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Guildford Borough Council

Submission Local Plan: Strategy and Sites - Main Modifications

Submission Local Plan: Strategy and Sites - Main Modifications - Part 1: Policies

Policy ID4: Green and blue infrastructure

Introduction

4.6.31 The term green and blue infrastructure describes all green and blue spaces in and around our settlements and in the wider countryside. This includes parks and open spaces, private gardens, agricultural fields and allotments, hedges, trees and woodlands, green roofs and walls, watercourses, reservoirs and ponds. These spaces meet a range of needs including relaxation, exercise, sport and recreation, visual amenity, wildlife habitat, flood risk management and agriculture. The diversity of potential uses means that by planning for green and blue infrastructure we can make a significant contribution to wellbeing and sustainability across the social, environmental and economic dimensions.

4.6.32 The NPPF defines green infrastructure as a 'network of multi-functional green space, urban and rural, which is capable of delivering a wide range of environmental quality of life benefits for local communities'.

Landscape and biodiversity

4.6.33 A positive approach to the provision and maintenance of Green Infrastructure is crucial to the protection and enhancement of biodiversity and wildlife in the borough, not least through the creation of new habitats and by providing connections between existing habitats. It can further assist in adaptation to climate change by providing pathways for species dispersal and migration, climate change adaptation through the cooling effects of tree cover, and in the natural management of fluvial flooding, for example, through floodplain re-connection and restoration, which can also result in the creation of new wetland habitats.

4.6.34 The Surrey Nature Partnership (SyNP) is the Local Nature Partnership for Surrey recognised by government. SyNP is working with Surrey local authorities to set out an approach to conserving and enhancing the biodiversity of the county at a landscape scale. This approach identifies Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (BOAs); areas where there are concentrations of recognised sites of biodiversity importance, both statutory and non-statutory. BOAs represent areas where improved habitat management and efforts to restore and re-create priority habitats will be most effective in improving connectivity and reducing habitat fragmentation. BOAs extend across local authority boundaries and therefore provide the strategic approach that addresses biodiversity at a landscape scale required by the NPPF. The majority of the countryside within the borough of Guildford falls within BOAs (see figure 1), which is indicative of how rich in wildlife the borough is.

4.6.35 Land that does not fall within a BOA also needs to be considered in terms of its current and potential contribution to biodiversity. In particular, BOAs do not currently cover towns and villages, so we need to consider how ecological networks within settlements and connections to the surrounding countryside can be enhanced. The management and enhancement of ecological networks within settlements represents a local approach so will be set out through development management policies and a Green and Blue Infrastructure Supplementary Planning Document (SPD). Neighbourhood plans may also bring forward neighbourhood level green infrastructure policies, particularly through the use of local knowledge to identify suitable Local Green Space.

4.6.36 The Council's emerging Countryside Vision will provide a framework to enable proactive management of the borough's countryside, and development of appropriate action plans for site management. This vision will cover the countryside sites that the Council manages, but implementation may cover additional areas in order to achieve landscape and habitat connectivity, as well as sustainable transport links. The Countryside Vision will deliver the objectives of the Surrey approach on land that it controls or has influence over.

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Figure 1: Biodiversity Opportunity Areas within Surrey

4.6.37 The Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area are dealt with specifically through policies P1 and P5.

Open space

4.6.38 Open space (as defined in the NPPF) is particularly important due to the positive contribution it makes to the character of our settlements, our health and social interaction, and because it forms the backbone of the green infrastructure network in our settlements. Therefore it is considered that cumulatively these spaces form a valued asset of strategic importance that should be protected as a strategic priority.

Blue infrastructure

4.6.39 The River Wey Navigation is a highly valued asset of borough wide significance, both as an important element of our borough's biodiversity and as a very significant public space. The National Trust has compiled a set of guidelines for what it considers are important characteristics of the river, and how it should be managed. These include the importance of the river as a 'visually important open corridor' and 'an important leisure asset' as well as a conservation area.

4.6.40 The Water Framework Directive (WFD) requires all member states to achieve good ecological and good chemical status for all groundwater and surface-water waterbodies by 2027 at the latest. This is assessed against a set of standards including water quality (both its chemistry and biology) and river morphology (for example, preserving or restoration to a naturally meandering course, preserving floodplains and providing backwater ponds). Much of the River Wey in the borough currently achieves 'moderate' status, with some tributaries achieving only 'poor' or 'bad'. The River Wey directly upstream from the borough is largely 'poor'. The River Blackwater also largely achieves 'moderate' status, but is a tributary of the River Loddon and therefore falls within the neighbouring River Loddon catchment. This is a strategic issue due to the cross boundary nature of the impacts, and the importance of our watercourses for the ecological health of the borough. Significant pressures on the River Wey include pollution from waste water, agriculture and various sources in towns and from transport infrastructure, and the constraints to its natural function imposed by physical modifications to the river.

4.6.41 Both the River Wey and the River Blackwater, in combination with their floodplains and tributaries, are identified as BOAs.

POLICY ID4: Green and blue infrastructure

Biodiversity

(1) The Council will maintain, conserve and enhance biodiversity and will seek opportunities for habitat restoration and creation, particularly within and adjacent to Biodiversity Opportunity Areas (BOAs). The Council will produce a Green and Blue Infrastructure Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) setting out how this approach will be implemented.

(2) Proposals for development must demonstrate how they will deliver appropriate net New development should aim to deliver gains in biodiversity where appropriate. Where proposals fall within or adjacent to a BOA, biodiversity measures should support that BOA’s objectives. The SPD will set out guidance on how this can be achieved.

(3) The designated sites in the following hierarchy are shown on the Policies Map or as subsequently updated:

(a) European sites: Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)

(b) National sites: Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

(c) Local sites: Sites of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI) and Local Nature Reserves.

(4) Permission will not be granted for development proposals unless it can be demonstrated that doing so would not give rise to adverse effects on the integrity of European sites, whether alone or in combination with other development. Any development with a potential impact on SPA or SAC sites will be subject to a Habitats Regulations Assessment.

(5) Permission will only be granted for development proposals within or adjacent to national sites where it can be demonstrated that doing so would not be harmful to the nature conservation interests of the site and its function as an ecological unit.

(6) Permission will not be granted for proposals that are likely to materially harm the nature conservation interests of local sites unless clear justification is provided that the need for development clearly outweighs the impact on biodiversity. Where this test is met, every effort must be made to reduce the harm to the site through avoidance and mitigation measures.

Blue infrastructure

(7) The ecological, landscape and recreational value of watercourses will be protected and enhanced. Development proposals that are likely to have an adverse impact on the functions (including across their catchments) and setting of watercourses and their corridors will not be permitted. Proposals must demonstrate how they will support the achievement of Water Framework Directive objectives and have followed guidance from the Environment Agency on implementation of the River Basin Management Plan Wey Catchment Management Plan and flood risk management, and followed guidance in any local catchment management plans. In particular, developers should take any steps necessary to avoid any downstream adverse impact on water quality objectives that may arise from their proposed development.

Open space

(8) Open space (encompassing all open space within urban areas, land designated as Open Space on the Policies Map and all land and water that provides opportunities for recreation and sport as identified in the most recent Open Space, Sport and Recreation Assessment) will be protected from development in accordance with the NPPF.

 

Definitions

4.6.42 Net gGains in biodiversity means improvements to biodiversity through habitat creation and/or enhancement. This should be integrated into the design of the site through the provision of new wildlife habitats, but also may include enhancement of green networks and measures on building structures. Green roofs and walls can add to the visual interest of urban areas and assist in adapting to a changing climate by providing passive cooling, as well as providing opportunities for plants and wildlife. Habitat for vulnerable species also adds value. Where adequate biodiversity gains cannot be included within a development site, off-site provision may be considered. The net gains should be appropriate and proportionate for the development. The SPD will set out guidance on the types of measures that may be considered appropriate.

4.6.42a Where proposals fall within or adjacent to a BOA, biodiversity measures should support the BOA's objectives, including those set out in the BOA Policy Statements produced by SyNP. However, alternative biodiversity measures may be acceptable where it can be clearly demonstrated that these are more appropriate, given the specific circumstances of the proposal.

4.6.43 Where development is proposed affecting designated sites, the Council will take into account whether any harmful effects to the nature conservation interest of the site can be satisfactorily overcome by the imposition of appropriate conditions, entering into planning agreements or other means, including the provision of a replacement habitat. Proposals that are likely to have an impact on designated sites should be accompanied by a biodiversity statement that assesses the impact of the development on biodiversity and demonstrates how this impact will be mitigated.

4.6.44 Proposals for open space should have regard to the BOA approach and the Open Space, Sport and Recreation Assessment. New open space should be delivered:

  • where provision is most needed and,
  • where proposals are capable of providing improvements to biodiversity, within BOAs.

By providing well designed open spaces that include appropriate biodiversity measures within BOAs, the linkages between the components of the ecological network can be improved while recreation and leisure opportunities are increased, delivering 'best value' multi-functional green space.

4.6.45 Where new open space is proposed, including new Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspaces (SANGs), within or adjacent to a BOA, these should be designed and managed to support the aims of the BOA. The Council expects the delivery of new SANGs to make a very significant contribution to achieving the net gains in biodiversity required by the NPPF, and in realising the strategic approach to biodiversity in Surrey. The primary role of SANGs is to provide an attractive natural or semi-natural space for recreation. SANG providers must ensure that this function is compatible with biodiversity and conservation through appropriate site selection, design and management.

4.6.46 Developments that are likely to have an impact on watercourses include (but are not limited to):

  • agriculture, where run off from farmland could carry fertilisers and pesticides
  • roads, where run off could carry pollutants (such as cadmium from tyres and oil)
  • commercial developments that include a risk of spillage from stored liquids,
  • incorrect sewerage connections that result in foul water entering water bodies and
  • hard engineering of riverbanks that reduces the habitat value of the bank.

4.6.47 Proposals that include new road drainage systems should ensure that the system filters out potential pollutants. Developments that bring risk of spillages of pollutants into river catchment areas must have measures in place that prevent polluting the environment in such an event. When existing sites are re-developed, and when new sites are planned, sewage connections should be checked to make sure they are correct. Opportunities should be taken to return engineered banks to a natural state.

4.6.48 Non navigable waterways will be protected and enhanced through the use of an eight metre wide (measured from bank top) undeveloped buffer zone within which new development will be permitted only where it benefits the ecology and/or water quality of the waterway. Existing development should not encroach any further into the buffer zone. Development can facilitate the spread of non-native invasive species, which can have devastating ecological and economic impacts. Where identified, these species should be eradicated/controlled under an agreed scheme.

4.6.48a Development likely to affect a watercourse should seek to conserve and enhance the ecological, landscape and recreational value of the watercourse and its associated corridor. Conservation and enhancement actions include good design in terms of construction and open space, re-naturalising the bank by removing hard engineering to encourage natural buffer zones for the watercourse, removing barriers to fish passage, reducing diffuse pollution and tackling non-native invasive species.

4.6.48b Main rivers are watercourses designated as such by the Environment Agency; usually larger streams and rivers, but also including some smaller watercourses of significance. Main rivers should be protected and enhanced by a minimum eight metre wide undeveloped buffer zone (measured from bank top) on both sides. Bank top is defined as the point at which the bank meets the level of the surrounding land. Eight metres is the minimum required for main rivers under the Thames Region land drainage byelaws. However, on greenfield sites where more land is available, it may be appropriate to include a larger buffer zone that varies in size and shape depending on the local circumstances. The provision of a buffer zone should also be supported by a long term ecological management plan.

4.6.49 Open Space, for the purpose of Policy ID4, is defined as all types of open land, both public and private, of public sport/recreation and/or amenity value. The Open Space, Sport and Recreation Assessment provides an audit of open space and sport and recreation land across the borough. This assessment (or a successor document) should form the starting point when considering open space requirements in new developments.

4.6.49a The NPPF requires great weight to be given to the need to create, expand or alter schools to meet the needs of existing and proposed communities. This will be taken into consideration if development is proposed on open space and the development meets a legitimate educational need that is appropriately met on the site.

Reasoned justification

4.6.50 The NPPF requires Local Plans to set out a strategic approach to planning for the creation, protection, enhancement, and management of networks of biodiversity and to plan for biodiversity at a landscape scale across local authority boundaries. The Council supports the emerging strategy for Surrey being led by the SyNP and will set out how the approach will be implemented in the borough through a Green Infrastructure Supplementary Planning Document once enough detail has emerged.

4.6.51 The Council has a significant countryside estate and manages this land in a way that is consistent with the strategy. However, the majority of the land in the borough is outside the Council's control. Policy ID4 requires developments, including new open spaces, to provide biodiversity enhancement and/or creation in a manner consistent with the strategy. In this way, the Council's own efforts and those of private developers will work together to deliver the vision for Surrey.

4.6.52 The NPPF values and protects open space, which it defines as "all open space of public value... which offer[s] important opportunities for sport and recreation and can act as visual amenity" (NPPF glossary). The Open Space, Sport and Recreation Assessment identifies land of public value for amenity, sport and recreation across the borough.

4.6.53 Open spaces within urban areas provide relief from the intensity of the urban environment for residents of larger settlements who may not have easy access to the countryside. Urban open space also provides breaks in the built environment that maintain the character of those settlements. Policy ID4 therefore identifies all open space within urban areas as Open Space for the purposes of this policy. This means all types of open land, both public and private, that has public recreation and/or amenity value.

4.6.54 A survey of open space was undertaken in 1997 and sites of over 0.4 hectares that were considered to make a positive contribution to the character and visual amenity of the area were identified on the Proposals Map in the Local Plan 2003 under Policy R5 Protection of Open Space. These spaces are identified again as Open Space on the current Policies Map as they continue to serve the purpose for which they were originally designated. There are a number of open spaces on sites of less than 0.4 hectares in the urban areas including allotments and highway land which also make a significant contribution in their local context. Accordingly, urban open spaces of less than 0.4 hectares are also protected by this policy.

4.6.55 The Council has produced an Amenity Assessment to identify open spaces of public amenity value within villages that are inset from the Green Belt by the plan. This assessment looked at land within proposed village inset boundaries, excluding land where inset boundaries were expanded to take in allocations on the edges of villages. Sites that were assessed as having public value are identified as Open Space on the Policies Map and will be protected in line with the NPPF to ensure that the value for which the space has been identified is retained. Open spaces outside inset village boundaries are protected by the Green Belt designation so have not been considered for further protection. Land of public value in inset villages that is used for sport and recreation is identified through the Open Space Sport and Recreation Assessment and will be protected in line with the NPPF.

4.6.56 The NPPF allows for the designation of Local Green Space (LGS), through the Local Plan and neighbourhood plans. The designation can be used to protect open spaces of particular local significance from development in a manner consistent with Green Belt policy. LGS is not included in this strategic policy due to the local nature of these spaces and because doing so would limit the scope for neighbourhood plans to bring forward their own LGS policies (neighbourhood plans must be in general conformity with strategic policies in the Local Plan). The Council has received a number of suggestions for new LGS and qualifying proposals will be allocated through the Development Management Policies DPD.

Key Evidence

  • Open Space, Sport and Recreation Assessment (Guildford Borough Council, 2017)
  • Biodiversity Opportunity Areas: the basis for realising Surrey's ecological network (Surrey Nature Partnership, 2015)
  • Biodiversity Opportunity Areas: Guildford Borough - Policy Statements (Surrey Nature Partnership, 2015)
  • Thames River Basin Management Plan (2015)
  • Water Framework Directive (2000)
  • Water Quality Assessment Stage 1 Technical Statement and Stage 2 Final Report (Guildford Borough Council, 2017)
  • Biodiversity Net Gain – A new role for infrastructure and development in improving Britain’s wildlife (WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff, 2016)
  • Biodiversity Net Gain: Good practice principles for development (CIEEM, CIRIA, IEMA, 2016)

 

Monitoring Indicators

Indicator

Target

Data source

Amount of open space

No loss of open space, identified deficits gone by 2034

Planning applications and appeals

Open space, sport and recreation assessment

Amount of new SANG provided or funded

All qualifying developments to deliver new SANG or funding for strategic SANG in line with prevailing standards

Delivery of strategic SANGs identified in Infrastructure Delivery Plan

Planning applications, appeals and s106/CIL receipts
Net gGains in biodiversity provided by development on sites of 25 homes or greater All developments to provide net gains in biodiversity Planning applications and appeals
 Progress towards Water Framework Directive objectives Achieve 'good ecological status' at earliest opportunity and by 2027 at the latest Environment Agency data
Condition of European and National sites Improvement in condition Natural England surveys

Condition of local sites

Improvement in condition

The Council's SNCI surveys