Local Plan to 2030 - Publication Draft

SECTION D - THE NATURAL AND BUILT ENVIRONMENT

5.285 This section of the Local Plan 2030 provides the policy framework for the promotion, enhancement and protection of both the natural environment, including its biodiversity and geological interests, landscapes, green corridors, informal open space, water resources and opportunities for harnessing renewable energy, and the built heritage of the Borough, including its wealth of listed buildings, conservation areas and other heritage assets. The section is split into three main sections.

Biodiversity and Landscape

5.286 Green infrastructure plays an important role in supporting other policy areas of this Plan. By helping to create high quality environments which are attractive to businesses and investors it can drive economic growth and regeneration, deliver quality of life benefits and enhanced opportunities for recreation, social interaction and play in new and existing residential areas. Well-designed and managed green infrastructure can reinforce and enhance local landscape character, assist in halting the decline in biodiversity and mitigate the impact of climate change. In England, green infrastructure issues are dealt with through a combination of the planning system and legislation (European and national[1]). 

5.287 The conserving and enhancing of the natural environment is one of the ‘core planning principles’ of the NPPF (para 17). It encourages (para 109) the protection and enhancement of valued landscapes, geological conservation interests and soils. It also seeks to minimise the impact on biodiversity and encourages net gains in biodiversity through the establishment of coherent ecological networks wherever possible.

5.288 Formal open spaces (such as sports pitches) also contribute to the wider 'green' offer within the Borough and are covered in the community infrastructure section of this Plan.

Water and Climate Change

5.289 The NPPF expects a pro-active approach against climate change and states that adapting to, and mitigating against, the effects of climate change are core planning principles.

5.290 The NPPF identifies expectations to improve energy efficiency in new development in terms of decentralised energy and sustainable design, and ways of increasing the use and supply of renewable and low carbon energy. It stresses the importance of addressing longer term factors such as flood risk, water supply and changes to biodiversity and landscape.

5.291 This section of the Local Plan includes policies which will contribute to mitigating and adapting to climate change, including through dealing with flood risk and water resources, requiring new development to incorporate sustainable design and mitigation measures, and promoting the use and development of renewable energy.

The Historic Environment 

5.292 Ashford Borough has a rich and varied heritage, with evidence of human settlement dating back to the Neolithic period. More recently, the long distance drovers and pilgrimage routes of the early medieval times, the Royal Military Canal of the Napoleonic period and the high speed national and international railway heritage of the 19th and 20th centuries, are evidence of the key role that the location of the Borough, at the convergence of strategic communication routes, has played in shaping its identity.  The character and appearance of the Borough has also been strongly influenced by agriculture and by its rural setting, with a rich heritage of attractive villages, the market towns of Ashford and Tenterden, as well as distinctive oast houses, historic houses and gardens, many fine parish churches, water and windmills.

5.293 The Borough is home to over 2,300 listed buildings, the highest number among local authorities in Kent, and a significantly higher number of Grade I and Grade II* buildings than in other Kent districts. In addition the Borough has 43 Conservation Areas, 42 Scheduled Monuments and 6 Registered Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest, as well as a number of areas of known archaeological potential. Such buildings and areas of architectural and historic interest make a valuable contribution not only to the built and natural landscape but also to the leisure, education, tourism and economic vitality of the Borough and provide welcome opportunities for place-making and for guiding and stimulating regeneration.

5.294 [1] Birds and Habitats Directives and Ramsar Convention (EU) / Water Framework Directive (EU) / Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 / Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 / Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 / Climate Change Act 2008 / The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 / Flood and Water Management Act 2010 / Localism Act 2011

Biodiversity and Landscape

Biodiversity

5.295 Ashford Borough enjoys an attractively diverse natural environment, and a green infrastructure network which supports significant areas of biodiversity interest and which delivers a wide range of environmental and quality of life benefits for local communities. It comprises a wide variety of landscapes and different geologies which extend from the North Downs to the Romney Marsh, with the Greensand Ridge, the Stour river valleys and extensive areas of the Weald in between. A significant proportion of the Borough is comprised of parts of two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), the Kent Downs and the High Weald, which have the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty.

5.296 The Borough is home to two designated sites of international significance for biodiversity, the Wye and Crundale Downs Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the  Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay Ramsar site which extends into an area in the south-eastern corner of the Borough between Appledore and Hamstreet. Under European legislation, the Council has a duty to ensure these sites are maintained in favourable conservation conditions and that they are afforded the greatest level of protection.

5.297 Nationally designated sites in the Borough include two National Nature Reserves, at Hamstreet Woods and Wye and Crundale Downs, and 20 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), comprising 57 SSSI units, which are of national importance on account of their biological or geological interest. These sites are legally protected by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). These sites are therefore afforded a high level of protection in this Plan.

5.298 The Borough is also home to 83 Local Wildlife Sites (LWS), formerly known as Sites of Nature Conservation Interest, and 3 Local Nature Reserves, the Ashford Green Corridor, Hothfield Common and Poulton Wood, Aldington. These sites are important elements of the borough’s biodiversity assets and contribute to the promotion, preservation, restoration and re-creation of ecological networks. The Council therefore expects that they will be protected and enhanced in new development that arises during the lifetime of this Plan.

5.299 Recent years have seen a recognition that the planning system should, in addition to the protection of individual sites and species, move towards a more integrated landscape scale approach to improving biodiversity. In this regard, this Local Plan supports the aims and objectives of the Kent Biodiversity Strategy as they relate specifically to the Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (BOAs) of this Borough, to ensure that the priority habitats and species of each BOA are protected and enhanced in new development. Ashford Borough encompasses parts of 8 of Kent's BOAs, a reflection of its particularly diverse natural environment. Details of these BOAs are set out under Map 9 that supports this Local Plan. 

5.300 These BOAs, together with the international, national and locally designated sites, including the Green Corridors, form the strategic Green Infrastructure Network of the Borough.

5.301 Alongside the conservation of existing habitats and species, the enhancement and integration of appropriate biodiversity into new developments can aid both the environmental sustainability of the scheme and deliver places which are more attractive in which to both live and work. Biodiversity measures may include the provision of open watercourse drainage systems, planting of native hedgerows, trees and woodland and the provision of bat and owl boxes and underpasses for mammals. These can provide important stepping stones for wildlife and ecosystems, as well as contributing to coherent ecological networks which can help to combat a decline in biodiversity.

5.302 In designating appropriate areas for development, the Local Plan has ensured that areas of international and national importance for their quality of biodiversity and landscape will not be directly adversely affected. The council will expect, and will work to ensure that all new development coming forward in the Borough will conserve or enhance local biodiversity and that unacceptable, harmful impacts on biodiversity and the natural environment will be avoided. Where this cannot be achieved to the satisfaction of the Local Planning Authority then appropriate mitigation measures will be required to be implemented.

Policy ENV1 - Biodiversity

Proposals that conserve or enhance biodiversity will be supported. Opportunities to incorporate and enhance biodiversity will be encouraged. In particular, development should take opportunities to help connect and improve the wider ecological networks.

Proposals should safeguard features of nature conservation interest and should include measures to retain, protect and enhance habitats, including BAP habitats, and networks of ecological interest, including ancient woodland, water features, ditches, dykes and hedgerows, as corridors and stepping stones for wildlife.

Development that will have an adverse effect on the integrity of European protected Sites, including the Wye and Crundale Special Area of Conservation and the Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay Ramsar site, will not be permitted.

Development that will have an adverse effect on nationally designated sites, including the borough’s Sites of Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserves, will not be permitted unless the benefits, in terms of other objectives including overriding public interest, clearly outweigh the impacts on the special features of the site and broader nature conservation interests and there is no alternative acceptable solution.

Development should avoid significant harm to locally identified biodiversity assets, including Local Wildlife Sites and Nature Reserves and the Ashford Green Corridor as well as priority and locally important habitats and protected species. The protection and enhancement of the Ashford Green Corridor is one of the key objectives of the Plan and therefore all proposals coming forward within or adjoining the Ashford Green Corridor should comply with Policy ENV2 in the first instance.

Where harm to biodiversity assets cannot be avoided, appropriate mitigation will be required on land that is suitably established prior to the commencement of the development and that can be managed in perpetuity. Normally any mitigation measures will be required to be delivered on-site, unless special circumstances dictate that an off-site model is more appropriate. A financial contribution - in lieu of mitigation - will only be considered in very exceptional circumstances.

Opportunities for the management, restoration and creation of habitats in line with the opportunities identified for the Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (BOAs) and targets set out in the Kent Biodiversity Strategy will be supported.

 

Green Corridor

5.303 The Green Corridor designation has been central to Ashford’s planning strategy and approach to green infrastructure since it was adopted in the 1994 Local Plan. It comprises a connected network of largely green open areas that are predominantly located alongside the Great and East Stour rivers, the Aylesford Stream, and other watercourses which flow through Ashford's urban area. These riverside areas are largely undeveloped, due to being within the flood plain, and provide a unique opportunity for improving the quality of the urban environment. Visually, the Green Corridor provides welcome breaks in the built up areas from the Town Centre and through the urban areas of Kennington, Willesborough, Kingsnorth, Singleton and South Ashford into the countryside beyond.

5.304 In addition to the rivers and riversides, the Green Corridor includes woodlands, orchards, ponds, lakes, nature reserves, meadows, play, leisure and recreation spaces. Its is a core element of Ashford’s Green Infrastructure and offers multi-functional uses which create a number of environmental and quality of life benefits to the local community.

5.305 The Corridor promotes health and wellbeing, with a variety of open spaces both for active sports, gentle recreation and relaxation, and children’s play. There is an excellent network of footpaths and cycleways throughout, including national cycle route 18, which are not just for recreational purposes but make a crucial contribution to day to day travel and transportation needs of commuting residents as most link to the town and train station. These movement networks provide a safe, traffic-free route and also reduce pollution.

5.306 As much of the Green Corridor is located within the flood zone it also acts as flood plain and water storage which prevents flooding, as well as being an important habitat for biodiversity. All along the green corridor highly valuable habitats for wildlife are found, providing an important network for the movement of wildlife through the urban areas, between designated nature sites and out towards the countryside. The Green Corridor falls within the Mid Kent Greensand and Gault Biodiversity Opportunity Area (BOA). Much of the Green Corridor is also designated as Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and includes a number of Local Wildlife Sites (LWS). 

5.307 Protection and enhancement of the Green Corridor is a key objective of this Local Plan. New development on land within the corridor will be strictly controlled to ensure that it retains the aspects that create the functional networks and other health, well-being and amenity benefits detailed above, and which will assist in delivering the targets for the Mid Kent Greensand and Gault BOA set out in the Kent Environment Strategy. Proposals within the Green Corridor that are directly related to, or ancillary to, the existing principal use of that section will be permitted, for example, where they enhance or improve an existing recreation, amenity or leisure use.

5.308 Development proposals that do not directly relate to the existing principal use but that would enhance the Green Corridor in other ways will be considered favourably, particularly if they are on brownfield land, are in accordance with a site specific policy in this Local Plan, or have been identified as a key project or opportunity area in the Green Corridor Action Plan. Proposals within the Green Corridor that create overriding planning benefits will be considered on their own merits.

5.309 The Green Corridor Action Plan 2016, which supports this Local Plan provides a detailed description of the value of each area of the current Green Corridor Network and identifies new areas for extension to the designation and proposes opportunity areas to be considered in the future for extensions (see Policies Map). The action plan outlines future enhancement projects and recommended maintenance, and provides information on priorities and estimated costs of the enhancements. Development proposals on land within and adjoining the Green Corridor should provide evidence that the development proposals have considered the Action Plan. Early liaison with key stakeholders such as the Environment Agency (where development is in close proximity to the rivers), Kent Stour Countryside Project (KSCP), who manage many of the Green Corridor projects and coordinate local volunteers, and other relevant local nature or transport groups/organisations is recommended for all proposals within or adjoining the corridor.

5.310 All development proposals on land within or adjoining the Green Corridor designation must demonstrate that the proposal would not harm the overall environment, biodiversity value, visual amenity, movement networks or existing functions of the Green Corridor. All proposals must make a positive contribution to the Green Corridor in respect of its environment, biodiversity, visual amenity, movement networks or functioning and development on sites adjoining the corridor must also take into account its impacts on the setting.

  

Policy ENV2 - The Ashford Green Corridor

The protection and enhancement of Ashford’s Green Corridor is a key objective.

Development proposals within the identified Corridor designation (and proposed extensions) will be permitted, providing that it is compatible with, or ancillary to, their principal open space use or other existing uses within them, and it can be demonstrated that the proposal would not harm the overall environment, biodiversity, visual amenity, movement networks or functioning of the Green Corridor.

Other forms of development proposals, including those relating to an existing use within the Green Corridor will not be permitted, unless it would be in accordance with a site specific policy in this Local Plan; or where it relates to a) the redevelopment of a suitable brownfield site or b) delivers overriding benefits, and in either scenario, that it can be demonstrated that there would be no significant harm to the overall environment, biodiversity, visual amenity, movement networks or functioning of the Green Corridor.

Development proposals on land adjoining the Green Corridor shall provide suitable access and links to the existing networks of the adjoining Green Corridor wherever possible; and make a positive contribution to the Green Corridor in respect of its environment, biodiversity, visual amenity, movement networks or functioning and its setting.

Development proposals must take into consideration the appraisals, projects and management recommendations set out for the specific areas in the Ashford Green Corridor Action Plan, including the identified proposed extension areas to the designation.

 

 

Landscape Character

5.311 Ashford Borough enjoys a rich variety of landscapes from the North Downs to the Romney Marsh with the Greensand Ridge, the Stour river valleys and extensive areas of the High Weald and Low Weald between. These provide important recreational resources for both residents and visitors, as well as forming the attractive setting for the towns and villages that make the Borough a special place to live.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

5.312 Large parts of the Borough lie within two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Kent Downs AONB and the High Weald AONB. The distinctive landscapes of these AONBs play an important role in defining the overall character of the Borough. The Council has a statutory duty under the Countryside and  Rights of Way Act (2000) to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of these designated landscapes. The NPPF requires that great weight (paragraph 115) is given to the conserving of the landscape and scenic beauty of AONBs and so, in accordance with paragraph 116 of the NPPF, major developments in these designated areas will not be permitted except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated that they are in the public interest. All proposals within the AONBs must take account of the landscape character areas and policies of the appropriate AONB Management Plan and other relevant AONB Guidance.

Landscape Character Assessments

5.313 Where development is considered appropriate in principle it will be required to be designed in a way which complements the particular type of landscape in which it is located. Key characteristics and features that shape landscape character include :

1. Landform, topography and natural patterns of drainage - the way in which development fits within the landscape can be determined by its relationship with the natural topography of the area. Particular landform features that contribute to the character of the landscape in that area (and their setting) should be protected. Views into and from a site will be a relevant factor in assessing the impact of a proposal. Developments should be planned around natural patterns of drainage and minimise the need to divert or block these.

2. The pattern and composition of trees and woodlands - trees and woodlands often constitute valuable features in a landscape by giving it definition and legibility. These features should normally be retained and protected. Similarly, the nature of the woodland may be a relevant factor in assessing the impact of a development on the character of the landscape.

3. The type and composition of wildlife habitats - the presence of wildlife itself within a landscape area can often contribute towards its attractiveness and its character by giving it activity and vibrancy. The identification and protection of habitat should be part of development proposals.

4. The pattern and composition of field boundaries - the size and definition of field boundaries may be a significant factor in giving a landscape its character. Development proposals should retain existing hedgerows and maintain the prevailing pattern of field boundaries and where appropriate the council shall seek the repair or replanting of damaged field boundaries.

5. The pattern and distribution of settlements, roads and footpaths - The form and pattern of built development within the landscape provides the contrast with the natural countryside which together creates the overall character of the area. This may have evolved over many years or may be more recent but in either case, should be considered as a relevant factor in assessing the impact of development proposals.

6. The presence and pattern of historic landscape features - heritage landscape features are likely to play an important role in defining the character of the landscape. These features and their setting should be protected from new development that would adversely affect their integrity or views to or from them.

7. The setting, scale, layout, design and detailing of vernacular buildings and other traditional man-made features - the landscape character can also be defined in part by the local character of individual or groups of buildings. Where such buildings play an important role in the identification of landscape character, new development should take account of their scale, design and detailing.

5.314 The landscape character of the Borough has been extensively analysed in work carried out in two Landscape Studies. The findings of these Studies, which together define 44 Landscape Character Areas (LCAs) across the Borough outside of the two AONBs and the Ashford and Tenterden Urban Areas, are brought together and set out in detail in the Landscape Character SPD (2011). This document sets out clearly the key characteristics of each LCA. All proposals coming forward should have regard to this SPD, and to the guidance on landscape characteristics that it provides, so as to ensure that new development does not compromise or damage landscape character but instead contributes towards enhancing the character of the LCA in which the site is located.

5.315 Development proposals near to the boundary of a LCA should take account of any relevant landscape features or characteristics of the adjacent LCA in addition to that in which it is situated, in order to ensure that there would be no adverse impacts on the character of that area.

 

Policy ENV3 - Landscape Character and Design

The Kent Downs and High Weald AONBs will be given the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty. Major development proposals within the AONBs will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances and where they are in the public interest. Other proposals within the AONBs will be permitted where the form, scale, materials and design would conserve and enhance the character of the landscape.

All proposals shall demonstrate particular regard to the following landscape characteristics:

  1. Landform, topography and natural patterns of drainage;
  2. The pattern and composition of trees and woodlands;
  3. The type and composition of wildlife habitats;
  4. The pattern and composition of field boundaries;
  5. The pattern and distribution of settlements, roads and footpaths;
  6. The presence and pattern of historic landscape features;
  7. The setting, scale, layout, design and detailing of vernacular buildings and other traditional man made features;
  8. Any relevant guidance given in the Landscape Character SPD or an AONB Management Plan.
  9. Existing features that are important to the local landscape character shall be retained and incorporated into the proposed development.

Dark Skies

5.316 Paragraph 125 of the NPPF identifies the importance of minimising the impact of light pollution, stating 'by encouraging good design, planning policies and decisions should limit the impact of light pollution from artificial light on local amenity, intrinsically dark landscapes and nature conservation'.

5.317 This is of particular relevance to Ashford Borough as the rural areas in the southern part of the borough currently enjoy some of the darkest skies in the south east region, unaffected as yet by the effects of external lighting often brought on by development. The area around Woodchurch in particular, to the east of Tenterden, has been measured by global satellites as comprising one of the only areas in the county with no light detected. It therefore provides important opportunities for stargazing activity and meets the criteria for an 'intrinsically dark landscape' as described by the NPPF. This opportunity is currently being pursued by the Council, in partnership with the relevant Parish Councils and in close consultation with the Astronomical Society (a key and highly active part of the local voluntary sector within the Borough) to secure the designation of this area as a Dark Sky Zone.

5.318 In addition, much of the Kent Downs and High Weald AONBs currently enjoy low levels of light pollution, an important aspect of their landscape character and tranquility and one which it is therefore important to seek to conserve and enhance.

5.319 In all areas of the Borough, obtrusive external lighting can result in harm to residential amenity and to the diurnal rhythms of biodiversity. Light control is therefore a key planning consideration in all development proposals, with particular attention required to this aspect of development in the zones of darkest skies and existing low district brightness, as set out in the Ashford Dark Skies SPD (2014). In such zones, lighting should be the minimum needed for security or working purposes and should minimise the potential obtrusive light from glare or light trespass. Lighting proposals that would significantly affect areas of nature conservation importance, including National Nature Reserves, SSSIs and Local Wildlife Sites will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances.

 

Policy ENV4 - Light Pollution and Promoting Dark Skies

All proposals will be expected to comply with the guidance and requirements set out in the Council's Dark Skies SPD (2014).

Proposals where external lighting is required should include a full lighting scheme that provides information about layout and beam orientation, a schedule of the light equipment proposed including luminaire type, mounting height, aiming angles and lumen unit levels. Proposals will be permitted provided that the lighting proposed is the minimum appropriate for its purpose, is designed such that lighting is directed downwards, with a beam angle below 70 degrees and that no significant adverse effects individually or cumulatively will result to the character of the area, the residential amenity of local residents, the safety of vehicle users and pedestrians or the diurnal rhythms of the Borough's biodiversity assets.

Within the area proposed to be designated as a 'dark sky zone', proposals will only be permitted where they adhere to the above requirements and where they can demonstrate that there will be no significant adverse effects on the visibility of the night sky or its intrinsically dark landscapes.

 

 

Protecting Important Rural Features

5.320 In addition to the many and varied elements that constitute landscape character, there are a number of specific features that are worthy of protection in their own right. Ancient and semi-natural woodlands are often not just important landscape features but provide a range of habitat and biodiversity value not found in other forms of woodland. The NPPF (paragraph 118) advises against the loss or deterioration of ancient woodland and aged or veteran trees, unless the need for and benefits of the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss. The protection of such important features of the Borough's landscapes which have long contributed to the quality and variety of the countryside here is an important objective that requires specific policy coverage.

5.321 The river corridors and tributaries that permeate the rural areas of the Borough also play an important role in defining the appearance and function of many parts of the Ashford countryside, including several villages. These corridors are important for floodwater storage and conveyance and safeguarded water quality and can play a variety of roles from recreational routes to wildlife habitats and therefore are considered worthy of protection from inappropriate development.

5.322 The Borough's rural lanes provide the means to travel around the countryside but are also distinctive features in their own right that have played a role in shaping the overall character and appearance of the countryside of this Borough over many centuries. Some rural lanes may have a particular landscape, nature conservation or historic importance and their character and appearance should be protected. Similarly, the public rights of way network (including bridleways) often reflects a legacy of the Borough's strong history of routeways and provides a mosaic of opportunities across the borough for walking, equestrianism and recreation in the countryside. It is important that this network is retained and, if possible, enhanced through the creation of clear, attractive connections to (or through) new developments.

Policy ENV5 - Protecting important rural features

All development in the rural areas of the Borough shall protect and, where possible, enhance the following features:

  1. ancient woodland and semi-natural woodland;
  2. river corridors and tributaries;
  3. rural lanes which have a landscape, nature conservation or historic importance; and
  4. public rights of way.

Water and Climate Change

Development and Flood Risk

5.323 Ashford is at particular risk from fluvial flooding, as five main rivers converge in the town – the Great Stour, East Stour, Aylesford Stream, Whitewater Dyke and Ruckinge Dyke. Two flood storage reservoirs upstream of Ashford, one at Aldington on the East Stour, the other at Hothfield on the Great Stour currently protect Ashford town from fluvial flooding. These reservoirs were recently tested between December 2013 and February 2014 with the wettest winter since 1910. The region received 258% of long term average rainfall with high peak flows in local rivers. The reservoirs neared full capacity but prevented widespread flooding in Ashford[1].

5.324 Flooding remains a critical issue for Ashford given the topography of the surrounding area and the geology which is predominantly Chalk, with outcrops of Gault Clay and Lower Greensands. The rivers are highly responsive to flows which increase rapidly after heavy rain and fall quickly in drier spells giving them ‘flashy’ characteristics. Whilst the Ashford urban area has had significant investment in flood alleviation in recent years, there are some areas of the town still considered to be at risk of flooding by the Environment Agency, notably in South Ashford. It is therefore essential that development does not increase this risk. New development presents an important opportunity to ‘build-in’ additional local capacity in terms of flood mitigation. Adaptations to new development can contribute towards combating the effects of climate change over the next 100 years.

5.325 The NPPF and accompanying Planning Practice Guidance makes it clear the importance of accounting for flood risk within Local Plans to protect people and property from flooding. The Environment Agency has identified areas at risk of flooding from rivers and the sea for the Ashford Borough, available from the Flood Mapping pages of the Agency’s website[2]. These areas are defined into four categories as follows, Zone 1 (low probability of flooding), Zone 2 (medium probability), Zone 3a (high probability) and Zone 3b (functional floodplain). These flood zones are indicative of the potential undefended floodplain.

5.326 In allocating new areas of development, the Local Plan has generally avoided areas with a high probability of flood risk and the functional floodplain. All future proposals should preferably be located in Flood Zone 1, as locating development in Flood Zone 1 means that future development is not reliant on costly fluvial flood defences that may become unsustainable in future due to climate change. It should be noted, that runoff from development within Flood Zone 1 has the potential to cause an increase in the probability of flooding if not mitigated. Therefore, any development which causes an additional flood risk by virtue of increasing runoff would need to be suitably mitigated or it will be considered unacceptable.

5.327 However, for other reasons of sustainability and regeneration and where there are no reasonable alternative available sites, the Council may give consideration to the vulnerability of land uses in considering development in higher flood risk areas. In these circumstances, developments will need to meet the ‘exceptions test’ as specified within the NPPF. It will be important to establish the ‘actual’ risk of flooding, which takes account of the protection afforded by any flood defences present, and the ‘residual’ risk should that level of protection fail, as set out within the Ashford SFRA. The development must demonstrate that any additional flood risk has been adequately mitigated either on or off site.

5.328 Site-specific flood risk assessments (FRAs) should be submitted alongside development proposals in accordance with the Planning Practice Guidance. FRAs should be appropriate to the scale and nature of proposed development taking account of flood risk and future climate change.

5.329 The functional floodplain is ‘land where water has to flow or be stored in times of flood’ and will have the highest protection against development. Only water compatible developments or essential infrastructure will be allowed in these areas where they have passed both exception tests. In any event, development must avoid flood storage areas or restricting water flows. The Ashford Green Corridor is made up of open spaces and recreational areas alongside the rivers that flow through Ashford, much of which is within the functional floodplain. These areas will be protected and enhanced for flood storage and their amenity value.

5.330 In line with government guidance, the Council commissioned the Ashford Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (2014) which assessed the extent and nature of flood risk across the Borough and the implications for land use planning, taking account of the anticipated impacts of climate change. In addition, Kent County Council, as Lead Local Flood Authority prepared the Ashford Stage 1 Surface Water Management Plan. These documents together with the Environment Agency’s maps should be used to support the consideration of all planning applications.

5.331 Applicants will need to demonstrate that their proposal accords with both the NPPF and Local Plan policies in relation to flood risk. The appropriate responsible bodies should be consulted, as required, during the initial design process, including the Environment Agency, Internal Drainage Boards, Southern Water and Kent County Council.

5.332 [1] Information supplied by the Environment Agency.

5.333 [2] What’s in your Back Yard, Environment Agency: http://apps.environment-agency.gov.uk/wiyby/37837.aspx

Policy ENV6 - Flood Risk

Proposals for new development should contribute to an overall flood risk reduction.

The sequential test and exception tests established by the National Planning Policy Framework will be strictly adhered to across the Borough, with new development preferably being located in Flood Zone 1.

Development will only be permitted where it would not be at an unacceptable risk of flooding itself, and, there would be no increase to flood risk elsewhere.

In exceptional circumstances, where the tests above cannot be met, essential transport or utility infrastructure, or other development on brownfield sites may be allowed if:

the development is designed to be compatible with potential flood conditions, and,

  1. there are no alternative sites in a lower flood risk zone, and
  2. suitable flood protection and mitigation measures are incorporated into the development appropriate to the nature and scale of risk, and
  3. comprehensive management and maintenance plans are in place for its effective operation during the lifetime of the development (taking account of climate change allowances), and
  4. adoption arrangements are secured (where applicable) with the relevant public authority or statutory undertaker, and
  5. the development would make a significant contribution to the overall sustainable development objectives of the Local Plan, such that the wider sustainability benefits of the development outweigh the flood risk, and
  6. it can be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Council and the Environment Agency that adequate resistance and resilience measures have been put in place to avoid any increase in flooding either on site or elsewhere.

A site-specific Flood Risk Assessment (FRA), endorsed by the Environment Agency, appropriate to the scale and nature of the development and the risks involved will be required inline with Planning Practice Guidance and in particular where the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment or Surface Water Management Plan, indicates there are records of historic flooding or other sources of flooding.

In all cases, development that would harm the effectiveness of existing flood defences or prejudice their maintenance or management will not be permitted.

Water Resources and Efficiency

5.334 Water is a finite resource essential for human health and wellbeing as well as the natural environment and needs to be managed. Water resources are managed by the Environment Agency in England who implement a licensing strategy for the abstraction of water for various purposes, including public water supplies, industry and agriculture. Once abstracted from the environment responsibility passes over to the water undertakers who have a statutory duty to supply drinking water.

5.335 South East Water (SEW) supplies the Ashford Borough with potable water. Currently, household demand for water is a high proportion of the current effective rainfall which is available to meet demand, and as such the whole of SEW’s supply area is currently classified as ‘an area of serious water stress’[1].

5.336 Public concern about water supply remains high. SEW forecast data shows that if the company ‘do nothing’ there will be insufficient water to meet future demand across their supply area. The SEW Water Resource Management Plan (WRMP) (2015-2040) uses a twin-track approach to managing this supply demand deficit through demand management and water resource development as without these measures in place new development may be restricted in future. However, SEW have confirmed that following sensitivity testing on housing numbers their WRMP programme will fully satisfy the growth in demands within their supply area proposed within the Ashford Local Plan.

5.337 Demand management measures include a long-term strategy to reduce water use focused on changing customer behaviour. The WRMP has a target to reduce per capita consumption of water across their supply area to 149 litres per person per day (l/p/d) by 2040. This is a reduction against the current baseline of 166 l/p/d and highlights the need for sustained water efficiency improvements.

5.338 A range of new water resource infrastructure is being proposed to increase capacity within the WRMP some located within the Ashford Borough or adjoining local authority area. This includes a new groundwater source at Maytham Farm, Rolvenden with plans to replace non-operational works with a new treatment works (in 2020), and a new reservoir at Broad Oak near Canterbury (in 2033).

5.339 There is a need for local authorities, developers and water companies to work closely together to deliver the efficiencies necessary to meet the identified water supply targets set out within the SEW WRMP (2015-2040).

5.340 The Government updated Building Regulations Part G in 2015, introducing an ‘optional’ requirement of 110 l/p/day for new residential development, which should be implemented through local policy where there is a clearly evidenced need. The evidence clearly justifies the need for more stringent water efficiency targets for new residential development in the Borough.

 

Policy ENV7 - Water Efficiency
All new residential development must achieve as a minimum the optional requirement set through Building Regulations for water efficiency that requires an estimated water use of no more than 110 litres per person per day.

 

5.341 [1] Environment Agency, Water Stress Classification (July 2013).

 

 

 

Water Quality, Supply and Treatment

5.342 The majority of Ashford’s water supply comes from large underground chalk and greensand aquifers that need regular replenishment over sustained periods. These aquifers are currently over abstracted and over licensed and there is a ‘presumption against’ further consumptive abstraction[2] . As well as being an important source of drinking water, groundwater provides rivers with their base-flow which if not maintained can be detrimental to river water quality. DEFRA are proposing changes to water abstraction licensing exemptions in England which will bring in New Authorisations into the licensing system in 2016 to better manage water at catchment level. Demand management measures such as water efficiency and the use of sustainable drainage to retain groundwater supplies are essential for the long-term resilience of water supplies in the Ashford.

5.343 The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is the legal framework established to protect and restore clean water throughout Europe. A key target of the WFD is to achieve ‘good’ status by 2021 or 2027. Aylesford Stream on the East Stour was previously the only waterbody within East Kent achieving ‘Good’ WFD status but the latest cycle (2) shows that it is no longer meeting WFD objectives. Whilst pollution from wastewater has a significant impact on water quality other impacts such as road runoff, rural discharge from farming practices and low rainfall combined with widespread water abstraction and physical modifications are also contributing to poor water quality.

5.344 New development must ensure that there are no direct or indirect adverse effects on the quality of water supplies. Appropriate mitigation measures need to be put in place to minimise the impact of increased urbanisation on the water environment. Without such measures, there will be a significant risk of groundwater pollution and flooding.

5.345  [2] Stour Abstraction Licensing Strategy (2013) Environment Agency

 

Policy ENV8 - Water Quality, Supply and Treatment

 

Major proposals for new development must be able to demonstrate that there are, or will be, adequate water supply and wastewater treatment facilities in place to serve the whole development, or where development is being carried out in phases, the whole of the phase for which approval is being sought. Improvements in these facilities, the timing of their provision and funding sources will be key to the delivery of development.

All development proposals must provide a connection to the sewerage system at the nearest point of adequate capacity, as advised by Southern Water, and ensure future access to the existing sewerage systems for maintenance and upsizing purposes.

Schemes that would be likely to result in a reduction in the quality or quantity of groundwater resources will not be permitted. The Council will support, in principle, infrastructure proposals designed to increase water supply and wastewater treatment capacity subject to there being no significant adverse environmental impacts and the minimisation of those that may remain. 

 

 

Strategic Urban Drainage Systems (SuDs)

5.346 Water supply, flood risk and water quality have all been identified as critical constraints to the sustainable growth of Ashford. Ashford’s water environment needs to be managed carefully and the multi-benefits of implementing SuDS within local developments can not be overstated.

5.347 SuDS can make a real different to flood risk by managing the quantity of surface water run-off from development, they can also moderate flow rates and prevent sudden water level rises following heavy rain. SuDS can significantly reduce harm to valuable water resources by retaining water within the local hydrological system as well as protecting water resources from pollution by filtering run-off. SuDS can form an integral part of both soft or hard landscaping and can contribute to the quality of green space for the benefit of amenity, recreation and wildlife. SuDS may also allow new development in areas where existing drainage systems are close to capacity, thereby enabling development within existing urban areas.

5.348 The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 introduced the concept of flood risk management into law and sets out the intention for SuDS in all new development. The NPPF requires LPAs to minimise vulnerability and provide resilience to the impacts of climate change, and requires all new developments in areas at risk of flooding to give ‘priority to the use of sustainable drainage systems’[1]. The Government have recently made changes to the NPPF making it clear that they expect SuDS to be provided in all new major development wherever it is appropriate[2]. DEFRA have published ‘non-statutory technical standards for sustainable drainage systems[3]’ which provides guidance on minimum standards of design, maintenance and operation of SuDS systems and sits alongside the Planning Practice Guidance. These documents together with the Ashford Stage 1 Surface Water Management Plan[4] provide information and guidance in formulating planning proposals.  

5.349 The Ashford Integrated Water Management Study[5] identified that SuDS with restricted discharges would be integral to managing flood risk as Ashford grows.

5.350 Sustainable drainage systems are designed to control surface water run off close to where it falls and mimic natural drainage as closely as possible.  Sustainable drainage systems also provide opportunities (in line with NPPF) to:

  • reduce the causes and impacts of flooding;
  • remove pollutants from urban run-off at source;
  • combine water management with green space with benefits for amenity, recreation and wildlife.

5.351 In April 2015 KCC as Lead Local Flood Authority for Kent become a statutory consultee as per national requirements following a parliamentary statement in December 2014. Kent County Council have an adopted “Drainage and Planning Policy Statement” which should inform development of drainage schemes. There are also situations where consultation with the Environment Agency will be necessary in relation fluvial flood risk, water quality, biodiversity and groundwater protection, which may impact measures proposed for surface water management.

5.352 A recent discharge rates assessment based on the latest flood modelling for Ashford confirms the potential to reduce flood risk in Ashford through development appropriately managing and ultimately reducing site runoff rates through new development will assist in ensuring that the floodplain extents within Ashford do not increase even in light of expected changes in rainfall intensity as a result of predicted climate change.

5.353 The findings of the Discharge Rates Assessment demonstrated that the current Ashford Borough Council SuDS SPD policy (CS20) standard of 4 l/s/ha is difficult to achieve when applying to small site developments. The infrastructure required to store the quantity of water needed to achieve this discharge rate would not be feasible within smaller sites, as long term storage requires large areas of land.

5.354 The Assessment also recommended that discharge requirements should be based on site-specific conditions and monitoring (if available). By undertaking site-specific studies, a detailed analysis of what SuDS could be implemented into the site could also be achieved.

5.355 Finally, it was also recommended that the Council should consider a higher discharge rate than 4 l/s/ha to apply borough wide if the site is brownfield. This study has outlined that the majority of the allocated sites would be capable of accommodating drainage infrastructure that would be able to discharge to half-capacity within 24 hours, based on a discharge rate of 5 l/s/ha.

5.356 In light of the recommendations of this report, the SPD is to be updated to reflect recent changes in local and national policies with respect to the requirements for discharge runoff rates throughout the borough and recent government changes on SuDS. These changes will seek to continue the reduction in flood risk through development across the borough, targeting larger sites where multifaceted benefits can be obtained by the introduction of appropriate SuDS and discharge rate reduction. The discharge rates will also be simplified to be more aligned with current guidance / established best practice wherever possible to ensure a robust reasoning behind the policy document. Moreover, discharge rates will be more site specific and should mimic the current drainage regime for a site, whilst also reducing the peak discharges from the critical storms.  The ultimate aim of the policy is to improve flood risk management in the Borough through future development.

5.357 The existing Sustainable Drainage SPD (2010) rates remain in place until such time that an updated Sustainable Drainage SPD is released, unless alternative discharge rates are agreed by the Council in consultation with KCC as Lead Local Flood Authority.

5.358 The updated Sustainable Drainage SPD is anticipated to recommend the following discharge rates based upon the Discharge Rates Assessment:

  • Greenfield –Discharge rates for undeveloped sites should discharge at a maximum of 5l/s/ha, or 10% below current greenfield rates for the existing 1:100 storm event, whichever is lower. There must be no increase in discharge rate from less severe rainfall events, with evidence submitted to demonstrate this principle.
  • Previously Developed – Discharge rates for previously developed sites must meet at a minimum a reduction of 10% of existing runoff rates where this existing discharge rate can be established or 10.26l/s/ha where this cannot be established; but must endeavour to achieve 5 l/s/ha or seek to achieve 50% reduction from existing runoff rates for the site (where this can be established).

5.359 The above proposals set out the continuation of reducing runoff rates within the Borough through development.

5.360 Within the Ashford Borough the requirement for the inclusion of SuDS within major development has been extended beyond that set out within the NPPF, and also includes minor developments. Permitted developments are also encouraged to integrate SuDS into development.

5.361 Developers will normally be expected to make provision for SuDS on-site where it is practical to do so. As an exception, where SuDS cannot be achieved on developments in the Ashford urban area, developers will be required to make suitable in-lieu financial contributions through Section 106 Agreements. Consideration should also be given to ‘strategic SuDS’ where a limited number of attenuation and treatment areas are needed downstream in areas of significant planned development.

5.362 The Council expects SuDS to form an integral part of the development design process. This is because successful SuDS require a range of discharge or infiltration techniques that need to be designed in a sequential order. Whilst primarily used to attenuate runoff, early consideration of SuDS provides the opportunity to design-in other benefits which will deliver more sustainable developments. Whilst it is acknowledged that some sites can be more challenging than others, SuDS can be applied to any site. For the reasons set out above, the Council advocates the use of masterplanning in SuDS. Useful guidance on how to successfully integrate SuDS through the masterplanning process has been development by KCC in Water.People.Place[6]. Kent County Council as Lead Local Flood Authority and statutory consultee has also produced a Drainage and Planning Policy Statement which should be referred to in the consideration of planning applications[7].  

 

Policy ENV9 - Sustainable Drainage

 

All development should include appropriate sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) for the disposal of surface water, in order to avoid any increase in flood risk or adverse impact on water quality, and to mimic the drainage from the pre-developed site.

Any SuDS scheme should be compliant with the adopted Sustainable Drainage SPD and any subsequent revisions.

SuDS features should always be the preferred option and provided onsite wherever practicable. In the Ashford urban area if this cannot be achieved, then more strategic forms of SuDS may be appropriate. In such circumstances, developers will need to contribute towards the costs of provision via Section 106 Agreements.

All development proposals will be required to:

  1. Ensure all new developments are designed to reduce the risk of flooding, and maximise environmental gain, such as: water quality, water resources, biodiversity, landscape and recreational open space.
  2. Ensure that all new developments are designed to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.
  3. Lower runoff flow rates, reducing the impact of urbanisation on flooding.
  4. Protect or enhance water quality. Incorporating appropriate pollution control measures, to ensure there are no adverse impacts on the water quality of receiving waters, both during construction and in operation;
  5. Be sympathetic to the environmental setting and the needs of the local community.
  6. Incorporate a SuDS scheme that is coherent with the surrounding landscape and/or townscape;  
  7. Provide a habitat for wildlife in urban watercourses; and encourage natural groundwater recharge (where appropriate).
  8. Demonstrate that opportunities have been taken to integrate sustainable drainage with biodiversity enhancements through appropriately designed surface water systems, as well as contribute to amenity and open spaces;
  9. Demonstrate that the first 5mm of any rainfall event can be accommodated and disposed of on-site;
  10. Demonstrate that clear arrangements have been established for the operation and maintenance of the SuDS component for the lifetime of the development.

Developers must notify the Council to discharge any relevant conditions before commencement of works on site to ensure a compliant design has been submitted.

 

5.363 [1] National Planning Policy Framework (2012), DCLG, Paragraph 103.

5.364 [2] Written Ministerial Statement, DCLG (December 2014) HCWS161.

5.365 [3] Non-statutory technical standards for sustainable drainage systems, Defra, March 2015.

5.366 [4] KCC, Ashford Stage 1 Surface Water Management Plan (October 2013).

5.367 [5] Ashford Integrated Water Management Study (2005), Ashford’s Future / Environment Agency

5.368 [6] Water.People.Places can be found at: http://www.kent.gov.uk/waste-planning-and-land/flooding-and-drainage/sustainable-drainage-systems

5.369 [7] KCC, Drainage and Planning Policy Statement, (September 2015).

 

 

Renewable Energy

5.370 The NPPF (Para. 97) recognises the responsibility on all communities to contribute to energy generation from renewable and low carbon sources. LPAs are required to have a positive strategy to promote energy from renewable and low carbon sources as it helps ensure a secure more sustainable supply of energy that reduces carbon emissions minimising the impact of climate change.

5.371 There is an array of technology available which is classified as renewable and low carbon technology, some of which are now commonplace within Ashford developments. The more familiar types used include solar thermal and photovoltaics panels, ground or air source heat pumps and, to a lesser extent, combined heat and power, wind turbines and small scale hydro. These technologies should be located onsite or in close proximity to the end user.

5.372 National policy requires LPAs to ‘design their policies to maximise renewable and low carbon energy development while ensuring that adverse impacts are addressed satisfactorily, including cumulative landscape and visual impacts’.

5.373 It is recognised that any planning decision needs to balance the impacts of renewables provision against the benefits of the proposal and planning policy guidance makes it quite clear that renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protection.

5.374 This is significant for the Ashford Borough which has large areas designated as AONB and is predominantly rural in character. Proposals which have an adverse impact on the landscape character, distinctive landform, special characteristics and qualities of the AONB or its setting would need to be opposed unless their impacts can be successfully mitigated. Local topography will be an important factor when considering whether there could be any damaging effect on the landscape. The use of Landscape Character Assessments will be useful in this context and their outcomes should inform any future proposal.

5.375 In helping increase the use and supply of renewable and low carbon energy, the NPPF (para. 97) requires Local Plans to ‘identify opportunities where development can draw its energy supply from decentralised, renewable or low carbon energy supply systems and for co-locating potential heat customers and suppliers’. Decentralised energy relates to local renewable energy and can encompass a wide range of technologies. Renewable and low carbon energy includes heating and cooling as well as the generation of electricity.

5.376 Co-locating potential heat customers provides the opportunity to utilise district heat networks subject to appropriate heat demand. If supported by Combined Heat and Power (CHP), district heat networks can provide a highly efficient means of supplying energy. The government recognises this, hence the promotion through national policy. Policy CG19 of the Chilmington Green AAP promotes this form of technology for the first phase as the scale and mix of uses, including a primary school and retail units have the potential to make such a scheme viable. There are also stand alone CHP schemes located at the International Station and Tesco’s at Park Farm[1].

5.377 The issues associated with implementing such a heat network are intrinsically complex including capacity and heat distribution issues as well as the cost of bringing forward such infrastructure. Imposing such a requirement has the potential to add a significant burden to development infrastructure costs. Aside from the Chilmington Green development, no policy intervention approach is proposed for district heat networks, instead leaving it to the market to bring forward suitable proposals.

Standalone Renewable and Low Carbon Energy Generation

5.378 PV Panels or solar technology relating to an individual building is often permitted development provided it’s not in a designated area, is not of an unusual design or will not be installed on a listed building. The Council have established Renewable Energy Planning Guidance Notes that have been approved by Cabinet. The guidance notes have been prepared to assist applicants in bringing forward domestic and medium scale solar PV arrays, as well as large scale solar PV arrays, such as solar farms.

5.379 Following concerns by local communities into the insufficient weight given to the environment with regard to landscape, heritage and local amenity in relation to wind farms. The government issued a statement (6 June 2013) expecting local plans to include policies to ensure the adverse impact from wind farms, including cumulative landscape and visual impact are addressed satisfactorily.

5.380 The government intends to amend legislation so that LPAs will handle all planning applications for onshore wind energy development. Kent Downs AONB JAC have produced a Renewable Energy Position Statement (Updated June 2011) in which it states that due to the high sensitivity of the Kent Downs AONB it considers that large scale commercial wind turbine developments will be unacceptable. The statement also considers it extremely unlikely that any location can be found in or within the setting of the AONB where field-scale solar PV arrays, such as solar farms does not have a significant adverse effect on the landscape. National policy guidance also highlights the need to focus large scale solar farm on previously developed land and non agricultural land and as a last resort low grade agricultural land. This greatly limits the availability of potential sites within the Borough.

5.381 The following policy sets out how proposals for renewable and low carbon energy generation will be considered.  

5.382 [1] There may be other CHPs within the Borough, but these are logged with the CHPQA Programme.

 

Policy ENV10 - Renewable and Low Carbon Energy

 

Planning permission for proposals to generate energy from renewable and low carbon sources will be permitted provided that:

  1. The development, either individually or cumulatively does not result in significant adverse impacts on the landscape, natural assets or historic assets (including their setting);
  2. The scale and design of renewable energy provision is compatible with the character and appearance of the area, having special regard to nationally recognised designations and their setting, such as AONBs, Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings.
  3. The development does not generate an unacceptable level of traffic or loss of amenity to nearby residents (visual impact, noise, disturbance, shadow flicker, odour).
  4. Provision is made for the decommissioning of the infrastructure once operation has ceased, including the restoration of the site to its previous use;
  5. Evidence is provided to demonstrate effective engagement with the local community and local authority.

A Sustainability Assessment should be submitted alongside any planning application illustrating the social, environmental and economic benefits of the proposal against this criterion and any mitigation measures necessary.

 

 

Sustainable Design and Construction

5.383 The NPPF (paragraph 94) requires LPAs to have a proactive strategy to mitigate and adapt to climate change within their Local Plans. This will include policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting the delivery of highly efficient buildings both in terms of energy and water use.

5.384 Carbon dioxide emissions account for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK (82% in 2013). It is estimated that 37% of carbon dioxide emissions are emitted from the energy sector, 25% from transport, 17% from the residential sector and 16% from the commercial sector[1].  

5.385 Previous Local Plan policy and supplementary planning documents have required new residential development, through the implementation of EcoHomes and the Code for Sustainable Homes, to reduce energy emissions. Both of these have been recently been superseded by changes to Building Regulations that have come into force for new dwellings. Building Regulations now take into account all regulated emissions, i.e. arising from heating, water heating, fixed lighting and ventilation. The Council is therefore relying upon Building Regulations to reduce energy emissions from new housing development in the future.

5.386 With regards to non-residential and commercial sectors of development, which also account for a significant proportion of carbon emissions, government's recent reforms have not been introduced for this sector, although it is expected that a similar framework will be adopted by the government in the future. Previous Local Plan policy in the relation to setting sustainability standards for non-residential development has focused on the use of BREEAM standards. Given the uncertainty about when national requirements may come into place, and the significant proportion of carbon emissions, that this sector accounts for, it is considered necessary to require new development to achieve BREEAM 'Very Good' standard.

5.387 As set out in previous parts of this chapter, water resource is also a major issue for the Borough. The policy therefore requires new development to achieve specific improvements in terms of water consumption. 

Policy ENV11 - Sustainable Design and Construction - Non-residential

 

All major non-residential development will achieve BREEAM ‘Very Good’ standard, with at least a 40% improvement in water consumption against the baseline performance of the building (Wat1, 3 credits), unless demonstrated not to be practicable.     

5.388 [1] DECC, 2013 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions (27th March 2014).

 

 

Air Quality

5.389 The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that the planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment. It should prevent both new and existing development from contributing to or being put at unacceptable risk of pollution including air pollution. Consideration must be given to the presence of Air Quality Management Areas and the cumulative impacts on air quality from individual sites in local areas.

5.390 Ashford Borough generally has very good air quality. There are currently no areas within the Borough where the air quality fails to meet the required standards, and there are no designated Air Quality Management Areas. However, future development in the Borough has potential to impact upon air quality.

5.391 Planning is an effective tool to improve air quality. It can be used to locate development to reduce emissions overall, and reduce the direct impacts of new development, through policy requirements. As set out in the Strategic Policies of this Plan, proposed development allocations have been located to, where possible, minimise the need to travel, therefore reducing emissions from road traffic. The transport section of this Plan includes policies which promote the use of sustainable modes of transport, with the aim of reducing the use of the car.

5.392 Ashford Borough Council is a member of the Kent and Medway Air Quality Partnership where data and information about air quality throughout Kent is pooled and shared. The partnership has produced guidance which sets of the requirements for the consideration of air quality in proposals for new development. National guidance has been produced by Environmental Protection UK and the Institute of Air Quality Management.

5.393 The overall outcome of an air quality assessment is to determine whether the development will have a significant impact on air quality and/or whether the existing air quality environment is acceptable for the proposed development.

5.394 The types of development that are likely to require an air quality assessment are identified in the Kent and Medway Air Quality Partnerships Technical Planning Guide.

5.395 The following policy sets out the requirements for development proposals to consider air quality and ensure potential negative impacts upon air quality are ameliorated.

Policy ENV12 - Air Quality

 

All major development proposals should promote a shift to the use of sustainable low emission transport to minimise the impact of vehicle emissions on air quality. Development should be located where it is accessible to support the use of public transport, walking and cycling.

Development proposals that might lead to a significant deterioration in air quality or national air quality objectives being exceeded, either by itself, or in combination with other committed development, will require the submission of an Air Quality Assessment to be carried out in accordance with the relevant guidance. This should address:-

  1. The cumulative effect of further emissions;
  2. The proposed measures of mitigation through good design and offsetting measures that would prevent the National Air Quality Objectives being exceeded or reduce the extent of the air quality deterioration.

Proposals which will result in National Air Quality Objectives being exceeded will not be permitted.

The Historic Environment

Conservation and Enhancement of Heritage Assets

5.396 One of the core principles of the NPPF is that planning should conserve heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance, so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of this and future generations. Heritage assets are defined in the NPPF as "a building, monument, site, place, area or landscape identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration planning decisions, because of its heritage interest. Heritage assets include designated heritage assets and assets identified by the local planning authority (including local listing)".  Significance is defined, in this context, as the value of a heritage asset to this and future generations because of its heritage interest. That interest may be historic, archaeological, architectural or artistic. Significance derives not only from a heritage asset's physical presence, but also from its setting. Evidence of the breadth of heritage assets in the Borough is contained in the National Historic List for England and the Historic Environment Record (HER) held by Kent County Council for the county. 

The Ashford Heritage Strategy

5.397 The Draft Ashford Heritage Strategy, prepared by the Council, sets out a positive strategy for the conservation and enjoyment of the Borough's rich historic environment, assessing the significance of its broad portfolio of  heritage assets, the contribution they make to the environment of the Borough and their potential to contribute to the delivery of other sustainable development objectives of the Local Plan. Given the high number of listed buildings and other designated places and structures in the Borough, the Strategy categorises all historic assets under a series of themes selected to reflect the broad heritage and historical fabric of Ashford - Prehistory, Farming and Farmsteads, Routeways, Historic Houses and Gardens, Ecclesiastical, Industry and Commerce, Invasion and Defence and the Railway. This is an approach adopted by other heritage strategies and endorsed by Kent County Council.These themes are not meant to be a definitive list, or to be read in any other way than as a tool for facilitating the assessment of the significance of the large numbers of the Borough’s heritage assets and the contribution they make to the environment.

5.398 The NPPF (paragraph 128) advises that  local planning authorities should require applicants to describe the significance of any heritage asset affected by proposals including any contribution made by their setting, and the Heritage Strategy provides a useful resource to assist in this regard.

 Listed Buildings

5.399 Ashford Borough is home to a significant number of listed buildings, statutorily recognised as being of particular special architectural or historic interest. They are a valuable and irreplaceable resource for the Borough and the NPPF advises they should be conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance (paragraph 126). As well as being of heritage value in themselves, Listed Buildings often make an important contribution to the character of a wider area and help to deliver positive benefits to the cultural, economic and environmental offer of the Borough. To this end, the Council will support proposals which put such buildings to viable use consistent with their conservation.

Local Listing

5.400 Many buildings or structures in the Borough which do not currently meet national criteria for statutory listing nevertheless often have local historical importance and may be worthy of protection and conservation in their own right. Local lists play an important role in celebrating non-designated heritage that is particularly valued by communities.The process of preparing a local heritage list allows local people, in partnership with the Council, to identify local heritage that they would wish to see recognised and protected. Such local lists once agreed by the local planning authority as having heritage significance, will merit consideration in planning matters, with the planning authority taking a balanced judgement having regard to the scale of any harm or loss and the significance of the heritage asset itself. Ashford does not currently have a Local List and the council will therefore prepare SPD setting out guidance and recommended methodology on Historic England's Guiding Principles for Local Heritage Listing in order to support local groups wishing to prepare Local Heritage Lists.

 


Policy ENV13 - Conservation and Enhancement of Heritage Assets

Proposals which protect, conserve and enhance the heritage assets of the Borough, sustaining and enhancing their significance and the contribution they make to local character and distinctiveness, will be supported. Proposals that make sensitive use of heritage assets through regeneration, particularly where these bring redundant or under-used buildings and  areas into appropriate and viable use consistent with their conservation, will be encouraged.

Development will not be permitted where it will cause loss or substantial harm to the significance of heritage assets or their settings unless it can be demonstrated that substantial public benefits will be delivered that outweigh the harm or loss. 

All applications which will affect a heritage asset or its setting should be supported by a description of the asset's historic, architectural or archaeological significance with an appropriate level of detail relating to the asset and the likely impact of the proposals on its significance.

 

Conservation Areas

5.401 Conservation Areas contain some of the best townscapes in the Borough along with attractive areas of landscape which provide their settings. Their designation demonstrates that they have "special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance". (Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990) The Council has a statutory duty to pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character and appearance of the Borough's 43 Conservation Areas and as part of this duty has an ongoing programme of updating and preparing Appraisals for each of the Conservation Areas as heritage assets in their own right.

5.402 Conservation Area Appraisals have recently been undertaken for Ashford Town Centre, Kingsnorth and Woodchurch. These Appraisals examine the key elements that contribute to the special architectural or historic interest of each Area in addition to a spatial analysis of the area including a description of interrelationships of spaces and key views and vistas, and landmarks and an assessment of architectural details, building materials and the contribution of the public realm, local green spaces, parks, gardens and trees (public and private) to the setting of the Conservation Area. They also briefly record the general condition of the area and identify negative features that should be improved or enhanced, suggest potential boundary changes and identify pressures and problems such as traffic, inappropriate advertising, vacancy and disrepair of buildings  that detract from the setting and character of the Area. The Council will continue to review the Conservation Areas across the Borough and where appropriate will amend or create new Conservation Areas in accordance with guidance provided by Historic England.

5.403 The variety of building styles dating from different periods frequently adds character and interest to Conservation Areas. Innovative design can be appropriate, provided that it is of highest quality and is sensitive to the context of the site and its setting within the  Conservation Area. Therefore, development proposals coming forward within Conservation Areas should have regard to the layout and grain of buildings, streets and spaces and should reflect and enhance local distinctiveness through the retention of building lines, and attention to boundary treatments, open spaces and footpaths. It is also important that new development takes particular account of the impact on the setting of Conservation Areas and important views into and out of the Area.

 


Policy ENV14 - Conservation Areas

Development or redevelopment within Conservation Areas will be permitted provided such proposals preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the Area. Proposals should fulfill each of the following:

  1. the scale and detailed design of all new development and alterations should respect the historical and  architectural character, proportion and massing, including roofscapes, of the area, the relationship between buildings, the spaces between them and with their setting;
  2. the materials proposed should be appropriate to the locality and in sympathy with the existing buildings;
  3. buildings and streets of townscape character, trees, open spaces, walls, fences or any other features should be retained where they contribute positively to the character and appearance of the area;
  4. the development should not generate levels of traffic, parking or other environmental problems which would damage the character or appearance of the area; and 
  5. the use should be appropriate.  

Proposals for inappropriate demolition, alteration or extension of buildings in Conservation Areas or which could prejudice important views into or out of a Conservation Area, will be resisted where such proposals would be detrimental to their character or setting.

 

Archaeology

5.404 There are 42 Scheduled Monuments in Ashford Borough. These are identified in the Heritage Strategy. In addition, areas of known archaeological potential, arising largely from evidence uncovered during new developments, and from the Kent Historic Towns Surveys of 2003 - 2004 (undertaken across the county by Historic England and KCC and including seven towns and villages in the Borough), have been identified by Kent County Council. Further information about these areas is contained in the Ashford Heritage Strategy. In these areas, there is a reasonable possibility that archaeological remains exist and therefore the potential impact of any proposed development on archaeological remains will need to be considered. In certain cases, developers may be required to provide detailed information on the nature and quality of any archaeological remains on the site before a planning application is determined. Large scale development proposals affecting sites outside but adjoining areas of known archaeological potential may also be required to submit archaeological surveys. 

5.405 Should a significant archaeological find occur unexpectedly during development, the Council will seek specialist advice and encourage appropriate action, including recording, preservation in situ (the preferred option) limited or full excavation. In some cases approved schemes may need to be amended to avoid excessive damage to archaeological remains.

 

Policy ENV15 - Archaeology

The archaeological and historic integrity of Scheduled Monuments and other important archaeological sites, together with their settings, will be protected and where possible enhanced. Development which would adversely affect such designated heritage assets will not be permitted.

Planning applications, on sites where there is, or is the known potential for, an archaeological heritage asset, should include an appropriate desk based assessment of the asset. In addition, where important or potentially significant archaeological heritage assets may exist, developers will be required to arrange for field evaluations to be carried out in advance of the determination of planning applications. 

Where the case for development affecting a heritage asset of archaeological interest is accepted, the archaeological remains should be preserved in situ as the preferred approach. Where this is not possible or justified, appropriate provision for preservation by record may be an acceptable alternative. Any archaeological recording should be by an approved archaeological body and take place in accordance with a specification and programme of work to be submitted to and approved by the Borough Council in advance of development commencing.