Section 2 - Publication Draft Colchester Borough Local Plan

Ended on the 11 August 2017
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13. Environmental Assets Policies


13.1 Colchester's countryside and coastline is extremely diverse and important in terms of its natural and historic environment, including biodiversity, landscape character, archaeology and cultural heritage. The countryside provides the attractive landscape setting that defines and characterises the villages and rural communities of Colchester Borough. The countryside and coastal areas also provide important agricultural, tourism and recreational opportunities that support local economies and communities. The Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty extends into the northern part of the Borough and has the highest status of protection in relation to its natural beauty and special qualities.

13.2 The Council has statutory obligations under the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive to protect important habitats and species designated as Natura 2000, or European sites. This policy aims to protect the undeveloped areas of the Colne and Blackwater Estuaries and coast and Abberton Reservoir, and support regeneration that enhances the river's recreation and nature conservation values.

13.3 Plans or projects, not assessed through the Local Plan, but which after screening, may have a likely significant effect on a European site will require appropriate assessment under Regulation 61 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) ('the Habitats Regulations'). Accordingly, the Local Planning Authority will only consent plans or projects where it can be ascertained that they will have no adverse effect on the integrity of a European site, unless the exceptional requirements of Regulations 62 and 66 of the Habitats Regulations relating to the absence of alternative solutions, imperative reasons of overriding public interest and provision of compensation have been met.

13.4 Following completion of a Habitats  Regulation Screening Assessment it was concluded that proposals in the Wivenhoe Neighbourhood Plan when considered in combination with development proposals in Section 1 and some development proposals in Section 2 of Colchester's Local Plan, (development proposals on Mersea Island)  had the potential to result in a significant increase in recreational disturbance on the Colne and Blackwater Estuaries,  The Habitats Regulations Screening also concluded that proposed growth in Langham could significantly affect water quality in the Stour Estuary. These issues were further considered in an Appropriate Assessment. The Appropriate Assessment identified the need to prepare a Recreational Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy covering the Colne and Blackwater Estuaries Special Protection Areas and Ramsar sites and the Essex Estuaries Special Area of Conservation and a separate Recreational Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy for the Stour Estuary, with a view to their subsequent adoption as Supplementary Planning Documents.

13.5 Work on the Recreational Avoidance and Mitigation Strategies will begin in the summer of 2017. The strategies will identify where recreational disturbance is happening and the main recreational uses causing the disturbance. The strategies, where necessary, will require new residential development, that is likely to affect the integrity of the Colne, Blackwater and Stour European Sites, to pay for the implementation of the mitigation. The appropriate mechanism will be identified in the strategies.

13.6 The Borough contains a range of other sites designated for their wildlife interest, including Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), National Nature Reserves, Local Nature Reserves, Local Sites and Special Roadside Verges.  Brownfield sites can also be important for biodiversity.

13.7 All development proposals should initially be assessed to establish the likely presence or absence of Protected Species or Species /Habitats of Principal Importance on the development site. This may be through a Phase 1 assessment combined with site visits. Where there is a confirmed presence, or reasonable likelihood, of a legally protected species or Species of Principal Importance, on an application site (or where present on adjacent land) and where the species is likely to be affected then detailed ecological surveys should be carried out at the appropriate time of year in accordance with current best practice. Applicants will be required to demonstrate that adverse impacts upon the species have been avoided. Where impacts cannot be avoided a detailed Ecological Enhancement and Mitigation Plan should be prepared and submitted and agreed with the Local Planning Authority. Mitigation must provide net gains for biodiversity and conform to the requirements of relevant legislation and Government Standing Advice.

13.8 Where Priority Habitats are likely to be adversely impacted by a proposal, the developer must demonstrate that adverse impacts will be avoided, and impacts that cannot be avoided are mitigated on-site with net gains for biodiversity.  Where residual impacts remain, off-site compensation may be required so that there is no net loss in quantity and quality of Priority Habitat in the Borough.

13.9 Protected Hedgerows must be assessed by the Local Planning Authority's Landscape Officer against criteria in the Hedgerow Regulations 1997.  Where a hedgerow is deemed to be Important under the Hedgerow Regulations, the developer must demonstrate that adverse impacts upon the Important Hedgerow will be avoided. This is necessary as the loss of protected Important Hedgerows is difficult to mitigate against as they cannot easily be recreated as either a landscape or ecological feature. 

13.10 The Coastal Protection Belt protects the open and undeveloped stretches of coastline in the Borough which could be harmed by development that might otherwise be acceptable in a countryside area.  The original designation of 1984 has been reviewed with some amendment to the Borough's Coastal Protection Belt, and is shown on the policies map.

13.11 The green infrastructure network of open spaces and links is important in providing alternative areas of accessible natural green space to alleviate pressure on European sites, as well as contributing to the landscape character of Colchester Borough.  The Local Plan will make a major contribution towards achieving the objectives of the UK Post 2010 Biodiversity Framework and the Essex Biodiversity Action Plans (BAP) (or any future replacements).

13.12 A major threat to the low lying coastal and estuary areas is rising sea levels as a result of climate change. This threat will be addressed by increasing the network of green corridors and areas of open space to aid the dispersal of species that will need to migrate as climate change renders their existing habitat unsuitable. Climate change impacts, particularly sea level rise, will also be addressed by accommodating future flood waters and inter-tidal habitats through managed realignment projects identified in the Essex and South Suffolk Shoreline Management Plan, without harm to the built environment.

13.13 Policy ENV1 aims to control development outside of settlements to protect open stretches of countryside around and between existing settlements to prevent coalescence and retain settlement identity.Proposals are required to have regard to Colchester's Landscape Character Assessment and the Council's adopted Landscape Guidance for Developers to help conserve the Borough's landscape character.

13.14 The historic environment will be protected across the Borough with reference to studies including the Townscape Character Assessment, the Urban Archaeological Database and Historic Environment Characterisation Study and updated evidence as produced.  Policy DM16 provides criteria for development affecting heritage assets.

(12) Policy ENV1: Environment

The Local Planning Authority will conserve and enhance Colchester's natural and historic environment, countryside and coastline. The Local Planning Authority will safeguard the Borough's biodiversity, geology, history and archaeology, which help define the landscape character of the Borough, through the protection and enhancement of sites of international, national, regional and local importance.

In particular, developments that have an adverse impact on the integrity of European sites, Sites of Special Scientific Interest or the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (including its setting)will not be supported. Development proposals within designated areas or within the Coastal Protection Belt will need to comply with policies ENV2 and ENV4.

Development proposals where the principal objective is to conserve or enhance biodiversity and geodiversity interests will be supported in principle.

For all proposals, development will only be supported where it:

(i) Is supported with appropriate ecological surveys where necessary;

(ii) Where there is reason to suspect the presence of a protected species (and impact to), or Species/Habitats of Principal Importance, applications should be accompanied by an ecological survey assessing their presence and, if present, the proposal must be sensitive to, and make provision for their needs;

(iii) Will conserve or enhance the biodiversity value of greenfield and brownfield sites and minimise fragmentation of habitats;

(iv) Maximises opportunities for the preservation, restoration, enhancement and connection of natural habitats in accordance with the UK and Essex Biodiversity Action Plans or future replacements; and

(v) Incorporates beneficial biodiversity conservation features and habitat creation where appropriate.

Plans or projects, which may have a likely significant effect on a European site which have not  been screened or considered in the Borough's Habitat Regulations Assessment or Appropriate Assessment, will be required to prepare a separate HRA screening and if necessary  to complete a separate appropriate assessment to ensure compliance with the Habitat Regulations 2010.

Proposals for development that would cause direct or indirect adverse harm to nationally designated sites or other designated areas, protected species, Habitats and Species of Principle Importance or result in the loss of irreplaceable habitats, such as ancient woodland, Important Hedgerows  and veteran trees, will not be permitted unless:

(i)  They cannot be located on alternative sites that would cause less harm;

(ii)  The benefits of the development clearly outweigh the impacts on the

      features of the site and the wider network of natural habitats; and

(iii) Satisfactory mitigation and compensation measures are provided.

The Local Planning Authority will take a precautionary approach where insufficient information is provided about avoidance, mitigation and compensation measures and secure mitigation and compensation through planning conditions/obligations where necessary.

Coastal Areas

13.15 The open, undeveloped and rural landscape character of the coastal area of Colchester Borough is an extremely rich, diverse and irreplaceable natural asset in terms of its natural and cultural features. It includes substantial parts of the Colne and Blackwater Estuaries. The ecological importance of the Colne and Blackwater Estuaries is reflected by the variety of international and European designations covering them i.e. Ramsar sites, Special Protection Areas (Birds Directive), and the Essex Estuaries Special Area of Conservation (SAC) designated under the Habitats Directive. The Colne and Blackwater Estuaries are also protected as part of the larger Colne, Blackwater, Roach and Crouch Marine Conservation Zone. There are also a number of Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Local Wildlife Sites designated around the estuaries.

13.16 The Borough's coastline is also home to a number of sizeable communities in West Mersea, Rowhedge, and Wivenhoe.  As a consequence there are a number of diverse planning considerations and land uses which all need to be managed in an integrated way within the Borough's coastal belt.  These include internationally important habitats, land and water-based recreation, fishing, and heritage assets (including archaeological).Obligations to protect the important natural and heritage assets have to be carefully considered against the need to satisfy legislative requirements and the wider socio- economic needs of the Borough's coastal communities.

13.17 Climate change including sea level rise is likely to present increasing pressure on the management of coastal habitats and coastal communities along Colchester's coastal fringe. The Essex and South Suffolk Shoreline Management Plan (October 2010) has shown that sections of the coastal frontage within the Borough are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and coastal processes and four potential managed realignment sites have been identified. Two of the managed realignment sites are located along the Colne Estuary (SMP ref D6b Wivenhoe Marshes and D8a Inner Colne West Bank) and the other two are on Mersea Island (SMP ref E2 - Seaward frontage between North Barn and West Mersea and E4a North Strood Channel). All four sites have been identified for re-alignment between 2025 -2055. The sites are shown on the Policies map and will be safeguarded over the lifetime of the Local Plan for the delivery of setback schemes in accordance with the Shoreline Management Plan timetable.It will be important that future land uses and developments along the Borough's frontage, in particular built-up frontages, can demonstrate a high level of resilience in response to changing local climatic conditions.

13.18 In 1984, Essex County Council produced the Essex Coast Protection Subject Plan. This defined a county wide Coastal Protection Belt, which was reviewed and updated in 2016 by the Local Planning Authority. The Colchester Coastal Protection Belt aims to protect the rural and undeveloped coastline in the Borough from inappropriate development that would adversely affect its rural, undeveloped and open character and irreplaceable assets, landward and marine sites of nature conservation importance, and buildings and areas of special architectural, historic or archaeological importance. The Belt's rural and undeveloped coastline is of international and national significance for its historic environment assets and nature conservation interest. These multiple assets are strongly focussed and interrelated within the defined area, including between the coastline and adjoining inland areas.

13.19 The Coastal Protection Belt has a unique and irreplaceable character, which should be strongly protected and enhanced. There is a local need for greater priority to be given to the restraint of potentially damaging development than is normally possible under national planning policies. The Coastal Protection Belt adopts the precautionary principle and seeks to restrict development to within the built up areas of the coast. Some developments however require a coastal location and cannot be located elsewhere or are needed to help sustain the socio-economic base of a coastal area or serve the needs of the local coastal community. This may include sustainable tourism or leisure related developments where they meet the requirements of policies elsewhere in the Plan. There are also a number of new housing allocations being proposed within Abberton, Rowhedge, West Mersea and Wivenhoe which are located within the revised Colchester Coastal Protection Belt. Allocating residential development on the edge of these settlements is considered appropriate as it will deliver social and economic benefits to the communities where they are built and ensure that the new housing is sustainably located close to existing facilities and infrastructure. It also helps protect the character of the Coastal Protection Belt by preventing urban sprawl into the more open and undeveloped stretches of the Borough's coastline. Where development is proposed within the Coastal Protection Belt, and where flood risk is also a constraint, the proposed use must be appropriate to the flood zone in which it is to be sited and to the flood vulnerability classification.

13.20 The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has commenced work on the preparation of the first South East (Inshore) Marine Plan. Colchester falls within this plan area.  The Marine Plan once completed will cover the area up to Mean High Water Springs, the Borough's coastline and the tidal reaches of the Colne Estuary/ River Colne.  The Marine Plan's jurisdiction will overlap with the Local Planning Authority's responsibilities (which extend to mean low water) and due regard must be paid to the Marine Plan. This new and evolving concept of a Marine Plan will at a local level be implemented in accordance with the national Marine Policy Statements. The Local Plan  will be integrated with the South East (Inshore) Marine Plan, once it is complete, to provide a consistent approach for planning on  land, and within the Borough's  inter-tidal and marine environment.

13.21 A new coastal path is currently being planned around the whole of England's coastline. The delivery of the England Coast Path is embedded in the Marine and Coastal Access Act and Natural England is charged with its delivery by 2020. Once completed in addition to delivering a new long distance walking route, areas of 'spreading room' may also be delivered beside the route where people can explore and relax.

13.22 The Salcott to Jaywick and Mersea Island stretches of the England Coast Path fall within Colchester Borough. Designating these routes as part of the England Coast Path will contribute to coastal regeneration by supporting coastal businesses and services, through increased visitor spending where additional visits are made. This aligns well with the Council's aspirations to support coastal communities and sustainable coastal tourism initiatives in the Borough. The England Coast Path will avoid private houses and gardens and major ports.

13.23 The path will also avoid sensitive habitats and areas important for sensitive species. This is important in Colchester as much of the Borough's coast is designated under national, European and international designations.

13.24 The Borough Council supports the principle of creating an England Coast Path and will work with Natural England to secure its delivery along the Borough's coastline.

(12) Policy ENV2: Coastal Areas

Until such time as the South East (Inshore Marine Plan) is completed, any planning proposals within the Borough's coastal, estuarine, intertidal and tidal environment, will need to accord with guidance set out in the national Marine Policy Statement.

Within the Coastal Protection Belt and along the undeveloped coast an integrated approach to coastal management will be promoted and development will only be supported where it can be demonstrated that it:

(i) Requires a coastal location and is located within the developed area of the coast; and

(ii) Is a land use type that is appropriate to the Flood Zone, will be safe from flooding over its planned lifetime and will not have an unacceptable impact on coastal change; and

(iii) Will not be significantly detrimental to conserving important nature conservation, heritage assets, maritime uses and the landscape character of the coast; and

(iv) Will deliver or sustain social and economic sustainability benefits considered important to the well-being of the coastal communities; and

(v) Provides opportunities and scope for adaptation to climate change; and

(vi) Will not hinder the future creation and maintenance of a continuous signed and managed England Coast Path.

Green Infrastructure

13.25 Green Infrastructure is a strategic network of multifunctional green and blue (water) spaces, and the connections between them, in both urban and rural areas.  A Green Infrastructure network may comprise spaces in public or private ownership, with or without public access that is capable of delivering a range of environmental, economic, health and quality of life benefits for local communities and wildlife.

13.26 In Colchester, green infrastructure covers a range of green and blues spaces including allotments, community gardens, amenity greenspaces, cemeteries, natural and semi natural green spaces, river and estuary corridors, play areas and parks and gardens.

13.27 The benefits delivered by well-connected green infrastructure networks are diverse. Green infrastructure provides an important landscape function by protecting green gaps/buffers and areas of open space within and between developments and settlements. Ecologically, green infrastructure provides important wildlife corridors that species use to move between sites for feeding and breeding. Such networks also provide valuable corridors which aide the dispersal of species in response to changing climatic conditions. Well-designed green infrastructure networks can also play a key role in flood prevention /alleviation as part of new development.

13.28 Strategic green links provide valuable corridors for the movement of people. Existing open spaces, sports facilities and green link networks provide the people of Colchester with opportunities for passive and active recreation and encourages healthy and active lifestyles. The availability of a well-functioning green infrastructure network close to centres of population provides an important role in alleviating pressure on sensitive designated European sites (Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas and Ramsar sites) by providing alternative green spaces that people can use for dog walking and general recreational use. It is therefore important that all residents have access to green (or blue) infrastructure close to where they live or work.

13.29 The green spaces along the Colne River, connect the town centre, suburbs, countryside, villages and the coast. These corridors provide alternative means for people making journeys into and across Colchester. Safeguarding the important green edge to Colchester will be essential with a new country park provided along the Salary Brook corridor and incorporating Churn Wood. It is important that the existing green infrastructure network is protected and enhanced and new links created as part of future developments to improve Green Infrastructure provision overall including the delivery of sustainable transport corridors across the Borough where gaps exist.

13.30 The Council has been working with a range of access groups to deliver a new green infrastructure asset, the Colchester Orbital route.  Approximately 14-15 miles in length, the Colchester Orbital is a circular multi-user route around the town's periphery, connecting green spaces, where possible, with cycle routes and bridleways to appeal to the widest range of users. It currently comprises an Inner Route with proposals to create a secondary outer Orbital route over the plan period. The key aims of the Colchester Orbital project are to create a route that links Colchester's valuable green spaces, to enhance connectivity between them as wildlife habitats, and to create a sense of a green corridor around the town. The project also seeks to strengthen walking links between Colchester, its suburbs and surrounding villages to deliver real alternative sustainable commuting routes, to enhance tourism opportunities and to improve opportunities for active healthy lifestyles, including the expansion of walking horizons of mobility-restricted users.

13.31 While much of the Inner Orbital network already exists it is not complete. The route will serve walkers including mobility-restricted users, cyclists and where practical horse riders. Opportunities to improve connectivity between existing Green Infrastructure assets, the Orbital and new development should be maximised. Not all sections of the existing route are currently fully accessible for all potential users. New developments will be expected to contribute towards the creation of new paths /green infrastructure where gaps exist and to improve linkages and connectivity with other spurs of the GI network such as the. Wivenhoe Trail or wildlife areas.  New paths/links should be constructed to a standard to ensure that they provide direct links to services, facilities and infrastructure, are useable all year round and make users feel secure and minimise maintenance costs. Designs will need to be sympathetic to the Green Infrastructure environment but not allow the Green Infrastructure to become a barrier to sustainable active travel.  Contributions will also be sought, where related to development, to enhance the quality of the existing Orbital route through improved signage, drainage improvements or new landscaping.

13.32 The Inner and planned Outer Orbital Routes are shown in Appendix 1. An audit of the Orbital Route has been completed by the Orbital Access Group and this information will be used to inform improvements that need to be made from development contributions where appropriate.

(10) Policy ENV3: Green Infrastructure

The Local Planning Authority will aim to protect, enhance and deliver a comprehensive green infrastructure network comprising strategic green links between the rural hinterland, urban Colchester, river corridors and open spaces across the Borough. It will seek to protect and enhance the existing network of green and blue infrastructure features and to secure the delivery of new green infrastructure where deficiencies and gaps are identified that will benefit communities, wildlife and the environment. . The Council will work with access stakeholder/groups to support the delivery of a 'new' multi user route, the Colchester Orbital, around urban Colchester.

Development proposals that contribute to the delivery of projects identified in the Colchester Green Infrastructure Strategy, the Orbital Project Audit Paper and the Public Rights of Way Improvement Plan for Essex will be positively supported.

The Local Planning Authority will seek opportunities from future developments, where appropriate, to improve the connectivity between the Colchester Orbital route, new developments and the wider countryside. Radial connections will be secured between existing green infrastructure assets, existing development, and the Orbital routes new development. This will improve the choices available to residents to access and participate more easily in healthy activities, such as walking, cycling and horse riding.

Proposals that cause loss or harm to the green infrastructure network will not be permitted unless the need for and benefits of the development outweigh any adverse impacts. Where adverse impacts on green infrastructure are unavoidable, development will only be permitted if suitable mitigation measures for the network are provided. Key linkages will be constructed to a suitable standard to allow year round secure usage by all.

The Local Planning Authority will seek contributions or require work to be undertaken as part of new development where appropriate, to create new paths where gaps are evident in the existing green infrastructure network/Orbital routes or to enhance the quality of the existing route.

The use of land and buildings as new allotments, orchards, community gardens and for local food growing spaces and production will be supported, including the temporary use of vacant or derelict land or buildings and the use of incidental open space on housing estates and other open space areas, where this does not conflict with other policy objectives.

Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

13.33 The Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) has been designated for its national importance in terms of landscape quality, and is further enhanced through its close association with the works of artist John Constable. The quality of the landscape is defined by its natural beauty and special qualities and the integration of the man-made elements within it, and the primary aim of the designation is to conserve and enhance its natural beauty. 

13.34 The features that define the Natural Beauty and Special Qualities of the Dedham Vale AONB have been identified in the Dedham Vale AONB Natural Beauty and Special Qualities and Perceived and Anticipated Risks Reportcommissioned by the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Joint Advisory Committee and prepared by Alison Farmer Associates in 2016. 

13.35 In this report, Natural Beauty has been defined in terms of Landscape Quality, Scenic Quality, Relative Wildness, Relative Tranquillity and Natural and Cultural Heritage Features. The special qualities have been influenced by factors such as traditional land use patterns, evidence of human habitation through history, geology, river valleys and woodlands or association with artists and writers. 

13.36 Applications within or close to the AONB will need to consider how proposals impact on the Natural Beauty and Special Qualities of the Dedham Vale AONB as outlined in the Natural Beauty and Special Qualities document referred to above.  Major applications may need to be supported with a Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment. 

13.37 A recent report by the International Dark Sky Association concluded that the Dedham Vale night sky was good enough quality to qualify for Bronze level International Dark Sky status. Work started in 2017 on securing this international designation for the Dedham Vale. To help secure this designation in the future it will be essential to minimise and manage light pollution from all future developments within and on the edge of the AONB.                

13.38 It is essential that the AONB and its setting is conserved and enhanced. However, it is acknowledged that the Dedham Vale is a 'living' landscape which needs to be able to adapt, change and respond positively to changing social, economic and environmental issues (climate change, changing agricultural sector, recreational pressures) to meet the needs of the local community and visitors to the area.  In exceptional cases development proposals that help maintain the economic and social wellbeing of the AONB will be supported where these do not detract from the natural beauty and special qualities of the AONB or its setting.  Minor house extensions may provide little opportunity to enhance the landscape qualities of the AONB and accordingly will not be exclusively rejected on this basis where otherwise acceptable. Developer contributions can be paid to the Stour Valley Environment Fund to secure environmental gains elsewhere in the Stour Valley.

13.39 Solar farms and wind turbines are large developments that can have landscape and visual impacts. Proposals for solar farm or wind farms/turbines within or near the Dedham Vale AONB should accord with the most current national policy and best practice to help conserve and enhance the natural beauty and special qualities of the AONB.

13.40 Proposals outside of the AONB will not be supported where, in the opinion of the Local Planning Authority, they will have a negative impact on the natural beauty, tranquillity, special qualities, setting and public enjoyment of the AONB.

(1) Policy ENV4: Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Development will only be supported in or on land within the setting of the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) that:

(i) Makes a positive contribution to the natural beauty and special qualities of the AONB, including tranquillity and the AONB's good quality night/dark skies; and,

(ii) Does not adversely affect the character, quality views, into and out of the AONB and distinctiveness of the AONB or threaten public enjoyment of these areas, including by increased motorised vehicle movement; and,

(iii) That there are no adverse impacts on the setting of the AONB which cannot reasonably be mitigated against and,

(iv) Supports the wider environmental, social and economic objectives as set out in the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Management Plan.

Applications for major development within or in close proximity to the boundary of the Dedham Vale AONB will be refused unless in exceptional circumstances it can be demonstrated that the development is in the public interest and this outweighs other material considerations.

Where exceptional development is suitable, landscape enhancements, mitigation or compensation measures must be provided. The Local Planning Authority will seek opportunities to mitigate the impact of features identified as having adverse impacts. Residual impacts may be offset by other planning gain within the AONB or contributions to the Stour Valley Environment Fund.

Proposals for solar farm developments or wind turbine/wind farms within or on land within the setting of the Dedham Vale AONB should have regard to the advice in the Local Planning Authority's Guidance Note 'Designing solar farm renewable energy development' and in the 'Dedham Vale AONB Position Statement Renewable Energy in the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (March 2013).

The Local Planning Authority will also encourage proposals in or near the AONB to underground new infrastructure associated with electricity schemes or communication equipment where financially viable, to help protect its landscape qualities.

Pollution and Contaminated Land

13.41 Land and air pollution are subject to regulatory controls under Environmental Health Legislation including the Environmental Protection Act 1990, Pollution Prevention Act 1999 and the Environment Act 1995.  There is some overlap with planning in considering proposals for new development, with the need to ensure that in granting planning permission for something it does not create any unacceptable pollution, or worsen an existing issue, and where necessary implements mitigation measures to reduce / eliminate the problem. 

13.42 Local Authorities have a duty to review and assess local air quality under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995. Where a Local Authority considers that one or more of the objectives are unlikely to be met and there is relevant exposure, an Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) must be declared and an action plan developed setting out measures to work towards an improvement of the air quality in the area.  Within Colchester there are 4 such designated areas.  Applications within an AQMA and all major planning applications, may be required to submit an air quality impact assessment to assess and quantify the impact on local air quality and to identify appropriate mitigation measures to ensure that development is acceptable on the grounds of air quality. Contributions may also be required towards the cost of air quality mitigation measures.

13.43 Where there are applications for planning permission that will also require an Environmental Permit, consideration should be given to submitting applications in parallel.

13.44 Land contamination is also a material consideration for planning purposes.  There are some locations where a previous land use has caused an effect on the suitability of the land for some alternative uses or development.  In some cases remediation works may be required to make land suitable for the proposed use prior to allowing development to take place.  A precautionary approach to considering potentially contaminated land is essential to ensure there is no unacceptable risk to health, or to the environment or amenity.  The Local Planning Authority will require the applicant to demonstrate by way of adequate site investigation information, prepared by a competent person, that there is no unacceptable risk to health, or the environment and where unacceptable contamination is found there will be a requirement for mitigation / remediation/verification, as agreed with the Council. Sufficient information must be provided to clearly demonstrate that the risk from contamination can be satisfactorily reduced to an acceptable level before the application can be determined. Where appropriate, investigations and remediation may need to be implemented prior to any development commencing.  Where mitigation / remediation cannot be satisfactorily achieved development will be refused.

(4) Policy ENV5: Pollution and Contaminated Land

Proposals will be supported that will not result in an unacceptable risk to public health or safety, the environment, general amenity or existing uses due to the potential of air pollution, noise nuisance, surface / ground water sources or land pollution.

Proposals for developments within designated Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) or where development within a nearby locality may impact on an AQMA are required, first, to be located in such a way as to reduce emissions overall, and secondly to reduce the direct impacts of those developments.  Applicants shall, prepare and submit with their application a relevant assessment, taking into account guidance current at the time of the application, which must be to the satisfaction of the Local Planning Authority. Permission will only be granted where the Council is satisfied that after selection of appropriate mitigation the development will not have an unacceptable significant impact on air quality, health and well - being.

Development proposals on contaminated land, or where there is reason to suspect contamination, must include an assessment of the extent of contamination and any possible risks. The onus is on the applicant to demonstrate that there is no likely risk to health or the environment due to contamination.  Where planning permission is granted, conditions may be imposed requiring the execution of any necessary remedial works. Where a site is affected by land contamination, responsibility for securing a safe development rests with the developer and/or landowner, who will be required to carry out the above. After remediation, as a minimum, land should not be capable of being determined as contaminated land under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Climate Change Policy

13.45 The NPPF states that mitigating and adapting to climate change, including moving to a low carbon economy, is part of the role of the planning system.  It recognises that planning can help shape places to secure radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, minimise vulnerability and provide resilience to the impacts of climate change, and support the delivery of renewable and low carbon energy and associated infrastructure.  This is fundamental to the achievement of sustainable development.

13.46 Sustainable development is at the heart of the Local Plan.  Through the Local Plan the Council is seeking to create communities that secure reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through the location, mix and design of development, provide resilience to the impacts of a changing climate, support the delivery of renewable energy technologies and district heating systems, and minimise waste. 

13.47 The Local Plan as a whole sets out a strategy for climate change mitigation and adaptation.  Examples of climate change mitigation are:

  • Reducing the need to travel and providing for sustainable transport;
  • Providing opportunities for renewable and low carbon energy technologies;
  • Providing opportunities for decentralised energy and heating;
  • Promoting low carbon design approaches to reduce energy consumption in buildings, such as passive solar design.

Examples of climate change adaptation are:

  • Considering future climate risks when allocating development sites to ensure risks are understood over the development's lifetime;
  • Avoiding areas that are most vulnerable to future flood risk;
  • Considering the impact of and promoting design responses to flood risk and coastal change for the lifetime of the development;
  • Considering availability of water and water infrastructure for the lifetime of the development and design responses to promote water efficiency and protect water quality;
  • Promoting adaptation approaches in design policies for developments and the public realm.

13.48 New development should be planned to avoid increased vulnerability to the range of impacts arising from climate change. Developers will be expected to demonstrate how the scheme mitigates and adapts to climate change.  In particular proposals will be expected to demonstrate how they have taken account of flood risk, water efficiency, biodiversity, landform, layout, building orientation, massing, tree planting and landscaping to minimise energy consumption and provide resilience to a changing climate.

13.49 Policy ENV3 includes detailed criteria relating to green infrastructure.  Landscaping and tree planting are important climate change adaptation measures and new development should take every opportunity to enhance the Borough's green infrastructure network.  Landscaping schemes should include species that will tolerate a changing climate, which will help future proof towns and urban areas against rising temperatures.

13.50 To help contribute towards achieving the climate change target set out in the Climate Change Act 2008 of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 from a 1990 baseline, the Local Planning Authority will encourage development to meet a proportion of energy needs from renewable or low carbon sources.  Colchester Borough Council has an interim aim to meet 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 (from a 2006/7 baseline).  The Council is set to become a signatory of the Covenant of Lord Mayors.  The Covenant of Mayors is a mainstream European movement involving local and regional authorities, voluntarily committing to increasing energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources.  By their commitment, Covenant signatories aim to meet and exceed the European Union objective of 20% CO2 reduction by 2020. 

13.51 The Local Planning Authority will support proposals for renewable energy development providing that there would be no adverse effects on Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation, Sites of Special Scientific Interest or the Dedham Vale AONB.  Policy DM25 includes criteria that will be used to assess proposals for renewable energy schemes.

13.52 Whilst renewable energy has an important role to play in contributing to a reduction in Colchester's greenhouse gas emissions, regard should be had to the energy hierarchy.  The energy hierarchy sets out the order in which energy issues should be tackled:

1. Reduce the need for energy;

2. Use energy more efficiently;

3. Use renewable energy;

4. Any continuing use of fossil fuels should be clean and efficient.

13.53 In 2015 Element Energy carried out studies of heat network opportunities in the Northern Gateway and the Hythe for the Council and DECC's Heat Network Delivery Unit (HNDU). Heat networks will be supported in both these areas. Funding has recently been secured to deliver a heat network in the Northern Gateway and feasibility work is continuing for a similar scheme in East Colchester.

13.54 Existing buildings can also play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions through improved energy efficiency measures.  Householders and businesses will be encouraged to make energy efficiency improvements to existing buildings as part of proposals for extensions/ alterations.

13.55 In 2015, the Council adopted The Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2015-2020.  The Council is a leading carbon cutting Council in the UK and this has been achieved through delivery of the Local Authority Carbon Management Plan (LACM) in 2008 - 2012 and refreshed for 2016-2020.  In order to achieve carbon reduction in the community it is necessary to work with residents, businesses and partners to take action beyond our statutory duties.  The vision set out in the Environmental Sustainability Strategy, which is reflected in the Local Plan is:

  • Demonstrating strong performance in tackling climate change;
  • Resource efficiency;
  • Environmental protection and enhancement (of both natural and built environments;    
  • Provision of sustainable transport options in new developments where appropriate;
  • Quality of life for all, whilst respecting its special qualities and capacity for growth.

(11) Policy CC1: Climate Change

Colchester Borough Council will continue to adopt strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  In addressing the move to a low carbon future for Colchester, the Local Planning Authority will plan for new development in locations and ways that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adopt the principles set out in the energy hierarchy and provide resilience to the impacts of a changing climate.

A low carbon future for Colchester will be achieved by:

(i)  Encouraging and supporting the provision of renewable and low carbon technologies.

(ii)    Encouraging new development to provide a proportion of the energy demand through renewable or low carbon sources.

(iii)   Encouraging design and construction techniques which contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation by using landform, layout, building orientation, massing, tree planting and landscaping to minimise energy consumption and provide resilience to a changing climate.

(iv)   Requiring both innovative design and technologies that reduce the impacts of climate change within the garden communities.

(v)   Supporting opportunities to deliver decentralised energy systems, particularly those which are powered by a renewable or low carbon source.  Supporting connection to an existing decentralised energy supply system where there is capacity to supply the proposed development, or design for future connection where there are proposals for such a system.

(vi)  Requiring development in the Northern Gateway and East Colchester to connect to, or be capable of connecting to the district heating scheme where there is capacity to supply the proposed development and where it is appropriate and viable to do so.

(vii) Supporting energy efficiency improvements to existing buildings in the Borough where appropriate.

(viii)  Minimising waste and improving reuse and recycling rates.

(ix)   Development will be directed to locations with the least impact on flooding or water resources.  All development should consider the impact of and promotion of design responses to flood risk for the lifetime of the development and the availability of water and water infrastructure for the lifetime of the development.

(x)  Green infrastructure should be used to manage and enhance existing habitats.  Opportunities should be taken to create new habitats and assist with species migration.  Consideration should be given to the use of green infrastructure to provide shade during higher temperatures and for flood mitigation.  The potential role of green infrastructure as 'productive landscapes' should also be considered.

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