VALP Proposed Submission
9 Natural Environment
9.1 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) are hugely important to AVDC as these are sites of national importance for flora, fauna, geological and physiographical (landform) features. They are statutorily protected from harm under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Proposed development that has an adverse effect on a SSSI, whether individually or in combination with other developments, will not normally be permitted.
9.2 There are a significant number of sites of ancient woodland in the district across many parishes. Notable are woods at Whitfield, Sheephouse, Balmore, Foxcote, Stratford, Doddershall, Broadway/Thrift, Tittershall, Boarstall, Work/Shabbington/Oakley, Hell's Coppice and Salden. Ancient woodland will be accorded the same level of importance as SSSIs, as it comprises a number of woodland habitats that are a national priority for improvement under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Ancient woodland and trees are irreplaceable. As such, the opportunities for mitigation under criterion (b) of the policy are extremely limited, and planning permission is likely to be refused for development that would result in the loss or harm of ancient woodland or trees. Where the Council becomes aware of ancient trees not previously identified and under threat from development, a tree preservation order will be likely to be imposed.
9.3 Local geological sites, being of regional significance, are also accorded a high degree of importance. The district has 14 such sites, and in terms of size the most significant are Brill Hill, College Lake, the Ridgeway Complex, Ivinghoe Beacon to Inchcombe Hill and Wendover Woods. Any development proposal that adversely impacts upon one of these sites would need to be extremely well justified.
9.4 Local nature reserves are places with wildlife or geological features that are of special interest locally. There are local nature reserves at Buckingham (Buckingham Sand Pit, Coombs Quarry) and at Haddenham (Snakemoor). Development proposals adversely affecting a local nature reserve will be considered on a case-by-case basis, according to the amount of information available about the site and its significance, relative to the type, scale and benefits of the development being proposed and any mitigation. Any mitigation strategy will need to include co-operation with the nature reserve managers.
9.5 Where significant adverse impacts are likely on protected sites, planning permission is likely to be refused unless there are exceptional circumstances where the advantages to the protected site and the local community clearly outweigh the significant adverse impacts. In that case, the Council will consider the wider implications of any adverse impact to a protected site, such as its role in providing a vital wildlife corridor, mitigating flood risk or ensuring good water quality in a catchment.
NE1 Protected sites
Development proposals that would lead to an individual or cumulative significant adverse impact on SSSIs, or irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland or ancient trees the Council will be refused unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated and that the impacts to the site are clearly out weighed by the benefits of the development.
Sufficient information must be provided for the Council to assess the significance of the impact against the importance of the protected site and the species which depend upon it. This will include the area around the protected site. Planning permission will be granted only where:
- the benefits of the development at this site clearly outweigh any adverse impacts on the protected site and the ecosystem services it provides
- development has followed a mitigation hierarchy of avoid, then mitigate if avoidance cannot be achieved - then compensate/offset if mitigation cannot be achieved. Avoidance will require the applicant to demonstrate that the development could not be located in an alternative, less harmful location.
Biodiversity and geodiversity
9.6 The VALP seeks to conserve and enhance the district's biodiversity through the protection and improvement of the terrestrial and water environments and fauna and flora, relative to their importance. The district geodiversity will also be protected, commensurate with the value and importance the site has.
9.7 The Aylesbury Vale Green Infrastructure Strategy 2011-26 was agreed by a consortium of stakeholders including AVDC. It seeks to ensure that high quality green infrastructure (GI) is delivered which is accessible, attractive, and which conserves and enhances the district's special natural and historic environment, its wildlife and its landscape. GI offers the opportunity to engage with the community to build a strong sense of place, and to achieve cohesion between new and existing settlements. GI has an important role in providing a wide range of formal and informal health and recreational benefits at little or no cost to its users, by delivering economically sustainable GI. Strategic Principle 3 of the strategy is that GI should maintain and enhance biodiversity and ensure that development and its implementation results in a net gain of biodiversity as identified in biodiversity action plan habitats and species plans.
9.8 Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), including the 2009 update Forward to 2020, identifies the key principles and goals that planning decisions must take into account. The BAP's aim is to retain, protect and where possible enhance biodiversity now and in the future. For biodiversity in Aylesbury Vale district to be supported sustainably, it needs to be meaningfully integrated into land management beyond protected sites and sites managed for wildlife. Biodiversity opportunity areas are the key areas in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes for the restoration and creation of priority habitat. They are the most important areas for biodiversity in the district and represent a targeted landscape scale approach to conserving biodiversity, and the basis for an ecological network and biodiversity improvement areas as defined in the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Biodiversity Action Plan Forward to 2020.
9.9 The district supports a rich variety of natural habitats and species. Many of these are of regional and national significance. Part of the district south of Pitstone is in the internationally designated Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The Council expects that the planning system should contribute to the conservation and enhancement of these, and to the ecological systems that support them. In accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), development policies will seek to maximise the benefits of planning decisions to biodiversity, within the context of sustainable development.
9.10 Local wildlife sites (LWS) and biological notification sites (BNS) are non-statutory designated sites that occur within Buckinghamshire. There are over 200 LWSs in the district and 186 BNSs. There are also many non-designated sites that conform to the definition of priority habitat, as defined by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC) 2006. These are of varying degree of importance for nature conservation and receive varying degrees of protection as set out in the Act.
9.11 The Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Environmental Record Centre (BMERC) holds records of all known sites of nature conservation value in Buckinghamshire. There are also many known sites of critical importance to species of national and international importance, such as bat roosts. Records of these are held by BMERC and/or specialist recording groups.
9.12 Local geological sites, being of regional significance, are also accorded a high degree of importance. The district has 14 such sites, and in terms of size the most significant are Brill Hill, College Lake, the Ridgeway Complex, Ivinghoe Beacon to Inchcombe Hill and Wendover Woods. Any development proposal that adversely impacts upon one of these sites would need to be extremely well justified.
9.13 The Council will consider planning applications for development affecting any of these sites against criteria weighted according to their ecological status and protection within a local, national and international status. Their local context is particularly important. Therefore, a particular habitat or species may be nationally frequent but extremely rare locally, or nationally scarce and locally frequent. Examples of this include native black poplar, water vole, otter or Bechsteins bat. Development affecting any of these sites or species is expected to result in appropriate mitigation and where possible a net gain to their area or populations.
9.14 Many species are entirely dependant on human habitation for their reproductive success. Modern housing standards virtually eliminate opportunities for these species. Consequently where appropriate, features for biodiversity within development will be expected. Simple inexpensive measures can result in significant gains and these are listed in Appendix 2 of the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Natural Environment report Vision and Principles for the Improvement of Green Infrastructure in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes (September 2016). These measures, if required, are expected to be permanent in order to deliver meaningful ecological gain and protection. Therefore these features will be expected to be built into suitable structures rather than provided as vulnerable, isolated and temporary boxes.
9.15 Developments will also be expected to include a variety of forms of biodiversity within built development, such as street trees, wildflower rich verges and swales, living roofs and walls, hedgerows, and sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) designed to enrich biodiversity.
9.16 Bat populations are particularly sensitive to development that severs or disturbs movement corridors. Where appropriate, flight corridors should be identified and protected or enhanced to ensure the ecological functionality of bat populations. Examples of suitable measures include green bridges, underpasses or tunnels that are situated on the exact traditional routes of bat populations and free from disturbance. Appropriate lighting schemes are also important to ensure bat movement corridors remain dark.
9.17 In order to achieve criterion (a) of the policy below, a supplementary planning document (SPD) will be prepared, working with the other Buckinghamshire councils, on a mechanism to achieve 'no net loss and net gain'. The SPD will consider the possibilities of adopting a biometrics calculator to quantify gains and losses and consider the threshold of development this should apply to , how the system will be managed and monitored.
NE2 Biodiversity and geodiversity
Protection and enhancement of biodiversity, geodiversity and the natural environment will be achieved by the following:
- On greenfield sites, a net gain in biodiversity will be sought and on other sites no net loss and a net gain where possible in biodiversity will be sought by protecting, managing, enhancing and extending existing resources, and by creating new resources. These gains must be measurable using best practice in biodiversity and green infrastructure accounting and in accordance with any methodology set out in a future Supplementary Planning Document
- If significant harm resulting from a development cannot be avoided (through locating on an alternative site with less harmful impacts), adequately mitigated, or as a last resort, compensated for, then development will not be permitted. Mitigation, compensation and enhancement measures must be secured and should be maintained in perpetuity
- Internationally important sites and species will be protected. Avoidance of likely significant adverse effects should be the first option. Development likely to affect the Chiltern Beechwoods SAC international site will be subject to assessment under the Habitat Regulations and will not be permitted unless adverse effects can be fully mitigated
- Development on or likely to have an adverse effect on sites of nationally important sites, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest will not normally be permitted. Where an adverse effect on the site's notified special interest features is likely, an exception should only be made where:
- the benefits of the development at the site significantly and demonstrably outweigh both the impacts that it is likely to have on the features of the site that make it of special scientific interest and any broader impacts on the national network of Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and
- the loss can be mitigated and compensation can be provided to achieve a net gain in biodiversity/geodiversity.
- Development which would result in damage to or loss of a site of biodiversity or geological value of regional or local importance including habitats of principal importance or the habitats of species of principal importance will not be permitted except in exceptional circumstances where the need for, and benefits of the development significantly and demonstrably outweigh the harm it would cause to the site, and the loss can be mitigated and compensation provided to achieve a net gain in biodiversity/geodiversity
- The Council will, where appropriate, expect ecological surveys for planning applications to be undertaken by a suitably qualified person and consistent with nationally accepted standards (BS 42020:Biodiversity – Code of Practice for planning and development) as replaced
- When there is a reasonable likelihood of the presence of protected or priority species or their habitats, development will not be permitted until it has been demonstrated that the proposed development will not result in a negative impact on these species or their habitats
- Development proposals will be expected to promote site permeability for wildlife and avoid the fragmentation of wildlife corridors, incorporating features to encourage biodiversity, and retain and where possible enhance existing features of nature conservation value on site. Existing ecological networks should be identified and maintained to avoid habitat fragmentation, and ecological corridors including water courses should form an essential component of green infrastructure provision in association with new development to ensure habitat connectivity
- Planning conditions/obligations will be used to secure no net loss and net gains in biodiversity where possible by helping deliver Bucks and MK Biodiversity Action Plan targets in the biodiversity opportunity areas. On greenfield sites, the Council is seeking to achieve a net gain in biodiversity. Where development is proposed within or adjacent to a biodiversity opportunity area biodiversity surveys and a report will be required to identify constraints and opportunities for biodiversity enhancement. Development which would prevent the aims of a biodiversity opportunity area being achieved will not be permitted. Where there is potential for development, the design and layout of the development, planning conditions or obligations will be used to secure biodiversity enhancement to help achieve the aims of the biodiversity opportunity area. A monitoring and management plan will be required for biodiversity features on site to ensure their long-term suitable management (secured through planning condition or Section 106 agreement).
River and stream corridors
9.18 The river network of Aylesbury Vale has considerable ecological and amenity value and the Local Plan should include policy to ensure the protection and enhancement of its watercourses (see Forward to 2020 Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Biodiversity Action Plan, 2014).
9.19 A watercourse advice note for Aylesbury Vale is in the process of being produced by a partnership of organisations including, amongst others, Aylesbury Vale District Council, Buckinghamshire County Council and the Environment Agency. The advice note will guide planning applications in line with the following policy.
NE3 River and stream corridors
Development proposals must not have an adverse impact on
the functions and setting of any watercourse and its
associated corridor. They should conserve and enhance the
biodiversity, landscape and consider the recreational value
of the watercourse and its corridor through good design.
Opportunities for de-culverting of watercourses should be
actively pursued. Planning permission will only be granted
for proposals which do not involve the culverting of
watercourses and which do not prejudice future
opportunities for de-culverting. Development proposals
adjacent to or containing a watercourse shall provide or
retain a 10m ecological buffer (unless existing physical
constraints prevent) from the top of the river bank and the
development, and include a long-term landscape and
ecological management plan for this buffer.
Nationally important landscape
9.20 The Chilterns were designated as a nationally important landscape in 1965 by the Government in recognition that the Chilterns countryside is amongst the finest in England and Wales. The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) forms part of a continuous landscape from Central Bedfordshire to South Oxfordshire and encompasses the landscape in the vicinity of Wendover and Pitstone/Edlesborough within Aylesbury Vale. The main purpose of designation is to conserve beauty which includes protecting flora, fauna and geological features as well as the overall landscape.
9.21 AVDC, as a member of the Chilterns Conservation Board, endorses the Chilterns Conservation Board Management Plan 2014-19. The management plan sets a comprehensive vision for the management of the AONB (beyond just town planning) and provides a policy framework for achieving it. Specific policies and guidelines produced by the shadow Chilterns Conservation Board may, if appropriate (such as the Chilterns Building Design Guide), be adopted by AVDC, or as a group of councils, as supplementary planning documents.
9.22 AVDC engaged Land Use Consultants (LUC) in early 2015 to advise on the policy approach for landscape in VALP and they recommended having a specific policy on development in the AONB and how its national significance requires a different approach to assessing proposals affecting other landscapes.
9.23 A considerable extent of the southeast of the district around Aylesbury, Stoke Mandeville Weston Turville, Wendover, Aston Clinton, and south of Cheddington has views from public vantage points to the Chilterns AONB and its setting. There is no defined boundary to the 'setting' for the purposes of the VALP – a judgement will need to be made at the time a planning application is made.
9.24 A two-tiered approach to this policy is proposed as major developments are likely to have more wide-ranging impacts on the AONB.
9.25 Most of the AONB is also Green Belt and therefore Policy S4 applies.
NE4 The Chilterns AONB and setting
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.
Proposals for any major development affecting the AONB must demonstrate they:
- conserve and enhance, in accordance with criteria f-m below, 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 is desirable for its understanding and enjoyment
- , making practical and financial contributions as appropriate; within the AONB areas, meet the aims of the statutory Chilterns AONB Management Plan
- within the AONB area, have had regard to 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, and
- avoids adverse impacts from individual proposals (including their cumulative effects), unless these can be satisfactorily mitigated.
In the case of major developments, actions to conserve and enhance the AONB shall be informed by landscape and visual impact assessment, having considered all relevant landscape character assessments, and shall focus upon:
- 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 from public vantage points, 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, remoteness and the need to avoid intrusion from light pollution, noise, and transport.
Any other (non-major) development can also have an impact on the AONB and its setting and will be required to meet criteria a., d. and e. above.
Landscape character and locally important landscape
. That said, of the locally significant landscape, the areas of attractive landscape (AALs) are of the greatest significance followed by the local landscape areas (LLAs).9.26 All the landscape in the district is considered to have character and particular distinctive features to be conserved, positive characteristics to be enhanced and detracting features to be mitigated or removed. The 2008 landscape character assessment (LCA) is the primary evidence base which divides the entire landscape (beyond towns and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) into landscape character areas and landscape character types. The assessment sets out landscape conservation guidelines for each landscape character area. Therefore all the landscape in the district is considered to have innate 'value' as referred to in the National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF)
9.27 In early 2015, AVDC engaged the consultants Land Use Consultants (LUC) to review the 2008 LCA, update it in light of major developments since 2008, and consider its conformity with the NPPF. The evidence base was considered to be a valid basis to develop a policy approach and a specific policy approach was recommended to note landscape character across the district and special qualities and differences between character areas and character types.
9.28 Areas of attractive landscape (AALs) were first designated in the Buckinghamshire County Structure Plan 1979 and in successive plans through to the Aylesbury Vale District Local Plan (AVDLP) (2004). Local landscape areas (LLAs) were designated by AVDC in the 1990s and carried forward into AVDLP in 2004. Neither of these designations are seeking to resist development in principle, unless regard has not been given to distinctive features and key characteristics of the AALs and LLAs.
9.29 LUC carried out a criteria-based assessment of all AALs and LLAs, applying a nationally-accepted methodology to what influences landscape value. This evidence base 'defining the special qualities of local landscape designations in Aylesbury Vale District' has been published as a final report following stakeholder engagement in August 2015 and public engagement in October-December 2015. The study concludes at paragraph 4.2:
9.30 'Most of the areas of attractive landscape (AALs) have stronger special qualities and are relatively higher in landscape value in comparison to the local landscape areas (LLAs), which are generally smaller scale locally valued features. The LLAs generally do not contain so many nationally significant natural or cultural designations, and they are typically less memorable or distinctive than the AALs. It may therefore be useful to retain the hierarchy of AALs and LLAs in order to distinguish the most valued landscapes from those that are not so greatly valued although still considered worthy of designation.'
9.31 AVDC has accepted the recommendations of LUC on which AALs and LLAs have the greater value (following criteria based assessment of each sub area) and together with the support for locally designated landscapes received in response to the VALP Issues and Options consultation, designate new AALs and LLAs.
9.32 AVDC intends to review the 2008 LCA to take place relatively early in the VALP plan period. The LUC study of 2015 did not include primary on-site fieldwork.
NE5 Landscape character and locally important landscape
To ensure that the district's landscape character is maintained, development must have regard to the 2008 LCA (as amended 2015 and any future review). Development must recognise the individual character and distinctiveness of particular landscape character areas set out in the assessment, their sensitivity to change and contribution to a sense of place. Development should consider the role of the landscape character area and meet all of the following criteria:
- be grouped where possible with existing buildings to minimise impact on visual amenity
- be located to avoid the loss of important on-site views and off-site views towards important landscape features
- reflect local character and distinctiveness in terms of settlement form and field pattern, topography and ecological value
- Carefully consider spacing, height, scale, plot shape and size, elevations, roofline and pitch, overall colour palette, texture and boundary treatment (walls, hedges, fences and gates)
- minimise the impact of lighting to avoid blurring the distinction between urban and rural areas, and in areas which are intrinsically dark and to avoid light pollution to the night sky
- ensure that the buildings and any outdoor storage and parking areas are not visually prominent in the landscape
- not generate an unacceptable level and/or frequency of noise in areas relatively undisturbed by noise and valued for their recreational or amenity value
The first stage in mitigating impact is to avoid the identified harmful impact. Where it is accepted there will be harm to the landscape character, specific on-site mitigation will be required and, as a last resort, compensation will be required as part of a planning application. Applicants must consider the enhancement opportunities identified in the LCA and how they apply to a specific site.
The Policies Map defines areas of attractive landscape (AALs) and local landscape areas (LLAs) which have particular landscape features and qualities considered appropriate for particular conservation and enhancement opportunities. Of the two categories, the areas of attractive landscape have the greater significance. Development in AALs and LLAs should have particular regard to the character identified in the report 'Defining the special qualities of local landscape designations in Aylesbury Vale District' (Final Report, 2016) and the LCA (2008). Development that adversely affects this character will not be permitted unless appropriate mitigation can be secured. Where permission is granted, the Council will require conditions to best ensure the mitigation of any harm caused to the landscape.
Pollution, noise, contaminated land and air quality
9.33 The Council will ensure that no development creates or triggers unacceptable levels of pollution and land instability that could impact on human health, property and the wider environment, including environmental designations. Consideration must be given to adopting environmental best practice measures in all cases.
Light, noise and odour pollution
9.34 Although appropriate lighting may help to enhance community safety and reduce the fear of crime, caution must be taken to ensure that lighting only illuminates the intended areas or structures and does not negatively impact surrounding areas.
9.35 Consideration will be given to the impact of the proposed lighting on the natural environment and the effect on wildlife. Lighting within and around any development is expected to respect the ecological functionality of wildlife movement corridors. Certain species of invertebrate and mammal are highly sensitive to inappropriate lighting. In these circumstances, surveys are expected to determine where these wildlife movement corridors are and measures put forward that demonstrate how these will be protected and enhanced.
9.36 Similarly, the effects of noise on amenity can be limited by separating noise-sensitive development such as homes, schools and hospitals from major noise sources. In cases where separation is not possible, the impact of noisy development and vibration on ambient noise levels should be assessed, for example by an environmental assessment, using the best available techniques and relevant technology and design guidance. This assessment will be relative to the scale of development being considered. Inconvenience can also be caused to local residents by late night opening, odours from cooking bars, restaurants and similar facilities.
9.37 It is important to stress that in addition to development proposals potentially having pollution impacts that require mitigation, applicants need to consider the impact of existing sources of pollution on proposed development (for example, proposals for residential development adjacent to railway lines, and associated noise and vibration impacts). As such, necessary supporting survey information will be required as appropriate.
9.38 There are considerable health benefits related to the improvement of air quality through the reduction of air pollution in the district. The Council's annual status report has identified that road traffic is the main source of air pollution in the district. These are mostly in roads with a high flow of buses and/or HGVs, and junctions. The pollutants of greatest concern in the district are nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, although other pollutants such as carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide can also impact on health at high concentrations.
) will need to submit an air quality impact assessment to the Council. This needs to demonstrate how the proposal would impact on local air quality, whether the proposed use is appropriate, and how it would avoid, reduce and mitigate local pollutant emissions. Where appropriate, planning conditions or Section 106 agreements will be sought to minimise harmful air quality impacts arising from development.9.39 All development proposals which may cause significant impact on air quality directly or indirectly within air quality management areas (AQMAs
9.40 Nitrogen oxides from both industrial and vehicle emission can have a significantly detrimental effect on wildlife habitat. Therefore any large development needs to be carefully assessed through monitoring and air quality impact assessments prior to planning application determination.
9.41 Presence of contamination may affect or restrict the use of land, but equally development may address the issue for the benefit of the wider community, and bring the land back into beneficial use. In determining whether land contamination is an issue when assessing a planning application, the Council will consider a range of information sources including its database of past industrial and commercial land uses, information provided by developers and third parties, statutory guidance, historic maps, and the Council's contaminated land strategy.
9.42 In April 2000, Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990 came into force, introducing a new regime for the regulation of contaminated land in England. The main purpose of Part IIA is to provide a system for the identification of land that is posing unacceptable risks to health or the environment, and for securing remediation where unacceptable risks cannot be controlled by other means.
9.43 Although most developments are rural in nature, there is development built on previously developed land, some of which may formerly have been employment land of an industrial or commercial nature, and may therefore be affected by contamination and require further investigation. The term 'contaminated land' describes land polluted by, for example heavy metals and hydrocarbons, all of which may harm soils, fauna, flora, water resources and construction components.
9.44 Redeveloping such land provides an opportunity to remediate the site of any contamination, so that any threat to health, the environment and the structure itself is removed. The assessment and remediation of contaminated land is complex, with each site being judged specifically to make it fit for end use. When carrying out an assessment, interested parties should take into account guidance set out in the Council's Technical Guide for Planning Applicants and Developers. This document provides a guide for developers on how to deal with land contamination and what information should accompany a planning application for the development of affected sites. It should also be read in conjunction with DEFRA and the Environment Agency's Model Procedures for the Management of Land Contamination (CLR11) and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
9.45 It is essential that a contaminated land assessment is carried out by a competent person and in accordance with BS10175 (2011) Code of Practice for the Investigation of Potentially Contaminated Sites. Where there is evidence of contamination, remedial measures will need to be specified to ensure the development will not pose a risk to human health, and where appropriate, improve the wider environment.
9.46 Consideration should also be given to the protection of groundwater from areas of contamination, in particular where source protection zones (SPZs) are present. Reference should be made to the Environment Agency's Groundwater Protection: Principals and Practice (GP3) document.
NE6 Pollution, air quality and contaminated land
Significant noise-generating development will be required to minimise the impact of noise on the occupiers of proposed buildings, neighbouring properties and the surrounding environment. Applicants may be required to submit a noise impact study or to assess the effect of an existing noise source upon the proposed development, prior to the determination of a planning application.
Developments likely to generate more significant levels of noise will be permitted only where appropriate noise attenuation measures are incorporated which would reduce the impact on the surrounding land uses, existing or proposed, to acceptable levels in accordance with Government guidance.
Where necessary, planning conditions will be imposed and / or a planning obligation sought in order to specify and secure acceptable noise limits, hours of operation and attenuation measures. Planning permission for noise-sensitive development, such as housing, schools and hospitals, will not be granted if its users would be affected adversely by noise from existing uses (or programmed development) that generate significant levels of noise.
In developments where external lighting is required, planning permission will only be granted where all of the following criteria are met:
- The lighting scheme proposed is the minimum required for the security and to achieve working activities which are safe
- Light spill and potential glare and the impact on the night sky is minimised through the control of light direction and levels , particularly in residential and commercial areas, areas of wildlife interest or the visual character of historic buildings and rural landscape character
- The choice and positioning of the light fittings, columns and cables minimise their daytime appearance and impact on the streetscape, and
- In considering development involving potentially adverse lighting impacts to wildlife, the Council will expect surveys to identify wildlife corridors and ensure that these corridors are protected, and enhanced where possible.
Developments requiring planning permission that may have an adverse impact on air quality will be required to prove through a submitted air quality impact assessment that:
- The effect of the proposal would exceed the National Air Quality Strategy Standards (as replaced) or
- The surrounding area would not be materially affected by existing and continuous poor air quality.
Development on or near land that is or may be affected by contamination will only be permitted where:
- an appropriate contaminated Land Assessment has been carried out as part of the application to identify any risks to human health, the natural environment or water quality
- where contamination is found which would pose an unacceptable risk to people's health, the natural environment or water quality, the Council will impose a condition, if appropriate, to ensure the applicant undertakes a desktop study, and if required, an intrusive site investigation, remedial measures and a validation report to ensure that the site is suitable for the proposed use and that the development can safely proceed.
Remediation works will usually be carried out prior to first occupation or use of any part of the development. Required remediation methods will be secured through a planning condition.
Local green spaces
9.47 The designation 'local green space' was introduced in 2011 by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). It is the identification of locally important land for special protection, ruling out development other than in exceptional cases, meaning managing development within a Local Green Space should be consistent with policy for Green Belts. Local green space is designated when a local or neighbourhood plan is prepared or reviewed and should complement investment in sufficient homes, jobs and services. The majority of the neighbourhood plans that have been made or are in the process of being prepared in the district have identified their own local green spaces, taking up the opportunity given for communities to protect local green areas of special importance.
9.48 The NPPF sets out strict requirements that the area must meet in order for the designation to apply, which would not be the case for most green areas or open space. It requires that the designation is only used:
- where the green space is in reasonably close proximity to the community it serves
- where 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
- where the green area concerned is local in character and is not an extensive tract of land
9.49 The main land uses for local green spaces are wide ranging, from allotments and village greens to agricultural fields. They are not always publicly assessable and can be privately owned. Whether public accessibility can be improved will depend on what the landowner will permit on their land.
9.50 When working out volume increase calculations for the replacement of existing buildings, the term 'existing building' means as it was first built or stood on 1 July 1948 (if it was built before that date) excluding sheds and outbuildings.
NE7 Local green space
Where land is identified as local green space on the policies map of a made neighbourhood plan, national policy will be applied. This means that new development will not be permitted other than in very special circumstances.
Within local green spaces, small-scale development within the following categories will only be supported providing that its provision does not conflict with the demonstrably special significance of the local green space and preserves the purpose of its designation. Such development should be:
- For the purposes of agriculture or forestry, the enjoyment of tranquillity and richness of wildlife, appropriate facilities for outdoor sport and recreational facilities or cemeteries
- The replacement of existing buildings in the local green space by new buildings that are not significantly larger in volume, normally by no more than 25-30%.
Measures to improve public access to local green spaces will be encouraged.
Best and most versatile agricultural land
 encourages Local Planning authorities to support economic development in rural areas. The NPPF sets out that poorer quality agricultural land should be prioritised for development over higher grades. The Council's approach to site allocations as advised by the Housing and Economic Development Land Availability Assessment (2016) follows this advice. However a Local Plan policy approach is needed to safeguard any other agricultural land sites that come forward over the VALP period that could affect the best and most versatile agricultural land.9.51 The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
9.52 Agriculture still forms a significant economic sector in the district in terms of land use, and a significant proportion of farmland in the district is classified as the 'best and most versatile' (i.e. grades 1, 2 and 3a). Large areas of highest quality land will be afforded greatest protection. Conversely, a lot of the farmland that does not fall into these categories is sensitive for other reasons – in areas of flood risk, important landscapes and in and adjoining areas of biodiversity importance.
NE8 Best and most versatile agricultural land
Subject to the development allocations set out in the VALP, the Council will seek to protect the best and most versatile farmland for the longer term. Where development involving best and more versatile agricultural land is proposed, those areas on site should be preferentially used as green open space and built structures avoided. Where development would result in the loss of best and more versatile agricultural land, planning consent will not be granted unless:
- There are no otherwise suitable sites of poorer agricultural quality that can accommodate the development, and
- The benefits of the proposed development outweighs the harm resulting from the significant loss of agricultural land.
Trees, hedgerows and woodlands
9.53 Trees, woodlands and hedges make an vital contribution to the beauty, diversity and distinctiveness of our rural landscapes and the beauty and liveability of our urban landscapes. Tree and woodland canopies create shelter and shade, intercept rainfall and airborne pollutants, and regulate the movement of water through river catchments – reducing soil erosion and the leaching of pollutants into surface and ground waters. Woodland ecosystems are a key component of the district's biodiversity, providing habitats for both rare and common species. Trees and woodlands take many years to mature – ancient woodlands and veteran trees in particular are irreplaceable.
9.54 Ancient woodlands play a critical role in resilience to climate change. Connected woodland allows the movement of species in response to climate change. Woodlands can uptake rainfall faster and better that all other forms of vegetation providing mitigation for increased and extreme rainfall. They provide storage of carbon dioxide as they grow, removing CO2 from the atmosphere. However, many areas of ancient woodland are too small and fragmented to provide these essential services. Development must provide buffers to ancient woodland and should provide additional planting to join up fragmented areas of woodland to produce resilient woodlands capable of mitigating climate change.
9.55 Mature trees, woodlands and hedges are sensitive to the impacts of development, both directly through their removal or indirectly through the impacts of construction. Due to the contribution they can make to the quality of development, and the length of time and the cost taken to replace mature features, they should be retained and protected wherever possible. Surveys and assessments carried out in accordance with recognised standards should be used to inform the design process and minimise impacts. The Council will expect the treatment of trees on potential development sites to demonstrably follow the principles of the 'mitigation hierarchy' as set out in the NPPF.
9.56 Where tree loss is unavoidable, they should be replaced with suitable new planting, either within the site or in the locality if this is more appropriate. Replacement planting should, as a minimum, be of commensurate value to that which is lost Development can make a positive contribution to the tree and hedgerow resource in the locality through new planting or the restoration and improved management of existing features. New plantings should endeavour to link up fragmented areas of existing woodland.
9.57 Black poplars (Populus nigra subsp. betulifolia) are a rare species of tree. The district has a high proportion of the British population. Black poplars are important features in the landscape of the district and also support a wide variety of wildlife (see Policy NE2 on biodiversity). The loss of Black poplars should be avoided where ever possible. Where Black Poplar tree removal is unavoidable replacement plantings should achieve a net gain.
9.58 Tree surveys required through the policy need to be carried out at a sufficiently early stage to inform the design of the development, with the aim of maximising benefits from retained trees, highlighting opportunities, and ensuring a harmonious relationship between the built and natural environments (See Policy BE2 on design).
9.59 A supplementary planning document (SPD) will be prepared with more information and guidance on the importance of trees, policy and legal context, considerations when incorporating trees into development. The SPD may be combined into one covering design, landscape, biodiversity and the wider natural environment.
NE9 Trees, hedgerows and woodlands
Development should seek to enhance and expand the district's tree and woodland resource, including native black poplars.
Where trees within or adjacent to a site could be affected by development, a full tree survey and arboricultural impact assessment to BS 5837 (as replaced) will be required as part of the planning application. The implementation of any protective measures it identifies will be secured by the use of planning conditions.
Development that would result in the unacceptable loss of, or damage to, or threaten the continued well-being of any trees, hedgerows, community orchards, veteran trees or woodland which make an important contribution to the character and amenities of the area will be resisted. Where the loss of trees is considered acceptable, adequate replacement provision will be required that use species that are in sympathy with the character of the existing tree species in the locality and the site.
Where species-rich native hedgerow(as commonly found on agricultural land) loss is unavoidable the developer needs to compensate for this by planting native species-rich hedgerow. This should result in a net gain of native hedgerow on the development site.
Developers should aspire to retaining a 10m (with a minimum of 5m) natural buffer around retained and planted native hedgerows (100m with a minimum 25 m natural buffer around woodlands) for the benefit of wildlife, incorporating a dark corridor with no lighting.
Within the buffer, native trees may be planted along with
other ecology features to secure net gains in biodiversity
and/or landscape mitigation unless the achievement of this
would be contrary with other policies in the plan.
 Chilterns AONB Management Plan 2014-2019 A Framework for Action, or any future replacement, http://www.chilternsaonb.org/conservation-board/management-plan.html
 paragraph 109.
 paragraph 28
 paragraph 112