Core Strategy Issues & Options

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8. THEME 4: QUALITY IN THE BUILT AND NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

Key Issue:

8.1 How to meet the demands for housing, employment and associated infrastructure in ways that conserve and enhance the high quality natural, built and historic environments and, at the same time, respond to increasing climate change and energy conservation imperatives?

Context

8.2 At the national level, Planning Policy Statement 1 states that:

'Planning should facilitate and promote sustainable and inclusive patterns of urban and rural development by protecting and enhancing the natural and historic environment, the quality and character of the countryside and existing communities.' It adds that policies should 'seek to protect and enhance the quality, character and amenity value of the countryside and urban areas as a whole.'

8.3 The draft South East Plan states that the overall aim for the Sussex Coast includes "protecting and enhancing the environment and the quality of life for its residents". It also highlights wider environmental issues such as:

  • Bio-diversity
  • Air quality
  • Climate change
  • Coastal and river management
  • Energy efficiency and renewable energy
  • Design quality

8.4 Bio-diversity is the variety of all life and is essentially what supports life itself.Integrating bio-diversity considerations, including those relating to geological diversity, can help to ensure a sustainable approach to policy making.

8.5 Also very relevant to this are issues of air quality and climate change.Road transport is one of the main sources of air pollution; however, air pollutants are discharged into the atmosphere from a range of sources. Such pollutants include carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the main causes of climate change.

8.6 Responses to climate change will be heavily influenced and guided by European and national Government policies and statements.

8.7 Climate change can particularly affect coastal areas, with anticipated rises in sea level putting further strain on sea defences.

8.8 The Rother coastline contributes significantly to the character of the district. Its protection is the subject of the South Foreland to Beach Head Shoreline Management Plan.This is a long-term strategy to address the risks associated with coastal evolution to people and the developed, historic and natural environment in a sustainable manner.

8.9 Sea water quality in Rother is good with all amenity beaches meeting mandatory European standards.

8.10 National policy (PPG25) sets standards of protection for development against extreme flood events, which will also guide the location of new development.

8.11 Strategies for managing fluvial (river) flood risk are being prepared by the Environment Agency. These should take account of predicted increased "storminess".

8.12 The Renewables Obligation is the Government's main mechanism for supporting renewable energy. Renewable energy is an integral part of the Government's longer-term aim to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050. The Government has set a target of 10% of electricity supply to be from renewable sources by 2010.

8.13 'Planning Policy Statement 22 - Planning for Renewable Energy' states that 'Local Planning Authorities have an important role to play in the implementation of appropriate renewable energy schemes'. There have not yet been any commercial renewable energy schemes in Rother.

Plan 2: National Environmental Designations

Plan 2

8.14 As seen in 'Rother in Profile', Rother enjoys high quality built and natural environments, which have evolved over time, and give us the beauty of the rural and coastal landscapes and the built heritage that is in evidence today.

8.15 Much of Rother falls within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is thereby of national landscape importance.

8.16 The draft South East Plan states that 'Priority should be given to conservation and enhancement of natural beauty in the region's AONBs', and that the emphasis should be on small-scale proposals that are sustainably designed and located. In addition, the countryside outside nationally designated areas should also be protected and enhanced.

8.17 A natural feature of the District worthy of a specific reference is its significant extent of tree cover, amounting to approximately 19% of the District. This contributes to the character of the natural landscape and helps provide habitat for fauna and flora.

Plan 3: Ancient Woodland

Plan 3

8.18 Both national and regional policies also look to respect the built and historic environments. Locally, the historic and architectural heritage contributes much to overall environmental quality.

8.19 Towns and villages have grown up over a period of time, and display a particular relationship with their surroundings. The pattern, form, appearance and use of buildings and the materials of their construction are peculiar to the location and contribute to the unique sense of place, cultural identify and local distinctiveness.

Government's planning policy for AONBs (in Planning Policy Statement 7) states:

'Nationally designated areas including Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), have been confirmed by the Government as having the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty. The conservation of the natural beauty of the landscape and countryside should therefore be given great weight in planning policies and development control decisions in these areas. The conservation of wildlife and the cultural heritage are important considerations in all these areas.As well as reflecting these priorities, planning policies in LDDs (Local Development Documents) and where appropriate, RSS (Regional Spatial Strategies), should also support suitably located and designed development necessary to facilitate the economic and social well-being of these designated areas and their communities, including the provision of adequate housing to meet identified local needs. Major developments should not take place in these designated areas, except in exceptional circumstances.'

8.20 Research has suggested that people's views of new development are very much linked to their perception that it is often "out of keeping" with the locality.

Strategy Directions

8.21 National legislation and policies provide the basis for setting the environmental parameters for development.

8.22 In particular, they will set the national policy response to challenges of climate change and energy conservation. Even so, local polices will have a part to play.

8.23 In meeting the scale of development required by the South East Plan up to 2026, it will be a challenge for the Core Strategy to successfully produce a policy framework to ensure that the qualities of the built and natural environments are preserved and enhanced.

8.24 In terms of bio-diversity, specific protection is afforded to the District's nationally and internationally designated nature conservation sites, whilst other sites are also identified for their more local importance.

8.25 Ways that air quality and climate change can be positively tackled may be by:

  • requiring land use patterns that reduce the need to travel by car
  • ensuring that new buildings have long-term sustainable futures through their design and location
  • promoting resource and energy efficiency in developments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from construction and use

8.26 In terms of the management of coastal and river processes, a Shoreline Management Plan has recently been approved by the Environment Agency. Although not a statutory document, it is a sound basis for current land use planning. It will be reviewed on a five-yearly basis.

8.27 It is also preparing 'Catchment Flood Management Plans', that aim to identify and agree long-term sustainable policies and solutions to manage flood risk. Again, these will provide key inputs to the Core Strategy.

8.28 The Core Strategy is an opportunity to integrate renewable energy generation into the local planning framework, such as providing for renewable energy production within new development or allowing for, for example, passive solar gain. Some authorities have set specific targets for on site generation. Policies for renewables may also relate to individual schemes. Examples of renewable energy technologies include on and off shore wind power, photovoltaics, geo-thermal water heating, passive solar and biomass.

8.29 Existing national and local guidance recognises that policies on design can help mitigate against declining environmental quality, and also encourage development to respond to their local context and create or reinforce local distinctiveness.

8.30 This may be assisted by research for the High Weald AONB, together with an up-dated landscape assessment by East Sussex County Council.

8.31 Such studies both identify the features that make Rother distinctive in landscape terms, and can inform more detailed planning policies for particular developments.

8.32 The new requirement that Design and Access statements accompany many planning applications will assist in assessing how the local context and good design principles are reflected in development proposals.

(50) Question 7 - How should we meet the demands for housing, employment and associated infrastructure in ways that conserve and enhance the high quality natural built and historic environments and, at the same time, respond to increasing climate change and energy conservation imperatives?

In considering this, you are invited to comment specifically on:

  • What aspects of the environment contribute most to local quality of life?
  • In what respects does environmental quality need improving?
  • What are the most appropriate ways to manage flood risk?
  • How important is it to require more sustainable buildings (e.g. by ensuring that developments incorporate renewable energy and energy/water efficiency features)?
  • What forms of renewable energy are most appropriate for Rother?
  • How important is reinforcing the District's architectural heritage when consideringnew building design?
  • What scope is there for modern innovative designs in new buildings?
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