stevenage.gov.uk
District Plan

Chapter 7: Environment

7.1 INTRODUCTION

7.1.1 Environmental or 'green' issues cover a wide variety of interests ranging from the preservation and enhancement of historic buildings to the protection of landscapes and wildlife. Matters which affect the environment in Stevenage are also covered in this chapter, such as pollution and noise. In addition, the provision and impact of utilities developments such as water and energy infrastructure are also addressed.

7.1.2 Protecting and enhancing the environment is a central theme of sustainable development which is reflected in Policy 1 of the Structure Plan. The objectives of this Plan’s environmental policies are based on this policy and are as follows:

(a) to ensure that the quality of Stevenage’s environment is maintained and improved by protecting, and where possible, enhancing important built and natural environmental assets;
(b) to avoid or minimise all forms of pollution associated with development; and
(c) to minimise the depletion of natural resources and make the most efficient use of land, buildings, water, energy, waste and minerals.

7.1.3 A wide range of government policy guidance exists on different environmental issues which the Borough Council has had regard to during the preparation of District Plan policies. In addition, organisations with an environmental remit such as the Environment Agency and English Nature provide guidance which has been used for assisting in the preparation of this Plan.

7.2 BUILT ENVIRONMENT

7.2.1 The built environment in Stevenage includes several older areas, including the Old Town and original hamlets such as Shephall Green, Symonds Green and St. Nicholas which are now part of the New Town. These older groups of buildings are particularly important, not only because Stevenage is predominantly a modern settlement, but also because of their own historical and architectural characteristics.

Conservation Areas

7.2.2 In addition to normal planning controls, the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 provides specific protection for areas of special architectural or historic interest, known as Conservation Areas. There are five Conservation Areas in Stevenage which have different characters. The Old Town and the town centre are both predominantly commercial centres, whilst the Conservation Areas at Shephall Green, Symonds Green and St. Nicholas are mainly residential in character. The boundaries of the conservation areas are shown on the Proposals Map.

7.2.3 The Old Town and the town centre Conservation Areas are under different pressures to the other Conservation Areas because they are within commercial centres. In these areas there is a need for advertisements and shop frontages to be controlled to prevent them being detrimental to the character of the area. Specific guidance on both these Conservation Areas is included in the Old Town and town centre and Retailing chapters.

7.2.4 To maintain the character of Conservation Areas, the Borough Council can control development so that changes are in scale and harmony with the character of the area, existing buildings which contribute to the character and appearance of the area are preserved, and the built environment is enhanced. The design of new buildings in Conservation Areas must take full account of their surroundings and, where appropriate, the use of traditional materials and features should be incorporated.

POLICY EN1: DEVELOPMENT IN CONSERVATION AREAS

New developments, or extensions, alterations or changes of use to existing buildings will only be permitted in conservation areas if proposals are sympathetic to the design, scale, siting, form and materials of the adjacent properties and with the character and appearance of the area.

7.2.5 The character of a Conservation Area can be detrimentally affected by the demolition of buildings within the area. Government advice on demolition within Conservation Areas is set out in PPG15. The Borough Council will only grant consent for demolition if the demolition and its replacement development positively contributes to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area. It is acknowledged that redevelopment proposals in Conservation Areas may preserve or enhance an area if the new structure is sensitively designed.

POLICY EN2: DEMOLITION IN CONSERVATION AREAS

Consent will not be granted for the demolition of buildings, in conservation areas unless the demolition, and its replacement development, positively contributes to the character or appearance of the street scene.

7.2.6 Advertising has a considerable impact on the street scene, especially in Conservation Areas. In order for the character of the Conservation Areas to be maintained there is a need to ensure that any advertisements are in harmony with their surroundings. This means having regard to the proportions and scale of the buildings on which advertisements are proposed and the type and style of sign in a given setting. For example, traditional hanging signs on historic buildings would be considered an appropriate form of advertisement. Policies in the Old Town chapter provide specific policy guidance on advertisements and shop fronts in the Old Town High Street. Additional advice on advertisements is given in the Environmental Safeguards.

POLICY EN3: ADVERTISEMENTS IN CONSERVATION AREAS

Within the conservation areas, applications for express consent made under the Town and Country (Control of Advertisements) Regulations will be required to meet the following criteria:

(a) be directly related to the use of the building; and
(b) be of an appropriate size and appearance; and
(c) be in an appropriate position in relation to the buildings or site on which they are to be displayed; and
(d) be in harmony with the area in terms of design, materials and illumination.

Advertisement consent will not be granted where the display of a sign would detract from the historic and architectural character of the Conservation Area or individual buildings within it.

Policy OT9

7.2.7 The Borough Council has a duty under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 to review whether any part of its area should be designated as Conservation Areas or remain designated. Whilst the process of reviewing existing Conservation Areas and designating new Conservation Areas should be pursued separately to the District Plan process, the District Plan sets out the broad criteria for the designation and review of the Conservation Areas.

7.2.8 Government advice on the designation of new Conservation Areas is contained in PPG15 which states that it is important that Conservation Areas are seen to justify their status and that the concept is not devalued by the designation of areas lacking any special interest. At 2004, the Borough Council did not consider there was justification for additional Conservation Area designations.

7.2.9 The Old Town and Town Centre Conservation Areas are predominantly commercial areas which have been subjected to considerable change over the years. The Borough Council considers that there is a need to review these areas over the period of this Plan to determine whether the existing boundaries are still appropriate. When these Conservation Areas are reviewed, character appraisals will be prepared which will define, in detail, the special architectural or historic interest which justifies protection or enhancement. Character appraisals will also identify any specific opportunities for preservation and enhancement in the Conservation Areas. The Borough Council will have regard to these character appraisals when considering development proposals in Conservation Areas.

Listed Buildings

7.2.10 Individual buildings of special architectural or historic interest are “listed” by the Government. In Stevenage, these buildings are mainly within the Conservation Areas and benefit from additional protection which ensures their conservation and preservation. It is essential that these buildings are preserved and protected as they are an important part of Stevenage’s heritage which cannot be replaced. The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 provides the legal framework under which the Borough Council exercises special controls in respect of Listed Buildings. The Borough Council encourages owners of listed buildings to carry out necessary repairs on a like for like basis. Proposals which go beyond repairs or affect the character or appearance of the building will require Listed Building Consent, from the Borough Council, prior to the work being undertaken. Consent may be required for repairs, alterations and extensions to a listed building, which would not require planning permission on a building which is not listed.

7.2.11 To maintain and enhance the historic and architectural value of a Listed Building, it is important that any alterations or extensions are carried out sympathetically with minimal alteration or damage to the existing fabric. Alterations and conversion should be carried out using traditional methods of construction and materials wherever possible. They should also address any neglect or decay that has taken place and restore the buildings to a condition which is appropriate to the historic or architectural character for which they were originally listed. Where there are proposals to radically alter or demolish a Listed Building, access should be allowed for the archaeological recording of the building and its features before, or whilst, any works take place.

POLICY EN4: ALTERATIONS OR EXTENSIONS TO LISTED BUILDINGS

Development proposals for alterations or extensions to a Listed Building must be designed to be in sympathy with the siting, scale, character and design of the original building. Listed Building consent or planning permission will not be granted for any proposal which would adversely affect the interior or exterior character of the Listed Building or its setting. The archaeological recording of any Listed Building that is to be radically altered will be secured.

7.2.12 The demolition or radical alteration of a Listed Building will rarely be acceptable because Listed Buildings are a scarce resource in Stevenage which cannot be replaced.

POLICY EN5: DEMOLITION OF LISTED BUILDINGS

The demolition of a Listed Building will not be permitted unless the following criteria are met:

(a) it can be satisfactorily demonstrated that it is not practicable to continue the use of the building for its existing or former purpose; and
(b) there is no other viable use for the building; and
(c) demolition would not have an adverse affect on the setting of another Listed Building, the character of the street scene or the character of a Conservation Area; and
(d) the archaeological recording of the building and its features are secured.

7.2.13 Government guidance provided in PPG15 states that the best use of a historic building is the use for which it was originally designed. It is important to ensure that changes of use preserve the buildings and do not harm their historic or architectural character. Changes in use can result in significant alterations to meet operational requirements e.g. car parking requirements, fire escapes and security measures. Proposals for the change of use of a building will, therefore, be resisted where the new use would harm its historic or architectural quality. However, it is important that Listed Buildings do not become neglected because planning controls prevent viable alternative uses taking place. Where the future of a Listed Building can be most effectively secured by an alternative use that is appropriate for the area, a change of use may be acceptable.

POLICY EN6: CHANGES OF USE OF LISTED BUILDINGS

Development proposals which restore a Listed Building to the use it was originally designed for will be encouraged where the original use is clearly evident. Planning permission will only be granted for alternative uses where it is considered that it is essential for the preservation or restoration of the building and does not detract from its historic or architectural character or that of an adjoining building.

7.2.14 The space around Listed Buildings can make an important contribution to their appearance and character. In some cases the setting of a building may have an historic function in its own right. New development within the curtilage of, or affecting the setting of a Listed Building will, therefore, need to be designed sensitively to avoid adversely affecting the character or appearance of a Listed Building.

7.2.15 Where acceptable major developments or redevelopments are proposed, it will be a requirement for Listed Buildings to be retained and incorporated within the development. This issue is particularly relevant to the strategic housing development at Stevenage West which may affect listed and other historic buildings. The setting of Listed Buildings in the landscape can make a vital contribution to their character. Therefore, it is important that a sensitive approach is taken to the landscape and topography of the land associated with the setting of the Listed Building and that the historic settlement pattern is maintained. As new development which incorporates Listed Buildings can threaten the viability of their current uses (e.g. agricultural), proposals will need to give consideration to facilitating alternative uses if appropriate. If necessary, planning obligations will be sought to secure the maintenance of the fabric and character of a Listed Building. This is justified because it is possible that Listed Buildings will become redundant and fall into neglect unless alternative uses and measures to maintain their character and appearance are considered at an early stage of development.

POLICY EN7: SETTING OF LISTED BUILDINGS

Development proposals in the curtilage of or near a Listed Building will only be permitted where there is not an adverse affect on the setting of the building.

Where major developments are acceptable they will be required to sensitively incorporate any Listed Buildings and respect their setting.

7.2.16 To ensure that buildings of historic or architectural quality are retained, the Borough Council will continue to review the statutory list and will suggest new listings whenever it is considered appropriate.

Archaeology

7.2.17 Archaeological remains are of historic importance and are irreplaceable assets. They can consist of buildings, structures, sites, buried deposits and landscape features. Features can have strong links with landscape character and are appreciated through tourism, education and leisure activities. The Borough Council will encourage measures aimed at preserving, managing and enhancing archaeological sites and features. The main record of Stevenage’s archaeological heritage is the Hertfordshire Sites and Monument Record (SMR) from which sites and monuments shown on the Proposals Map have been derived.

Scheduled Ancient Monuments

7.2.18 Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs) are protected by the 1979 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act. Stevenage has three Scheduled Ancient Monuments, one building at the northern end of the High Street, the tumuli in Six Hills Way and the moat in Whomerley Wood. These ancient monuments have been scheduled because their historic, architectural, traditional or archaeological interest is considered to be of national importance. The Borough Council intends to protect these ancient monuments from developments which would adversely affect them.

Nationally Important Archaeological Remains

7.2.19 The majority of nationally important archaeological remains, and their settings, are not scheduled. Where this is the case the Borough Council will seek archaeological advice from Hertfordshire County Council to ascertain the importance of any remains. The Borough Council intends to protect those that are nationally important from any development that would damage or adversely affect them.

POLICY EN8: NATIONALLY IMPORTANT ARCHAEOLOGICAL REMAINS

Planning permission will normally be refused for any development which would damage or adversely affect a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The site or setting of nationally important archaeological remains, whether scheduled or unscheduled.

Archaeology and development

7.2.20 Hertfordshire County Council has identified the need to ensure that other areas of significant archaeological remains are identified and protected. Within the Borough fifteen such "Areas of Archaeological Significance" have been identified, as set out in policy EN9. These areas have been defined so as to alert potential developers to seek early advice as to what measures should be taken to avoid future problems. The nature of archaeological remains within each area will be different and site specific advice will be obtained from the County Council’s archaeology section. In many areas, small-scale development, such as domestic extensions and other minor works will pose little or no threat to any remains and homeowners will rarely be expected to secure any archaeological recording.

7.2.21 It is important that developers take appropriate steps to establish the archaeological interest of a site before planning applications are submitted. Where information from the SMR indicates that a site is archaeologically sensitive or is in an Area of Archaeological Significance, developers should commission an archaeological field evaluation of the site to accompany any planning application. This field evaluation should be undertaken in line with the recommendations set down in PPG16. In the event of previously unknown archaeological remains being uncovered after works have commenced, the council should be informed and English Heritage may be informed with a view to possible scheduling. Should the remains be deemed important enough to schedule, work will only be allowed to commence once Scheduled Monument Consent has been given.

7.2.22 Government policy on archaeology and development states that it is nearly always preferable for important archaeological remains to be preserved in situ. Where this is the case, development proposals will need to demonstrate how any important archaeological remains will be incorporated into the new development in a sensitive manner. However, where it is decided that the physical preservation of remains in situ is not justified, conditions will be set or planning obligations will be sought to ensure that the developer has made appropriate and satisfactory provision for the excavation and recording of remains. The Borough Council will encourage developers to make adequate provision for the subsequent analysis and publication of results, as well as the management, enhancement and public presentation of archaeological remains and their setting.

POLICY EN9: ARCHAEOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENT

The following sites are defined on the Proposals Map as Areas of Archaeological Significance:

1. The Bury
2. The Old Town
3. Whomerly Wood
4. The Six Hills
5. Shephall Village
6. Hampson Park
7. Shephalbury
8. Martins Wood and Allotments
9. Fishers Green
10. Symonds Green
11. Brick Kiln Road
12. Broomin Green
13. Broadwater Farm
14. Wychdell
15. Bragbury End

Where a development proposal affects an Area of Archaeological Significance as shown on the Proposals Map, or has potential to affect important archaeological remains on other sites, developers will be required to submit the results of an archaeological field evaluation before a planning application is determined.

If in situ preservation of important archaeological remains is considered preferable any development proposals will be required to demonstrate how those remains will be preserved and incorporated into the layout of that development.

Where in situ preservation of important archaeological remains is not feasible, planning permission will be subject to conditions and/or planning obligations to ensure that appropriate and satisfactory provision is made for the investigation and recording of archaeological remains that will be damaged or lost before development commences and for the subsequent analysis and publication of results and, where appropriate, excavation. Where appropriate the management, enhancement and public presentation of archaeological remains and their setting will be sought.

7.3 NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

7.3.1 Stevenage was planned with open space forming an integral part of the urban structure. As there is limited potential for growth on the edges of the town there is often pressure for development within it which can threaten these open spaces. Other natural and ancient features such as ancient lanes, woodlands, trees, river valleys and natural habitats were also incorporated into the design of the New Town. Around the edge of Stevenage the natural environment is mainly open agricultural land, interspersed with woodlands, some of which has high landscape value. Collectively these elements of the natural environment create a pleasant environment in which to live and work by providing a green urban area and forming not only spaces within Stevenage but also linking the town to the countryside. The protection and enhancement of these natural assets is important because of their essential contribution to the environment of the urban area.

Green Links

7.3.2 The New Town was designed to include natural physical features as an integral part of the development. Significant landscape features were retained to form open spaces and "green" areas between each neighbourhood. Thus "Green Links" were formed between the neighbourhoods and to provide links with the surrounding countryside. The retention and enhancement of these natural environmental features by linking them into a continuous system of green spaces is, therefore, promoted. Policy 46 of the Structure Plan requires local plan policies to be prepared in the context of an open space strategy which will take into account the open space structure. The Green Links in Stevenage represent the Borough’s open space structure due to their size and coverage within the town and because they link the majority of Stevenage’s open spaces.

7.3.3 The Green Links identified in policy EN10 vary in form, size and function both between, and within, the links. However, they are all made up of a series of green spaces which can include formal open space, public and school playing fields, commons, woodlands, ‘wildlife sites’ and water features. They can also play an important role in terms of visual amenity and create vistas through the town's landscape. Green Links also provide wildlife corridors from one habitat to another which helps maintain the range and diversity of wildlife in Stevenage. Due to the variety in form, size and function of the green spaces within the links, not all parts of every Green Link will necessarily be accessible or walkable.

7.3.4 Due to pressures for meeting development needs, green spaces within the town can sometimes be threatened. The Borough Council is determined to ensure that Stevenage retains its original design in terms of its urban structure and the use of its green spaces. Although a number of the green spaces are protected in their own right under other policies in this Plan, the Borough Council believes that it is essential to protect not just the individual spaces but also the concept of linking these spaces together.

7.3.5 Although the Green Links identified in policy EN10 may vary in form, size, function and character, the essential element is that together they provide environmental corridors throughout the town. The size of the individual elements of the Green Links may not necessarily be important and the Links may not always be continuous, but it is important to protect the Links from development which could damage their integrity.

7.3.6 Occasionally there may be land within a Green Link, as defined on the Proposals Map which, because of its size, form, function or character, could incorporate limited development without damaging the essential characteristics of the link as set out in policy EN10. There are also buildings within the Green Links such as schools and pavilions, where there may be opportunities in the future for changes of use to take place, particularly related to the operational requirements of (public sector services) providing social and community facilities. In considering such proposals the proposed development must preserve the integrity of the space itself and not harm the Green Link as a whole. Development on land and buildings adjacent to the Green Link will be considered in terms of its impact on the link as set out in the criteria in policy EN10. In particular, it will not be acceptable for new developments to compromise access to the countryside provided by existing Green Links unless the link is extended as part of the development.

POLICY EN10: GREEN LINKS

Development proposals which would be harmful to the character of Green Links will not be permitted. They are an essential part of the urban structure of the town. When assessing the impact that a development proposal may have on a green link the following criteria will be used:

(a) the size, form, function and character of the green space directly affected by the development proposal; and
(b) the role of the green space within the Green Link; and
(c) the impact of the development proposal on the green space and Green Link; and
(d) the integrity of the Green Link.

For the purposes of this policy the character of a Green Link is defined as visual continuity of green spaces, accessible green routes and wildlife corridors.

The following areas are shown on the proposals map as Green Links:

1. From Broadhall Way through the water meadows across Hertford Road.
2. From the Old Town Bowling Green along the Avenue including adjoining playing fields to St. Nicholas Church.
3. From Gresley Way through Collenswood School and Ashtree Wood northwards through Pescotts Spring to Campshill JMI School with a western spur to Fairlands Valley.
4. From Gresley Way north west to narrow box lane with a western spur to Nobel School.
5. From Gresley Way through Ridlins Wood westwards through Loves Wood and Shephall Park and then southwards to the Noke.
6. From the Roebuck northwards through Fairlands Valley to Hampson Park then southwards to Pin Green School. From Fairlands an extension runs south east through Peartree Park to Shephall Park.
7. From Meadway playing fields northward to Fishers Green with an eastern spur to Symonds Green.
8. From Gresley Way northwards through Ridlins and Bandley Hill to Collenswood School.

Policy SW9

7.3.7 Because the Green Links are an integral element of the urban structure of the town, the Borough Council will expect new developments to maintain and enhance this structure by extending existing links or creating new links within a development. This is particularly relevant in respect of new developments on the edge of the town because, without careful planning, the continuity of existing Green Links which provide access to the countryside may be compromised. Furthermore, if a strategic approach is not taken to the planning of green spaces within new developments, the principles behind the urban structure of Stevenage may be prejudiced. Residents of new housing developments may not then have the opportunity to enjoy the recreational, landscape and ecological benefits that Green Links currently offer to existing residents. Policy EN11 will be applicable to new residential developments which justify the provision of new Green Links or extensions to existing Green Links as part of the overall layout and design of the development.

POLICY EN11: PROVISION OF NEW AND EXTENDED GREEN LINKS

Where appropriate, development proposals will be required to integrate landscape features and create open spaces within the development area and provide links with the surrounding countryside to either extend existing Green Links and/or form new Green Links.

Policy SW11

Woodlands and trees

7.3.8 Significant areas of woodland were retained by the Master Plans for the New Town to create an attractive environment within Stevenage by contributing to landscape quality and softening and screening developments. Woodlands also provide natural habitats for wildlife, remove carbon dioxide from the air, provide shelter and shade for buildings and create informal recreation opportunities. The Borough Council therefore recognises the importance of retaining existing trees, copses, and woodlands to maintain the quality of the environment. Whilst many woodlands and trees are already protected by “wildlife site” designations, it is important that all woodlands of amenity value are retained. Exceptionally, development may be permitted if it can be demonstrated that any adverse affects could be mitigated or if other material considerations are sufficient to override the value of the woodland. Planning conditions or obligations will be sought to ensure that any development scheme will provide for a net gain in the quality of the woodland, through enhancing recreational amenity, landscape and nature conservation value, as well as making provision for improving its long term management. In exceptional circumstances where development does take place, replacement tree planting will be required and existing trees will need to be retained as far as possible in accordance with Policy EN12.

7.3.9 Proposals for the creation of new woodlands will be encouraged where this offers landscape, nature conservation and recreation benefits. The Hertfordshire Woodland Strategy produced by the Countryside Management Service provides detailed advice on matters that should be considered when planting new woodlands.

POLICY EN12: LOSS OF WOODLAND

Development proposals which would result in the loss of woodland will not be permitted unless the following criteria are met:

(a) it can be demonstrated that any adverse effects can be satisfactorily mitigated; and
(b) it can be demonstrated that other material considerations override the amenity of the woodland; and
(c) it can be demonstrated that there would be a net gain in the quality of the remaining woodland through the enhancement of the recreational amenity, landscape and nature conservation value of the woodland and that there would be provision for its improved long term management; and
(d) existing trees are retained as far as possible and any that are lost as part of a development are replaced in accordance with Policy EN13.

7.3.10 Where developments take place it is important to retain and plant trees and woodlands within or around the proposed development. To enable the impact of a development on trees to be fully considered when determining a proposal, the Borough Council will expect developers to provide arboricultural reports in appropriate cases. Arboricultural reports should provide details about the location and characteristics of existing trees and clearly indicate which trees are to be removed or retained. Without sensitive planning, mature trees can be permanently damaged during construction or can create long term problems for the occupiers of new developments such as shade, storm damage and subsidence. It is, therefore, important that existing trees are sensitively incorporated into new developments and that attention is given to replacement planting schemes when development proposals are prepared. Where new tree planting does take place, trees may not mature and achieve a similar canopy, ground cover and ecological value if inappropriate species or tree establishment techniques are used. Where appropriate, the use of locally native species for new planting is desirable. In particular, new planting should be designed to allow for long term management to avoid or minimise neglect i.e. to allow thinning, felling and replanting.

7.3.11 Where individual trees, groups of trees or woodlands which are healthy and of amenity value are under threat from a development proposal, the Borough Council will secure their protection by a Tree Preservation Order.

POLICY EN13: TREES IN NEW DEVELOPMENTS

Development proposals will be expected to protect and retain individual trees or groups of trees within development sites and should include new planting where appropriate. An arboricultural report will be required where development affects or is liable to affect trees. Where necessary trees will be protected by Tree Preservation Orders.

Where the loss of trees is considered unavoidable, development proposals should ensure that sufficient land is reserved for replacement planting and landscaping. Existing trees and replacement planting will be required to be sensitively incorporated into the development and protected during construction.

Replacement trees will be required to be of at least equivalent quality to the trees that are lost. Attention will be given to new planting proposals to ensure that where appropriate, locally native species are selected and tree maturity is not prejudiced.

7.3.12 Consent is required to fell or carry out any tree surgery work on a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order. The Borough Council will not normally grant consent for tree surgery works or felling unless it can be proven that it is in the interests of public safety or for the trees' continued health. It is also recognised that tree surgery work may be necessary to protect buildings and preserve residential amenity. In the case of tree surgery it is expected that expert advice will be sought. Where a tree has to be removed the Borough Council will normally expect it to be replaced by the same species.

POLICY EN14: TREE PRESERVATION ORDERS

Consent for the felling of a tree protected by a Tree Preservation Order will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances. Consent will not be granted for tree surgery works unless it can be proven that it is in the interests of the health of the tree or for public safety. When a tree has to be removed replacement planting will be required.

Hedgerows

7.3.13 The value of hedgerows has been recognised by the Government through the introduction of the Hedgerow Regulations 1997. These Regulations allow a Hedgerow Retention Notice to be placed on those hedgerows considered to be important in terms of historical, wildlife and/or landscape value. However, the Regulations do not extend to hedges that form a curtilage to dwellings. The Borough Council will encourage developers to provide the results of a survey of any hedgerows that may be affected by development proposals to ascertain whether or not those hedgerows are important. There may be occasions where the removal of parts of hedgerows in order to facilitate development is considered by the Borough Council to be unavoidable. Where this is the case replacement planting will be required in appropriate locations, preferably using locally native species. Developers will also be encouraged to have due regard for the root systems of hedgerows during operations and to plant new hedgerows in appropriate locations. Whilst policy EN15 protects most of the important hedgerows in Stevenage, other hedgerows which could be protected by the Hedgerows Regulations justify similar protection from development. Development proposals that would affect such hedgerows will therefore be assessed against policy EN15 and treated in the same way as a hedgerow associated with an ancient lane.

Ancient lanes and associated hedgerows

7.3.14 In the development of the New Town, ancient lanes and associated hedgerows were preserved as part of the town’s urban structure. Within Stevenage's predominantly urban environment they continue to be a valuable natural feature and contribute to Stevenage’s landscape history. The ancient lanes and associated hedgerows need to be protected from future development as they cannot be replaced. Preservation of an ancient lane will not ensure its survival, its value to wildlife or its historical relevance unless the associated hedgerows and trees are maintained and enhanced. Where an ancient lane or its associated hedgerow is affected by development the Borough Council will expect the developer to ensure that the lanes and associated hedgerows are preserved or enhanced and their character maintained. In some circumstances, it may be appropriate for hedgerows to be extended into new developments. The Borough Council will require developers to extend those hedgerows which form an important feature of the landscape.

7.3.15 The Borough Council accepts that it may occasionally be necessary for a major development to cross or incorporate an ancient lane. Where this is necessary the Borough Council will require the ancient lane and associated hedgerow to be retained, in line with the Hedgerow Regulations, and for there to be a minimum of disruption to the ancient lane during and after the works. In particular it is essential that the visual continuity of the ancient lane is preserved, with appropriate means for pedestrian and cycle crossings. In addition, replanting and resurfacing works must be undertaken in a sensitive and effective manner. The Borough Council will require developers to demonstrate how the ancient lanes which are incorporated into new developments will be managed as permanent and integral features of the development. Without adequate management in an urban environment their natural value and character may be diminished.

POLICY EN15: ANCIENT LANES AND ASSOCIATED HEDGEROWS

Development proposals which would adversely affect an ancient lane or its associated hedgerows will not be permitted unless it can be satisfactorily demonstrated that it is essential for a development to cross or incorporate an ancient lane. In these circumstances, ancient lanes and associated hedgerows will be required to be retained, enhanced and integrated as far as possible into the new development.

Where appropriate, developers will be expected to plant new hedgerows to maintain and enhance the character of the landscape.

Ancient lanes and hedgerows are listed below:

1. Aston Lane
2. The Avenue
3. Botany Bay Lane
4. Bragbury Lane
5. Broadwater Lane
6. Chells Lane
7. Dene Lane
8. Fishers Green Lane
9. Lanterns Lane
10. Meadway
11. Narrowbox Lane
12. Old Walkern Road
13. Sheafgreen Lane
14. Shephall Lane
15. Shephall Green Lane
16. Shepherds Lane
17. Watton Lane
18. Weston Lane

Where hedgerow removal is unavoidable, replacement planting will be required where possible, preferably using locally native species.

Policy SW11

Countryside Heritage Sites

7.3.16 Hertfordshire County Council’s countryside heritage project identified sites in the county that were important for wildlife conservation, archaeology and scenery. Within these sites the aim is to conserve and enhance the wildlife, archaeological and scenic elements of Hertfordshire's diverse countryside and ensure their continuing survival. In Stevenage, Monks Wood and Whomerley Wood were identified as a Countryside Heritage Site. Both areas are biologically rich remnants of ancient woodland and Whomerley Wood is of archaeological interest as it contains a moat which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. They are the only woodland sites in Hertfordshire to be given the status of a heritage site. The Borough Council will ensure the future of Monks Wood and Whomerley Wood by refusing any development proposal that would have an adverse impact on the heritage site’s characteristics. The woodlands are also designated as Wildlife Sites in policy EN17.

POLICY EN16: COUNTRYSIDE HERITAGE SITE

The Countryside Heritage Site of Monks Wood and Whomerley Wood, as shown on the Proposals Map, will be protected from any development proposal that would adversely affect the archaeological, wildlife or scenic features of the site.

Nature conservation

7.3.17 Government policy on nature conservation set out in PPG9 is to “ensure that its policies contribute towards the conservation of the abundance of and diversity of British wildlife and its habitats, or minimise the adverse effects on wildlife where conflict of interest is unavoidable, and to meet its international responsibilities and obligations for nature conservation”. An important element of Government policy is the wider commitment to biodiversity which PPG9 defines as the “sum total of life’s variety on earth”. Biodiversity, in the form of wildlife habitats and species, makes an important contribution to the quality of life of people living in Stevenage. The maintenance of biodiversity is a key aspect of sustainability at all levels and in 1994, the Government produced ‘Biodiversity: the UK Action Plan’. This has been used as the basis for preparing the Hertfordshire Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) which was published in 1998 by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust on behalf of the Hertfordshire Environment and Countryside Forums.

7.3.18 The Hertfordshire BAP identifies key habitats and species needing conservation action. Some of these key habitats are well represented in Stevenage, particularly ancient woodlands. One of the main recommendations of the Hertfordshire BAP is the preparation of local BAPs. The Borough Council is preparing a BAP for Stevenage which will guide future nature conservation policy and action in the Borough.

7.3.19 Significant natural habitats such as woodlands, marshlands, watercourses and grasslands were incorporated into the layout of the New Town. Many of these features also form part of the Green Links and woodlands referred to earlier in this chapter. However, areas which have particularly interesting plants and animals need to be protected in their own right. There are no national nature conservation designations in Stevenage such as National Nature Reserves (NNRs) or Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). However, there are sites of regional or local importance in the Borough that justify protection.

7.3.20 PPG9 makes it clear that local plans should only identify and protect sites of substantive nature conservation value in order to avoid unnecessary constraints upon development. To ensure that sites identified for protection in this Plan were assessed on a consistent basis using up-to-date information the Borough Council, together with all of the other districts in Hertfordshire, contributed to the preparation of the Hertfordshire Habitats Survey (Source: Habitat Survey for Stevenage Borough, Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust/Hertfordshire Biological Records Centre, 1998). This survey used nationally recognised criteria for identifying sites of at least district importance for nature conservation, known as ‘Wildlife Sites’. The survey identified 37 sites in Stevenage which met Wildlife Site criteria. One of the key recommendations of the Hertfordshire BAP was that all Wildlife Sites should be identified in local plans.

7.3.21 Martins Way chalk embankment has been identified as a Regionally Important Geological Site (RIGS), as well as a Wildlife Site. RIGS are regionally important for their educational or historic value. As RIGS are irreplaceable they merit the same protection as Wildlife Sites.

7.3.22 As the nature conservation interest of any natural habitat can change over time it is important that this Plan adopts a flexible approach if new information on the wildlife interest of a site becomes available. If further sites which meet Wildlife Site status are identified by the Hertfordshire Biological Records Centre and the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust over the period of this Plan, then the Borough Council will seek to ensure that these sites are afforded the same protection as sites identified in policy EN17 through an alteration to the Plan.

7.3.23 In accordance with PPG9, the Borough Council will not permit developments that would adversely affect a Wildlife Site unless any adverse affects could be mitigated through the use of conditions or planning obligations, or if other material factors are sufficient to override nature conservation considerations. This approach is taken to protect and enhance the nature conservation value of Wildlife Sites as they are a rare and valuable resource which will be difficult to replace if destroyed. This is particularly important in a predominantly urban setting such as Stevenage. Natural habitats are also of value for amenity and educational purposes as well as biodiversity. Natural habitats are fragile and can be indirectly affected by development in the surrounding areas by changes relating to drainage, sunlight and daylight. Policy EN17, therefore, applies to development both adjoining and within Wildlife Sites. The criteria in policy EN20 provide more detailed guidance for assessing proposals which may affect a Wildlife Site.

POLICY EN17: WILDLIFE SITES AND REGIONALLY IMPORTANT GEOLOGICAL SITES (RIGS)

Development proposals within or adjacent to the wildlife sites and “RIGS” shown on the Proposals Map which would have an adverse affect on their nature conservation or geological value will not be permitted unless the following criteria can be met:
Adverse affects could be prevented or satisfactorily minimised through mitigation measures which accord with Policy EN20; or
In exceptional circumstances it can be clearly demonstrated that there are reasons for the development that would outweigh the need to safeguard the substantive nature conservation or geological value of the site.

The following sites are defined as wildlife sites or rigs:

Site
Hectares
1. Margaret’s Wood, Todds Green
3.84
2. Fishers Green Meadow
0.52
3. Symonds Green
1.12
4. Whitney Wood
3.90
5. St. Nicholas Churchyard
1.92
6. Martins Way Chalk Bank (Wildlife Site And Rigs)
1.39
7. Whitney Drive Wood
0.42
8. Almond Spring
0.71
9. Fishers Green Wood
1.08
10. Sishes Wood
1.47
11. Martin’s Wood
3.67
12. Wellfield Wood
4.76
13. Hanginghill Wood
0.97
14. Kitching Green Lane, Norton Green
0.19
15. Garston Meadow, Norton Green
0.21
16. Monk’s Wood West
1.19
17. Broadwater Marsh
0.78
18. Warren Springs
0.31
19. Monks/Whomerley Woods
25.29
20. Shackledell Grassland
1.43
21. Six Hills Common
0.73
22. Exeter Close
0.30
23. Triangular Grassland, Fairlands Valley
0.75
24. Elder Way Flood Meadows
3.03
25. Loves Wood
2.66
26. Ridlins Wood
7.22
27. Ridlins Mire (HMWT Nature Reserve)
3.07
28. Stevenage Brook Marsh
5.87
29. Poplars Meadow And Pond
1.95
30. Ashtree Wood And Abbotts Grove
7.75
31. Marymead Spring
0.98
32. Great Collens Wood
4.30
33. Pestcotts Spring and Wood
3.12
34. Blacknell’s Spring
0.63
35. Wiltshire’s Spring
0.76
36. Valley Way Wood
2.67
37. Elm Green Pastures
3.61

(N.B. This list is numbered for reference purposes only. The order and numbers do not imply greater or lesser value of individual sites.

If further sites which meet the criteria for Wildlife Site designation are identified over the period of this plan, they will be afforded the same protection as the sites identified above through an alteration to the plan.

Policy EN20

There are some sites of nature conservation importance adjacent to the boundary of the Borough including Local Nature Reserves (LNR), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Wildlife Sites. Examples include a Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve at Pryor’s Wood in north east Stevenage, and Watery Grove which is a SSSI to the south west of the Town. These sites need to be given the appropriate level of protection which reflects the relative significance of the designation, and care will be necessary to ensure that development in the Borough does not adversely affect them.

POLICY EN18: NATURAL HABITATS IN ADJOINING LOCAL AUTHORITIES

Development proposals which would have an adverse affect on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in adjoining local authority areas will not be permitted unless the following criteria can be met:

(a) Adverse affects could be prevented or satisfactorily minimised through mitigation measures which accord with Policy EN20; or
(b) In exceptional circumstances it can be clearly demonstrated that there are reasons for the development that would outweigh the nature conservation value of the site itself and the national policy to safeguard the national network of SSSIs.
Development proposals which would have an adverse affect on Local Nature Reserves and Wildlife Sites in adjoining local authority areas will not be permitted. Unless the criteria in Policy EN17 can be met.

7.3.25 Some of the Wildlife Sites identified in policy EN17 contain rare or endangered species which are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. However, many protected species, such as pipistrelle bats which are found in Stevenage, have their habitats elsewhere e.g. lofts and barns. It is, therefore, important that the habitats of protected species are given appropriate protection wherever they are identified. In addition to species protected by legislation, the Hertfordshire BAP has identified other species that are scarce in the county which require conservation. These species are locally important and the Borough Council will attempt to secure the protection of their habitats where there is a risk of damage by advising developers of the existence of habitats and seeking appropriate protection in advance of planning applications being determined. Where development is acceptable, conditions may be imposed or obligations may be sought on planning permissions to ensure that protected and locally important species and their habitats are adequately protected.

POLICY EN19: PROTECTED SPECIES

Development proposals which would have an adverse affect on the habitats of species protected by legislation will not be permitted unless appropriate measures are implemented to secure the protection of the species and their habitats.

Development proposals which would have an adverse affect on the habitats of endangered species identified in the Hertfordshire Biodiversity Action Plan, which are not protected by legislation, will be encouraged to incorporate appropriate measures to secure the protection of the species and their habitats

7.3.26 When considering the effect of a development proposal on a natural habitat, attention will be given to the direct impact on the natural habitat as well as any implications associated with changes in drainage and the potential impact of certain forms of pollution e.g. air quality, light and noise. Where a development proposal is liable to have an adverse affect on a natural habitat identified in EN17, EN18 or EN19 which could be prevented or minimised to an acceptable level, the Borough Council will expect the appropriate mitigation measures to be undertaken to compensate for any adverse affects e.g. provision of replacement habitats in a development. Mitigation measures may be addressed by conditions on a planning permission, but where the impact of a development proposal on a natural habitat could be overcome by management of the habitat, the Borough Council will seek a planning obligation or a management agreement under Section 39 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 prior to planning permission being granted. Circular 1/97 ‘Planning Obligations’ confirms that this approach is acceptable in order to offset the loss of or impact on any resource present on a site prior to development. Where a development proposal would adversely affect a natural habitat in an adjoining authority, the Borough Council will consult the adjoining authority about the proposal and take their comments into consideration when preparing any conditions or obligations relating to mitigation measures.

7.3.27 All development proposals affecting Wildlife Sites, RIGS, LNRs, SSSIs and habitats of protected species will be assessed against policy EN20. Advice provided by English Nature, the Hertfordshire Biological Records Centre and the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust will be considered when assessing the acceptability of development proposals which may have an adverse affect on a natural habitat.

POLICY EN20: DEVELOPMENT AFFECTING NATURAL HABITATS

Development proposals which have the potential to adversely affect a natural habitat referred to in Policies EN17, EN18 and EN19 will be assessed in relation to their direct impact on the habitat as well as any indirect impacts associated with pollution that may be generated by the development or changes to the drainage system.

Where development proposals would have an adverse affect on a natural habitat which could be prevented or satisfactorily minimised through mitigation measures, conditions will be imposed or planning obligations will be sought to secure mitigation measures.

Where the impact of a development on a natural habitat could be mitigated by management of the habitat, developers will be expected to enter into a management agreement and in appropriate cases pay a commuted sum towards securing the long term management of the natural habitat.

7.3.28 The Borough Council recognises that in addition to the natural habitats referred to in policies EN17, EN18 and EN19, there are other natural habitats in Stevenage which make an important contribution to biodiversity in Stevenage. These habitats do not contain the substantive nature conservation value that would justify their identification and protection in the Plan. However, the Borough Council will attempt to secure the protection of these habitats where there is a risk of damage to the habitat through advising developers of the existence of habitats and seeking appropriate protection within development schemes wherever this is possible. As well as natural habitats themselves, the links between habitats are important as they provide ‘stepping stones’ which help to maintain the current range and diversity of wildlife in Stevenage. Policy EN10 resists development that would have an adverse impact on the character of a Green Link which includes its function as a wildlife corridor.

POLICY EN21: OTHER SITES OF NATURE CONSERVATION IMPORTANCE

Outside those areas subject to Policies EN10, EN17, EN18, and EN19, the Borough Council will take into account the protection of wildlife habitats and the promotion of biodiversity in the determination of planning applications. Where development would have an adverse affect on a natural habitat, which could be prevented, or satisfactorily minimised through mitigation measures, conditions will be imposed or planning obligations will be sought.

7.3.29 The Hertfordshire BAP identifies a range of actions that can be implemented for creating, managing, protecting and enhancing natural habitats including the designation of statutory LNRs and the improved management of Wildlife Sites. The local BAP for Stevenage identifies local opportunities for implementing such measures. Whilst the implementation of many of these measures is outside the remit of District Plan policy there are some land use planning measures which can be used to promote the creation, maintenance, protection and enhancement of natural habitats in addition to controlling developments that may have an adverse impact. For example, where landscaping schemes are required as part of a development proposal, the Borough Council can encourage measures which create new habitats or enhance existing habitats. In particular, the planting of native species of trees and shrubs will be encouraged to facilitate habitat creation as well as proposals which create and conserve the habitats of protected and locally important species. Where appropriate, improved public access to natural habitats may also be secured through development proposals.

POLICY EN22: NATURAL HABITAT CREATION IN DEVELOPMENTS

Development proposals will be encouraged to incorporate measures to create, manage, protect and enhance natural habitats. Encouragement will also be given to proposals which improve public access to natural habitats where this would not be detrimental to wildlife interests.

Landscape

7.3.30 Outside the built-up area of Stevenage there remain a few areas of attractive countryside within the Borough boundary which deserve landscape conservation priority because of their landscape value in terms of relief or land form, wildlife interest, diversity of features, and the existence of settlements with special historical and cultural associations. These areas were defined by the Borough Council as Landscape Conservation Areas in the previous District Plan. Government guidance contained in PPG7 advises that the function and justification of local countryside designations such as Landscape Conservation Areas should be reviewed to ensure that other policies cannot provide the necessary protection. In addition, local designations are advised to be based on a formal assessment of the qualities of the countryside.

7.3.31 To help address which of the countryside areas require additional protection in Hertfordshire, the County Council has published a Landscape Strategy which provides the basis of the Structure Plan’s landscape policies (Source: A Landscape Strategy for Hertfordshire, Volume 1, Hertfordshire County Council, 1998). The strategy identifies six broad Landscape Regions in Hertfordshire which have different landscape characteristics. The Stevenage area is covered by the Chilterns, North Hertfordshire Ridge and East Hertfordshire Plateau regions. These regions provide the framework for a more detailed Landscape Character Assessment which will define tracts of landscape with particular characteristics or ‘landscape types’. Policies can then be developed for the protection and enhancement of each landscape type. It is intended that this approach will eventually supersede the Landscape Conservation Area designations.

7.3.32 The Borough Council will work with the County Council and other partners to undertake a Landscape Character Assessment that will incorporate the areas of countryside within the Borough. The results of this assessment will be used as a basis for future landscape policy in Stevenage. In advance of this, the Borough Council will continue to protect the Landscape Conservation Areas which are considered to be the most attractive areas of countryside in the Borough.

POLICY EN23: LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION AREAS

Development proposals which have a detrimental affect on the landscape characteristics of Landscape Conservation Areas shown on the Proposals Map will not be permitted. When considering development proposals attention will be given to the characteristics and conservation advice relating to the relevant landscape regions identified in the Hertfordshire Landscape Strategy and any subsequent Landscape Character Statements resulting from the completion of the Landscape Character Assessment. Particular attention will be paid to the setting, siting, design and external appearance of the proposed development.

Development proposals will be expected to maintain or enhance landscape features within Landscape Conservation Areas. Where this is not possible and the proposal has been given permission, measures to minimise the detrimental impact to the character of the landscape will be required.

Countryside management

7.3.33 The semi-natural environment within and on the edge of Stevenage makes an important contribution to the quality of life for the town’s residents. However, the natural environment of the countryside cannot be maintained and improved without adequate management. The Hertfordshire and Barnet Countryside Management Service and other organisations work with local people to manage the semi-natural and green space environment, encouraging its enjoyment and raising awareness of its value and informal recreation opportunities. Where resources permit, the Borough Council will support projects aimed at managing the countryside, landscape and natural habitats in and around Stevenage.

7.3.34 Where developments take place which have potential to significantly alter the character of the countryside by changing the landscape, affecting natural habitats or reducing informal recreation opportunities, the Borough Council will require development to incorporate measures which minimise the impact. As well as incorporating on site measures to reduce the impact, the Borough Council may require developers to enter into a planning obligation for commuted sums for appropriate countryside management projects which can help mitigate the impact of the development. It is expected that this approach will be particularly relevant with respect to the strategic housing development at Stevenage West and other major developments that may come forward on the periphery of Stevenage.

POLICY EN24: COUNTRYSIDE MANAGEMENT

Development proposals which are liable to reduce or damage the character, quality or accessibility of the countryside will be required to incorporate measures to minimise any adverse affects on landscape, wildlife and informal recreation interests. Where appropriate, the use of planning obligations will be used to secure the implementation of mitigation measures within and around the development which maintain and enhance the character of the countryside.

Agricultural land

7.3.25 Agricultural land is a critical resource because of its contribution to food production. Stevenage is surrounded by high quality agricultural land, although very little of it falls within the Borough's administrative boundaries. There is a need to protect the best and most versatile agricultural land from development i.e. land which is defined by DEFRA as being in grades 1, 2 and 3a. PPG7 provides advice on the circumstances in which the best and most versatile agricultural land may be developed. In summary, development should only be permitted where there is an overriding need for it; there is a lack of development opportunities in already developed areas and where no alternative agricultural land of a lower quality can be used. Where development is necessary on agricultural land defined as being the best and most versatile, it should be directed to the lowest grade i.e. grade 3a first except where other sustainability criteria suggest otherwise. These might include, its importance for biodiversity, the quality and character of the landscape, its amenity value or heritage interest, accessibility to infrastructure, workforce and markets and the protection of natural resources, including soil quality.

POLICY EN25: AGRICULTURAL LAND

The use of the best and most versatile agricultural land for any form of development not associated with agriculture or forestry will not be permitted unless opportunities have been assessed for accommodating development on previously developed sites and on land within the urban area. Where development of agricultural land is unavoidable, areas of poorer quality land should be used in preference to that of a higher quality (grades 1,2,3a), except where sustainability considerations suggest otherwise.

7.4 POLLUTION, NATURAL RESOURCES AND UTILITIES

Pollution control

7.4.1 Pollution is caused by the release of substances into the air, ground or water, or by excessive noise, dust, vibration, light or heat. PPG23 provides guidance on the relationship between planning and the control of pollution. Local plans should not attempt to duplicate the controls of statutory authorities such as the Environment Agency or local authority environmental health departments. But they should complement the mechanisms of other legislation through land use planning policies. The District Plan can influence the location of development that may give rise to pollution (e.g. major traffic generating developments and industrial uses) and development that is sensitive to pollution (e.g. housing, schools). The design of the New Town generally separates potentially polluting development from pollution sensitive development. However, where mixed use developments are proposed, the scale and nature of uses will be required to be complementary in terms of pollution implications.

7.4.2 It should be noted that policy EN26 is a restatement of Structure Plan Policy 57. It is intended that all development proposals which have potential to cause pollution or which may be sensitive to pollution will be considered against this policy. Policies EN27 to EN29 provide more detailed guidance on particular types of pollution.

POLICY EN26: POLLUTION CONTROL

Development proposals which would be likely to result in, or significantly contribute to, unacceptable levels of pollution will not be permitted.

Development proposals which would themselves be likely to be sensitive to adverse environmental conditions such as unacceptable levels of noise, air, light and other pollution will be resisted where such conditions exist or are likely to exist in future and where mitigation measures would not afford satisfactory protection.

Air quality

7.4.3 Local authorities are required by the Environment Act 1995 to undertake a review and assessment of air quality in their area to identify areas where national policies and or legislation are unlikely to achieve the Government’s air quality objectives. In Stevenage, stages 1 and 2 of this assessment were completed in November 2000 which identified that national objectives for pollutants are not currently being exceeded in Stevenage (Source: Air Quality Review and Assessment, A report for Stevenage Borough Council, AEA Technology plc, October 2000).

7.4.4 Further research has been undertaken at pollution sensitive sites which have been identified close to the A1(M) motorway and large industrial sources. As the current and predicted (to 2005) levels of pollutants meet the national air quality objectives, the designation of an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) is unnecessary. If an AQMA had been identified, an action plan would need to have been prepared to set out how the Borough Council intended to address air pollution problems. Government published guidance in 2000 on ‘Air Quality and Land Use Planning’ which advises local plans to have regard to AQMAs. If an AQMA had been identified, constraints on certain types of development would have been necessary to achieve the objectives of the action plan. The research indicated that if pollution sensitive development takes place within 50 metres of the edge of the existing A1(M) motorway, there is the risk of exceeding the national air quality objectives. To help ensure that the objectives are not exceeded in Stevenage, development proposals which may have potential to cause significant levels of air pollution or which may be effected by existing sources of air pollution will be considered against policy EN26. An alteration to the Plan to include an area specific policy on air pollution will be considered in the event of an AQMA being designated in Stevenage during the period of the Plan.

Noise

7.4.5 The design of the New Town generally separates housing and other noise sensitive uses (e.g. schools and community facilities) from noise generating uses such as transport corridors and industry, therefore minimising noise disturbance. PPG24 provides guidance on how land use planning can influence disturbance caused by noise. There are two areas which this Plan can control:
(a) the siting of noise generating developments which would disturb nearby existing or planned uses which are sensitive to noise; and
(b) the siting of new noise sensitive development to avoid disturbance caused by noise from established or planned uses.

7.4.6 Policy EN27 applies to all developments that generate noise or are sensitive to noise, apart from developments affected by aircraft noise which are dealt with separately in policy EN28. To determine the acceptability of noise generating developments, proposals will be assessed against the appropriate technical guidance for the use proposed as set out in PPG24. When considering development proposals, attention will be paid to the individual and cumulative noise impact of the development. Other considerations will include the time and nature of the noise generated and the predominant uses in the surrounding area. To minimise or prevent an unacceptable noise impact, developments will be required to incorporate noise reduction measures and in some cases it may be necessary to restrict noise levels at site boundaries and hours of operation.

7.4.7 To assist with implementing district plan policies on noise, PPG24 introduces the concept of Noise Exposure Categories (NEC’s) which can be used for assessing whether proposals for new residential development will be acceptable in terms of their sensitivity to existing transport related and mixed noise sources. The Borough Council will use NECs for assessing the acceptability of housing proposals and conditions will be imposed requiring sound mitigation measures to be implemented if noise is a significant constraint. Proposals will be refused if the development will be exposed to unacceptably high noise levels which cannot be mitigated. Proposals for other noise sensitive developments will be expected to include appropriate standards of noise insulation where they are exposed to existing noise sources.

POLICY EN27: NOISE POLLUTION

Noise generating development proposals will only be permitted if they are not liable to result in unacceptable noise exposure for the users of existing or proposed noise sensitive uses nearby. Where planning permission is granted for development, conditions may be imposed to ensure that provision is made to control the level of noise emitted.

Development proposals for noise sensitive uses will only be permitted if they are located where they will not be subjected to unacceptably high levels of noise exposure from noise generating uses, either existing or uses for which planning permission has been granted.

Where planning permission is granted for development, conditions will be imposed to ensure that provision is made for an appropriate level of protection against noise.

Aircraft noise

7.4.8 Stevenage is affected by aircraft noise generated by operations at London Luton Airport, but at present the Borough is not subjected to noise levels which are defined in PPG24 as being unacceptable. However, the strategic housing development at Stevenage West is to be located in an area which is affected by aircraft noise. Furthermore, planning permission was granted in 1997 for London Luton Airport to expand its capacity to 5 million passengers per year and it is expected that, over the period of this Plan, proposals will come forward for further expansion of the airport. Whilst legislation and improved technology is expected to reduce the noise emitted by aircraft using the airport, the expansion of the airport will inevitably lead to an increase in aircraft movements over Stevenage. To avoid new homes and other sensitive uses from being exposed to unacceptable levels of aircraft noise in the long term, noise protection measures, such as additional insulation, will be required where appropriate to be incorporated into the design of new buildings. Due to the potential significance of this matter and the need to consider long term noise conditions a specific policy is justified.

7.4.9 To identify the areas affected by aircraft noise, forecast noise contours for day and night-time periods are used which show the ‘footprint’ of the average annual noise impact of operations associated with the airport, measured by Leq decibels. These contours are produced annually by the Civil Aviation Authority and are now generally accepted by local authorities and airports as the most appropriate way of measuring changes in the impact of aircraft noise. The 1984 peak noise levels have been established in the Bedfordshire Structure Plan and the Luton Local Plan as the threshold below which aircraft noise must continue to be reduced. The noise control scheme associated with the planning permission to expand the airport to a capacity of 5 million passengers per year also requires operations at the airport to not exceed the 1984 threshold. As this is the only threshold which is currently recognised in development plan policy, the area covered by the 1984 day and night contours will be used for assessing the potential impact of aircraft noise on a development.

7.4.10 The Borough Council has not included the noise contours on the Proposals Map because it is recognised that the 1984 aircraft noise threshold may be superseded by a more up-to-date threshold over the period of this Plan in response to changes in aircraft mixes, flight routes, passenger throughputs and noise control schemes. If a new aircraft noise threshold is agreed which provides a more appropriate longer term forecast of aircraft noise associated with operations at London Luton Airport, then this will supersede the 1984 threshold.

7.4.11 Forecast contours can be compared with the Noise Exposure Categories identified in PPG24 for determining how severely an area may be affected by aircraft noise. The acceptability of development proposals will be assessed as set out in paragraph 7.4.6.

POLICY EN28: AIRCRAFT NOISE

Development proposals for noise sensitive uses in areas that are defined as having the potential to be significantly affected by aircraft noise associated with London Luton Airport, will only be permitted if they will not be subjected to an unacceptable level of aircraft noise exposure. The 1984 day and night-time noise contours or any future replacement noise threshold will be used for defining areas that may be significantly affected by aircraft noise.

Where planning permission is granted for development, conditions may be imposed to ensure that provision is made for an adequate level of protection against aircraft noise.

Light pollution

7.4.12 Floodlighting and other external lighting is often needed to maximise the use of facilities and for security and community safety. However, artificial light can cause light pollution through lighting up the night sky, creating uncomfortable brightness (glare) and light encroaching beyond the area it is intended to light up (light spillage). Artificial light can also change the character of the countryside on the periphery of Stevenage at night by giving the impression that it is urbanised. Lighting that is not sited and designed sensitively can also have an adverse affect on residential amenity, create a hazard for road users and have a detrimental effect on the local environment, particularly wildlife and historic buildings. It is, therefore, important that the potential for light pollution is prevented or controlled. This can be achieved through limits on hours and days of use or, where appropriate, through the sensitive use of screening. Minimising light pollution should be considered before planning applications are submitted as problems may be difficult to address after lighting schemes have been installed.

POLICY EN29: LIGHT POLLUTION

Development proposals for external lighting schemes, including floodlighting, will not be permitted unless the following criteria are met:

(a) the scheme provides the minimum amount of lighting needed to meet operational requirements; and
(b) the potential pollution from glare and light spillage is minimised; and
(c) there would not be an unacceptable impact on residential amenity, vehicle users or the local environment, including wildlife; and
(d) there would not be an unacceptable visual impact on the character or openness of the countryside.

7.4.13 For assessing the acceptability of external lighting schemes, the Borough Council will refer to guidance provided by the Institute of Lighting Engineers on reducing light pollution.

Contaminated land

7.4.14 Stevenage is unlikely to have a significant amount of contaminated land due to the clean nature of most of the town’s existing and former industries and the lack of mineral workings and waste disposal sites. However, there may be some sites, particularly in the employment areas, where contamination of land may have occurred due to the nature of former processes on the site e.g. use of hazardous substances. Government advice in Circular 2/2000, has established provisions for the definition, identification and remediation of contaminated land. The Borough Council has a duty under this advice to take a strategic approach to the inspection of contaminated land, and therefore must adopt, and keep under periodic review, a contaminated land strategy that is intended to be complementary to the planning process. The Borough Council would wish to see any contaminated land treated to the appropriate standard to bring it into use, either for new development or another beneficial use e.g. open space. This would accord with Government and Structure Plan policies for making the best use of existing resources and reducing the demand for developing greenfield sites.

7.4.15 Where development is proposed on sites that are, or are suspected to be, contaminated, developers must undertake a study to identify the nature and extent of contamination. A remediation scheme should then be prepared, if appropriate, to ensure that the site is suitable for the proposed use. Without these prerequisites being met, it is unlikely that the Borough Council can make an informed decision on whether it is acceptable for a development proposal to be permitted.

7.4.16 The Borough Council will normally expect a site assessment and, if appropriate, a remediation scheme to be submitted before a development proposal is determined. However, where there is only a suspicion that the site may be contaminated or where evidence suggests that there may only be slight contamination, planning permission may be granted subject to conditions which require a site assessment to be undertaken and any remedial measures to be implemented before development commences. When considering the suitability of site assessments and remediation schemes, the Borough Council will refer to the Circular and consult other agencies with an interest, such as the Environment Agency.

POLICY EN30: CONTAMINATED LAND

Development proposals for the remediation and re-use of contaminated land will be encouraged.

A site assessment to establish the nature and extent of land contamination will need to be prepared where development is proposed on or near sites which are known to be contaminated or where there is good reason to believe contamination exists.

If a site assessment shows that land contamination exists, development proposals will only be permitted if an acceptable remediation scheme, making the site suitable for the proposed use, is prepared.

Hazardous installations

7.4.17 The Planning (Hazardous Substances) Act 1990 requires consent to be obtained from the planning authority for proposals for the storage or use of hazardous substances. The purpose of the controls is to give local authorities the opportunity to consider whether the storage or use of hazardous substances is appropriate in the proposed location. When determining applications for hazardous substances consent, the planning authority is required to consider whether the existing or proposed use of the site and nearby land is appropriate. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are consulted on all applications for Hazardous Substances Consent or development proposals for installations involving hazardous substances and their advice will be carefully considered when assessing proposals.

7.4.18 The Borough Council’s prime concern will be that proposals do not create any additional health and safety risks to the public. Advice from the HSE and other agencies, such as the Environment Agency, will be used as a basis for assessing the acceptability of proposals. Due to the potential health and safety risks of hazardous installations to the public the only locations in Stevenage where proposals may be acceptable are the defined employment areas. However, within the employment areas there may be sites which are unsuitable because of their proximity to conflicting uses such as housing and other sensitive uses.

POLICY EN31: HAZARDOUS INSTALLATIONS

Development proposals involving the use, storage or movement of hazardous substances will not be permitted unless the following criteria are met:

(a) there are no additional health and safety risks to the users of the site or the surrounding area; and
(b) there are no additional threats to the local environment, particularly air quality, water and wildlife; and
(c) the proposal would not be liable to cause long term land contamination.

Proposals for new hazardous installations will only be considered on suitable sites within the employment areas as shown on the proposals map.

Development proposals adjoining existing or proposed hazardous installations or sites where hazardous substances are present will not be permitted if there is a health and safety risk to the users of the site.

Water

7.4.19 Water is a critical natural resource which is essential for meeting domestic, commercial and recreational needs. Water is also an important environmental asset in Stevenage as it supports wildlife habitats and makes a contribution to the landscape within the town. Development has an important relationship with water as proposals normally result in increased demand for water supply and can adversely affect the water environment if not carefully planned.

7.4.20 The Environment Agency is responsible for national policies on water resources, water quality, surface water management, flood defence, conserving and enhancing the water environment and the promotion of informal recreation. Water companies are responsible for the supply of water, surface and foul water drainage and sewage treatment. At the local level, the Environment Agency is preparing the Upper Lee Local Environment Agency Plan (LEAP), a five year plan which seeks to promote an integrated and sustainable approach to managing the environment in the catchment, including the water environment. The Upper Lee LEAP identifies issues that the Environment Agency and other organisations including the Borough Council will need to address in the future.

7.4.21 This Plan includes several policies which aim to complement the objectives of the Upper Lee LEAP and other policy guidance, including, Structure Plan Policy 39 which provides strategic advice on protecting and enhancing the water environment. The District Plan includes policies on river corridors and water meadows; flood risk and drainage; groundwater protection; water supply and sewerage infrastructure and water conservation. These policies seek to ensure the protection and enhancement of water resources and that a sustainable approach is taken to water supply, use and drainage.

River corridors and water meadows

7.4.22 In the development of the New Town, several river corridors were preserved for their value as landscape features and natural habitats. Many now form part of the Green Links identified in policy EN10. In addition, they serve an important role in controlling surface water run off from the town. This is because the natural floodplains in the river corridors have, in several places been converted into water meadows and storage ponds which temporarily store excess run off during storms.

7.4.23 A river corridor comprises both the river itself and the adjacent land, the buffer zone. Protection of river corridors and water meadows from inappropriate development and culverting is important to avoid adverse environmental impacts, as well as allowing the Environment Agency operational access, for reasons which include:
(a) new development close to or directly affecting the floodplain is liable to be at direct risk from flooding, and can reduce the capacity of the floodplain, thereby increasing the risk of flooding elsewhere;
(b) the loss of water meadows and storage ponds increases the risks of flooding in downstream communities and can have an adverse affect on natural habitats;
(c) river corridors and are an important environmental feature in terms of their contribution to the Green Links in Stevenage as well as providing a natural river bank habitat for a wide range of plants and animals. A number of water meadows and ponds are also identified as Wildlife Sites in policy EN17 which are of district-wide importance for nature conservation;
(d) inappropriate development breaks up the continuity of the river corridor. Culverts also increase both flow velocities and the potential for blockage, increasing the risk of flooding in storm conditions;
(e) the buffer zone allows the watercourse to undergo the natural processes of erosion and deposition, as well as allowing for the repair and regrading of river banks and improving the quality of the river corridor;
(f) the buffer zone also serves to reduce the risk of accidental pollution from run-off; and
(g) the Environment Agency requires access to river corridors in order to carry out its operational commitments.

POLICY EN32: RIVER CORRIDORS AND WATER MEADOWS

Development proposals, including culverting of watercourses, will not be permitted unless satisfactory mitigation measures are implemented if they are liable to have an adverse impact on the town's river corridors and water meadows as identified below:

River corridors:
Stevenage Brook and its tributaries
Aston End Brook and its tributaries
Fairlands Valley and its tributaries

Water meadows:
Ridlins Wood, Aston Valley, Wychdell, Valley Park, Fairlands Valley, Industrial Area Pond, Meadway, Corey's Mill, Elder Way, Burymead, Bragbury End and Campshill.

Development proposals will also be encouraged to incorporate measures to maintain and enhance the quality of any river corridors or water meadows that they are liable to have an adverse impact on.

Flood risk and drainage

7.4.24 Floodplains are areas of land adjacent to a watercourse over which water flows in times of flood, or would flow but for the presence of defences. Floodplains perform the essential function of storing water during flood events. Development within the floodplain is not only itself at risk of flooding but, by reducing the amount of land available for flood storage, and by impeding flows, can increase the risk of flooding in off-site and sometimes remote locations. The Environment Agency produces “Indicative Floodplain Maps” which the Borough Council will consult when development is proposed on the town’s river corridors.

7.4.25 The Borough Council and the Environment Agency are both concerned to ensure that any detrimental impact of development on Stevenage’s water environment is minimised. This means that development proposals will be required to have regard to the need to conserve the water environment and to improve the recreational, amenity and environmental quality of the water system through effective management of surface water. Where potential exists for increasing flood risk, either on or off-site, or adversely affecting the drainage system or flood defences, the Borough Council will require developers to undertake a flood-risk assessment. If this assessment shows that the proposal is liable to have a detrimental affect, the Borough Council will seek to guide the development away from that area unless appropriate site specific solutions are prepared which maintain or improve the land drainage and flood defence system. Where necessary, the Borough Council will impose conditions or seek planning obligations in order to secure the appropriate flood protection and mitigation measures.

7.4.26 New developments will need to incorporate surface water management techniques which will not adversely affect the recharging of the aquifer or the natural water cycle. Conventional drainage systems remove rainfall from impervious surfaces as quickly as possible, so therefore have a number of adverse environmental effects. Various techniques have been developed to reduce these effects and are collectively known as Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS). Where the Borough Council considers it to be appropriate new developments will be encouraged to incorporate suitable SuDS. Source control techniques (infiltration drainage) should be incorporated where appropriate with the use of run off attenuation to avoid increased surface water discharge. To maintain the effectiveness of SuDS proposals, consideration will need to be given at the outset, by all the authorities concerned, to the establishment of a maintenance regime and the body to be responsible for it.

POLICY EN33: FLOOD RISK AND DRAINAGE

Developers will be required to provide a Flood Risk Assessment where a proposed development is likely to: -
(a) be at risk from flooding; or
(b) increase the risk of flooding elsewhere; or
(c) prejudice the effectiveness of the drainage system or flood defences.

Where the Flood Risk Assessment shows an increase in the risk of flooding or a reduction in the effectiveness of the drainage system or flood defences, development proposals will not be permitted unless appropriate flood protection and mitigation measures are implemented.

Developments will be required to incorporate appropriate surface water management techniques which will seek to maintain existing hydrological conditions and which will not have material adverse effects upon the aquifer and the existing natural water cycle.

Where appropriate, developers will be encouraged to incorporate suitable sustainable drainage systems.

Groundwater protection

7.4.27 All of the water abstracted for public water supply in the Stevenage area comes from groundwater. If groundwater is polluted, it is very difficult to clean. It is therefore important that the quality of groundwater is maintained and pollution threats are minimised. Stevenage is situated on a major chalk aquifer which is easily penetrated. This means that the pollution risk is high. The Environment Agency has identified, in the Upper Lee Environmental Overview (May 1999), that groundwater below Stevenage has been affected in the past by significant levels of solvents caused by industrial activities. Whilst the groundwater now meets public water supply quality standards, it is important that groundwater is not subjected to additional risks from pollution in the future.

7.4.28 The Environment Agency has developed a framework of policies and practice to protect groundwater. This is based on the concept of Source Protection Zones (SPZs) around boreholes for public water supply and on the vulnerability of groundwater to pollution. This Plan can complement the Environment Agency’s strategy for maintaining existing high quality groundwater by resisting development that would be liable to pollute groundwater. In some cases engineering can be used to minimise the risk of pollution where groundwater is vulnerable. Advice from the Environment Agency will be used for assessing the acceptability of proposals which may have potential to pollute groundwater.

POLICY EN34: GROUNDWATER PROTECTION

Development proposals will not be permitted unless acceptable measures are undertaken as part of the development to prevent groundwater pollution from taking place.

Water supply and sewerage infrastructure

7.4.29 New development usually places increased demands on the existing infrastructure provided by the utility companies. In particular, the existing water supply and sewerage infrastructure may not be adequate to accommodate the additional demands generated by major new developments. To meet these demands, off-site provision of new or improved infrastructure, such as new water pipelines, may be necessary. To ensure satisfactory provision is made developments are required, under separate legislation, to make contributions towards the cost of providing new or improved water supply and sewerage infrastructure where this is directly related to demands generated by the development. Advice from the water companies will be used for assessing the adequacy of the water supply and sewerage infrastructure.

POLICY EN35: WATER SUPPLY AND SEWERAGE INFRASTRUCTURE

Development proposals will only be permitted where the existing water supply and sewerage infrastructure is adequate to meet the needs of the development or where necessary improvements are undertaken in advance of the development becoming operational.

Water supply and sewerage infrastructure required to meet the operational needs of the water companies will be permitted unless this would have an unacceptable adverse impact on the environment or residential amenity.

Water conservation

7.4.30 To contribute towards meeting sustainability objectives relating to the efficient use of natural resources, developments can incorporate a range of measures which can minimise the use of, or recycle water. For example, residential developments can incorporate low volume flush WCs, water efficient showers, water butts, and spray taps. Whilst it is not possible for local plans to require the provision of water efficient measures in new developments, the Plan can complement measures being undertaken by the water companies and the Environment Agency to conserve water by encouraging all new developments to make provision for appropriate water conservation measures.

POLICY EN36: WATER CONSERVATION

Development proposals will be encouraged to reduce water consumption and run-off by using suitable water conservation and storage measures such as the use of rainwater, water efficient devices and by recycling water.

7.5 TELECOMMUNICATIONS

7.5.1 Due to the improvement in communications technology in recent years, demand for better communications at work and at home has substantially increased, this has resulted in greater competition between operators to provide telecommunications services. Improved communications have economic benefits such as improving the competitiveness of businesses and creating employment opportunities, but they can also improve the quality of life and contribute to sustainable development objectives. There is a strong link between telecommunications and transport because new telecommunications technology such as the Internet and mobile phones can play a significant role in making services more accessible and reducing the need to travel, for example by allowing working from home to be more practical. The development of physical infrastructure to support new communication modes is necessary to ensure that Stevenage residents and businesses are not excluded from realising the benefits of new telecommunications technologies.

7.5.2 The significant growth in the telecommunications sector has led to an increase in demand for associated development including radio masts, satellite dishes, transmitter aerials and antennae. Government policy as set out in PPG8 is to facilitate the growth of new and existing telecommunications systems. Policy 21 of the Structure Plan supports the principle of telecommunications development subject to environmental and siting criteria. The principal planning issues relating to telecommunications development is their potential visual impact due to their height or design which can have an adverse impact on the landscape, built environment and residential amenity.

7.5.3 In view of the benefits that telecommunications development can offer businesses and residents in Stevenage, the Borough Council will permit proposals which do not have an unacceptable adverse impact on the environment or residential amenity. The Employment Areas defined in policy E2 are considered to be the most appropriate locations for telecommunications development as there is less potential in these areas for adverse impacts on the environment or residential amenity. However, it is acknowledged that there are technical and operational constraints which may limit the scope for new equipment to be sited only in the Employment Areas. The Borough Council will have regard to these constraints when determining proposals for telecommunications equipment elsewhere in Stevenage. To minimise the potential visual impact in Stevenage and make the best use of resources, operators will be expected to share existing facilities wherever technically and operationally possible, and to erect equipment such as antennae and masts on existing buildings and structures. The Borough Council maintains a register of telecommunications equipment in Stevenage to assist operators to fully consider the possibilities for sharing equipment. Unless there are operational or technical justifications, developments will be expected to be sited and designed to minimise their visual impact e.g. through screening or painting equipment. Guidance on the siting of domestic satellite dishes and antennae is set out in the Environmental Safeguards. In addition to policy EN37 the Borough Council will have regard to the detailed guidance provided in current and emerging Government policy advice when determining the acceptability of development proposals for telecommunications equipment.

POLICY EN37: TELECOMMUNICATION EQUIPMENT DEVELOPMENTS

Development proposals for telecommunications equipment will be permitted where the following criteria are met:

(a) there would not be an unacceptable adverse impact on natural or built environment assets such as Landscape Conservation Areas, Wildlife Sites and Conservation Areas; and
(b) the siting and appearance of the equipment would not be unacceptably detrimental to the amenity of local residents; and
(c) the equipment would not be out of scale with or unacceptably detrimental to the appearance of the building on which it is proposed to be erected; and
(d) the equipment is sited and designed to minimise visual impact whilst retaining operational needs.

Development proposals, particularly for major telecommuncations equipment, will be encouraged to locate in the employment areas shown on the proposals map.

Where technically and operationally possible, developers will be expected to demonstrate that opportunities for sharing existing telecommunications equipment have been explored before development proposals for new sites are submitted. Developers will be encouraged to erect telecommunications equipment on existing buildings or structures.

7.6 ENERGY

Energy conservation and supply

7.6.1 The production and consumption of energy is essential for meeting domestic and commercial needs. The majority of Stevenage’s energy needs are currently met by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. It is, therefore, important that energy demands are reduced where possible and that the use of alternative forms of energy which do not cause pollution are encouraged. Specific reference is made in PPG12 to having regard to conserving energy when preparing local plans and the issue is a central theme of the Structure Plan. This Plan can contribute towards energy conservation through guiding developments to locations where the need to travel by private motorised transport is reduced. Reducing the need to travel and encouraging the use of alternative modes of travel to private motorised vehicles is a key objective of this Plan and is addressed through a range of policies.

7.6.2 The Building Regulations require minimum standards for conserving energy to be met for all developments through the design of buildings. However, local plan policies can also influence energy consumption through encouraging energy efficient measures to be incorporated into the design and layout of new developments. The use of passive solar design is an established approach for reducing energy consumption associated with heat and light in new developments by maximising the use of sun or shade to offset the demand for heating or cooling. Passive solar design can be achieved by consideration of matters such as the orientation, internal layout, landscaping, window design and materials in the design and layout of development. More guidance on these matters will be provided in the Environmental Safeguards.

7.6.3 With respect to power generation, Combined Heat and Power (CHP) stations offer greater potential to conserve energy than conventional power stations as they are more efficient due to using heat that is normally lost into the atmosphere. This has the benefit of minimising carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Energy supply can be made more sustainable by using alternative forms of energy supply either for major developments on a strategic scale or for individual buildings e.g. solar heating. The sustainability of proposals for supplying energy will be judged on the basis of their use of fossil fuels, their contribution to global and local pollution and their impact on the local environment. The use of local and/or recycled building materials in developments can also contribute towards reducing energy consumption.

7.6.4 Whilst it is not possible for local plan policies to require passive energy conservation measures to be fully incorporated into the design and layout of all developments, the Borough Council will encourage good practice in developments and will expect developers to consider incorporating such measures in all schemes. The Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) sets out principles for designing and building sustainable buildings.

7.6.5 In view of the scale of the strategic housing development at Stevenage West and the emphasis in the Structure Plan to provide a high quality environment which encourages sustainable lifestyles, the Borough Council will expect energy conservation principles to be incorporated into the design and layout of the development. Scope may also exist within the development for small CHP systems to be incorporated and for energy to be supplied by renewable energy sources in order to assist the development to be self-supporting in terms of its energy needs.

POLICY EN38: ENERGY CONSERVATION AND SUPPLY

Development proposals will be expected to demonstrate that methods of maximising efficient energy use and supplying energy in the development have been considered by:

(a) facilitating the efficient use of energy through the use of energy efficient and energy conservation technologies which do not have an unacceptable adverse impact on the local environment; and
(b) incorporating, where viable, the most sustainable forms of energy supply including renewable sources both on an individual building basis and in large building developments; and
(c) using local or recycled building materials wherever possible.

Renewable energy

7.6.6 Renewable energy sources cover energy flows that occur naturally and repeatedly in the environment e.g. from the sun, wind, oceans and fall of water. Waste materials such as household and agricultural waste are also considered as renewable energy sources. Government policy is to stimulate the development of new and renewable energy sources wherever there is the prospect of it being economically attractive and environmentally acceptable (Source: Energy Paper 62 ‘New and Renewable Energy: Future Prospects in the UK’, Department of Trade and Industry, 1994). The Government supports the exploitation of renewable energy sources because they offer the potential to increase the diversity and security of future energy supplies, reduce greenhouse gases and provide economic benefits.

7.6.7 The Eastern Region Renewable Energy Planning Study (July 1997) commissioned by ETSU for the Department of Trade and Industry has explored the potential for renewable energy in Hertfordshire. The study identified that the main opportunities for renewable energy projects were for solar energy, waste (municipal solid waste and general industrial/commercial waste) and energy crops. As most renewable energy resources can only be harnessed where they occur, the main opportunities in Stevenage at present are considered to be for passive or active solar energy projects, although improved technologies may allow exploitation of other types of renewable energy over the period of this Plan.

7.6.8 PPG22 advises local authorities to include detailed policies for developing renewable energy sources in their local plans. Whilst it is acknowledged that renewable energy projects offer wider environmental benefits and can only take place where resources occur, they can have an adverse impact on the local environment. For example, solar energy schemes may have an adverse impact on the character of buildings if not sensitively designed, whilst major energy recovery from waste schemes may have significant traffic generation implications. Whilst supporting the principle of schemes that will harness renewable energy sources, the Borough Council will seek to ensure that any proposals do not have an unacceptable impact on the environment. This is consistent with the strategic approach taken in Structure Plan Policy 54 which supports the principle of renewable energy projects subject to environmental and traffic considerations.

POLICY EN39: RENEWABLE ENERGY

Development proposals for projects which exploit renewable energy will be permitted where there would not be an unacceptable:

(a) adverse impact on natural or built environment assets including Landscape Conservation areas, Wildlife Sites, Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas; and
(b) Level of traffic generation; and
(c) Adverse impact on residential amenity.

7.7 WASTE AND RECYCLING

7.7.1 The planning system can make a contribution to the management and recycling of waste material. The County Council as the waste planning authority, has prepared and adopted the Hertfordshire Waste Local Plan 1995-2005 (January 1999). The Waste Local Plan sets out the land use policies applying to the provision and location of waste management facilities. The Waste Local Plan forms part of the development plan for Stevenage and will be used as a basis for local planning decisions on waste and recycling matters.

7.7.2 The main objective of the Waste Local Plan is the achievement of a sustainable waste management strategy in accordance with national and regional policies. The Plan supports the Government’s principle of the waste management hierarchy which ranks waste management options according to their relative environmental benefits and impacts. This identifies waste minimisation at the top of the hierarchy, followed by re-use and recycling, and the use/recovery of waste as fuel or energy as preferable approaches to disposal. The overall aim is to reduce the amount of waste disposed to landfill. The Waste Local Plan endorses the proximity principle whereby waste should be dealt with as near as possible to is source.

7.7.3 Construction and demolition waste accounts for over a fifth of the UK’s controlled waste. The County Council has adopted a target of a 25% reduction in the volume of this type of waste requiring disposal after the year 2000. The Borough Council will assist the County Council in achieving this target by encouraging the appropriate use of renewable resources and the re-use of building materials in development. In addition to Policies 7, 8, and 9 of the Waste Local Plan, the Borough Council will have regard to policy EN40 when considering development proposals.

7.7.4 When considering development proposals, the Borough Council will ensure that appropriate waste management methods are considered at the planning application stage. The Borough Council will encourage developers to demonstrate suitable mechanisms for the minimisation, re-use and recycling of waste materials generated by development and to have regard for the provision of waste facilities within the design of schemes. Support will be given to waste management methods which minimise the risks of environmental pollution and careful consideration will be given to the location of waste management facilities in order to minimise any adverse environmental impacts.

7.7.5 The Government promotes the recycling of municipal waste (household and some commercial/industrial waste) and encourages local authorities to produce their own recycling strategies. The Waste Local Plan has adopted the national target of recycling 25% of household waste by the year 2000 within the county. When proposals are received for major developments, the Borough Council will have regard to Policy 11 of the Waste Local Plan and policy EN40 which are intended to ensure that provision is made for source separation and recycling facilities in line with the Borough Council’s recycling strategy. The Borough Council will expect measures to represent the ‘Best Practicable Environmental Option’ as set out in Government waste policy. Where appropriate, the Borough Council will seek planning obligations or impose planning conditions in order to implement policy EN40.

7.7.6 Whilst policy EN40 applies to all developments, in view of the scale of the strategic housing development at Stevenage West and the emphasis in the Structure Plan on providing a high quality environment to encourage sustainable lifestyles, the Borough Council will particularly expect the principles set out in the policy to be followed during the planning, design and construction of the development.

7.7.7 Section 4.10 of the Employment chapter sets out the approach of both the Hertfordshire Waste Local Plan and the District Plan to areas of search for waste management facilities and the safeguarding of existing waste management sites within the Employment Areas.

POLICY EN40: WASTE AND RECYCLING

When considering development proposals appropriate measures will be expected to be included which are designed to:

(a) reuse clean excavated material from construction projects for land preparation, land restoration and site landscaping; and
(b) reuse reclaimed and recycled aggregates and building products within buildings and other structures in place of natural aggregates or previously unused materials; and
(c) minimise the pollution potential of waste and dispose of unavoidable waste in a way that minimises any adverse environmental effects within the context of sustainable development; and
(d) ensure that adequate space is available to facilitate waste recycling through separation, storage, handling, bulking and collection of waste generated within the development and the property.

7.8 MINERALS

7.8.1 Development proposals for minerals developments are dealt with by the County Council as the minerals planning authority, although the Borough Council would be consulted on any proposals in Stevenage. The Hertfordshire Minerals Local Plan (Adopted July 1998) sets out the policies that mineral extraction proposals will be considered against. It forms part of the development plan for Stevenage and will be used to guide local planning decisions. Due to the absence of existing or potential minerals extraction sites in Stevenage, this is not considered to be a significant issue for this Plan.