases for the smaller scale plans.

    16.2.6 There are also plans for Green Wheels and Greenways, showing opportunities for using existing and new paths to create off road, multi-user accessible corridors, encircling one or more communities, linking areas of wildlife, heritage and landscape value.

    16.2.7 The Environmental Framework provides an overview of these green infrastructure plans and links to further information. The Council's Design Guide also includes information on how to link with, integrate and improve green infrastructure within developments.

    (12) Policy EE1 : Green Infrastructure

    Developments of new buildings must demonstrate a net gain in green infrastructure; linking, enhancing and extending existing green infrastructure assets, and creating new ones. The Council will be supportive of applications that have regard for green infrastructure plans, identifying existing green infrastructure assets, and opportunities for enhancing the green infrastructure network.

    High quality, multifunctional green infrastructure will be integrated within developments, incorporating sustainable urban drainage systems and enhancing biodiversity, landscape character, the rights of way network and design quality, and making provision for the ongoing and effective management of this green infrastructure.

    Existing green infrastructure of strategic importance, as identified in the Bedfordshire, and Mid and South Bedfordshire GI plans will be protected from development.

    Development proposals should also take account of Green Wheel and Greenway plans and Parish Green Infrastructure Plans, and consider how identified assets can be protected and enhanced, and for aspirations to be delivered by development.

    Development that adversely affects identified strategic green infrastructure assets, or adversely affects the future implementation of identified strategic green infrastructure projects will not be permitted.

    (15) 16.3 Enhancing biodiversity

    16.3.1 The Council's existing biodiversity and geodiversity assets provide the building blocks for the natural environment.  These features are integral parts of the high quality environment and surroundings that makes the area a desirable place to live and for businesses to operate.

    16.3.2 National planning policy places great importance to the protection and enhancement of these features. One of its objectives is to strive for net gains in biodiversity and increased connectivity of ecological networks.  This is further defined in Natural Environment White Paper, 'Making Space for Nature', which describes ecological networks, basing them on five components which are to be implemented at a landscape scale whilst working with existing land uses and economic activities.  This is summarised in more detail, along with information about national biodiversity policy and the local evidence base in the Environmental Framework.

    16.3.3 Development proposals should be designed around existing components of the ecological network. These include:

    • Sites of strategic or local importance for nature conservation;
    • Rivers and other water courses, drains and all other water bodies, such as wetlands and ponds;
    • Individual trees, woodland  and orchards;
    • Green/open space, including commons, parks and gardens, allotments, cemeteries, village greens, and any sites designated as Local Green Spaces;
    • Wildlife corridors, including hedgerows, ditches, disused railways, verges and identified networks of routes for pollinators(known as 'B-lines');
    • Post industrial land such as disused quarries and former landfill sites

    16.3.4 Development should be designed to integrate these features into the development site, and extend the network through improving, buffering and extending these features, and including new features such as:

    • Green features within the built environment, including street trees, green roofs and gardens;
    • Choice of landscaping design and species composition can enhance ecological networks, delivering net gains for biodiversity.
    • Integrated bat and bird boxes and hedgehog holes in fences;
    • Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS)

    16.3.5 Developers should refer to the Design Guide in preparing development proposals as this includes information on how to link with, integrate and improve biodiversity within developments.

    (7) Policy EE2 : Enhancing biodiversity

    Development proposals should provide a net gain in biodiversity through enhancement and creation of ecological networks by:

    • Incorporating existing and/or new biodiversity features within their design; and
    • Maximising opportunities to enhance and/or create links between ecological networks. Links should be created both on-site and, where possible, with nearby features.
    • Biodiversity features within a development need to be managed, monitored and maintained.

    Development proposals within, or in close proximity to, an ecological corridor should enhance the functionality and connectivity of the corridor.

    Development that would impact on the strategic ecological network causing fragmentation or otherwise prejudice its effectiveness will not be permitted.

    (12) 16.4 Nature conservation – Designated Sites and Protected Species

    16.4.1 Biodiversity and geodiversity assets are divided into statutory and non-statutory sites. Statutory sites are designated by Natural England and include, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), National Nature Reserves and Local Nature Reserves. Non-statutory sites include County Wildlife Sites and Local Geological Sites.

    16.4.2 The Council's Nature Conservation Strategy considers protected species and habitats across Central Bedfordshire.  It seeks to ensure their appropriate management and explores opportunities for enhancing the wildlife resource of our area.  Information about the Nature Conservation Strategy, as well as designated sites and protected species in Central Bedfordshire is set out in the Environmental Framework.

    16.4.3 Planning applications may need to include details about biodiversity and geological conservation. The Council's Biodiversity Checklist shows what information needs to be provided with an application.

    16.4.4 Developers must check for the presence of protected species on development sites and seek professional advice to ensure that their proposals safeguard any protected species identified.  Where the presence of protected species on development sites is likely, professional advice must be sought to ensure that proposals safeguard any protected species identified

    16.4.5 Other rare or endangered species should be taken into consideration with any development proposals. These include those species identified as of Principal Importance in the NERC Act.

    16.4.6 Site and species specific ecological surveys are an important part of assessing a planning proposal.  This information must therefore be provided when the planning application is submitted and cannot be provided later in the process through a planning condition or other mechanism.

    (12) Policy EE3 : Nature conservation

    Important habitats and sites of geological and geomorphological interest will be protected, maintained and enhanced.

    Up to date, comprehensive ecological information undertaken in accordance with industry guidelines will be required to support and inform development proposals that would affect sites for nature conservation, protected species, or species of habitats of principal importance demonstrating development will deliver a net gain.

    The Council will ensure that:

    • Development which will adversely affect SSSIs and NNRs would not be considered sustainable development and will be refused. 
    • Development would not be permitted that would adversely affect:
      • County Wildlife Sites,
      • Local Nature Reserves,
      • Local  Geological or Geomorphological Sites,
      • Protected species, or;
      • Species and habitats of principal importance.

    The assessment of adverse impacts will apply to potentially damaging development proposals both within and outside the designated area.  It will include the consideration of adverse cumulative effects with other existing or proposed development. Indirect effects, such as disturbance through increased recreational pressure can result from new development and require mitigation to prevent detrimental impacts to the ecological resource.

    16.5 (12) Woodlands, trees and hedgerows

    16.5.1 Woodlands, trees and hedgerows are key features within rural and urban environments.  They provide a range of ecosystem services, including flood mitigation, carbon sequestration, provision of low carbon fuel and timber, as well as contributing to landscape character and amenity, and the rural economy. and helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.  They provide they provide landmarks or 'stepping stones' between otherwise isolated habitats as well as being vital wildlife corridors and habitats in their own right.  Central Bedfordshire has a relatively low level of woodland and tree cover.  This limited resource is under threat from disease, development and climate change.

    16.5.2 Central Bedfordshire has a number of important tree collections, historic parklands and trees planted to commemorate events which contribute to present day character. Individual trees make a significant contribution within settlements and the countryside; the challenge is to ensure new trees planted as part of new development are chosen appropriately and managed to ensure longevity and value.

    16.5.3 The Council will develop a Tree Strategy to review the existing resource and identify threats and opportunities for enhancing and extending this.  

    Existing woodlands, trees and hedgerows, and their protection

    16.5.4 Ancient woodland, and aged and veteran trees are an irreplaceable resource that are protected from development in the NPPF. Construction close to, though not directly involving destruction of an ancient or semi ancient woodland, trees and hedgerows, can nevertheless still be damaging.  A minimum buffer of 15 metres should be maintained between the development boundary and the woodland edge.

    16.5.5 Some trees are protected through tree preservation orders (TPOs), and trees in conservation areas are also protected by law. However, these only cover only a tiny proportion of the valuable trees in Central Bedfordshire.  This does not mean that other trees are not locally valued or significant.

    16.5.6 The Council will use TPOs to protect threatened trees that make a valuable contribution to public amenity.  We will also work proactively with developers to ensure that protected trees are safeguarded from development, managed in accordance with good arboricultural practice, with full regard to public amenity, ecological and historical interests.

    16.5.7 The incorporation of existing hedgerows and individual trees, and their integration within the layout of new developments will be expected. This can bring benefits with regard to the immediate enhancement and contribution to the design and sense of place. Developers need to design the layout of sites at the earliest stage to allow sufficient space for these retained features to thrive; incorporating them into the public realm, and protecting them from root damage and changes to soil structure.

    16.5.8 Rural hedgerows important for their historic and biodiversity value receive protection through the Hedgerow Regulations 1997. If removal is proposed as part of a planning application then the impact on local heritage will be taken into account. The retention of hedgerows within development will maintain ecological and landscape connection, although it is essential that sufficient space is allowed for its future growth for maintenance.

    16.5.9 Where development may have an impact upon ancient woodland or veteran trees, applicants should refer to Natural England and the Forestry Commission's Standing Advice on Ancient Woodland and Veteran Trees and its associated Assessment Guide will be used where relevant.

    Designing trees into new developments

    16.5.10 In addition to the benefits detailed above, trees and hedgerows within developments have a vital role to play in helping to offset the potential effects of climate change, through shading, carbon storage, and reduction of pollutants, interception and storage of water.  They can also help integrate development and connect with the existing landscape framework. Opportunities should be taken to plant new large, long lived species of trees, which may be of exotic origin, to help build a diverse tree stock more able to withstand disease and climate change.

    16.5.11 Trees in the urban environment also make a significant contribution to character of townscapes and setting of built form by engendering a sense of interest and quality of place.  Avenue tree planting, feature trees at key points, groups and stands of beautiful trees in public open spaces, including car parks, can create remarkable and memorable spaces providing interest through the seasons. Trees and understorey shrubs in parks, neighbourhood copses, along boundaries and within private gardens create a green spatial structure within, and through, built development offering urban habitats for biodiversity and linking quiet tranquil green spaces benefitting health and wellbeing for all.

    16.5.12 Urban planting schemes should include a higher mix of native species especially along boundaries, and include native and ornamental flowering mixes to support wildlife, including pollinators. Care should be taken to avoid the use of species which may lead to the spread of non-native plants into the countryside.

    16.5.13 To assist developers, the Council has developed a Design Guide, which includes information on design considerations for trees that should be reflected in development proposals. The use of professional landscape architects to design and specify schemes is recommended. 

    16.5.14 The maintenance of new trees is critical for their long term success and all planting schemes need to be managed to ensure that they realise their design objective. Formative pruning, particularly of street trees, is an important aspect of achieving the high quality tree planting schemes expected within Central Bedfordshire.

    (13) Policy EE4: Trees, woodlands and hedgerows

    Protection of existing trees, woodlands and hedgerows:

    • Development that would adversely affect ancient woodland, and aged and veteran tress will not be permitted.
    • Woodlands, including semi- natural woodlands, planted ancient woodland sites, orchards, hedgerows, and specimen trees found outside woodlands will be protected from development wherever possible, including buffering as appropriate.
    • Existing hedgerows and trees should be integrated within developments, unless demonstrably inappropriate. The development should be designed to integrate them within the public realm, and within a suitable landscape setting to ensure longevity. Hedgerows and treed boundaries should be reinforced, safeguarded within green corridors and extended where possible to create linkage.
    • Any removal of trees or hedgerows to accommodate development must be justified, and should be replaced within the development site with appropriate planting of suitable species of equivalent scale and character, and providing equivalent canopy cover and habitat connectivity.
    • The Council will seek to safeguard protected trees from loss or detrimental major surgery. Any protected tree that is unavoidably destroyed must be replaced by a tree or trees suitable for the location.

    Developers will be expected to include new planting in developments, and the Council expects that:

    • New developments are designed to include significant tree features, as part of residential areas, commercial and employment sites, streets and car parks.
    • The layout of developments (including residential areas, roads, parking areas, and open spaces) is designed to provide sufficient space to enable these tree features to thrive.
    • Landscaping schemes will take account of local landscape character, and should consider climate change, ease of maintenance and ecological enhancement. They should include the use of ornamental species where appropriate. Care must be taken to avoid the introduction of Invasive Non Native Species into planting schemes.
    • New tree planting is designed within a green corridor of appropriate scale, as part of the site's public realm, transport network and green infrastructure, to improve ecological connectivity, enhance local character and create a sense of place, and mitigate and adapt to climate change.

    Any development that forms a rural edge will include a designed landscape boundary consisting of native tree and hedgerow planting consistent with the local landscape character.

    (18) 16.6 Landscape character and value

    16.6.1 The landscapes of Central Bedfordshire are highly valued by the people who live and work within them or use them for recreation. The Council recognises the value of the landscape as a resource for local economies, for the ecosystem services that are provided by the land, for the biodiversity they support, the recreational opportunities they provide, and as the setting for cultural heritage.

    Landscape Character

    16.6.2 Central Bedfordshire has a varied and distinctive landscape which has been described and classified in the Central Bedfordshire Landscape Character Assessment (LCA).

    16.6.3 The LCA process is an accepted and recognised method for understanding how the landscape evolved, how it may change in the future and how that change may be managed. LCA describes and classifies the recognisable and consistent pattern of features that makes one landscape different from another rather than better or worse. This approach considers that all landscapes are valuable and seeks to protect their essential character.

    16.6.4 The purpose of the LCA is to help ensure change and development is of the highest quality and does not undermine whatever defines and is valued about a place. It also advises on ways of improving character.

    16.6.5 The Central Bedfordshire LCA is the primary evidence base for planning purposes. Further information about Landscape Character in Central Bedfordshire is set out in the Environmental Framework.

    16.6.6 The Council will protect landscapes against inappropriate development and work to ensure new development is of a high quality that respects landscape character, including tranquillity. The LCA is critical in this process and particular note should be taken of the key sensitivities and the related development guidelines. Development proposals will be expected to include plans for landscape improvements in accordance with the findings of the LCA, and identify and respond to landscape character at the site level.

    16.6.7 This will apply to all landscapes, but particularly those accommodating major developments, the existing urban fringe, the built edge of other settlements and those along prominent transport corridors. Depending on the nature and/or scale of the proposals, improvements may be required on or adjacent to the development site or to contribute towards wider, strategic landscape enhancement in the affected areas.

    16.6.8 The Central Bedfordshire Design Guide has been produced to enable high quality 'placemaking', a critical element in achieving sustainable development. It sets out advice to allow developers to come up with good design solutions which respond positively to their surroundings including landscapes. The Design Guide should be used in conjunction with the LCAs in order to produce the best development for a specific location. This should include how the proposals will address the landscape and how it will provide landscape (and biodiversity) improvements, for example by protecting views or softening an inappropriate hard urban edge.

    Valued Landscapes

    16.6.9 Whilst all landscapes are important, some will have particular value where they exhibit the specific attributes and characteristic landscape features of a specific landscape character area, meaning it is considered representative of the landscape type or has characteristics which create a strong sense of place. These landscapes will typically contain features of biodiversity or geological value, and / or be of historic or cultural interest. The Council will consider landscapes that exhibit these features below as valued landscapes, and will protect them from adverse impacts. Value is increased if the landscape;

    • is particularly intact in terms of its character and the condition of individual landscape attributes and features;
    • is particularly valued for recreational use;
    • is a known viewpoint or forms part of a recognised vista/ local view;
    • is relatively rare or limited in it's extent, in terms of including rare attributes or landscape features;
    • has perceptual qualities/significance such as tranquillity, remoteness or natural condition;
    • contains characteristic buildings and other built features;
    • shows a characteristic pattern of planting structures (e.g. woodlands and hedgerows) that contribute to the character of the wider landscape;
    • has historical or cultural associations.

    16.6.10 Central Bedfordshire Council will explore working in partnership to identify landscapes of local value.


    (15) Policy EE5: Landscape Character and Value

    In order to safeguard intrinsic character, scenic beauty and perceptual qualities of the landscape such as tranquillity, all development proposals will need to have regard to the key characteristics and sensitivities of the site and its setting, as set out in the Central Bedfordshire Landscape Character Assessment.

    All major development proposals will be required demonstrate how they incorporate landscape enhancement, in accordance with the guidelines in the LCA, the Central Bedfordshire Design Guide and other relevant documents for specific areas e.g. the Chilterns AONB, Marston Vale Community Forest or the Greensand Ridge Nature Improvement Area. Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments will be expected as part of planning applications, including the assessment of local landscape character.

    Development will respect, retain and enhance the character and distinctiveness of the local landscape, through (for example)

    • Reflecting local character and distinctiveness in terms of the scale and pattern of the surrounding landscape and existing settlement form.
    • Integrating on site mitigation sympathetic to local character in scale with the landscape setting as well as the scale of the development.

    The Council recognises the importance of valued landscapes. Proposals that have an unacceptable adverse impact on valued landscapes will be refused.

    (8) 16.8 Tranquillity

    16.8.1 Tranquillity is associated with audible and visual peace and is a significant asset in urban and rural areas.  Tranquillity is not necessarily limited to remote areas, and can be comparative to location, character of space and surrounds. It can be found in many areas, from large scale tracts of open landscapes to small urban parks, garden oases and informal urban open spaces with a hint of wildness.

    16.8.2 Tranquillity can be significantly impacted on by intrusive movements, sights and sounds including those from transport, power lines and lighting.  It is a quality that is hard to re-instate once lost. Undeveloped horizons are becoming increasingly scarce as are natural soundscapes and dark skies at night.

    16.8.3 Tranquillity can support health and well being and be a key contributor to quality of life. Therefore ensuring tranquil spaces are available and accessible is vital.  Tranquillity is also an important component in the enjoyment of other features, including biodiversity, landscapes, and heritage assets.

    16.8.4 The NPPF states that planning policies and decisions should identify and protect areas of tranquillity which have remained relatively undisturbed by noise and are prized for their recreational and amenity value for this reason.

    16.8.5 The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) have commissioned a number of studies and produced maps showing tranquillity at a large, countrywide scale, including Central Bedfordshire. This highlights areas of tranquillity at a strategic scale. In addition to theses, there will also be more local areas of relative tranquillity in and around urban areas. Developments should consider how they would affect tranquillity, using existing tools such as Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment, Health Impact Assessment and ecological surveys to assess visual, noise and biodiversity impacts (e.g. on bats and invertebrates) respectively.

    16.8.6 The Environmental Framework summarises the local evidence base relating to tranquillity, including mapped information. Developers should use this local information to assess the impacts of their development on tranquillity, and to demonstrate how tranquil areas have been designed into their developments, for example through layout, screening, materials and habitat or open space creation. Further guidance will be produced in due course.

    (19) Policy EE6: Tranquillity

    The Council will:

    • Ensure that areas of high tranquillity at both strategic and community scales are protected, and that development that harms their recreational and amenity value is not permitted.
    • Require planning applications for both major residential developments and commercial developments to demonstrate how they have assessed the potential impact of their proposals on areas of high tranquillity, including visual intrusion, impact on biodiversity, lighting and noise. Such applications will be required to demonstrate how negative impacts have been avoided and any harmful impacts are adequately mitigated, having regard to the Council's Tranquillity SPD.
    • Require planning applications for new residential development of 100 dwellings or more to provide new or enhanced areas of tranquillity as part of proposals.

    Seek opportunities to enhance tranquillity of landscapes and townscapes, including removal of, or appropriate mitigation of, visually intrusive features, sources of disruptive noise and lighting.

    16.9 (4) Chilterns AONB

    16.9.1 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are the highest national landscape designation and are therefore subject to very robust protection. The National Planning Policy Framework paragraph 115 states that "great weight should be given to conserving the landscape and scenic beauty of the AONB, which with National Parks, have the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty." Further material about national policy and local information is set out in the Environmental Framework.

    16.9.2 The Chiltern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was designated in 1965 to protect and conserve scenic beauty and to encourage the understanding and enjoyment of the area's special qualities.

    16.9.3 The Chilterns Conservation Board has produced a management plan for the AONB which provides a framework within which local authorities, government and the Board itself operate. A Chilterns Building Design Guide has also been published and the Council expects any development proposals to take this fully into account. The Council will continue to support the management plan and provide protection against inappropriate development. This may, depending on the nature and scale of the proposals, include development outside of the AONB boundary which might threaten its unique qualities, for instance by harming views to and from the AONB and/or adding to noise and light pollution.

    16.9.4 Development proposals in the Chilterns or their setting should demonstrate how they have considered;

    • the Chilterns AONB's special qualities which include the steep chalk escarpment with areas of flower-rich downland, broadleaved woodlands (especially beech), commons, tranquil valleys, the network of ancient routes, villages with their brick and flint houses, chalk streams and a rich historic environment of hillforts and chalk figures;
    • the scope for enhancing and restoring those parts of the landscape which are degraded or subject to existing intrusive developments, utilities or infrastructure;
    • locally distinctive patterns and species composition of natural features such as chalk downland, trees, hedgerows, woodland, field boundaries, rivers and chalk streams;
    • the locally distinctive character of settlements and their landscape settings, including the transition between man-made and natural landscapes at the edge of settlements;
    • visually sensitive skylines, geological and topographical features;
    • landscapes of cultural, historic and heritage value;
    • important views and visual amenity, including key views from the steep north-west facing chalk escarpment overlooking the low clay vale, and foreground views back to the AONB; and
    • tranquillity and remoteness and the need to avoid intrusion from light pollution, noise, and motion.


    (7) Policy EE7: The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

    The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a nationally designated landscape and as such permission for major developments will be refused unless exceptional circumstances prevail as defined by national planning policy.

    Planning permission for any proposal within the AONB, or affecting the setting or appreciation of the AONB, will be restricted to proposals that:

    • conserve and enhance the Chiltern AONB's special qualities, distinctive character, tranquillity and remoteness in accordance with national planning policy and the overall purpose of the AONB designation;
    • are appropriate to the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the area or are desirable for its understanding and enjoyment;
    • meet the aims of the statutory Chilterns AONB Management Plan, making practical and financial contributions towards management plan delivery as appropriate;
    • comply with the Chilterns Building Design Guide and technical notes by being of high quality design which respects the natural beauty of the Chilterns, its traditional built character and reinforces the sense of place and local character;  
    • avoid adverse impacts from individual proposals (including their cumulative effects), unless these can be satisfactorily mitigated.    

    Developments in the Chilterns AONB and its setting should respond to the landscape character (having considered all the relevant landscape character assessments) and be informed by landscape and visual impact assessment to understand the impacts of the proposed development on landscape character, and what options for mitigating negative impacts are possible.

    16.10 (9) Greensand Ridge NIA

    16.10.1 The Government introduced Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) in its Natural Environment White Paper. These are large areas where there are opportunities to focus efforts and deliver significant improvements for wildlife and people.

    16.10.2 Within Central Bedfordshire there is currently one NIA covering the Greensand Ridge. The Greensand Ridge is a narrow, elongated, elevated area which runs in a north-east/south-west direction covering a significant part of Central Bedfordshire. It covers just over 27,300ha and forms Natural England's National Character Area 90. More information about the Greensand Ridge, and the Nature Improvement Area designation is provided in the Environmental Framework. The Council acknowledges that this Greensand Ridge NIA meets the required DEFRA criteria for locally designated Nature Improvement Areas, and recognises it as a Nature Improvement Area.

    16.10.3 It is not the intention to restrict development in the NIA by specifying types of development that may be appropriate, but rather to look for opportunities to enhance nature conservation through development. Growth and development in the NIA should make a lasting contribution to its valuable environment, supporting and benefiting the natural environment.

    16.10.4 The Greensand Ridge Nature Improvement Area is designated because of the opportunity it provides to support a better, stronger and more robust natural environment at a landscape scale. There is the opportunity to make significant improvements to the existing ecological network in terms of enlarging and enhancing existing wildlife assets and increasing ecological connectivity between them.

    16.10.5 The Greensand Ridge NIA contains a range of characteristic habitats, including;

    • Heathland and acid grassland
    • Wood pasture and parkland, including veteran trees
    • Woodland, including wet woodland
    • Neutral grassland
    • Wetlands

    (7) Policy EE8 : Greensand Ridge Nature Improvement Area

    Development within the NIA should:

    • Demonstrate how a net gain in biodiversity will be delivered, specifically identifying how gains in the quality and connectivity of ecological networks within and linking to the development will be delivered.

    • Enhance wildlife networks and increase ecological connectivity through buffering, extending and linking characteristic habitats (as listed above) both within and adjacent to developments.

    • Demonstrate how provision is made for species recovery and resilience.

    • Respect the topography and landscape of the NIA and be designed in such a way that it minimises visual impacts and protects local amenity.

    1.1.1 Provide opportunities for people to access and experience the NIA in a way that is sympathetic and sustainable towards existing habitats.

    (8) 16.11 The Forest of Marston Vale

    16.11.1 The Forest of Marston Vale is one of 12 nationally designated community forests created in the 1990s. It covers some 61 square miles and extends into Bedford Borough in the north and to the M1 in the south. It is a  strategic and regionally important environmentally led regeneration initiative providing social, economic and environmental benefits. The aim of the Forest of Marston Vale is to achieve 30% tree coverage in the Marston Vale.

    16.11.2 The purpose of community forests is to lead in the regeneration of a once degraded industrial landscapes, which, in the case of the Forest of Marston Vale means addressing the effects of the brick making industry.  The creation of the Forest is guided by the Forest Plan which sets out aims and objectives as well as principles and proposals to 2031. More information about the Forest of Marston Vale can be found in the Environmental Framework.

    16.11.3 The Council remains committed to the Forest of Marston Vale and its adopted Forest Plan. As set out in the NPPF, the Forest Plan will be a material consideration when evaluating planning applications. The Council therefore expects development proposals to demonstrate how they contribute to the delivery of the Forest Plan.  This will ensure that development contributes to the environmentally led regeneration of the Forest of Marston Vale area by ensuring that development delivers a net gain in environmental quality, creates the 'forested' sense of place and character set out in the Forest Plan, and brings economic, social and environmental benefits to the area.

    16.11.4 In line with the overall target of increasing tree cover to 30%, the Council expects that a range of opportunities for tree and woodland planting throughout development sites within the Forest area are explored through the design process. Development proposals should refer to more detailed guidance available from the Council on development and woodland creation in the Forest of Marston Vale.

    (11) Policy EE9: Forest of Marston Vale

    Central Bedfordshire Council will continue to support the creation of the Forest of Marston Vale to deliver the environmentally led regeneration of the area. Developments for new buildings within the Forest of Marston Vale will need to;

    • demonstrate how they will deliver 30% tree cover across their development site. This can be achieved by a combination of retaining and protecting existing trees, woodlands and hedgerows within development sites, and the planting of new trees, woodlands and hedgerows within development sites.
    • Contribute to the environmentally led regeneration of the Forest of Marston Vale, in line with the aims of the Forest Plan.

    Demonstrate how their proposals are consistent with design guidance for development within the Forest of Marston Vale.

    (6) 16.12 The Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Park

    16.12.1 The Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Park is a strategic project to link the main UK waterway network with the Fens waterways of East Anglia. This will be done through linking Bedford to Milton Keynes with a new waterway that is set within a multifunctional parkland corridor. It will provide an attractive location for businesses and a potential setting for housing growth, as well as a major tourism destination, an ecologically rich corridor and a space for recreation and healthy living. More detail about the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway Park is set out in the Environmental Framework.

    16.12.2 The Council is part of a consortium of eight organisations that have agreed to work together with the aim of delivering the Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Park.

    16.12.3 A guidance note (A Brief Guide to Space, Design and Other Technical Issues in providing for the Bedford Milton Keynes Waterway) should be referred to by developers, with development proposals demonstrating how the design of the Waterway Park to the standards and requirements referenced has been incorporated into the development proposals.

    (7) Policy EE10 : The Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Park

    Development on the route of the Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Park will be expected to deliver the section of the Waterway Park within the development boundary, incorporating a Waterway channel and 'towpath' for non-motorised users within a multifunctional green corridor.

    Development should be designed to relate positively to the Waterway Park, and should be designed to complement adjacent areas and sites along the route of the Waterway Park.

    Development that would adversely affect the implementation of the Waterway Park, or that does not provide accommodation for the Waterway and associated infrastructure will not be permitted.

    (5) 16.13 Public Rights of Way

    16.13.1 The public Rights of Way network offers people access to enjoy Central Bedfordshire's countryside and heritage and in the process improve their health and quality of life.  It also forms an intrinsic part of our overall transport network, providing valuable and safe access on foot and increasingly by cycle, to the wider countryside, places of employment, schools, shops and other local services and amenities. More information about the access network, and the Council's plans for its improvement can be found in the Environmental Framework. The Rights of Way network provides a key alternative to car use on journeys of less than five miles. The Council will ensure that Rights of Way are protected, enhanced and promoted.

    16.13.2 The Outdoor Access Improvement Plan details the routes for improvement and will provide the specific standards for how public rights of way affected by development are to be retained and enhanced. In addition, the Local Transport Plan, Leisure Strategy, Green Infrastructure Plans and other emerging policies, strategies and plans also provide information about access needs.

    16.13.3 There will be a need for improvements to the rights of way network affected by development proposals in order to encourage more walking and cycling through improved accessibility, surfacing and connectivity. Where the scale and location of development will require connections and/or lead to increased use by new and existing residents the Council will secure appropriate contributions from the applicants. Particular consideration will be given to achieving off-site local pedestrian and cycleway routes which connect development sites with open spaces, leisure/community uses and strategic access routes.

    16.13.4 At the earliest opportunity and as part of their planned development, applicants are required to record the route of any public rights of way affected by proposed development, and draw up then submit a Rights of Way Scheme for their improvement, accommodation or diversion in accordance with the Council's Rights of Way Standards and Guidance for Development.  This Rights of Way scheme should detail what is proposed for existing routes, including whether the paths are to be incorporated into the design or diverted, landscape proposals for the paths, and details regarding new routes and connections to the Rights of Way and access network. It must include details regarding how any Rights of Way are to be dealt with during construction.

    16.13.5 Details about standards and guidance for development are set out in CBC's 'Public Rights of Way: Standards and Guidance for Development' document, which provides detailed information on Rights of Way and the development process, what is expected from Rights of Way schemes, and design guidance. In addition to this guidance on Rights of Way on the Council's website, developers should refer to, in conjunction with the Design Guide, which provides information on design considerations for access routes that should be reflected in development proposals.

    (13) Policy EE11 : Public Rights of Way

    Developments should protect, enhance and promote the public rights of way network.

    Development proposals that affect any public right of way are considered to be any development proposal that includes a right of way within the site, or any major development proposal adjacent to an existing right of way. Such development proposals will need to submit a rights of way scheme that seeks to protect, enhance and promote the public rights of way network, with improvements where necessary to help restore and re-connect it, in line with the Council's 'Public Rights of Way – Standards and Guidance for Development' guidance.

    Where developments would increase the pressure on the rights of way network, contributions may be sought through planning obligations for measures to protect and enhance the rights of way network including the delivery of additional routes and improvements to existing public paths both on-site and off-site.

    (10) 16.14 Outdoor Recreation

    16.14.1 The NPPF identifies how the planning system can support the creation of healthy, inclusive communities by the provision of social, recreational and cultural facilities such as shared spaces, community facilities and sports venues. It highlights the needs for local authorities to undertake robust needs assessments to support policy for the provision and protection of leisure, sporting and recreational facilities. It also highlights that existing open space, sports and recreational land and buildings, including playing fields, should not be built on, unless clear criteria are met.

    16.14.2 Local authorities have a critical role in the delivery of sport, recreation and physical activity facilities and opportunities, and in ensuring more people from every background regularly take part in sport and physical activity. Central Bedfordshire Council will support the health of its residents by enabling them to be physically active through the provision of a range of leisure and sports facilities and green open spaces. A key part of this role is in protecting existing open spaces, and ensuring that new developments provide appropriate levels of open space for recreation and sport and the supporting facilities.

    16.14.3 To ensure the appropriate delivery of leisure, sport and recreation facilities Central Bedfordshire Council worked with partner organisations to produce the three facility chapters which comprise the Leisure Strategy. The Strategy encompasses the provision of indoor and outdoor sport, recreation and open space facilities to support and promote physical activity, increase wellbeing and tackle the causes of ill health.

    16.14.4 The Council recognises that sport and physical activities should be available to all, but that each person has different needs which may be addressed in different ways. The Leisure Strategy therefore incorporates a range of formal and informal sporting and open space facilities which aim to provide appropriate facilities and opportunities for the widest number of our residents

    16.14.5 The Leisure Strategy supports national policy through the assessment and delivery of facilities which provide equality of provision, increase people's wellbeing and create a fitter and healthier population and enhance the local environment. Chapter 2: the Recreational Open Space Strategy defines local standards for the provision of various types of open spaces, Chapter 3: Playing Pitch Strategy sets a space standard and facility requirements for outdoor sports pitches, courts and greens and Chapter 1: the Leisure Facilities Strategy covers indoor sports facilities such as leisure centres (refer to chapter x). More detail about the Leisure Strategy is provided in the Environmental Framework.

    16.14.6 The Leisure Strategy is supported by a Leisure Strategy GIS layer (database of maps) which maps all recreation and open space sites, and by a parish schedule for each settlement which lists existing leisure sites and identifies local facility needs.

    Recreational Open Space

    16.14.7 The NPPF addresses the importance that access to open space has for the health and wellbeing of the local population. It advises local authorities to set local standards for the provision of open space and recreational facilities based on a robust assessment of existing provision and future requirements.

    16.14.8 A range of high quality green spaces which are close to where people live are crucial in providing a setting for informal sport or physical activity.  Such spaces provide opportunities for physical activity for those unlikely to participate in formal sport, they enhance the appearance of the local area, provide play opportunities for children and young people, and deliver ecological benefits particularly in an urban environment.  The multiple benefits that can be derived from open spaces are being increasingly recognised. 'Being outdoors' itself is said to be more beneficial than playing a sport or doing an activity; as it is the environment which is delivers physical and mental benefits.

    16.14.9 Central Bedfordshire has a diverse range of open spaces which include formal parks, urban green corridors, informal green spaces, wildlife sites and links to the countryside, as well as local greenspaces and children's play areas.  These green spaces form an essential part of the quality and character of Central Bedfordshire, and will be protected and enhanced to ensure that the area remains an attractive place to live.

    16.14.10 The Council aims to ensure that open spaces are available within a short walking distance from peoples' homes and form 'stepping stones' on routes to key destinations such as schools and community facilities. Attractive open spaces complement development. They can be at a variety of scales and characters from civic parks and squares, village 'community' greens, sports and recreation open spaces, tranquil natural areas hosting habitats and wildlife, or offering adventure and natural play, to characterful pocket parks providing breathing spaces within higher density urban settings.

    16.14.11 Providing a range of spaces and activity opportunities, both formal and informal which are accessible to all, can increase interest and participation in recreation, be it active or passive. Accommodating a range of activities within an open space encourages varieties of people to visit and share spaces providing vital community cohesion and enjoyment.

    16.14.12 The Leisure Strategy Chapter 2: Recreational Open Space Strategy assesses the nine typologies of open space most commonly found in Central Bedfordshire and details the provision requirements to deliver both local and strategic open spaces. The space standards are summarised below, and details can be found in the Recreational Open Space Strategy.

    16.14.13 The types of open spaces covered by the Leisure Strategy Chapter 2 include a range of sorts and scales of open space. Many of these open spaces, particularly Countryside Recreation Sites and Informal Recreation Sites are also important for biodiversity. Indeed for many sites, such as nature reserves, ecological benefits are the primary purpose of the site, with recreation a potential added benefit. The Leisure Strategy therefore considers at the level of recreational benefit in relation to the ecological sensitivity of the site, enabling the standards below to set out sufficient provision of open spaces, including natural areas, for people to use and enjoy, without putting undue pressure on open space sites with sensitive environmental interests.

    Type of Open Space

    Quantity

    Countryside Recreation Sites

    3.19 ha per 1000 population

    Urban Parks

    0.22 ha per 1000 pop. Major Service Centres only

    0.39ha per 1000 pop. (Minor towns where/if required)

    Large Formal Recreation Areas

    1.20 ha per 1000 population

    Informal Recreation Areas

    2.6 ha per 1000 population

    Small Amenity Spaces

    0.55 ha per 1000 population

    Children's Play Spaces

    0.11ha per 1000 (activity area only). Plus buffer zone of 10-20m from nearest dwelling.

    Provision for Young People

    0.05ha per 1000 (activity area only). Plus buffer zone of 20-30m from nearest dwelling.

    Allotments

    0.37 ha per 1000 population (15 plots)

    Cemeteries and Churchyards

    2.03 burial plots per 1000 population

    16.14.14 To assist developers, the Council has developed a Design Guide, which includes information on how open spaces should be designed as part of development proposals.   Developers should refer to this as they work up and submit their proposals.

    Playing Pitches (Outdoor Sport)

    16.14.15 The detailed facilities assessment of current and future needs for outdoor playing pitches, courts and greens contained in Chapter 3: the Playing Pitch Strategy supports the provision of accessible and locally appropriate sporting facilities and opportunities which also help tackle physical inactivity as one of the primary causes of ill health.

    16.14.16 The Council will support the delivery of new, and the enhancement of existing outdoor sporting facilities to provide a varied range of sporting opportunities for its growing population. The standard for the provision of outdoor grass sports pitches is set out below, taken from the Leisure Strategy, Chapter 3: Playing Pitch Strategy.

    Type of Open Space

    Standard Per 1000 Population (Ha)

    Standard Per Person (Standard per 1000 / 1000) (Ha)

    Outdoor Sport

    1.25

    0.00125

    (9) Policy EE12: Outdoor sport, leisure and open space

    Central Bedfordshire Council will protect open spaces and outdoor sports facilities from development. Redevelopment of these sites for other purposes will only be appropriate in exceptional situations, in line with NPPF requirements.

    Where they are lost to development, equal or better replacement provision within a reasonable proximity of the original facility must be delivered by the developer, or a contribution provided to the council to re-provide the facility.

    On new residential developments, the Council will;

    • require the provision of open spaces and outdoor sports facilities in accordance with the Leisure Strategy standards and facility requirements.
    • require developments to provide open spaces and outdoor sports facilities on site unless this is demonstrably inappropriate or impossible.
    • Where the provision of open spaces and outdoor sports facilities is not on the development site, the developer will be required to provide, enhance and / or extend existing facilities in accordance with the Leisure Strategy requirements. Where the priority facility for improvement/extension is owned by Central Bedfordshire Council a contribution will be required from the developer to deliver the identified improvements

    Outdoor sports facilities which are to be delivered by the developer must be designed and constructed in accordance with Sport England facility guidance, together with the facility guidance of the relevant National Governing Body for Sport (NGB).

    Open spaces and outdoor sports facilities must provide a management scheme which details the future ownership, management and maintenance of the site. Where the asset is to be adopted by the local authority or town/parish council commuted sums will be paid for maintenance of the facility.

    On-site open space facilities and outdoor sports facilities must be designed in at an early stage to be an integral part of the development.

    On-site open spaces must be designed to complement proposals for green infrastructure, landscaping, ecological enhancement, and climate change adaptation. Potential recreational damage to Habitats of Principal importance and ecologically sensitive sites should be avoided through good design.

    (4) 16.15 Local Green Space

    16.15.1 The NPPF introduced the designation of 'Local Green Space'. These are areas where development is ruled out, apart from in very special circumstances. This designation will not be appropriate for most green areas or open spaces, and should only be applied where;

    • the green space is in reasonably close proximity to the community it serves;
    • the green area is demonstrably special to a local community and holds a particular local significance, for example because of its beauty, historic significance, recreational value (including as a playing field), tranquillity or richness of its wildlife, and
    • the green area concerned is local in character and is not an extensive tract of land.

    16.15.2 The Council supports the principle of designating Local Green Spaces through Neighbourhood Plans.

    (5) 16.16 Applications for Minerals and Waste Development

    16.16.1 The Council is fully committed to achieving higher standards of restoration of mineral extraction and landfill sites and changing public attitudes are also demanding these improving standards. Industry recognises the need for high quality restoration and safe and responsible management of minerals and waste management sites. Standards of restoration have generally improved in recent years although there remains scope for further improvement.

    16.16.2 One way of minimising development impact is to ensure that land taken for mineral and waste uses is restored at the earliest opportunity and that it is left in a safe state capable of sustaining an acceptable after-use. 'Amenity' is the general term for being able to enjoy the countryside, for example through recreation (e.g. angling, walking, water sports etc.) and nature conservation. On larger sites restoration will be required to be progressive in nature and to take place within a reasonable timescale, so that only a portion of the whole site is disturbed by mineral extraction or waste disposal operations at any one time.

    16.16.3 Applicants will normally be required to submit an aftercare scheme for a period of five years following restoration to ensure that the restoration scheme is maintained until it becomes naturally self-sustaining. In certain cases it may be appropriate to agree a shorter or longer period, depending on the nature of the restoration scheme.

    16.16.4 In a country with such a high proportion of good quality agricultural land – 34% of the agricultural land is classified as Grade 1 or 2 and 42% is Grade 3 (a and b) – the loss of such land to mineral extraction has been a major planning issue. In the past it was national policy to retain agricultural land in full production and to ensure that a minimum was lost to development. At a time of surpluses in agricultural production the need now is to foster diversification of the rural economy and to balance this against the continuing need to protect the countryside for its own sake without the special priority hitherto afforded to agriculture production. The Council will therefore have regard to the balance of environmental impacts and local economic benefits in determination of planning applications on BMV agricultural land, but will only grant permission where any loss of BMV land is clearly justified.

    16.16.5 Once land is lost to certain development it can be difficult to return it to agriculture. The best and most versatile land (Grades 1, 2, and 3a) is seen as a national resource to be protected from irreversible loss and the current agricultural surpluses are not accepted as an argument against restoring the best and most versatile land to its original quality.  The NPPF (paras 112 and 143) indicates  that where there is a choice between sites or different classifications, development should be diverted towards land of the lowest possible classification except where other sustainability considerations suggest otherwise. These might include biodiversity, landscape and amenity value, heritage interest or accessibility to infrastructure, local economic diversity, and the protection of natural resources.

    16.16.6 Certain forms of mineral and waste developments may attract large number of birds either unintentionally for example with respect to non-hazardous landfill sites or intentionally when sites are restored to a nature conservation use.  Proposals for sites which might have an impact on aviation safety will need to be rigorously assessed.

    16.16.7 The NPPF (paras 120, 121 and 143) make it clear that all development should take account of ground conditions and land instability in order to ensure that sites are suitable for its new use and that any uses do not have any  unacceptable adverse impacts on the natural and historic environment or human health.

    16.16.8 Finally, the operation of a mineral facility or waste facility may require the construction or erection of associated temporary and permanent buildings, plant and equipment (e.g. the storage of minerals and waste, minerals and waste processing/treatment equipment, construction of a haul road etc.). Permission will normally be granted for such operations where the developer can demonstrate the benefit of the development. When the ancillary development is no longer required or temporary planning permission expires, the site must be restored to its former use or to an improved scheme approved by the Council. Environmental control facilities required in connection with landfill sites such as boreholes for landfill gas and groundwater monitoring and landfill gas utilisation plant will be required beyond the period of landfill operations.

    (1) Policy EE13: Applications for Minerals and Waste Development

    The Council will require all proposals for non-permanent minerals or waste development to include the high quality restoration of the site within a reasonable timescale.  Opportunities for habitat creation should be considered and, where practical and desirable, provided in all restoration proposals. The MPA / WPA will support after uses which accord with the policies of the development plan.

    All proposals for minerals and waste development will, where relevant:

    • Include the high quality progressive reclamation and aftercare of the site;
    • Be limited to the duration of the main operation;
    • Be carried out in a manner which will preserve the long term agricultural quality of the land at the same or higher Agricultural Land Classification Grade as that preceding the development; or
    • Where it can be shown that no known suitable alternative site of lesser agricultural value is available, and that the loss of 'best and most versatile'  agricultural land is reduced as far as practicable and is clearly outweighed by other planning benefits of the proposal;
    • Include an assessment of ground stability conditions before and after completion of all site activities and demonstrate that there will not be any unacceptable adverse impacts;

    Include an assessment of the impact on aviation safety and demonstrate that there will not be an unacceptable adverse impact.

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