South Somerset Local Plan Review 2016-2036 Preferred Options Consultation (Regulation 18)

14 Environmental Quality

Overview

14.1 Maintaining and enhancing environmental quality in South Somerset will require the Council to address climate change mitigation and adaptation, design quality of new development, protection and enhancement of the historic environment, landscape and biodiversity, development of green infrastructure and pollution control.

Addressing Climate Change in South Somerset

14.2 The release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from human activity is changing the world's climate and national Government policy clearly supports taking action to tackle this issue. This 'action' involves mitigation through reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and adaptation by ensuring development can cope with the predicted impacts of climate change and helping biodiversity to adapt to a changing climate. Taking action to address climate change will be much less costly than not taking action over the medium to long term.[1]

14.3 Local planning authorities have a statutory duty [2]  to ensure that, taken as whole, Plan policy contributes to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change.

14.4 Figure 14.1 compares Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for South Somerset, compared to the neighbouring districts in Somerset. South Somerset’s have reduced from 7.2 tonnes in 2009; a reduction of over 20%.

Figure 14.1: CO2 Emissions in Somerset

 

CO2 Emissions Per Person

South Somerset

5.7

Taunton Deane

5.3

Sedgemoor

7

Mendip

6.7

County Average

6.1

14.5 The Climate Change Act 2008 requires an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (upon 1990 levels) - a key element of the Local Plan is to ensure South Somerset makes a full and appropriate response to climate change.

14.6 The Local Plan Review Vision and Strategic Objectives support a low carbon economy, and promote greater self-containment by focussing most new development at the main settlements in the district, with a balance of employment and housing provision, ensuring communities have good access to shops and community services and facilities. This should ensure the need to travel is minimised, especially by car, and therefore limit the growth of CO2 emissions from travel.

14.7 Even if the world were to go 'zero carbon' straight away, there is likely to be 30-40 years of climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions already released.[3] This makes it vitally important to ensure that new development is adapted to cope with the effects of climate change that will happen regardless of measures taken now to reduce emissions of CO2.

14.8 By the 2050s, climate change in South Somerset is likely to mean more extreme weather events including:[4]

  • Summers being 2-3 degrees centigrade hotter, and 20-40% drier;
  • Winters being 2-3 degrees warmer, and 10-20% wetter.

14.9 Changes to the summer climate may have some positives in South Somerset from increased tourist numbers, which would benefit the local economy. But hotter, drier summers could damage wildlife in the District and reduce levels of water supply. Wetter winters could cause more flooding and greater risk to property and people.

1. Stern Review on the economics of climate change, HM Treasury, 2006 [back]
2. Section 19 of the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act, as amended by the 2008 Planning Act [back]
3. [Adapting to climate change: UK Climate Projections, Defra, 2009] [back]
4. [Central estimate under medium emissions scenario, UK Climate Projections 2009] [back]

Renewable and Low Carbon Energy

14.10 This term describes energy supply from ‘renewable’ sources such as from the wind, water, the sun, and biomass; and ‘low carbon energy’ that can help to reduce CO2 emissions e.g. Combined Heat and Power, air/ground source heat pumps and energy-from-waste. In July 2018 the Government published the National Adaptation Programme this set out a wide range of actions to help the country adapt to climate change. The Government’s current ‘feed in tariff’ provides a financial incentive for renewable and low carbon electricity generation, e.g. solar photovoltaic panels, wind turbines.

14.11 Policy EQ1 fully supports the delivery of renewable and low carbon energy, consistent with national policy. However, in some cases there may be unacceptable impacts that could preclude renewable and low carbon energy development, such as large wind turbines on bird flight paths in or around the Somerset Levels and Moors Special Protection Area (SPA)/Ramsar, and impact upon protected landscapes such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB),[5] or designated heritage assets. The Habitats Regulations Assessment for the Somerset Levels and Moors makes clear that wind farm developments are likely to be unacceptable within 800 metres of the internationally designated sites.

14.12 Planning Practice Guidance[6] states that applications for wind energy development should only be granted if the site has already been identified as suitable for wind energy development in a Local or Neighbourhood Plan, and if it has the backing of the local communities that it may affect. In applying these new considerations, suitable areas for wind energy development will need to have been allocated clearly in a Local or Neighbourhood Plan – it is not the intention of this Authority to designate such sites.

14.13 In terms of other potential renewable and low carbon energy resources in South Somerset, there is good potential to develop solar photovoltaic panels as the District has relatively high levels of sunshine duration compared to the rest of the UK, with around 1,500 sunshine hours per year.

14.14 There are also numerous weirs and mills that generate electricity as part of the South Somerset Hydropower Group - albeit at a relatively small-scale - with further potential sites yet to be developed. Wood chip, wood pellet or logs can be used to generate heat in biomass boilers, stoves and combined heat and power systems, heating individual buildings or to power district heat systems. As wood is a bulky material, it is most viable to use a local supply. Farmers tend to use Grade 3 agricultural land (which covers most of South Somerset) for energy crops such as Miscanthus or Willow, and there are also areas of unmanaged woodland and coppice that could yield wood fuel.

5. For example, a study has been produced to assess renewable energy potential in the Blackdown Hills AONB: ‘Renewable Energy in the Blackdown Hills AONB (2010)’] [back]
6. Renewable and low carbon energy - GOV.UK [back]

Sustainable Construction and Minimising Carbon Dioxide Emissions in New Development

14.15 New development has the potential to increase CO2 emissions through the construction of buildings and their subsequent use.

14.16 The Council will actively support energy efficiency measures in new development Although energy is a key aspect, these sustainable construction methods cover a range of other issues such as water, waste, health and wellbeing, and ecology. Although 'water stress' (potential lack of water supply) has not been identified as a particular issue for South Somerset, climate change and population growth will require more efficient use of water through measures such as rainwater harvesting, grey water recycling and water efficient appliances. Decentralised local renewable or low-carbon energy sources in new development will also be encouraged.

Flood Risk

14.17 As described above, climate change is likely to mean wetter winters and more extreme weather events in South Somerset and therefore potentially more frequent flooding. National planning policy [7]  states that a sequential, risk-based approach should be applied to avoid development in areas of flood risk, taking account of the current and future impacts of climate change.

14.18 South Somerset's Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (SFRA) [8]  highlights areas at risk of flooding from rivers and identifies flooding incidents that have occurred in the past from rivers, surface water, sewer flooding, and groundwater. Some areas in and around Yeovil are within Flood Zone 3 (high flood risk), as are parts of many of the Market Towns and Rural Centres. Langport/Huish Episcopi, Ilminster and Ilchester are settlements where flood risk is a particular issue. The SFRA was undertaken a number of years ago now and a new assessment is currently being undertaken by Consultants as part of a joint project between South Somerset and Somerset West and Taunton Council.

14.19 In early 2014 the Somerset Levels and Moors experienced widespread flooding, particularly within the Parrett and Tone river catchments. It is the largest flood event ever known. The Environment Agency estimated there were 100 million cubic metres of floodwater covering an area of 65 square kilometres. Residents of Northmoor (Moorland, Chadmead and Fordgate) had to leave their homes at the height of the flood and many communities were cut off by floodwater. As a result, there is a specific flood action plan for the area [9] .

14.20 The aim of the Sequential Test set out in the NPPF [10]  is to steer new development to areas at the lowest probability of flooding i.e. Flood Zone 1. Proposals in Flood Zones 2 or 3 will need to consider alternative sites that have a lower risk of flooding and the ‘exception test’ will also be applied, in which it will be considered whether the development would provide wider benefits to the local community that outweigh flood risk; and whether the development, its users and the wider area will be safe. In the first instance the area to which the 'search' for reasonably available alternative sites will apply will be District-wide, but there will be cases where this area of search will be smaller. Some examples of justifying a reduced 'area of search' include it potentially being impractical to suggest that extensions of existing business premises, such as farm holdings, could be developed elsewhere in the District; and where there is a need for new development that has a defined catchment area such as a school, hospital, or doctor's surgery.

14.21 Surface water flooding is also an issue at many of the main settlements in the District, particularly Yeovil. Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) are encouraged as they mimic natural drainage by reducing the amount and rate of water flow following rainfall, therefore reducing the risk of surface water flooding. SuDS have several other benefits such as removing pollutants from urban run-off at source, ensuring that new developments do not increase flood risk downstream, and combining water management with green space which can increase amenity, recreation and biodiversity value (known as green infrastructure – see Policy HW2). The SFRA states that there is a relatively high potential for SuDS in South Somerset due to the permeable underlying geology.

14.22 The Environment Agency produce Catchment Flood Management Plans (CFMPs) to identify strategic flood risk management policies in river catchments over the long term (50-100 years). The River Parrett CFMP covers most of South Somerset, and states that in the future the main problems in Yeovil may be related to higher intensity summer storms that overwhelm the local sewers and smaller streams.

7. NPPF 2019 [back]
8. South Somerset Strategic Flood Risk Assessment Level 1, August 2008 [back]
9. Somerset Levels and Moors: reducing the risk of flooding - GOV.UK [back]
10. NPPF 2019 [back]

Biodiversity and climate change

14.23 The distribution of habitats and species will be affected by the changing climate, so it is important to ensure that this issue is addressed when considering proposals for new development. An example of delivering this is through the creation of new natural habitats around existing habitats, and linking such areas together, wherever possible. Policies EQ5: Biodiversity and HW2: Green Infrastructure contain further detail on the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity, including the creation of such wildlife 'corridors'. It is important to note that some measures to combat climate change can potentially have adverse effects on biodiversity.

 

POLICY EQ1 – ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE IN SOUTH SOMERSET

The Council will support proposals for new development where they have demonstrated how climate change mitigation and adaptation will be delivered, through inclusion of the following measures (as appropriate):

  1. New development should ensure that carbon dioxide emissions are minimised through energy efficiency measures, renewable and low carbon energy;
  1. Development of renewable and low carbon energy generation will be encouraged and permitted, providing there are no significant adverse impacts upon residential and visual amenity, landscape character, designated heritage assets, and biodiversity;
  2. Development will be directed away from medium and high flood risk areas by using South Somerset’s Strategic Flood Risk Assessment as the basis for applying the Sequential Test. The area of search to which the Sequential Test will apply will be South Somerset wide, unless adequately justified otherwise in relation to the circumstances of the proposal. Where appropriate, the Exception Test can be applied if this is consistent with wider sustainability objectives;
  3. Development should reduce and manage the impact of flood risk by incorporating Sustainable Drainage Systems, and through appropriate layout, design, and choice of materials;
  4. Climate change should be considered in the design of new development, incorporating measures such as solar orientation, maximising natural shade and cooling, water efficiency and flood resilience;
  5. Susceptibility to climate change should be taken into account on all proposals to develop sites with biodiversity interest.

Design / General Development

14.24 Paragraphs 124 to 132 of the NPPF[11] set a clear national policy framework for promoting good design as a key element to achieving sustainable development.

14.25 It is self-evident that all development in all locations should be designed to the highest standard. This is essential if we are to create functional, attractive places that people want to live in, work in and visit. Well-designed buildings and places can contribute to the quality of life, increase economic vitality, achieve high environmental standards, reduce emissions and deliver a high quality public realm. This principle is carried throughout the Local Plan, which sets the objective to develop new homes, infrastructure and all other land uses to the highest possible design standards.

14.26 Policy EQ2 aims to ensure that development contributes to social, economic and environmental sustainability and makes a positive difference to people's lives to help to provide homes, jobs, and better opportunities for everyone. At the same time, it aims to protect and enhance the natural environment, and conserve the countryside and open spaces that are important to everyone.

14.27 All development will be expected to achieve high quality architectural and urban design standards, creating places that are attractive, durable and function well. All developments will be expected to achieve high environmental standards and levels of sustainability. All buildings should be designed to be fit for purpose, and adaptable in their use to suit changing occupier needs over time.

14.28 Development proposals also need to demonstrate a commitment to designing out crime through the creation of safe environments (both private and public) that benefit from natural surveillance, well overlooked streets and open spaces, appropriate lighting and other security measures.

14.29 South Somerset has published a range of Development Management advice guides to give guidance on how design should complement local architectural traditions and how sustainable construction techniques can be incorporated within the context of the existing built heritage, these can be found on the Council’s web site.[12] These and others produced during the Plan period should be taken into account when considering development proposals. The Council also apply specific guidance from Government and Government sponsored organisations. Neighbourhood Plans may provide a more detailed local context for the evaluation and consideration of development proposals and should be taken into account where they have been produced. The Development Management advice will be reviewed and revised during the lifetime of the Development Plan and the most up to date material should be referred to.

14.30 To comply with climate change objectives the design of new development will change significantly over the coming years. Sustainable construction principles will affect layout, orientation of buildings, materials, and design for minimum waste and conservation of water resources as well as fundamental appearance. It will be a challenge for the development industry and the local planning authority to both respect local context and distinctiveness and embrace new design principles. The Council will look to radical design solutions, where appropriate, to compliment and evolve local distinctiveness and recognise that respect for local context does not preclude contrasting modern design that can work with local context to provide a desirable and high quality living environment which can present the evolving historical and architectural story.

14.31 All development should ensure the most efficient use of land through the size and arrangement of plots, further determining the position, orientation, proportion, scale, height, massing and density of buildings as well as the treatment of the spaces around and between the buildings themselves. Consideration of the relationship to adjoining buildings and landscape features will be encouraged. Density should be justified as part of the overall design concept of development proposals and will also include appropriate consideration of private amenity spaces. Particular regard should be had for levels of housing demand and need and availability of sites, infrastructure and service availability, efficient use of land, accessibility, local area characteristics and other detailed design considerations (as indicated above) in the determination of the appropriate density on a particular site.

14.32 Where appropriate proposals should include design codes and/or master plans. Building for Life 12 can be used as a tool to assess the overall design quality of a scheme.[13]

 

POLICY EQ2 – GENERAL DEVELOPMENT AND DESIGN

i. Development will be designed to achieve high quality buildings and places, which promote South Somerset’s local distinctiveness and preserves or enhances the character and appearance of the District.

ii. Development proposals, extensions and alterations to existing buildings, structures and places should:

  1. function well and add to the overall quality of South Somerset, not just for the short term but over the lifetime of the development;
  2. be  visually attractive as a result of good architecture, layout and appropriate and effective landscaping;
  3. be sympathetic to the local character and history of South Somerset, including the surrounding built environment and landscape setting,
  4. establish or maintain a strong sense of place, using the arrangement of streets, spaces, building types and materials to create attractive, welcoming and distinctive places to live, work and visit;
  5. optimise the potential of the site to accommodate and sustain an appropriate amount and mix of development (including green and other public space) and support local facilities and transport networks;
  6. create places that are safe, inclusive and accessible and which promote health and well-being, with a high standard of amenity for existing and future users; and
  7. Have regard to South Somerset District Council’s published Development Management advice and guidance.

Applications that do not achieve high quality buildings and places should be refused.

iii. Innovative designs delivering low energy usage and/or wastage will be encouraged. Developmentproposals should protect the residential amenity of neighbouring properties and new dwellings should provide acceptable residential amenity space in accordance with Policy HW1.

iv. Development proposals are encouraged to make effective use of land by considering opportunities for homes and other uses within mixed use schemes and through the use of underutilised land and buildings and brownfield land.

v. Development proposals that make efficient use of land will be supported, taking into account:

  1. the identified need for different types of housing and other forms of development, and the availability of land;
  2. local market conditions and viability;
  3. the availability and capacity of infrastructure and services;
  4. the desirability of maintaining an area’s prevailing character and setting; and
  5. the importance of securing well-designed, attractive, healthy and accessible places.
11. NPPF 2019 [back]
12. www.southsomerset.gov.uk [back]
13. https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/asset/document/Building%20for%20Life%2012_0.pdf [back]

Historic Environment

14.33 The National Planning Policy Framework [14]  sets out the Government's objective for the planning system to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development by conserving and enhancing the historic environment and its assets in a manner appropriate to their significance so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of this and future generations.

14.34 The historic environment is a valuable part of South Somerset's cultural heritage and contributes significantly to the local economy and identity of the District, adding to the quality of life and well-being of residents and visitors. Whether in the form of individual buildings, archaeological sites, historic market towns or landscapes, the conservation of this heritage and sustaining it for the benefit of future generations is an important aspect of the role the Council plays on behalf of the community and, as the local planning authority, fulfilling the Government's core planning principles.

14.35 The richness of South Somerset's historic environment is indicated by its high number of designated assets including 4,600 Listed Building list entries, over 80 Conservation Areas, 14 Historic Parks, a battlefield site of national importance and a high number of scheduled monuments and other archaeological sites.

14.36 The District Council is committed to protecting and where appropriate enhancing this irreplaceable heritage. All designated assets including listed buildings, Conservation Areas, Historic Parks and archaeological sites together with other heritage assets that contribute positively to the significance of the historic environment will be protected from demolition or inappropriate development that affects the asset or its setting. The Council will seek to work with owners and developers to ensure historic assets are properly managed and cared for and remain in a viable use.

14.37 The Council has produced a draft Historic Environment Strategy [15]  and all new development should have regard to it. The document provides advice on the General Principles to Managing, Conserving and Enhancing the Historic Environment, the management of Designated Assets; and on for example, Archaeological Sites and other Historic Features of Local or Cultural Interest.

 

POLICY EQ3 – HISTORIC ENVIRONMENT

i. Heritage assets will be conserved and where appropriate enhanced for their historic significance and important contribution to local distinctiveness, character and sense of place. Their potential to contribute towards the economy, tourism, education and local identity will be exploited.

ii. All new development proposals relating to the historic environment will be expected to:

  1. Safeguard or where appropriate enhance the significance, character, setting and local distinctiveness of heritage assets;
  2. Make a positive contribution to its character through high standards of design which reflect and complement it and through the use of appropriate materials and techniques;
  3. Ensure alterations, including those for energy efficiency and renewable energy, are balanced alongside the need to retain the integrity of the historic environment and to respect the character and performance of buildings, adopting principles of minimum intervention and reversibility.

iii. Any assessment of impact on heritage assets and their settings should be proportionate to an asset’s importance and potential impact of the proposal on its significance.

14. NPPF 2019 [back]
15. South Somerset Historic Environment Strategy 2016; https://www.southsomerset.gov.uk/media/1316/h_e_s_draft_issue_for_consultation_october_2016.pdf [back]

Landscape

14.38 The NPPF sets out the Government’s objectives for the planning system to contribute to sustainable development through the conservation and enhancement of the natural environment, recognising the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside; and its economic value. Particular weight is placed upon conservation of protected and designated landscapes.

14.39 The variety of South Somerset’s landscapes and the contribution they make to local distinctiveness and sense of place is valued by the Council and is described in the assessment of the District’s landscape character, The Landscape of South Somerset, 1993. This identifies seven specific landscape character areas and defines the distinct, recognisable and consistent pattern of elements that make each landscape and settlement within the district different. More recent Peripheral Landscape Studies also explain the main landscape sensitivities around the main urban centres in the District [16] .

14.40 In describing local landscape types and their capacity for change, landscape characterisation is particularly valuable as a tool to both inform and shape development in a manner that actively responds to its wider setting.

 

POLICY EQ4 – LANDSCAPE

Proposals for development shall take into account the local distinctiveness and the main characteristics of each landscape character area. Development will be permitted provided that;

  1. within AONBs, it favours the conservation of natural beauty;
  2. it conserves and, where possible enhances the landscape character and local distinctiveness of the area, including its historical and cultural character; the distinctive setting of and relationship between, settlements and buildings, and the landscape (including important views) and;
  3. there is no significant adverse impact on local landscape character; scenic quality; and distinctive landscape features.
  4. In particular, the site arrangement, and form and scale of development proposals, along with any necessary landscape mitigation, shall have proper regard to their landscape context. Development proposals should avoid built forms whose profiles would be out of keeping when viewed from sensitive public vantage points. 
  5. Development must not risk the integrity of internationally, nationally or locally designated landscape sites.
16. https://www.southsomerset.gov.uk/your-council/your-council-plan-and-strategies/planning-policy/local-plan/ [back]

Biodiversity and New Development

14.41 National policy [17]  promotes sustainable development whilst conserving and enhancing biodiversity. Plan policies should take a strategic approach to the conservation, enhancement and restoration of biodiversity and geology by sustaining and where possible improving the quality and extent of natural habitat and the populations of naturally occurring species which they support. This should be based on up to date information [18]  of resources in the area and should promote opportunities within the design of the proposal for the incorporation of beneficial biodiversity and geological interests.

14.42 The District Council recognises the value of our natural assets and has been working with Somerset County Council, the District/Borough Councils, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Natural England, RSPB and other conservation agencies as part of the Somerset Biodiversity Partnership to identify species[19] and habitats that are important in Somerset and to draw up plans to assist in their conservation.

14.43 'Wild Somerset' is the Strategy that covers the whole area of Somerset and describes how the partnership will work together and involve local communities and other agencies in activities to protect and enhance wildlife. In addition to the habitats and species covered in the Countywide Wild Somerset Strategy. All proposals should consider protection and enhancement of biodiversity from the outset and have regard to Local and Regional Biodiversity Strategies, taking into consideration the findings as identified in 'The Distribution of European Protected Species in South Somerset' and 'European Protected Species in South Somerset'.[20] Priority Species are defined in Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act and in Somerset Priority Species List, and are to be protected from the adverse implications of new development. The Brackets Coppice Special Conservation Area near Crewkerne merits particular consideration of its resident bat population and their foraging area in consideration of local biodiversity in that area. The implications for bats of lighting associated with development will need to be borne in mind when determining planning applications.

14.44 There are significant consequences for the long-term protection and adaptability of biodiversity and the ability of wildlife and habitats to respond to climate change. There is a need to expand and re-connect the existing areas and restore habitats where they have been destroyed. Development proposals should be accompanied by sufficient information to assess the effects of development on protected sites, species, biodiversity or geology, together with any proposed prevention, mitigation or compensation measures.  They will need to demonstrate that they will not adversely impact nationally and internationally designated sites.

 

POLICY EQ5 – BIODIVERSITY

i. All proposals for development, including those which would affect sites of regional and local biodiversity, nationally and internationally protected sites and sites of geological interest, will:

  1. Protect the biodiversity value of land and buildings and minimise fragmentation of habitats and promote coherent ecological networks;
  2. Maximise opportunities for restoration, enhancement and connection of natural habitats;
  3. Incorporate beneficial biodiversity conservation features where appropriate;
  4. Protect and assist recovery of identified priority species; and
  5. Ensure that Habitat Features, Priority Habitats and Geological Features that are used by bats and other wildlife are protected and that the design including proposals for lighting does not cause severance or is a barrier to movement.

ii. Where there is a reasonable likelihood of the presence of protected and priority species development design should be informed by, and applications should be accompanied by, a survey and impact assessment assessing their presence. If present, a sequential approach to the design of the proposal should be taken that aims first to avoid harm, then to lessen the impact, and lastly makes compensatory provision for their needs.

iii. Development will not be allowed to proceed unless it can be demonstrated that it will not result in any adverse impact on the integrity of national and international wildlife and landscape designations, including features outside the site boundaries that ecologically support the conservation of the designated site.

iv. Development must not risk the integrity of internationally, nationally or locally designated wildlife sites.

17. NPPF 2019 [back]
18. The latest Local Wildlife Sites and Local Geological Sites (LGS) will be shown on the Policies Maps; with the exception of the LGSs at ‘Yeovil Old Town Walls’, ‘Ilminster Old Town Walls’ and ‘Corton Ridge and Beacon’ where there is a lack of specific information on their extent – further detail on these sites is available from the Somerset Environment Records Centre. [back]
19. Somerset Priority Species List [back]
20. Produced by Somerset County Council, 2009 [back]

Woodlands and Forest

14.45 South Somerset has only 5% coverage of woodland, which is significantly below the County average of 9%. This is a reflection of the rolling lowland character of the district, where good soils have led to the land being cleared for agriculture over past centuries. There are a few exceptions to this such as the eastern scarp boundary, which is well wooded, the hills east of Bruton, south of Crewkerne and the edge of the Blackdown Hills around Chard. Over the remainder hedgerow trees, small copses and locally significant old orchards, often on the edge of villages, dominate the landscape. Significant linear woodlands such as those along the Fivehead and Somerton ridges also define the Western edge of the District. These both have a high proportion of Ancient Woodland [21] . Ancient Woodland and ancient and veteran  trees outside of woodland require particular protection. Traditional old orchards and veteran trees are important historical features of the region, providing good habitats for wildlife.

14.46 The UK Forestry Standard [22]  expresses Government policy on the roles and maintenance of woodland and forest, setting out what is needed to help secure the future of these assets.

14.47 Areas of woodland should be expanded where appropriate to support other habitats, act as carbon sinks, enhance landscape character and as a key part of providing green infrastructure in and around new development. Any unavoidable loss of woodland should be replaced via agreements with developers and other mechanisms. The removal and management of trees and woodland may be necessary where this is needed to meet conservation objectives for open habitats, such as heathland and grassland.

14.48 Sustainable tourism development opportunities presented by woodlands and forests should be promoted, particularly in rural areas.  The wider economic use of woodlands and forests should also be promoted, for example with regards to wood fuel. The procurement of locally grown timber products to the UK Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS) [23]  should be supported, particularly in relation to development, in order to achieve improved sustainability of construction and in support of local supply chains.

14.49 In line with the NPPF [24]  development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees should be refused unless there are wholly exceptional reasons.

 

POLICY EQ7 – WOODLAND AND FORESTS

  1. South Somerset District Council will support the implementation of the UK Forestry Standard, ensuring the environmental, social and economic value and character of the District’s trees, woods and forests are protected and enhanced in a sustainable way. Woodland areas, including ancient and semi-natural woodland should be maintained at least at 2005 levels and expanded where possible to provide a buffer to core areas of woodland.
  2. The loss of ancient woodland as well as ancient or veteran trees should be protected against wherever possible. Where secondary woodland is unavoidably lost through development it should be replaced with appropriate new woodland on at least the same scale.
21. Ancient woodland is defined as land continually wooded since at least AD1600, Natural England and Woodland Trust [back]
22. The UK Forestry Standard - GOV.UK [back]
23. The UK Woodland Assurance Standard was developed by a group of forestry and environmental organisations to provide a standard for certification relevant to UK woodlands and which satisfies the standards required by both the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Pan European Forest Certification (PEFC) [back]
24. NPPF, 2019. Paragraph 175 and footnote 58. [back]

Pollution Control

14.50 Paragraphs 178 - 183 of the NPPF[25] set out the need for Local Authorities to consider the impact of new development on ground conditions, noise, air and light pollution. This aims to ensure that new developments do not harm existing residents, future residents or the natural environment. This includes minimising air, noise, light, water quality or odour pollution, that would be harmful to other land uses, human health, tranquility or the natural and built environment. The NPPF states that plan policy aims to avoid and mitigate the impacts of potential pollution associated with development.

14.51 Potentially noisy developments will be expected to be accompanied by an appropriate noise assessment. Developers will be required to demonstrate the potential impact of proposals on the environment and on residential amenity and the ability to mitigate to an acceptable level.[26]

14.52 Noise Exposure Category maps exist for three airfields in the district, RNAS Yeovilton in Ilchester, RNAS Merryfield in Ilton and Westlands airfield in Yeovil (see Appendix Four). These have been produced by predicting the likely noise exposure from the expected number of aircraft at each airfield. The contours produced are designed to act a guide to where new development is likely to be adversely affected by aircraft noise, and where development is likely to be unsuitable or would need more robust noise insulation – see Noise Exposure Category Guidelines (Appendix Four). However as with any scientific assessment, there is a margin of error associated with the prediction, this is due to uncertainties surrounding the number and path of aircraft movements, the type of aircraft involved and local metrological conditions.  The Government recognises that noise contours are only one form of definition and measurement of noise, and other measures, could also be used to inform Development Management decisions where concerns are raised[27] .

14.53 Light pollution refers to the effect of excessive or intrusive lighting arising from poor or insensitive design. The Council will seek to reduce light pollution by encouraging the installation of appropriate lighting and only permitting lighting proposals which would not adversely affect amenity or public safety. Lights should be appropriately shielded, directed to the ground and sited to minimise any impact on adjoining areas, and of a height and illumination level of the minimum required to serve their purpose.

14.54 Air quality is generally good in South Somerset, with low levels of Sulphur, oxides of nitrogen and particulates in comparison to the rest of England, although one Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) has been declared in Yeovil, where national air quality objectives are not likely to be achieved; and an Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) is in place[28] . It is shown on the Proposals Map (adopted Local Plan - Yeovil Inset). This AQMA is within the urban area where air pollution results mainly from traffic. Air quality should be considered when assessing development proposals, particularly in or near the AQMA and where significant doubt arises as to the air quality impact then a cautious approach should be applied.

14.55 In some circumstances the development of a site may be unacceptable due to land contamination or other pollution. The wrong development in a polluted area may also introduce a ‘sensitive receptor’ (such as new homes next to a noisy or smelly site), causing amenity issues, and potentially impacting negatively on neighbouring, polluting uses that were so located to avoid such conflict. Access requirements for operational vehicles and maintenance activities associated with polluted areas should be considered. The District Council’s Environmental protection officers have produced a guide to planning and contaminated land which gives general advice.[29]

 

POLICY EQ8 – POLLUTION CONTROL 

i. Development that, on its own or cumulatively, would result in air, light, noise, water quality or other environmental pollution including traffic emissions or harm to amenity, health or safety will only be permitted if the potential adverse effects would be mitigated to an acceptable level by other environmental controls, or by measures included in the proposals. This may be achieved by the imposition of planning conditions or through a planning obligation.

ii. New development should not exacerbate air quality problems in existing and potential AQMA’s and development will need to support the objectives of the AQAP. This should include consideration of the potential impacts of new developments and increased traffic levels on internationally designated nature conservation sites, and adopt mitigation measures to address these impacts.

iii. The Airfield Noise Contour Maps and Guidance for noise sensitive uses set out in Appendix Four must be taken into account in the consideration of new development where relevant.

iv. Development proposals on, or near sites which are known, or are suspected to be, potentially contaminated, or proposals for sensitive land uses, will be supported where it can be demonstrated that they will not expose people, the natural environment, property, water bodies, or other receptors to levels of potential contamination which give rise to unacceptable risks or harm to health or other adverse impacts. Applicants will be required to submit details of:

  1. the extent, scale and nature of the potential contamination;
  2. an assessment of potential risks upon human health, property, nature conservation, water quality or other receptors; and
  3. any preventative, mitigation or remedial measures and supporting assessments.

v. Development proposals will not be supported where they would spread existing contamination, or cause contamination of land.

25. NPPF 2019 [back]
26. Noise Policy Statement for England 2010 (NPSE) [back]
27. Aviation Policy Framework (March 2013) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/153776/aviation-policy-framework.pdf [back]
28. https://www.southsomerset.gov.uk/media/759286/asr_2017.pdf [back]
29. https://www.southsomerset.gov.uk/media/46047/cl_guide_for_dev_2008.pdf [back]

Equine Development

14.56 By its nature equestrian development requires a countryside location but the cumulative impact of development can have an adverse impact on the rural character of the area. New buildings can adversely affect landscape character and natural beauty where they detract from existing characteristics e.g. due to scale or materials or design. Therefore it is important to consider the current character of the countryside and how equine development can ultimately impact upon it.

14.57 Consideration for such proposals should have regard to such aspects as: 

  • Whether the site is located within or adjacent to an existing settlement;
  • It should avoid exposed skyline locations
  • It should avoid the loss of existing vegetation;
  • The existing landform and vegetation should be utilised to integrate development with the surrounding landscape;
  • Materials that blend with the surrounding landscape should be considered;
  • Bright finishes and unsuitable materials should be avoided;
  • New native planting can help to integrate buildings with their surroundings;
  • Vernacular design and building hierarchy must be respected;
  • The proposals should be close to the bridleway network; and
  •  Conflict could arise between road users due to horse transportation, deliveries and horses using narrow lanes.

 

POLICY EQ9 – EQUINE DEVELOPMENT

i. Horse related facilities and equestrian enterprises in the countryside will be permitted provided:

  1. New stables/field shelters closely relate to existing settlements or groups of buildings and should not interfere with the amenities of the adjoining residents;
  2. Their design, scale, siting and materials respect the landscape character of the locality;
  3. Development will not be allowed to proceed unless it can be demonstrated that it will not result in any adverse impact to the integrity of national and international wildlife and landscape designations, including features outside the sites boundaries that ecologically support the conservation objectives of designated sites;
  4. Any proposal for equestrian development including apparatus, jumps, menages, schooling areas and field sub division should respect or enhance the characteristic pattern and features of the surrounding landscape.

ii. Proposals for larger scale private or commercial enterprises should not be unacceptably harmful to highway safety. This should be demonstrated by means of a traffic impact assessment.