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4 / BUILT ENVIRONMENT

BUILT ENVIRONMENT POLICIES

Policy BE1 Mixed uses

Policy BE2 Mixed uses in Opportunity Sites

Polices BE1 and BE2: Deleted 8th October in respect of sites covered by the Town Centre Area Action Plan.

Policy BE3 Uses and infrastructure to promote self-sustaining communities

Policy BE4 Mixed uses in residential areas

Policy BE5 Area of Special Restraint

Policy BE6 Renewable energy

Policy BE7 Renewable energy – criteria

Policy BE8 Energy efficient layouts

Policy BE9 Protecting the character of Conservation Areas

Policy BE10 Review of Conservation Areas

Policy BE11 Setting of Conservation Areas

Policy BE12 Plans, drawings and cross sections

Policy BE13 Demolition in Conservation Areas

Policy BE14 Premature demolition

Policy BE15 Protecting views and open spaces

Policy BE16 New advertisements/shopfronts in Conservation Areas

Policy BE17 Retaining listed buildings

Policy BE18 Demolition of listed buildings

Policy BE19 Alterations to listed buildings

Policy BE20 Change of use of listed buildings

Policy BE21 Setting of listed buildings

Policy BE22 Recording of listed buildings

Policy BE23 Archaeology

Policy BE24 Archaeology

Policy BE25 Archaeology

Policy BE26 Historic Parks and Gardens

Policy BE27 Barn conversions

Policy BE28 New agricultural buildings

Policy BE29 High standard of design

Policy BE30 Material considerations in the control of new development

Policy BE31 Statement of design principles

Policy BE32 Development on the edge of urban areas and villages

Policy BE33 Gateways

Policy BE34 Development adjoining main road and rail routes

Policy BE34a Protected views

Policy BE35 Achieving quality in residential layouts

Policy BE36 Space about buildings

Policy BE37 Overdevelopment

Policy BE38 Landscaping

Policy BE39 Landscaping

Policy BE40 Landscaping

Policy BE41 Control of advertisements

Policy BE42 Lighting

Policy BE43 Public spaces

Policy BE44 Public art

Policy BE45 Community safety and crime prevention

Policy BE46 Security shutters

Policy BE47 Overhead power lines and electromagnetic fields

Policy BE48 Accessible environments

Policy BE49 Accessible environments

INTRODUCTION

4.1 For the purposes of this plan the built environment is defined simply as, buildings and the spaces between them. Whilst this definition may be simple, the impact of the built environment on both the individual and the community as a whole can be both complex and considerable. Quality of life can be affected by such issues as loss of privacy and overlooking, loss of sunlight and environments which appear unsafe and unwelcoming. The layout of the built environment can also facilitate or restrict access and movement.

4.2 It is the quality of the buildings and spaces which define the character of a town or village and give it a ‘sense of place’. It is these elements which make one settlement different from another and there is a need to foster and promote such diversity in planning policies and detailed design.

4.3 The quality of the built environment can be a factor in attracting external investment and the Borough has many valuable assets in terms of attractive villages, listed buildings and Bedford’s historic town centre. It is the role of the Borough Council and other agencies to enhance and protect these assets, thereby providing a valuable baseline for improving the Borough’s built environment.

KEY ISSUES

4.4 This chapter addresses the following key issues:

  1. In the past, planning policies have encouraged areas of single land use. In town centre locations in particular, this can have a detrimental effect on vitality and security. There is a need to encourage more mixed use development in appropriate locations.

  2. Many of the villages on the periphery of the urban area could potentially be subsumed into part of Bedford or Kempston. There is a need to plan the peripheral expansion of the urban area, whilst retaining and reinforcing the identity of existing settlements.

  3. Energy efficiency in both buildings and layout is now essential to prevent factors which contribute to global warming. In addition, greater emphasis needs to be given to the potential for the use of renewable energy.

  4. There is a need for a more positive and sustainable approach towards protecting and enhancing the heritage of the Borough.

  5. There is a need to raise the profile of good design in new development within the Borough. The Local Plan should be used to clearly indicate the standard of design required.

  6. The environmental quality of the countryside on the edge of the urban area and most of the main transport corridors is poor. This provides an unattractive approach to the town.

  7. Positive action is required to ensure a better quality of life within existing as well as new environments.

  8. There is a need to provide up to date design guidance that seeks to avoid the creation of unattractive and cramped forms of development, inadequate amenity space and the loss of privacy.

  9. Landscaping in many new developments is of poor quality and inadequate. Good landscaping should be more integral to the design process and not just an afterthought.

  10. There is increasing recognition that the spaces between buildings are as important as the buildings themselves. This needs to be reflected more in Development Control.

  11. There is a greater awareness of the role of planning in crime prevention and in the creation of environments in which people feel safe and secure.

  12. Accessible environments are good environments. The environment should be accessible to all members of the community.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

4.5 A fundamental principle of achieving more sustainable development is to create a land use pattern which reduces the need to travel, particularly by private car. In the past, there has been a tendency to define areas of single land uses for example for housing, and employment, which may be some distance apart. This reflects a policy of segregation rather than integration.

MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT

4.6 The vitality of the town centre, district and local centres is also very much dependent on the diversity of uses located there including retailing, offices, service uses and residential. These generate different activities at different times of the day and night which in turn can help to deter criminal activity. The Borough recognises the need to protect and enhance this diversity in areas which are readily accessible to a large population. These areas are shown in the Proposals Map. Within these areas, a mixture of land uses will be encouraged especially those which make a major contribution to the vitality of the area, are compatible with adjoining uses and which are not in conflict with the other policies in the local plan in particular the shopping policies. Particular emphasis will be placed on the re-use of vacant premises or underused space above shops for residential use.

4.7 Within the urban area, there are several sites which lend themselves to re-development with a mixture of uses, thus providing a more sustainable form of development than single land uses. These ‘opportunity sites’ are shown on the Proposals Map and the Borough Council will encourage landowners and other interests to investigate bringing these sites forward (see Appendix D). In addition, major new developments within the Borough should be designed to assist the creation of self sustaining communities through the provision of a mixture of uses and dwelling types (including affordable housing), employment and community facilities and good access to public transport. This approach will be particularly appropriate in the case of the Biddenham Loop and Elstow Storage Depot. Smaller scale new housing developments should also, where appropriate, be provided in tandem with employment opportunities and improvements to community facilities. In all cases, the mixture of uses should be compatible with each other, should take account the extent, nature and sustainability of existing uses/facilities and should not be contrary to the other policies in this plan. The potential for the dual use of car parking and other facilities should be fully considered thereby allowing for the more efficient use of land.

4.8 It is now generally recognised that it is not always appropriate to separate industry and commerce from residential communities, especially if it is on a small scale and relatively innocuous, for example tele-working from home. Many small scale commercial and industrial activities can operate satisfactorily within housing areas without detriment to residential amenity. (See Policy E15)

POLICY BE1
Within Bedford Town Centre and established district and local centres, the Borough Council will grant planning permission for proposals which enhance the diversity of uses and which make a major contribution to the vitality of the area. In all cases, such uses should:
i) be appropriate to that location;
ii) be compatible with adjoining uses;
iii) not lead to the loss of residential use;
iv) and be fully in compliance with the other policies in the local plan.
POLICY BE2
Within the opportunity sites as shown on the Proposals Map, the Borough Council will grant planning permission for a mixture of uses provided:
i) the proposed uses are compatible, both with each other and with adjoining uses;
ii) the proposed uses do not prejudice any of the other policies in the local plan, in particular the shopping policies.

Policies BE1 and BE2: Deleted 8th October 2008 in respect of sites covered by the Town Centre Area Action Plan.

POLICY BE3
Major new housing development will be required to incorporate the necessary uses and infrastructure to enable the establishment of more self-sustaining communities. This will normally include:
i) a mixture of uses and dwelling types including affordable housing;
ii) a range of community and employment facilities which are well related to the housing areas;
iii) ready access to public transport systems and the provision of cycling, walking and where appropriate bridleway networks;
iv) adequate open space and leisure opportunities. In the case of minor development sites, the same principles will apply and uses and infrastructure will be required at a level commensurate with the scale of the proposed development and the nature of existing provision.
POLICY BE4
Within established and new residential areas other uses will be acceptable provided they are of an appropriate scale and do not have an adverse effect on residential amenity, the type and level of traffic using the local road network, or the character of the surrounding area.

THE IDENTITY OF SETTLEMENTS

4.9 Reference to the settlement pattern of the Borough shows that the main urban area of Bedford and Kempston is surrounded by several satellite villages. As the urban area has historically expanded outwards, it is particularly important to prevent the coalescence of these settlements with the urban area or with each other, and to both protect and reinforce their individual identity. This represents a long established principle of good planning practice and was fully endorsed in the Inspector’s report following the Inquiry into the previous (1993) adopted Local Plan, and in the Inspector’s report in respect of this plan.

AREA OF SPECIAL RESTRAINT

4.10 In order to achieve this, an Area of Special Restraint has been defined between the urban edge and the satellite villages (see also Policy S3). New development must seek to avoid this and will not be allowed to extend into the areas identified on the Proposals Map, and open land will be safeguarded in order to maintain a clear identity between settlements. Policies S3 and H26 are particularly relevant in this regard.

4.11 The Area of Special Restraint is different from the concept of the green belt in that it does not have the same degree of permanence that a green belt designation has. It is intended that, after the effective life of this Plan, the Area of Special Restraint designation will be reviewed to complement future housing allocations made in the light of future Regional Guidance and Structure Plans. This does not weaken the force of the policy, indeed it is a reinforcement of the Plan’s specified housing allocation sites, as well as an implicit statement that development should go only in specified and carefully chosen locations. The designation does not seek to unduly restrict acceptable development and economic activity in the countryside in general. The designation is limited to adjoining the main urban area. Extra protection is needed here to preserve its essential physical and social identity, because of the pressure for development which could easily lead to coalescence with the satellite settlements nearby. Within these ‘buffer’ areas some recreational activity, park or woodland (including where appropriate, the Forest of Marston Vale) could be acceptable provided that there is no adverse impact on either the landscape, archaeology, or natural history.

4.12 South of the River Great Ouse, the boundary of the Area of Special Restraint is shown as the western limit of the safeguarded road corridor for the Bedford Western Bypass. Once the detailed alignment of the road has been determined the boundary of the Area of Special Restraint will be adjusted accordingly so that the road forms the easternmost boundary. An 18 hole Golf Course and 100 house low density golf village are located within the Area of Special Restraint immediately to the south of Biddenham village.

POLICY BE5
An Area of Special Restraint has been defined between the urban edge and the satellite villages. Within this area, the Borough Council will not allow peripheral expansion of settlements unless identified in this plan and will strictly implement planning policies in determining applications in such areas.

RENEWABLE ENERGY

4.13 Renewable energy is defined in Planning Policy Guidance Note 22 as ‘those energy flows that occur naturally and repeatedly in the environment – energy from the sun, the wind and the oceans, and the fall of water’. The renewable energy study for the Eastern Region indicates that in the case of Bedford Borough, the most likely sources of renewable energy are biofuels and the use of small scale solar panels. The Government’s policy as set out in ‘New and Renewable Energy : Future prospects in the UK, Energy paper 62, March 1994’, aims to stimulate the development of new and renewable energy sources wherever they have prospects of being economically attractive and environmentally acceptable in order to contribute to:

  1. diverse, secure and sustainable energy supplies;

  2. a reduction in the emission of pollutants;

  3. encouragement of internationally competitive industries.

4.14 The Borough Council acknowledges that new and renewable energy sources potentially contribute to energy needs in a significant and sustainable way and can offer the hope of increasing diversity and security of supply, as well as reducing harmful emissions to the environment. The Borough Council’s policies towards developing renewable energy sources must be weighed carefully with its continuing commitment to policies for protecting the local environment, and it is recognised that proposals to harness renewable energy can display a variety of factors peculiar to the technology involved. Furthermore, such schemes can have particular locational constraints since, in many cases, the resource can only be harnessed where it occurs. The Borough Council will need to consider both the immediate and wider impact of such projects on the environment and their wider contribution to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

POLICY BE6
In view of the general environmental benefits associated with harnessing renewable energy sources, the Borough Council will support the development of renewable energy schemes provided that it can be shown that such development would not harm interests of acknowledged importance in the local environment.
POLICY BE7
In assessing proposals for renewable energy schemes, the Borough Council will have particular regard to the following issues:
i) the immediate and wider impact of the proposed development on the landscape;
ii) the need to protect features and areas of natural, cultural, historical and archaeological interest;
iii) the measures that would be taken, both during and after construction, to minimise the impact of the development on the landscape, local land use and residential amenity;
iv) the local and wider benefits that the proposal may bring;
v) certain renewable energy resources can only be harnessed where the resource occurs;
vi) any requirement for future restoration of the site.

ENERGY EFFICIENT LAYOUTS

4.15 In addition to reducing energy consumption through the disposition of land uses, the Borough Council has a role in ensuring that the layout of new buildings fully addresses the need to conserve energy. The energy efficiency of individual buildings is dealt with by the Building Regulations and this is not dealt with in this plan. However, the Borough Council will, wherever possible, encourage the use of energy efficient design solutions. In the case of energy efficient layouts, several key factors need to be taken into account. The principal considerations are orientation, overshadowing, wind protection and the nature of the built form itself. It is the Borough Council’s intention to provide supplementary planning guidance on this topic.

POLICY BE8
In considering proposals for major new development, the Borough Council will seek to achieve energy efficient layouts which, wherever possible, maximise the potential for the use of passive solar energy.

CONSERVATION

4.16 Local Planning Authorities have a duty to designate as conservation areas, areas which are of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’. Whilst the Borough Council has discharged this duty over the last 25 years it recognises that designation alone is insufficient to retain the character of particular areas. The Council is seeking a more proactive approach to conservation through:

  1. The identification of those elements which give a conservation area its individuality and character and how this could be enhanced. In addition, consideration will be given to the feasibility of preparing urban trails.

  2. Preparing detailed proposals for enhancement, and wherever possible, additional funding from external organisations will be sought.

  3. Involving the general public and local organisations in these activities.

POLICY BE9
The Borough Council will seek to protect the character and appearance of conservation areas shown on the Proposals Map, through the careful control of development and by general support for enhancement schemes. Within such areas proposals which fail to preserve or enhance their character will not be permitted.

CONSERVATION AREA REVIEW

4.17 The Borough Council also has a duty to review existing areas and to consider whether there are additional areas worthy of designation. There are currently 26 conservation areas in the Borough (see Proposals Map), many of which were designated in the 1970s. It is intended that all existing conservation areas will be kept under review. In addition, the Insets to the Proposals Map indicate where there is potential to rationalise or extend existing boundaries. (Update: These amendments have now been incorporated into the Proposals Map insets). This arises from the need to accommodate development which has taken place since the conservation area was designated, or where there is a need to follow more recognisable boundaries. Conservation Area appraisals will be carried out by the Council as and when resources permit.

4.18 In the case of new conservation areas, the Borough Council intends to consider further potential designation at Bletsoe and Hinwick within the lifetime of this plan. It is also intended to carry out a more extensive review of the Elstow Conservation Area. Public consultation will form an integral part of this process.

POLICY BE10
The Borough Council will undertake a review of existing conservation areas, and where appropriate will designate new ones. In all cases conservation areas will be assessed against the following criteria:
i) the quality of the buildings and spaces;
ii) the importance of historical street patterns, layout and materials, archaeology and historic landscape;
iii) where appropriate, the impact of development that has taken place since designation;
iv) the quality of other features such as trees, shopfronts, walls, outbuildings etc which are worthy of retention.

PROTECTING THE SETTING OF CONSERVATION AREAS

4.19 Within conservation areas it is important that new development is sensitively designed and respectful of its context. A well designed scheme which conserves and enhances the essential character of an area can also bring about economic benefits particularly through the re-generation of sites which are derelict or under-used. In order to achieve the best possible scheme for a particular site, the Borough Council welcomes discussions with applicants prior to the submission of a planning application. Problems can then be overcome before detailed commitments have been made.

4.20 Whilst the full powers of conservation legislation apply within the boundaries of a conservation area it is important to recognise that development proposals adjacent to, or which affect the setting of, such an area, can have considerable impact. In certain circumstances, such development could erode the character of the conservation area which designation is seeking to protect. In such cases development proposals will be considered as if within the conservation area itself.

POLICY BE11
The Borough Council will ensure that all new development within, adjoining, or likely to affect the setting of conservation areas, preserves or enhances its character or appearance. Applications will be assessed against the following criteria:
ii) the scale, form and density of development in relation to its surroundings;
iii) the quality and type of materials and architectural detailing;
iv) levels of traffic generation, the visual impact of car parking/servicing arrangements or other environmental problems which could have an adverse effect on the character of the area;
v) the effect on the streetscape, roofscape and skyline including important views both into and out of the area;
vi) whether or not any open space will be affected by the proposals;
vii) the extent to which the proposed works would bring about substantial benefits in terms of economic regeneration and environmental enhancement.

FORM OF APPLICATIONS

4.21 Because of the sensitive nature of sites within conservation areas, it is essential that adequate information is supplied to the Borough Council to enable it to fully assess the impact of development proposals. Outline planning applications are unlikely to be granted in conservation areas unless the appropriate reserved matters have been adequately dealt with.

POLICY BE12
Within conservation areas, the Borough Council will require development proposals for new buildings, or alterations to buildings, to be accompanied by accurate scaled drawings of elevations, floor plans, roof profiles and cross sections both proposed and existing. Where appropriate, details should show:
i) the relationship to adjoining buildings and spaces;
ii) the impact on existing townscape including views into and out from the site.

DEMOLITION IN CONSERVATION AREAS

4.22 With conservation area designation comes control over the demolition of most buildings. Applications for consent to demolish must be made to the Borough Council. In considering these applications, the prime consideration will be whether or not demolition would conflict with the overall aims of preserving and enhancing the character and appearance of the area. There is also a general presumption in favour of retaining buildings which make a positive contribution to that character.

4.23 Before considering whether or not to grant applications for demolition, it is imperative that the Borough Council should have full information about what is proposed for the site after demolition. Acceptable and detailed redevelopment plans should be submitted in tandem with the application for demolition. The merits of these redevelopment proposals will be taken into account in determining applications for demolition consent.

POLICY BE13
Demolition consent will be refused where the building or other structure make a positive contribution to the character of the conservation area. An applicant applying for demolition consent will need to demonstrate that the economic viability of alternative uses has been fully investigated and that a satisfactory scheme for redevelopment can be achieved. In considering applications for demolition, the Borough Council will need to have full information about what is proposed for the site.

PREMATURE DEMOLITION

4.24 In the past, demolition has taken place far in advance of redevelopment proposals coming forward. An example of this is the former Granada Cinema site, St Peter’s Street, Bedford. This has resulted in open gaps in the urban fabric which are unsightly and are detrimental to both adjoining properties and the conservation area as a whole. It is accepted however that in exceptional circumstances, demolition in conservation areas without subsequent replacement may be desirable where this removes an eyesore, creates new views of key buildings or enhances permeability.

POLICY BE14
Within conservation areas unless there is a positive impact on their character and appearance, the Borough Council will require that demolition does not take place until detailed planning permission has been granted for the redevelopment, and a contract for carrying out the redevelopment works within an agreed timescale has been let, with a fixed date for completion.

VIEWS AND OPEN SPACES

4.25 Within conservation areas, the spaces between buildings can contribute significantly to character and identity. In the urban context, these may form the remnants of a historic street pattern which is worthy of retention. In villages open gaps in otherwise built up frontages, village greens and parks are also important. In both cases, such spaces can create vistas and views which are also an integral feature of conservation areas. Whenever possible these should be retained.

POLICY BE15

The Borough Council will protect important views in conservation areas and development will not be permitted on any open space which contributes to the inherent character of a conservation area.

4.26 In carrying out the review of conservation areas, the Borough Council will pay particular attention to the identification of these views and open spaces.

SHOPFRONTS AND ADVERTISEMENTS

4.27 Within the urban area in particular, many buildings suffer from poorly designed shopfronts and advertisements. In certain cases these can form the most strident feature in the streetscene and thereby detract from the quality of the buildings of which they form a part.

4.28 Shopfronts need to be designed as an integral part of the building to which they relate, in terms of style, colour and materials. Similarly, advertisements need to be respectful of their context and their potential impact on amenity and public safety.

4.29 Within conservation areas, more stringent standards will be applied when considering applications for new shopfronts and advertisements. In order to assist applicants the Borough Council has prepared a document entitled ‘Shop Fronts and Adverts – Design Guide’. This sets down some of the key design principles to be applied when drawing up a scheme.

4.30 In addition, as part of the Borough Council’s initiative to improve the appearance of Bedford’s High Street, another supplementary document has been produced. This is entitled ‘Bedford High Street Facades Shopfronts and Advertisements – A Design Guide’ and is obtained from the Town Hall.

4.31 As part of the Borough Council’s commitment to this initiative, grant assistance is available for the provision of more traditional shopfronts and advertisements under the Architectural Maintenance Grant Scheme. (See also Town Centre chapter).

POLICY BE16

Within conservation areas, the Borough Council will exercise strict control over applications for new advertisements and shopfronts, having regard to its published design guidance.

LISTED BUILDINGS

4.32 The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 provides a system of control for listed buildings. These are buildings which are listed as being of special architectural or historic interest. Listed Building Consent is needed for any works to demolish a listed building or to undertake any alterations (both to the interior and the exterior) or extensions which would affect its character or setting. Control also extends to any object or structure which is fixed to the building and is ancillary to it.

4.33 Regular maintenance and repair is the key to the preservation of historic buildings, and the best way to secure their upkeep is to keep them in active use. In many cases the original use may be the best use for the building and the potential to restore or continue that use should be fully explored before alternatives are considered. In certain cases the original use of the building may neither be appropriate nor economically viable. Some form of adaptation, conversion or part demolition may therefore be required, and the impact of such alterations on the fabric, interior and setting of the listed building will be of paramount importance. The costs of maintaining listed buildings can be considerable and some degree of enabling development may be acceptable to fund the renovation of a listed building where this would not prejudice established planning policies.

POLICY BE17
The Borough Council will have special regard to the desirability of securing the retention, restoration, maintenance and continued use of buildings of special architectural or historic interest.

DEMOLITION OF LISTED BUILDINGS

4.34 Once lost, historic buildings cannot be replaced, and demolition should be considered as a last resort. In considering applications for demolition consent, the Borough Council needs to be satisfied that sufficient information has been provided on:

  1. the condition of the building and the likely cost of repairs;

  2. whether sufficient efforts have been made to retain the building in active use;

  3. the relative merits of alternative proposals for the site which are a material consideration in deciding whether or not Listed Building Consent should be granted.

4.35 In considering such proposals, the Borough Council recognises the need to achieve a balance between the desire to preserve buildings intact and the benefits to the community and the local economy that regeneration may bring. In all cases, the Council will wish to fully explore the potential for the incorporation of the listed building, either in whole or in part, in any redevelopment scheme, before wholesale demolition is considered.

POLICY BE18
Listed Building Consent for the demolition of any building of special architectural or historic interest will not be granted other than in the following exceptional circumstances:
i) the condition of the building makes it impracticable to repair, renovate or adapt to any reasonable economic use for which planning permission may be given, or to enable it to be incorporated into any redevelopment scheme; or
iii) the proposed works would produce substantial benefits for the community which would decisively outweigh any loss arising from demolition.
In all cases, before any listed building consent is granted, it should be demonstrated that every possible effort has been made to retain the building in its current use or to find a suitable alternative.

LISTED BUILDING CONSENT

4.36 As stated above, some amount of alteration may be required to accommodate viable uses within a listed building. It is recognised that in order to secure the future use and upkeep of the building, a degree of flexibility will be required. Such change needs to recognise those elements which are of special architectural or historic interest and an appropriate balance struck. In most cases, the most effective way to ensure the upkeep of historic buildings is to keep them in active use. Primarily consideration should be given to the continuation or reinstatement of the use for which the building was originally designed. It is accepted however that this may no longer be viable or in certain cases appropriate. The main aim when considering alternative uses is to identify a use which is both viable and fully compatible with the fabric, interior and setting of the building. As with applications in conservation areas, applications for listed building consent will need to be sufficiently detailed in terms of drawings, photographs and other supporting material to enable the Borough Council to fully appraise the impact of the proposals on the listed building and its setting. Particular emphasis will be placed on the use of traditional methods of construction and repair.

POLICY BE19
In considering applications for Listed Building Consent which involve development, either for alteration, extension or demolition, the Borough Council will take the following into account:
i) the importance of the building in terms of architectural and historic interest at both the local and national level;
ii) the impact on particular features of the building eg. the interior, plan and structure;
iii) the effect of the proposals on the character and setting of the listed building;
iv) the extent to which the proposed works would bring about substantial benefits in terms of economic regeneration and environmental enhancement.
POLICY BE20
The change of use of a listed building will only be permitted if it would not have a detrimental effect on the character or appearance of the building.

THE SETTING OF LISTED BUILDINGS

4.37 Listed buildings cannot in certain cases be considered in isolation. Their setting can be of equal importance and can form an integral part of the building’s character. Examples include walled gardens, formal gardens, courtyards and farmyards. It is important to retain these spaces and ensure that buildings should not become isolated from their surroundings either through new development or highway proposals.

POLICY BE21
The Borough Council will seek to preserve and enhance the setting of listed buildings by appropriate control over the design of new development in their vicinity, over the use of adjacent land, and where appropriate, by the preservation of trees and landscape features.

RECORDING OF LISTED BUILDINGS

4.38 In certain cases, it may be appropriate to apply a planning condition requiring applicants to arrange suitable programmes of recording of features that would be destroyed in the course of the proposed works.

POLICY BE22
When granting Listed Building Consent for development, the Borough Council may impose a requirement for adequate access for the purpose of investigation and recording, during building or other operations.

ANCIENT MONUMENTS AND ARCHAEOLOGY

4.39 There are currently 69 Scheduled Ancient Monuments in the Borough which include for example fishponds, earthworks and mortuary enclosures, although the number may vary following a review by English Heritage. These are afforded protection under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and the Secretary of State’s consent is required for any works which affect the scheduled monument.

4.40 In addition, the Borough contains a great diversity of archaeological interest. Within such areas it is imperative that the impact of development proposals on the underlying archaeology is taken fully into account prior to works commencing on site. Early consultation between developers and the Borough Council is therefore vital to identify these areas, and where necessary further information based on an archaeological field evaluation may be required. This will indicate the weight to be attached to the preservation of the archaeological features, and should highlight the potential options for minimising damage as a result of construction works. Where appropriate, detailed assessments of the likely impact of development proposals may need to be carried out. This may initially take the form of a desk top study to review existing information, followed if necessary by field evaluation. Early use of these measures is the key to minimising the impact of development on archaeological remains. The results of this assessment should be submitted as part of any planning application. Further information and advice on areas of archaeological interest are available from the County Archaeological Officer of the Heritage and Environment Section of the County Council.

4.41 Such options could include on one hand the excavation and recording of remains prior to works starting on site, and on the other, the preservation in situ of archaeological remains. In the latter case, modifications may be required to the proposed disposition of buildings or other structures on the site in order to accommodate this requirement. In all cases, the Borough Council will require sufficient and adequate information to be submitted prior to the granting of planning permission. It may also be appropriate to consider the future management and maintenance of any sites which are retained intact.

4.42 Attention is drawn to the British Archaeologists’ and Developers’ Code of Practice.

POLICY BE23
Proposals which would have an adverse effect on scheduled ancient monuments and other important archaeological sites and monuments, and their settings, will not be permitted except in circumstances where the adverse impact of a proposal can be overcome and the site or monument physically preserved in situ.
POLICY BE24
In considering planning proposals, the Borough Council will have regard to the need to protect, enhance and preserve sites of archaeological interest and their settings. It will where appropriate require the archaeological aspects of development proposals to be examined and evaluated before a planning application is determined. In the absence of an adequate assessment of the archaeological implications, planning permission will be refused.
POLICY BE25
Where the Borough Council decides that the physical preservation in situ of archaeological remains is not justified, and that development affecting such remains should proceed, it will require applicants to submit proposals that:
i) minimise as far as possible the effect of a proposal on the archaeological remains; and
ii) ensure satisfactory provision for the excavation and recording of the remains, prior to the commencement of development.

4.43 Archaeological personnel or organisations employed or contracted by applicants should liaise with Bedford Museum before commencing excavation or other fieldwork to arrange for eventual deposition of the site archive (subject to the requirements of the Museum’s Acquisition Policy) with Bedford Museum.

HISTORIC PARKS AND GARDENS

4.44 Within the Borough, four sites have been included in English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. These are Bedford Park & Cemetery, Hinwick Hall and Hinwick House, although this number is subject to review.

4.45 Whilst no additional statutory controls apply to these sites, the effect of proposed development on a registered park or garden is a material consideration in the determination of a planning application.

POLICY BE26
Development which would have an adverse effect on the site, setting or enjoyment of any part of the grounds of historic parks and gardens will not be permitted.

BARN CONVERSIONS AND NEW FARM BUILDINGS

4.46 In the rural area, there are examples of barns or other agricultural buildings which are no longer in use or cannot be satisfactorily adapted to meet the needs of modern agricultural practice. Many of these may be listed and others, whilst not benefiting from the control that listing brings, are of historic or architectural quality or contribute to the character of the area or village. They are a valuable resource and often form an important feature in villages. They can, in certain circumstances, have potential for conversion to alternative uses. However, particular care needs to be taken to ensure that alterations are carried out in sympathy to the structure and appearance of the building.

BARN CONVERSIONS

4.47 Where conversion is proposed, the Borough Council will require the submission of sufficient evidence (in the form of a detailed structural report) to show that the building is capable of adaptation and alteration. The amount of repair and replacement involved should also be clearly indicated.

4.48 Every effort should be made to ensure retention of old agricultural buildings, but their location may limit the choice of appropriate uses. It may therefore be necessary to make exceptions to general policies and to give approval for uses which would not normally be approved in the countryside. However, such exceptions will only be acceptable if the building is of architectural merit, the architectural integrity of the building is retained, and the use would not present adverse environmental problems. In certain cases, such buildings provide a valuable opportunity for conversion to employment use, provided this is on an appropriate scale

4.49 Residential conversions in particular can have detrimental effects on the fabric and character of historic farm buildings. The introduction of a residential curtilage along with associated car parking etc can also have a detrimental effect. The introduction of business uses can bring important economic benefits to rural communities and in certain circumstances may be more desirable than residential conversion. In all cases, the impact of proposals on the setting of barns, including associated ‘yards’, will need to be considered.

4.50 As outlined in Policy H26 there are strict controls on new housing in the open countryside. The existence of vacant farm buildings in the rural area will not override these established planning policies although in exceptional circumstances, sympathetic conversion to residential use may be acceptable in order to safeguard the future of the buildings.

4.51 In considering applications for the changes of use of farm buildings, the effect on species such as owls and bats which use these buildings for breeding and shelter must also be considered (see also Policy NE9).

POLICY BE27
In considering the conversion of barns and other agricultural buildings of historic interest or architectural character or quality, the Borough Council will permit only those works and uses which are compatible with the fabric of the building and its setting and which maintain its existing character.

4.52 This policy relates specifically to buildings which are of historic interest or of architectural merit, whereas Policy E18 deals specifically with the re-use of other buildings in the rural area for commercial or industrial use.

NEW FARM BUILDINGS

4.53 Older agricultural buildings, when constructed of indigenous materials, often limestone, are generally felt to blend comfortably into the landscape; the same is not always true of post war buildings. Many traditional buildings are no longer appropriate to the needs of modern agriculture and they have been superseded by large modern buildings of alien materials forming obtrusive features in the landscape, many of which have not required planning permission. The Borough Council, in conjunction with the National Farmers Union, has produced a guide for farmers and land owners – the ‘Farm Buildings Design Guide’. This suggests ways in which the impact of large buildings on the landscape may be reduced, and yet still meet the needs of modern agriculture. In addition, the design and siting of new buildings in the in the countryside should where appropriate, reinforce regional diversity and local distinctiveness through detailed design and the careful use of materials..

4.54 Policy E18 in the Employment chapter deals with the issues related to the re-use of buildings in the rural area for uses other than those associated with agriculture.

POLICY BE28
In considering applications for new agricultural buildings, the Borough Council will have regard to the approved design principles as set out in the Farm Buildings Design Guide.

NEW DEVELOPMENT

4.55 In the past the Borough Council has refused planning permission for poorly designed proposals which in terms of their physical form, scale, density or detailing would be of detriment to the quality of the built environment, although the Council is aware that some developments, particularly on the fringe of the urban area, adopt the ‘lowest common denominator’ approach to design. In such cases, the development has, for example through inadequate landscaping and the use of poor quality materials, not always fully realised the potential of the site and a poor quality environment has resulted. In many residential developments, the incorporation of minimal amounts of space, in particular to the front and side of dwellings, has resulted in uniform layouts and bland environments. The appearance of proposed development and its relationship to its surroundings are not only matters of proper public interest but also material considerations in determining planning applications and appeals.

THE PROMOTION OF GOOD DESIGN

4.56 There is a need to raise the profile of good design within the Borough. Good design creates attractive environments and is instrumental in creating a strong ‘image’ which in turn can be used to attract external investment. In this respect, the Borough Council welcomes the main thrust of the Government’s discussion document entitled ‘Quality in Town and Country’ which seeks to raise awareness of the need for quality urban design in the environment. The government has also given emphasis to urban design in the documents ‘By Design : Urban Design in the planning system’, ‘By Design : Better Places to live, A companion guide to PPG3’, ‘The Value of Urban Design’ and the ‘Urban Design Compendium’. In order to promote good design at the local level, the Council will use a variety of measures, for example publication of a design charter, use of design guidance based on established design principles, design awards etc (See also Policy BE31).

POLICY BE29
The Borough Council expects all new development to be designed to the highest standards. The Council will promote good design by means of design guides, good design principles and other appropriate measures that it will publicise.

THE IMPACT OF NEW DEVELOPMENT

4.57 Within conservation areas and where listed buildings are involved it is particularly important that new development is respectful of its context. In other, less constrained locations, the Borough recognises that a bolder, more innovative and imaginative approach to design may be appropriate. In the rural area, the Borough Council endorses the concerns expressed by the Countryside Commission in their report ‘Design in the Countryside’, of the need to respect the diversity and distinctiveness of the local landscape character. Where resources permit, consideration will be given to the preparation and completion of Countryside Design Summaries and Village Design Statements in partnership with others. A pilot village design statement has been produced for Wilstead and one for Great Barford is in preparation. In the urban area, the need to consider local distinctiveness equally applies and there is the need for new developments to consider the existing urban grain. This is dealt with in more detail in the Council’s document entitled Achieving Quality in Residential Layouts.

4.58 It is important that new designs are developed following a careful study of the context within which new development sits and the identification of its main features and characteristics. Such local distinctiveness does not necessarily mean capturing some vernacular characteristic, as is for example readily identifiable in the case of certain villages (eg. Pavenham, Harrold, Turvey) and replicating it in new development.

4.59 In some locations the immediate setting will give few clues from which to draw inspiration – reinforcing an unsatisfactory pattern of development is not acceptable. One may have to look further afield for inspiration to the wider context of the site. Many villages, suburban and urban areas may appear ordinary and unassuming where local character is not well defined – but they create a context and do not impose themselves on their surroundings. The integration of development into such areas of existing development should still be handled carefully. The extreme contrast between new estate development and existing properties is evident all over the country. New detached dwellings are frequently of a size, dominance and appearance which bears no resemblance to the existing pattern and appearance of an area and the unassuming simplicity of existing dwellings.

4.60 Economies of scale and ease of transport have been eroding diversity and distinctiveness for decades. Standard building designs can mean that houses, workshops or farm buildings are the same all over the country. The layout of new housing developments, dominated by the styles of volume house builders and by building and highway regulation have a sameness throughout the country. To provide choice to individual customers, variety is often introduced artificially in the form of a series of styles from the housebuilder’s catalogue. The dwelling is the same underneath – the houses are often identical in scale, proportion and construction. The consequence has been the predominance of uniform estate housing comprising customised but essentially standardised house types.

4.61 In all cases, the urban design qualities of new development will need to be considered, for example:

  1. What does the development contribute in terms of townscape and making the environment more legible through the use of landmarks etc?

  2. How new buildings create and interact with public space. Do they encourage or discourage a sense of safety in public areas?

  3. The quality of public space created by the new development and whether these are designed to encourage their use for a variety of activities, and are fully accessible.

  4. How does the new development respect its local context be it semi-rural, suburban or urban?

4.62 Proposals should indicate the urban design principles that have been adopted and how the development has had regard to relevant local plan policies and supplementary planning guidance. This may take the form of a short statement or design ‘rationale’, and should be presented in a manner appropriate to the nature and scale of the proposals. This should at least be accompanied by illustrative material showing plans and elevations and the development within the wider context. Perspective views can also be helpful in highlighting the key features of a scheme. Where proposals are of a much smaller scale, photographs and drawings showing the details of the development and where relevant its relationship with adjoining buildings and uses are likely to be more appropriate.

4.63 New development can also make a significant contribution to increased noise levels, traffic generation, and in certain cases a reduction in privacy. Whenever possible the Borough Council will seek the provision of measures to mitigate against these negative environmental impacts. Equally, certain uses such as housing, hospitals and schools are generally regarded as noise sensitive development, and when considering proposals, the Borough Council will refer to the guidance set out in Planning Policy Guidance Note 24 to determine the suitability of the existing noise environment.

4.64 The Borough Council will prepare and publish supplementary planning guidance on these issues.

4.64a The Government White Paper ‘Making Waste Work: A Strategy for Sustainable Waste Management in England and Wales’ published in December 1995, highlights the important role that local authorities will have to play in helping to achieve the goal of sustainable waste management. They are responsible for implementing waste management policies in their duties as planning authorities, waste disposal authorities and as waste collection authorities. In 2001 the County Council published a Waste Strategy for Bedfordshire and Luton in partnership with the constituent local authorities. The document sets out a strategy for dealing with waste in Bedfordshire and Luton up to the year 2020.

4.64b In February 1996 Bedfordshire County Council adopted the Bedfordshire Minerals and Waste Local Plan which contains detailed policy guidance on minerals and waste planning in the County. In support of these policies the Borough Council is concerned that the various options for waste management should be considered at the earliest possible stage in any proposal. Therefore, wherever new development is likely to produce significant amounts of waste material, the Borough Council will expect proposals to identify the waste management options which have been considered. In February 2002 a replacement draft Minerals and Waste Local Plan was placed on deposit by the County Council.

POLICY BE30
When determining applications for new development, the Borough Council will have full regard to all material considerations and in particular:
i) the visual impact of the development and its relationship with the context within which it is placed, and the contribution the building will make to the townscape and landscape qualities of the area, and where appropriate, the extent to which local distinctiveness is reinforced or created;
ii) the quality of the buildings in terms of scale, density, massing, height, materials and layout;
iii) the quality of the public spaces created by new buildings in terms of public safety, hard and soft landscaping, and where appropriate how buildings interact with public space;
iv) any additional traffic expected to arise from the development, either in relation to highway capacity or general disturbance, and provision made for car parking;
v) the extent to which the development is served by, and makes provision for access by public transport, cycles and pedestrians;
vi) the suitability of access arrangements to and within new development for all members of the community, including, pedestrians, cyclists and disabled people;
vii) any noise, smell or other health and safety problems which are likely to be generated by the development;
viii) the suitability of the existing noise environment;
ix) any factors which might give rise to disturbance to neighbours and the surrounding community;
x) any adverse effects on the natural environment and the built heritage likely to arise from the development.
xi) the proposals for dealing with any significant amounts of waste which may arise;
xii) the adequacy of the existing infrastructure. Consultation will be undertaken with the appropriate agencies in this respect. If provision is inadequate the Borough Council will seek to phase or postpone the development until adequate infrastructure provision is likely to be available.
POLICY BE31
Applicants for planning permission will be required to submit a short statement setting out the urban design principles adopted and how the development has had regard to relevant local plan policies and supplementary planning guidance. This should be presented in a manner appropriate to the nature and scale of the proposals.

THE APPROACHES TO THE URBAN AREA

4.65 In the past as the urban area of Bedford and Kempston has expanded outwards, little if any consideration has been given to the impact of new development in the landscape. Whilst planting may have been provided on site to soften parking areas etc, this has been inadequate in the wider context. This has resulted in a ‘raw edge’ to the urban area. At a smaller scale, similar problems arise in villages where new housing often provides a sharp distinction between the village and open countryside.

4.66 This area requires a positive approach to planning and management aimed at achieving environmental improvement and increased public access so as to benefit existing residents. The inclusion of part of Bedford’s southern and eastern approaches in the Forest of Marston Vale provides an opportunity to solve some of these problems.

4.67 There is a need to establish a series of main ‘gateways’ into the town reinforced where appropriate by sensitive and well designed new development and extensive new landscaping. These will not only improve the approach to the town, both by road and by rail, but to the south of Bedford and Kempston they will also provide a ‘gateway’ to the Forest of Marston Vale. Areas considered appropriate for this ‘gateway’ approach are shown on the Proposals Map.

4.68 In addition to the point of entry into the urban area, the approaches into the centre are equally important. Many arterial routes – both road and rail – suffer from unattractive adjoining development and the lack of screening or planting to soften their impact. Where these routes pass through industrial or commercial areas, unsightly open storage or car parking areas often abut the highway or rail route. There is a need to consider the impact of such proposals on these transport corridors. Where planting is proposed, consideration should be given to the need to ensure that this does not interfere with the surveillance of the site (either by natural means or where CCTV is used). In the case of planting within the rail corridors, this should not conflict with the safety and operational requirements of the railway.

POLICY BE32
Where new development is permitted on the edges of the rural or urban area, or of villages, it should be carefully designed to minimise the impact of development on the surrounding land.
POLICY BE33
The Borough Council has identified on the Proposals Map, a series of ‘gateways’ on the fringe of Bedford and Kempston and will require extensive structural landscaping to be carried out at these locations in association with development where appropriate, and the Forest of Marston Vale.
POLICY BE34
In the case of development which adjoins the main road and rail routes into Bedford and Kempston, a high standard of design and landscaping will be required. The provision of parking areas, external storage and other visually intrusive uses adjoining the highway and railway will not be acceptable without substantial landscaping. (See also Policy NE20)

VIEWS AND LANDMARKS

4.68a Attractive views of significant buildings can contribute to the quality of the townscape and landscape. In general, the Council will seek to ensure that development proposals are compatible with the character, scale and setting of views, and will refuse permission for development that will adversely affect such landmarks and the views to them. In particular, the Council will retain the important views of the historic village core of Elstow from the west. The Proposals Map Insets 1 and 14 show the extent of the protected views.

POLICY BE34A
The Council will protect the important views of the historic village core of Elstow and its setting from the west as identified on the Proposals Map.

QUALITY IN RESIDENTIAL ESTATE LAYOUTS AND OVERDEVELOPMENT

4.69 For some time, local communities have expressed concern to the Borough Council about the quality and interest in new residential estate layouts; the form and massing of dwellings together with inadequate space about them. Historically, plot sizes were defined in relation to the size of the dwellings. Dwellings were therefore in proportion to the space around them, which in turn provided a setting for the dwelling. In many modern housing developments these rules of thumb no longer apply. Large dwellings are being erected on small plots of land and the relationship between space and dwelling size is poor. This is often exacerbated by the use of an inadequate mix of dwelling types within sites. Thus, a site consisting solely of detached four bed dwellings, may have a low density in terms of dwellings per hectare, whilst appearing cramped in terms of space. Furthermore, the quality of spaces is often poor and in particular, space has been minimised and designed to cater for functional needs only. The end result is a layout where houses are arranged in a uniform and uninteresting manner and lack any identity or ‘sense of place’. Furthermore, many developments do not achieve a satisfactory relationship with their surroundings. These concerns are also raised in the Government’s ‘Quality in Town and Country’ initiative and in Planning Policy Guidance Note 1 (revised).

4.70 An alternative approach is therefore needed and the Borough Council has published guidance on this subject entitled ‘Achieving Quality in Residential Layouts’. This aims to make a positive contribution to improving the quality of new housing in the Borough and has been adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance.

4.71 This guidance recognises that as part of the design process, it is imperative that an initial site appraisal is carried out to identify constraints and opportunities and importantly, the relationship of the site to its surroundings. This in turn should influence the design philosophy or rationale and enable the capacity of the site to be calculated on the basis of a net developable area. This assumes that various parts of the site cannot support development and should therefore be discounted when the site capacity is assessed. For the avoidance of doubt, the term net developable area will be interpreted as excluding those uses such as major distributor roads, primary schools, open spaces serving a wider area and significant landscape buffer strips. This is consistent with Annex C of PPG3. The Council will amend ‘Achieving Quality in Residential Layouts’ in due course to comply with this definition. Having defined the net developable area, the guidance proposes that for the majority of sites, a capacity based on up to 70 car spaces per hectare, where combined with a mix of dwelling types, will achieve a satisfactory density and relationship of buildings to space. Exceptions above this will be possible where high quality design can demonstrably overcome problems of a car dominated environment. This is consistent with the government’s policy of avoiding the inefficient use of land through higher densities and a reduction in space given over to car parking, whilst recognising the need to avoid plots which have inadequate space relative to the size of the dwelling.

4.72 Space around dwellings is particularly important and needs to meet a variety of requirements including privacy, car parking, landscaping and children’s play. It can also be used to define territory and areas of ‘defensible’’ space. Once a development is completed, it is important that this space is not eroded by the introduction of house extensions and other structures which would normally fall outside the remit of planning controls. Where appropriate therefore, the Borough Council will, when granting planning permission for significant areas of new housing, remove permitted development rights by the use of conditions attached to the original consent.

POLICY BE35
In considering proposals for new residential development, the Borough Council will have regard to its guidance on achieving quality in residential layouts. The Council recognises that on very small developments clauses v, vii and x may not be possible. In particular, proposals should:
i) where appropriate, respect local distinctiveness in terms of scale, density, massing, height, landscape and layout;
ii) be based on a detailed site analysis and a clear design philosophy;
iii) have full regard for the impact of the development on the wider landscape and adjoining uses;
iv) have a site capacity based on the identification of a net developable area;
v) make provision for a range of dwelling sizes;
vi) generally, achieve a car parking density of up to 70 car spaces per hectare;
vii) contain a variety of external spaces between dwellings in terms of dimensions, landscaping and use;
viii) have regard to ‘Secured by Design’ principles;
ix) be fully accessible by all members of the community; and,
x) make provision for a range of plot sizes which respect the size of individual dwellings.
POLICY BE36
In order to safeguard space about dwellings, the Borough Council will, where appropriate, remove permitted development rights by the use of planning conditions.

OVERDEVELOPMENT

4.73 The Council frequently considers proposals for new housing development on sites which are either surrounded or partially contained by existing development. In certain cases, particularly in villages and within the older established residential areas of Bedford, the scale and density of a development proposal in no way reflects that of the adjoining buildings and spaces.

4.74 Such proposals inevitably attempt to achieve much higher densities, resulting in a form of development which is disrespectful of its context and of cramped appearance. This situation is exacerbated by the space between buildings being given over predominantly to car parking. Such development is clearly unsatisfactory and will be resisted by the Borough Council.

4.75 Unless significant measures such as landscaping belts are introduced, the impact of such proposals on existing properties which adjoin these sites can be considerable. In order to prevent problems of overlooking, overshadowing and loss of privacy etc. an element of separation between proposed and existing development should be incorporated.

POLICY BE37
Proposals which bear little or no relationship to the character of the surrounding built fabric and which would result in a cramped form of development, and overdevelopment of the site will not be permitted. Therefore on sites which are contained or partially contained by existing development, all new development should:
i) respect the site’s context in terms of layout, means of access, building type and density;
ii) respect the standard of amenity/privacy presently enjoyed by adjoining occupiers; and,
iii) include measures to prevent any adverse impact on existing development which adjoins the site. Such measures could include planting belts or the physical separation of proposed and existing development.

LANDSCAPING

4.76 Within new development, the quality of the landscaping can be of comparable importance to the buildings themselves. Government guidance reinforces this concept and suggests that all new development should result in a benefit in environmental and landscape terms.

4.77 Good landscaping provides numerous benefits. It can:

  1. help to integrate new buildings into the wider landscape;

  2. frame views and screen unsightly structures;

  3. provide shelter and shade, visual interest, habitats etc;

  4. define particular uses within a site, for example car parking space;

  5. support activity within public spaces.

4.78 In any development, landscaping therefore needs to be considered at two levels – the strategic or structural level, and the localised or site specific level. In all major development a landscaping master plan should be prepared indicating the structural landscaping framework within which the development will sit. This will vary with, and needs to reflect, different contexts eg. urban, semi-rural and rural. Consideration will need to be given to the impact on the landscape and on adjoining land and landscape features. Linkages with existing areas of planting are also important. In many cases this will involve planting which is off-site.

4.79 Within sites the quality of landscaping is equally important. In the past inadequate provision has been made for landscaping and this has been to the detriment of the environment. Consideration also needs to be given to the future maintenance of landscaped areas and the Borough Council will negotiate with developers for the provision of commuted sums, or seek to create management mechanisms, to ensure that new environments are maintained to a high standard.

POLICY BE38
Planning permission will not be given for proposals unless provision has been made for adequate on-site, and, if practicable and necessary to make the development visually acceptable, off-site landscaping which would result in a benefit in environmental and landscape terms. Where necessary and appropriate, the Borough Council will negotiate for the provision of commuted sums to secure the long term management and maintenance of landscaped areas.

4.80 It is imperative that landscaping is considered at an early stage. It must form an integral part of the design process and not be an afterthought. In considering planning applications, the Borough Council will need to be satisfied that sufficient detail of proposed landscaping has been submitted to enable the full impact of the development to be assessed.

POLICY BE39
Where appropriate, detailed planning permission or the approval of reserved matters will only be given where full details of both existing landscape and proposed landscaping have been submitted to and approved by the Borough Council.

4.81 Within the urban area, and in certain villages, the existence of trees within streets and open spaces/gardens is of great importance. Many of Bedford’s most attractive streets, for example De Parys Avenue, Park Avenue, are notable for their street trees.

4.82 Trees are important in reducing the impact of both new roads and in breaking the skyline of, for example, areas of new housing. There are many examples within the Borough where new roads have been laid out without provision being made for roadside trees to the detriment of environmental quality. Once services have been laid within highway verges there is little scope to accommodate tree planting. It is therefore imperative that roads are laid out with consideration being given to these at the outset. The same applies to the provision of trees within open space. Sufficient space should be provided to enable the larger varieties of native species to grow beyond the ridge lines of adjoining dwellings.

4.83 Where existing trees are retained within new developments, these should be protected from damage during the course of the site works, and sufficient space should be allowed to enable these trees to grow to maturity.

4.84 In addition, in order for the proposed planting to make an impact in the short term, the Borough Council will expect a proportion of the trees planted to be either standards or half standards. Planting schemes where predominantly whips are used are unlikely to be satisfactory.

POLICY BE40
The Borough Council will regard, where appropriate, the extent to which a development makes use of tree planting in the highway and on open spaces in order to soften the built environment and reduce its visual impact, as a material consideration in determining planning applications.

4.85 In implementing this policy, the Borough Council will be mindful of its duty to make adequate provision for the preservation and planting of trees when granting planning permission for new development.

ADVERTISEMENTS

4.86 All outdoor advertisements affect the appearance of the building or the neighbourhood where they are displayed. Local planning authorities have powers under the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1992 (as amended) to control certain advertisements. In addition, powers are available to require their discontinuance.

4.87 In every case, applications for advertisement consent can only be controlled in the interests of amenity and public safety. In the case of amenity, this is especially the case in conservation areas, in the open countryside and where advertisements are proposed on listed buildings. Elsewhere, the impact of advertisements can be considerable, particularly in shopping streets where they can compete for attention to such an extent that the benefits of individual advertisements are lost. Paras

4.27 – 4.31 above refer to the guidance produced by the Borough Council in respect of Advertisements.

POLICY BE41
In acceptable locations, advertisements should be properly related to the design of the building on which they are displayed, or if free-standing to that of their setting.
Applications for advertisement consent will be considered against the following criteria:
i) the scale of the advertisement in relation to the building and/or the surroundings;
ii) the location of the advertisement on the building and/ or in relation to the surroundings;
iii) the appropriateness of both materials and typefaces used;
iv) the levels and means of illumination, and measures used to minimise glare and spillage;
v) the cumulative effect of the proposal and existing advertisements on both the building and the street scene or landscape as a whole;
vi) any likely affect on highway safety.

EXTERIOR LIGHTING

4.88 Street lighting and amenity lighting have long been an integral feature of new development. In the former case, concerns for safety and security have been of paramount importance and amenity lighting has been used to emphasise individual buildings or features within a site.

4.89 There is now some concern nationally that in many cases, external lighting is both poorly designed and misdirected. The result can be extensive light pollution and glare which can be both wasteful and intrusive. The problem is not restricted solely to highways but also includes commercial developments, sports pitches etc. Guidance on this subject is contained in a number of documents. These include:

  1. Guidance notes for the Reduction of Light Pollution, The Institution of Lighting Engineers (1992).

  2. Lighten our Darkness; lighting our cities – successes, failures & opportunities, The Royal Fine Art Commission (1994).

  3. Domestic and Commercial Security Lights & the Night -Time Environment, The British Astronomical Society (1993).

  4. Road Lighting and the Environment, Department of Transport (1993).

  5. Lighting in the Countryside: Towards Good Practice, Countryside Commission (April 1998).

4.90 In exercising its development control function the Borough Council will seek to minimise light pollution by ensuring that the detailed design of any lighting scheme properly respects the environment incorporating such measures as trigger mechanisms where practicable. The Borough Council will, where appropriate, impose conditions governing the hours of operation of any approved lighting scheme.

POLICY BE42
Details of any external lighting scheme required as part of a new development should be submitted to the Borough Council as part of the planning application. Planning permission will only be granted if it is demonstrated that the scheme proposed is the minimum needed for security, operational and aesthetic purposes and that it minimises potential pollution from glare and spillage, both at ground level and skywards.

PUBLIC SPACES

4.91 Government guidance recognises that the spaces between and around buildings are of great importance. Where these form streets, squares and open spaces they represent the ‘public realm’. It is the quality of the public realm which is a major determining factor in an area having either an attractive or unattractive image. Local authorities through their responsibilities for maintenance and highways are key players in establishing high quality public spaces. New development can also provide the opportunity to improve existing, and create new, public spaces.

4.92 Within town centres in particular, the quality of public spaces can have either a beneficial or detrimental effect on the vitality of the centre. Spaces need to be designed to support a wide variety of activities including eating, sitting, street entertainers etc. They also provide a setting for public art, street markets, etc. Increasingly, spaces have to be designed with safety in mind (see also paras 4.95 – 4.98 below).

4.93 If a high quality environment is to be sustained then adequate funds need to be set aside for future maintenance. A well maintained, high quality environment will also safeguard the commercial value of adjoining properties. In order to achieve this, the Borough Council will seek developer contributions towards future maintenance provision.

POLICY BE43
In considering proposals for new development the Borough Council will regard the treatment and appearance of spaces around buildings as of comparable importance as the design of the buildings themselves. Where such spaces fall within the ‘public realm’ they should be safe, attractive and be fully accessible. Where appropriate they should also support a wide variety of activities and provide a setting for public art. Planning obligations will be sought where necessary and appropriate towards the improvement of existing spaces, the creation of new spaces and their future maintenance.

PUBLIC ART

4.94 One way in which new developments and public spaces can be given a strong sense of place and identity is through the introduction of art in the environment. Public art can be appropriate in a wide variety of locations including the town centre, local shopping areas, open spaces, residential and commercial developments and at key intersections in the highway, cycle and footpath network. It can take many forms – murals, sculpture, water features etc. These can transform otherwise uninteresting places and where evolved in conjunction with the community can deter vandalism, for example through the use of subway murals etc. The Borough Council is keen to take every opportunity to incorporate public art into the environment.

POLICY BE44
The Borough Council will, where necessary and appropriate, seek planning obligations towards the provision of new works of visual art and craft as an integral part of development schemes. In determining an application for planning permission, the Council will have regard to the contribution made by any such works to the appearance of the scheme and to the amenities of the area.

COMMUNITY SAFETY

4.95 The Borough Council is required to have regard to crime prevention in the preparation of this Local Plan. Research shows that the careful design and layout of new development can make crime more difficult to commit as well as increasing the risk of detection by potential offenders.

4.96 Safety and the perception of safety has become as important as the visual appearance of a new development. Environments which appear unsafe are used by fewer people, which in turn reduces the sense of security further. It is this vicious circle which must be broken if for example, the vitality of the town centre is to be retained and enhanced.

4.97 Recent guidance highlights that good planning alone cannot solve the problem of crime but when coordinated with other measures, it can make a significant contribution. A comprehensive approach is therefore required and the Council supports other measures which will improve the sense of security. These include:

  1. The encouragement of residential use within mixed use developments.

  2. The Living Above The Shop initiative, particularly in the town centre.

  3. CCTV and the Retail Radio Link which have been introduced into Bedford Town Centre.

  4. Reference in development briefs to the need to consider safety and crime prevention at the outset. For example, the segregation of pedestrian and vehicular routes is actively discouraged.

4.98 Design guidance on reducing crime in new developments is contained in the ‘Police Architectural Liaison Manual of Guidance’. This document draws on experience of the ‘Secured by Design’ scheme which outlines best practice in the design of housing and commercial developments. The design principles embodied in these documents will be used in determining planning applications for new development and are also considered in the Council’s supplementary planning guidance ‘Achieving Quality in Residential Layouts’. Where appropriate, the Borough Council will also seek the advice of the Bedfordshire Police Force Architectural Liaison Officer.

POLICY BE45
The Borough Council will not grant planning permission unless adequate consideration has been given to community safety and crime prevention. Where appropriate the advice of the Police will be sought.

SECURITY GRILLES AND SHUTTERS

4.99 Retail, and commercial premises, especially in the town centre, have in recent years been the subject of vandalism. This is also the case with community and institutional buildings particularly in isolated locations. This can result in windows being smashed and in more severe cases ram raiding can occur. In the latter case, local authorities have a key role to play in the layout of street furniture, planters, etc, which if strategically placed can deter such activity.

4.100 In response to the problem of vandalism, shopkeepers and property owners have often sought to improve the security of their premises by means of grilles or shutters. Whilst sympathetic to the need for security measures, the Borough Council is concerned that these can form a strident feature in the street scene. Solid roller shutters in particular can have an adverse environmental effect, creating ‘dead’ frontages and in turn, a hostile atmosphere.

4.101 When roller shutters are down, they create a featureless flat expanse of metal which in certain cases can obliterate the entire shop front, and thus reflecting a ‘fortress mentality’. The architectural integrity of the building is also destroyed. The introduction of projecting storage boxes can also destroy the character of shopfronts and dominate the building facade. Such security measures can seriously undermine the ‘after hours’ vitality of shopping centres and the town centre in particular.

4.102 The Borough Council is keen to explore types of measures which are more sympathetic to their setting but which address the individual requirements and concerns of property owners. Suitable alternatives include:

  1. The use of internal grilles. These offer a practical solution and are particularly appropriate on listed buildings or other buildings of architectural interest. Planning permission is not required;

  2. The use of removable grilles. These can be sprayed to match the colour of the shop front or building and avoid the need for prominent storage boxes;

  3. External roller grilles. Ideally these need to be constructed in association with new shopfronts or openings to enable provision to be made for the storage of the grille internally. These are generally less satisfactory than options a) and b) because they tend to obliterate the architectural features of the shopfront or building. They do however maintain a window display.

4.103 Solid roller shutters are unacceptable, particularly within conservation areas.

POLICY BE46
The Borough Council will not grant planning permission for security grilles unless:
i) they respect the character of the building on which they are placed in terms of materials, type, scale and colour;
ii) adequate provision is made for the storage of roller grilles internally;
iii) where appropriate, window displays can be clearly seen from street level, and the shop window provides an element of external illumination of the street.
The use of roller shutters and the introduction of external storage boxes will not be permitted.

OVERHEAD POWER LINES

4.104 The Borough Council is keen to reduce the visual intrusion, nuisance (including problems associated with bird excreta and noise) and potential loss of amenity associated with overhead power lines, towers, and electricity sub-stations particularly in environmentally sensitive areas such as Conservation Areas, Historic Parks and Gardens, the River Protection Area and the Area of Great Landscape Value. The Borough Council does however recognise the practical, technical and financial difficulties that undergrounding may cause. The Borough Council is also conscious of the public concern about possible effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields associated with overhead power lines and electricity sub-stations. The Borough Council is aware that debate continues at international level as to whether the positioning of electricity lines has an effect upon health. It is noteworthy that the National Radiological Protection Board’s Advisory Group recommended further research and the United Kingdom Childhood Cancer Study is currently in progress. The Borough Council will continue to monitor advice on this issue, with particular reference to the conclusions reached by the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB). The former Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, and Department of Health issued for consultation a joint draft circular on land use planning and electromagnetic fields in 1999. This states that, whilst the Borough Council is not the determining authority for applications for electricity lines over 20,000 volts, it is consulted on such proposals. It is however the local planning authority in respect of other forms of development and will have regard to this emerging guidance when determining planning applications where this is applicable. The Council’s policies on telecommunications development are in Chapter 11 of this Plan.

POLICY BE47
The Borough Council will continue to seek to reduce the visual intrusion, nuisance and loss of amenity caused by overhead power lines, towers and sub-stations (particularly in, and within sight of, designated environmentally sensitive areas), and where practical, technically and financially feasible, will encourage their location underground. The Council will also have regard to the advice from the former Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, and Department of Health concerning land use planning and electromagnetic fields as well as the National Radiological Protection Board, in determining proposals for development in proximity to overhead power lines.

ACCESSIBLE ENVIRONMENTS

4.105 Government guidance draws attention to the opportunity created by the development of land and buildings to secure environments which are accessible to all. Good access makes sense and benefits everyone, not just disabled people. It is the role of the Building Regulations to ensure that adequate standards are applied to new development in terms of ramps, steps, door dimensions etc. It is not therefore intended to cover these in the local plan.

4.106 Every opportunity will be taken through negotiation with applicants to improve access arrangements to both existing and new buildings. Where the Borough Council is providing financial assistance, for example towards a new shopfront, this will normally be conditional on satisfactory access being provided. Where substantial areas of resurfacing are proposed, as in the pedestrianisation of streets, the needs of disabled people, those with sensory impairment and people with pushchairs will be taken into account. The Borough Council is also supportive of the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

POLICY BE48
The Borough Council will encourage access for everyone, including wheelchair users and other disabled people, elderly people, and those with toddlers or infants in pushchairs, and will encourage appropriate provision to meet their needs in all developments.
POLICY BE49
Applications for the development of and, where practicable and reasonable, the change of use or alterations to buildings open to the public and buildings used for employment and education purposes, will normally be required to provide suitable access and facilities for disabled people.

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