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Chapter 2 Natural Environment

Introduction

2.1 This District has a rich variety of sites and features that contribute to the quality of the natural environment. The conservation and enhancement of landscape character and environmental quality are important objectives of this Local Plan.

2.2 The landscape and character of North East Derbyshire are varied. The western part of the District extends up to the edge of the Peak District National Park and comprises a highly scenic landscape with rolling hills, river valleys and small attractive villages. It is this part of the District that contains designated Special Landscape Areas, which represent the finest Derbyshire landscape outside the Peak District National Park and represent those areas of landscape most similar in character to the Peak District National Park.

2.3 The eastern part of the District contains larger settlements and their immediate surroundings show evidence of an industrial past. Within this part of the District are large areas of attractive countryside where the landscape has a distinctive local character.

National Guidance

2.4 Planning Policy Statement 1: Delivering Sustainable Development (PPS1) (2005) states that a sustainable framework should conserve both cultural heritage and natural resources. It advises that in areas statutorily designated for their landscape, wildlife or historic qualities, policies should give greater priority to restraint.

2.5 Planning Policy Statement 7: Sustainable Development in Rural Areas (PPS7) (July 2004) states that good design should be encouraged in rural areas utilising tools such as Landscape Character Assessment and Village or Town Design Statements.

2.6 Planning Policy Guidance Note 9: Nature Conservation (PPG9) (October 1994) states that local plans should identify international, national and local nature conservation interests and policies should ensure their protection and enhancement. It also advises that plans should be concerned with land of conservation value as well as designated areas and be consistent with locally prepared nature conservation strategies.

2.7 Planning Policy Guidance Note 25: Development and Flood Risk (PPG25) (July 2001) explains how flood risk should be considered at all stages of the planning and development process in order to reduce future damage to property and prevent loss of life. It recommends adopting a risk based, or precautionary sequential approach to the location of new development in order to minimise the chance of flooding. The guidance also examines the implications of surface water run-off and climate change on the risk of flooding.

Regional Spatial Strategy

2.8 The Regional Spatial Strategy for the East Midlands (RSS 8) (March 2005) states that the protection and enhancement of the region’s environment is vital to achieving sustainable development and ensuring a better quality of life for everyone. The RSS contains policies relating to protecting and enhancing natural and cultural assets, enhancing biodiversity, increasing woodland cover and management and enhancement of the region’s landscape. This policy states development plans should be informed by a landscape character assessment, which should be taken into account when considering development proposals. The RSS also includes a regionally specific approach to managing flood risk, based on the use of appropriate strategic flood risk assessments to evaluate actual flood risk. Development should not be at unacceptable risk from flooding or create such an unacceptable risk elsewhere.

The Derby and Derbyshire Joint Structure Plan (January 2001)

2.9 The Environment chapter of the Derby and Derbyshire Joint Structure Plan contains several policies concerning the natural environment that should be taken into account when deciding planning applications. Specifically, the Joint Structure Plan contains policies relating to Landscape Character, Special Landscape Areas, sites and features of nature conservation importance, habitats, and trees and woodland.

Countryside Management and Woodland Projects within the Plan Area

2.10 There are two countryside projects part funded by the Council that operate in North East Derbyshire. The Three Valleys Project was established in 1989 and covers the valleys of the River Rother, River Drone and the River Moss. The aims of the project are to encourage wildlife, landscape and heritage conservation, promote and improve access to the countryside, promote sustainable tourism and most importantly, enable the participation of local communities in caring for the countryside. The Local Plan supports these aims through the application of policies relating to the Green Belt, Conservation Areas, nature conservation, recreation and tourism.

2.11 The East Derbyshire Woodlands Project (EDWP) covers the former coalfield area in the eastern part of Derbyshire, including the whole of the North East Derbyshire District. Its aims are to establish areas of woodland in locations where tree cover is limited, create habitats for wildlife, provide and encourage environmental education and to encourage better access and recreational opportunities for the community.

Landscape Character

2.12 Local authorities, in partnership with the Countryside Agency, have undertaken an assessment of all the types of landscape in Derbyshire to identify the landscape components that contribute to local distinctiveness and diversity. The Landscape Character of Derbyshire (2004) document will be used to inform the planning process to seek to ensure that the character of the different areas in the District are respected and where possible, enhanced through development.

2.13 Landscape character is an important consideration for all development within the countryside but is particularly important when developing on the edge of existing settlements, ensuring the transition between the urban and rural environment is sensitively and appropriately achieved. It is important that new development fits well within the context of the settlement and the countryside.

2.14 Proposals for new development will also be encouraged to respect and adopt the features that make the landscape distinctive, and locally important landscape features should be protected during construction work. Planning conditions will be used to achieve this where appropriate. The loss of distinctive features that contribute towards and add value to the landscape character (such as dry stone walls, hedgerows, plant species and building materials) will be resisted.

NE1 Landscape Character

The varied and distinctive landscape character of the District should be conserved and/or enhanced. Development proposals that would result in the loss of distinctive features that contribute towards and add value to the landscape character of an area will not be permitted.


Special Landscape Areas

2.15 The Derbyshire Special Landscape Area Local Plan (June 1988) produced by Derbyshire County Council sets out the areas designated as Special Landscape Areas. This system of local landscape designation has been incorporated into the Derbyshire Structure Plan and District Local Plan since this time. Special Landscape Areas are examples of the finest Derbyshire landscape outside the Peak District National Park and represent those areas of landscape most similar in character to the Peal District National Park and are mainly found within the north and western part of this District. In Special Landscape Areas, new development or major extensions to existing development will only be permitted where development would not detract from the surrounding landscape, nor adversely affect the setting of any heritage or wildlife resource. Other development proposals should respect and adopt the features that contribute to the character of the area and not detract from the visual, nature conservation and heritage value of the area.

2.16 Special care should be taken to protect features of high visual amenity visible from important viewpoints, even where these viewpoints are outside the Special Landscape Area. Special care should also be taken to ensure that new development or extensions to existing development on land adjoining the Special Landscape Area does not intrude into these areas and does not have a detrimental effect on the character and function of the Special Landscape Area.

NE2 Special Landscape Areas

Within Special Landscape Areas as defined on the Proposal Maps, development will be permitted where:

(a) it would not materially detract from the surrounding landscape, nor adversely affect the setting of any heritage or wildlife resources; and

(b) the siting, scale, design, landscape treatment and the use and colour of materials in any building or engineering works are in keeping with the special character of the area; and

(c) it would not unduly disturb or detract from the visual amenity of an area by the attraction of large numbers of people or excessive traffic.

In addition, new development or extensions to existing development on land adjoining a Special Landscape Area will be permitted provided it would not have a detrimental effect on the visual amenity, character and function of the Special Landscape Area.


Biodiversity and Nature Conservation

2.17 Biodiversity means variety of life among both plants and animals, encompassing the categories of species, habitats, wildlife and the living environment. The regional Spatial Strategy for the East Midlands states that the conservation and enhancement of this variety is a key test of sustainable development.

2.18 The Habitats Regulations 1994 require planning authorities to include in their development plans policies ‘encouraging the management of features of the landscape which are of major importance for wild flora and fauna’. These features may be referred to as wildlife habitats. The Local Plan area has a diverse range of habitats, including river corridors, ancient woodland and unimproved grasslands. These habitats support wildlife and are vital elements of the landscape, due to their aesthetic, historical, amenity and economic value.

2.19 The Government’s UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) identifies habitats that are nationally important, and sets out targets and actions for conserving and restoring them. Local Biodiversity Action Plans for Lowland Derbyshire and the Peak District provide a framework for restoring biodiversity locally. They identify habitats and species that are local and national priorities for protection and enhancement, as well as translate national and regional targets to a local level. The Council will continue to support the Local Biodiversity Action Plan in the achievement of its aims and targets through the use of the policies in this Plan, imposing planning conditions or seeking provision through a Section 106 Obligation, where appropriate.

2.20 Although many areas of important habitat fall within designated sites, others do not, and it is therefore necessary to consider habitats as a separate issue from protected areas. All species need to be able to disperse in order to maintain healthy populations. Consequently, habitats should be seen as a wider part of a network rather than as individual sites. Habitats are however, becoming increasingly small and isolated. Protecting individual sites will not work unless links between them are maintained. However, for most habitats there is no specific statutory protection unless they are associated with legally protected sites or species.

2.21 Wildlife habitats occur in both rural and urban areas, and the importance of urban areas for nature conservation and habitat protection should be considered. The Council will seek to ensure that the nature conservation value of all sites, including previously developed land in urban areas, is investigated, and any loss of habitat will be compensated through provision elsewhere.

2.22 Where compensatory measures are required, the Council will seek to negotiate the creation of new habitats of equivalent size and quality, either on the development site or a suitable alternative location and where appropriate they should be accessible to the public. These measures will include a provision for appropriate management and monitoring of the habitat for a suitable period after development has taken place.

NE3 Protecting and Managing Features of Importance to Wild Flora and Fauna

Planning permission for development in features of importance to wild flora and fauna, or likely to have an adverse impact upon the integrity or continuity of such features, will not be permitted unless it can be clearly demonstrated that there are benefits resulting from the development which would outweigh the importance of the feature to wild flora of fauna.

Where a development would result in a loss of habitat, the Council will seek to maintain and enhance biodiversity within the District by securing the creation, enhancement and/or management of habitats in or adjacent to new development.


2.23 There are seven Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) of national importance designated by English Nature within the District that are identified as NE4 on the Proposals Map. Under the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 the Council is required to inform English Nature of any development likely to affect them. Some SSSIs are of international importance and have been further designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) or Special Protection Areas (SPA). These sites are of international importance and are subject to the highest degree of protection. At present, there are no sites of international importance within the District.

2.24 Where development proposals are likely to affect any site of ecological or geological interest, applicants will be required to provide an environmental statement identifying and evaluating the important features of the site, assessing the likely impact of the proposed development upon them and including a statement of the measures proposed to avoid or minimise any adverse effects.

NE4 Sites of National Importance for Nature Conservation

Planning permission for development in or likely to have an adverse impact on Sites of Special Scientific Interest will only be granted if there are overwhelming benefits resulting from development which would outweigh their national importance for nature conservation.

Where necessary the Council will impose conditions or seek to negotiate a section 106 obligation to secure appropriate mitigation and/or compensatory measures to protect the nature conservation interests of the site.


Other Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation

2.25 There are many sites which do not qualify for SSSI status that are nevertheless of considerable County or local importance. The Derbyshire Wildlife Sites Register (DWSR) has been compiled by and is managed by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. The register identifies sites of importance for nature conservation. There are approximately 180 sites important for nature conservation within the plan area, which are identified as NE5 on the Proposals Maps.

2.26 A register of Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGS) has also been prepared. This identifies important geological sites that are not already designated as SSSIs. The register has similar status to the DWSR.

NE5 Other sites of Importance for Nature Conservation

Planning permission for development in or likely to have an adverse impact upon any other site important for nature conservation, including Derbyshire Wildlife Sites and Regionally Important Geological Sites, as identified on the Proposals Map, will only be granted if it can be clearly demonstrated that satisfactory mitigation measures can be implemented, or there are benefits resulting from development which would outweigh the nature conservation importance of the site.

Where necessary the Council will impose conditions or seek to negotiate a section 106 obligation to secure appropriate mitigation and/or compensatory measures to protect the nature conservation interests of the site.


Species Protected by Law or Nationally Rare Species

2.27 The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 gives statutory protection to many animals and plant species, including badgers, bats, otters, barn owls and great crested newts, irrespective of whether planning permission has been granted.

2.28 Certain species, including all bats, otters and great crested newts are also protected under the Habitats Regulations 1994, whereby it is an offence to deliberately capture, kill or disturb these species or damage or destroy their breeding site or resting place. Development affecting these protected species also require a licence from the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), irrespective of whether planning permission has been granted.

2.29 North East Derbyshire is an important area for the barn owl partly due to a strong tradition of stone barns and other farm buildings that provide ideal nesting habitat. The conversion of this type of building has led to the destruction of many suitable nesting sites. In appropriate circumstances the Council will impose conditions or seek to negotiate the protection or provision of a suitable nesting site for barn owls.

2.30 The water vole is another important species in the District. It is a legally protected species and a priority Biodiversity Action Plan species. The River Rother catchment, which includes the River Rother, the Moss Brook and the River Doe Lea, is an important strong hold for the water vole. The Council has adopted the River Rother strategy, which aims to identify opportunities for the protection and enhancement of the wildlife resource and enhancement of a strategic wildlife corridor.

2.31 There are some species that have no or very limited legal protection, however they are known to be nationally rare and it is these species that NE6 seeks to protect. These are species occurring at so few sites that the impact of a single development could be extremely damaging to the UK population. These species are identified nationally through a series of ‘Red Data Books’ and placed in the category nationally rare.

2.32 The Council in considering development proposals to have an adverse impact upon a protected or nationally rare species will liase with English Nature and the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to establish whether it is feasible to put mitigation in place that will allow for the continued survival of the species. Protected species survey and mitigation work should be undertaken at appropriate times of the year according to the life cycle of the species in question, in accordance with the guidance of the statutory agencies. In all cases the Council will require the submission of a report from a suitably qualified person to determine the status of the existing population, the likely impact of the development on the population and whether any mitigation measures are possible or necessary.

NE6 Development Affecting Nationally Rare Species

Planning permission for development likely to have an adverse impact upon species with no or very limited legal protection and which are known to be nationally rare will only be granted if:

(a) mitigation and/or compensatory measures can be put in place that allows the favourable conservation status of the species to be maintained on site;

(b) the development is necessary to preserve public health or safety; or

(c) there are imperative reasons or overriding public interest and there are no alternative solutions to the proposed development.

The Council will impose conditions or seek to negotiate a section 106 obligation to secure the provision of any appropriate mitigation measures to protect the status of the species on site.


Trees and Hedgerows

2.33 Trees and hedgerows are key features whose presence or absence can define landscape character and contribute to the quality and enjoyment of the environment. They have ecological, amenity, recreational and commercial value. Trees and hedgerows are a significant element in the landscape of many parts of the Local Plan area, but are subject to continuing loss through pressures of development, changing agricultural practices and natural ravages. Hedgerows especially, are an important wildlife habitat that has suffered a marked decline. The biodiversity value of a hedgerow as a wildlife habitat itself or a link between two key areas of important habitat should be recognised.

2.34 The Council can protect selected trees and woodland in the interests of amenity by the making of Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs). The Council will seek to make Tree Preservation Orders where trees that contribute to local amenity and local character are at risk. These Orders control the cutting down, topping, lopping, uprooting, wilful damage or wilful destruction of trees. All trees within Conservation Areas have statutory protection and owners of trees in Conservation Areas are required to give prior notification to the Council of their intention to fell or carry out works to trees.

2.35 It is recommended that anyone wanting to fell or undertake works on a tree should first check with the Planning Department to see if the tree is protected. It is a criminal offence to damage or fell a protected tree.

2.36 In assessing applications for the felling or works to a TPO tree, the Council will take into account the health and balance of the tree, its general appearance and the contribution it makes to the local environment.

2.37 A further means of control is via the issuing of felling licences from the Forestry Commission. The Council are consulted on all such applications and will seek to secure the retention of trees wherever possible, commensurate with good forestry practice.

2.38 Hedgerows can be given special protection under the Hedgerow Regulations 1997, which prevent the removal of most substantial hedgerows provided that they are deemed important in terms of their archaeological, historical, landscape or wildlife value and are at least 30 years old.

NE7 Protection of Trees and Hedgerows

Planning permission will not be granted for development that would have a direct or indirect detrimental effect on established or ancient woodland, important hedgerows or trees that make a significant contribution to the character or amenity of the area.


2.39 The East Derbyshire Woodlands Project specifically recognises a lack of trees in the District, especially in the eastern parishes and seeks to redress this. Protection, regeneration and especially new planting are essential in order to halt the declining contribution of trees, woodlands and hedgerows in the landscape.

2.40 In dealing with all proposals for development, every attempt should be made to retain existing trees and hedgerows. Conditions of planning permissions will also seek to ensure the assimilation of new development within the locality by requiring the submission of an approved landscaping scheme. Landscaping schemes that use species and varieties native to the area, are locally sourced and maximise the benefit to the wildlife, are preferred.

2.41 In areas which are in close proximity to ancient woodlands the natural regeneration of the landscape may be preferable to the planting of new trees. Elsewhere the Council will encourage proposals for new trees, woodland and hedgerow planting and management.

NE8 Tree Planting

Proposals for development will be expected to retain existing trees that contribute to the quality and amenity of the local environment.

Where this is not practical, their replacement by means of an approved landscaping scheme utilising native species will be required.


Development and Flood Risk

2.42 Flooding is a natural process that plays an important role in shaping the natural environment. The Environment Agency has a supervisory role over all matters relating to flood defence. It has a duty to survey matters relating to flooding, including the identification of areas where flood defence problems might be likely to occur. The Council is responsible for controlling development where it may be directly affected by flooding or affects flooding elsewhere. The Council will follow the sequential approach set out in PPG25 in assessing applications. Local authorities are the operating authority on ordinary watercourses.

2.43 There are a number of areas of land adjacent to the rivers Rother, Drone and Doe Lea which act as floodplains in this District. Flood defence works to the north of Dronfield were completed in 1998 to protect the town from potential flooding. The Rother Valley Country Park immediately north of Killamarsh acts as a floodplain. It is important that these areas of river floodplains are protected from built development in order to limit more serious flooding problems downstream. Although the use of the land for recreational or open space purposes would be acceptable, built development should be limited to essential transport and utilities infrastructure.

2.44 The Environment Agency (EA) has produced Indicative Floodplain Maps which are subject to annual review as the nature of a floodplain is always evolving and hence the information mapped is likely to change frequently. For this reason, floodplains are not shown on the Proposal Map. However, assessment of planning applications will be made against the most up to date EA maps in order to identify whether a development proposal is located within, or in the vicinity of, a floodplain. Developers will be required to submit a flood risk assessment with any application within an area of indicative floodplain identified by the Environment Agency, although the level of detail required to accompany the application will be proportionate to the perceived level of flooding. Map Based information illustrating the location of the indicative floodplain areas is available from the Local Planning authority or directly from the Environment Agency.

NE9 Development and Flood Risk

Development proposals will not be permitted in areas at risk of flooding unless:

(a) the proposal is for an open recreation or open space use; or

(b) the location is essential for a particular development and there are no alternative locations in a lower risk area; and

(c) the proposals can be adequately safeguarded against flood risk through appropriate mitigation and/or compensation works; and

(d) it can be demonstrated that the proposal would have no adverse effects on the management of flood risk either upstream or downstream of the development:

(i) by a reduction of the capacity or increase in flows in the floodplain;
(ii) through the discharge of additional surface water;
(iii) by harming flood defences; and

(e) adequate provision is made for access to watercourses for maintenance
purposes.

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