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Home > Planning > Local Plan > Written Statement - Chapter 5 Environment, Built and Natural

5. Environment, Built and Natural

5.1. The policies on the built and natural environment have the following objectives:

• To safeguard the character of Uttlesford’s historic settlements.
• To conserve and enhance the historic buildings in Uttlesford and their setting.
• To protect the natural environment for its own sake, particularly for its biodiversity, and agricultural, cultural and visual qualities.
• To limit sensitive development in areas subject to high levels of noise from aircraft or other sources, and avoid deterioration in the noise environment.
• To protect ground and surface water resources from contamination and over abstraction.
• To protect users of residential properties in particular from long term exposure to poor ground level air quality.
• To improve the health of the community.

Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings

5.2. There are 35 Conservation Areas in the District and about 3500 listed buildings or groups of buildings identified in the Statutory Lists. These buildings or groups represent about one quarter of the Essex total, itself one of the most richly endowed of all English counties.

5.3. The Listed Buildings in the District vary widely both in age and their vernacular materials. Clay tile, slate and long straw thatch are used for roof materials. The stock of buildings with long straw thatch is big enough to be a cluster of regional architectural importance. Although timber framed buildings predominate, some early buildings are constructed of brick and stone. External finishes include many excellent examples of weatherboarding, pargetting and flintwork. Every period from before the Norman Conquest is represented, but over 40% of all Listed Buildings date from the 17th century.

5.4. This rich heritage is one of the key elements in the quality of the local environment. It is important that the development pressures on the district are managed in ways that enable the built environment to be protected and enhanced and inappropriate development to be avoided. The Council will prepare Conservation Area Statements and supplementary planning documents on the design of development within conservation areas.

Policy ENV1 - Design of Development within Conservation Areas

Development will be permitted where it preserves or enhances the character and appearance of the essential features of a Conservation Area, including plan form, relationship between buildings, the arrangement of open areas and their enclosure, grain or significant natural or heritage features. Outline applications will not be considered. Development involving the demolition of a structure which positively contributes to the character and appearance of the area will not be permitted.

Policy ENV2- Development affecting Listed Buildings

Development affecting a listed building should be in keeping with its scale, character and surroundings. Demolition of a listed building, or development proposals that adversely affect the setting, and alterations that impair the special characteristics of a listed building will not be permitted. In cases where planning permission might not normally be granted for the conversion of listed buildings to alternative uses, favourable consideration may be accorded to schemes which incorporate works that represent the most practical way of preserving the building and its architectural and historic characteristics and its setting

Open Spaces and Trees

5.5. There are open spaces of high environmental quality in many of the towns and villages. Such spaces may include village greens, commons or narrow tongues of agricultural land or woodland or large mature gardens. Sometimes, the land may have been left in a state of untidiness but, nevertheless, the existence of the space may be important to the character of the locality. Retention of the space would also enable its full environmental potential to be realised through an enhancement project. Normally it has been possible to protect such areas by ensuring that they lie beyond defined development limits. The need to protect similar areas within settlements is equally important and the most significant of these have been shown on individual inset maps. Other smaller spaces of importance will also be protected where development would be inappropriate, but it is not practicable to identify all of these.

5.6. Where the principle of development is acceptable it should avoid taking away features that are prominent elements and enhance the local environment, such as for example, healthy mature trees. However, as a specific example, it may not be possible to accommodate a residential development on a tight space without removing a clump of sycamore saplings or similar. This may be considered acceptable. Sometimes public facilities may be proposed on open space. Again, if a successful design can be achieved, a limited loss of open space may be permitted.

Policy ENV3- Open Spaces and Trees

The loss of traditional open spaces, other visually important spaces, groups of trees and fine individual tree specimens through development proposals will not be permitted unless the need for the development outweighs their amenity value.

Ancient Monuments and Sites of Archaeological Importance

5.7. Within Uttlesford District, approximately 3000 sites of archaeological interest are recorded on the Heritage Conservation Record (EHCR) maintained by Essex County Council. These sites are not shown on the proposals map and inquiries should be made to the County Archaeologist. Scheduled Ancient Monuments of which there are 73 in the District (December 2001) are shown on the proposals map. The EHCR records represent only a fraction of the total. Many important sites remain undiscovered and unrecorded. Archaeological sites are a finite and non-renewable resource. As a result it is important to ensure that they are not needlessly or thoughtlessly destroyed.

5.8. The desirability of preserving an ancient monument and its setting is a material consideration in determining planning applications whether the monument is scheduled or unscheduled. There is a presumption in favour of the preservation of nationally important sites and their settings. The need for development affecting archaeological remains of lesser importance will be weighed against the relative importance of the archaeology.

Policy ENV4 Ancient Monuments and Sites of Archaeological Importance.

Where nationally important archaeological remains, whether scheduled or not, and their settings, are affected by proposed development there will be a presumption in favour of their physical preservation in situ. The preservation in situ of locally important archaeological remains will be sought unless the need for the development outweighs the importance of the archaeology. In situations where there are grounds for believing that sites, monuments or their settings would be affected developers will be required to arrange for an archaeological field assessment to be carried out before the planning application can be determined thus enabling an informed and reasonable planning decision to be made. In circumstances where preservation is not possible or feasible, then development will not be permitted until satisfactory provision has been made for a programme of archaeological investigation and recording prior to commencement of the development.

The Quality of the Countryside

5.9. Uttlesford is a highly productive arable farming area. There is no Grade land but over 80% of the District is classified Grade 2 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. There is some Grade 3a land. This represents the best and most versatile farmland. Such land should be avoided for development unless sustainability considerations suggest otherwise.5.10. Pastureland is not extensive but it does exist in the river valleys where drainage problems, in part, have resulted in Grade 3b designation. Although not the best and most versatile farmland, pasture land is important to the character and biodiversity of the district

5.11. Proposals to change agricultural land to domestic garden which are not likely to materially change the character or appearance of the surrounding countryside are those which for instance use unworkable corners of fields and do not create wedges of domestic garden intruding into an agricultural landscape. They should include appropriate boundary treatment such as hedgerows of indigenous species or fencing appropriate to a rural location such as post and rail fencing which do not have the effect of urbanising the area or of compromising the openness of the countryside. In the new garden conditions removing permitted development rights may be imposed where structures would compromise the open character.

5.12. The District's landscape includes important historic elements. There are twelve historic parklands identified on the Proposals Map and Inset Maps whose character remains relatively intact. Four of these parklands are included in the English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. Development proposals will need to be sensitive to the way open space, plantation and water features create their particular landscape characteristics. There are ancient landscapes in two areas where there are notable complexes of surviving ancient semi natural woodland with coppice and standards, and medieval boundary banks: Hatfield Forest and the southern part of Debden Parish. In the latter case there is also clear evidence of very early piecemeal enclosure. Modest proposals such as agricultural development or farm diversification schemes complying with Policy E4 may be acceptable in historic landscapes if handled sensitively and where harm is compensated by landscape enhancement and biodiversity proposals.

5.13. Woodland and hedgerows are important components in the local landscape. Many field boundary hedgerows have been lost in recent years and woodlands in the landscape have often acquired particular prominence because of this. Hedgerow legislation introduced in 1997 means that the Council must be notified when an owner wishes to remove a hedgerow. If the hedge is of historic or ecological importance the Council can serve a Hedgerow Retention notice. While development should retain features listed in policy ENV8 wherever possible, it might be necessary, for example, to remove a length of hedging to provide adequate access to a barn conversion. This may be permitted provided there is an agreed scheme of compensating new planting. All of the visually important woodlands in the District are shown on the Proposals Map and Inset Maps. Broad byways and narrow enclosed high-banked lanes are also important elements in the character of the countryside. The best of these have been designated Protected Lanes.5.14. Some of the woodlands are very old and of ecological importance. The best habitats are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Hales Wood and Hatfield Forest are National Nature Reserves. Sites of Special Scientific Interest are identified by English Nature as being of special interest by reason of flora, fauna, geological or physiographic features. Most of the sites in Uttlesford are ancient woodlands, but there are good examples of specific grassland/ streamside habitats. Halls Quarry is a site of geological interest. Where the Council has statutory discretion to require an environmental assessment, because a relevant project is likely to have significant effects on the special character of an SSSI, it will normally require one.

5.15. Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserves have the maximum degree of protection from development. Examples of exceptions, though, might be a minor development such as a new access or visitor facilities with limited effects, or a nearby development that might also have limited effects on nature conservation value of the protected site. Other nature conservation sites will still be given a high degree of protection, but a use with limited and temporary effects on biodiversity might be acceptably accommodated if there are landscape considerations that weigh against other technically feasible sites. Also there may be operational reasons why development needs should sometimes override biodiversity objectives. Appropriate mitigation measures will be sought to compensate for biodiversity losses.

5.16. Roadside verges also represent uncultivated areas in an intensively farmed landscape where rare plants may still be found, and Special Verges are shown on the Proposals Map and Inset Maps as areas to which Policy ENV8 applies. Special Verges may often be associated with lanes following historic alignments. Other sites of local ecological value exist and further sites worthy of protection may be identified in the Plan period, which might include Local Nature Reserves. The Council will work with English Nature, Town and Parish Councils and landowners to secure the declaration of new Local Nature Reserves in and around the District’s main settlements.

5.17. Part 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 sets out the protection which is afforded to wild animals and plants. The presence of a protected species such as bats, barn owls, badgers, great crested newts or water voles on a site will be taken into account when considering a proposal for development. Particular care needs to be given to proposals for the redevelopment of derelict sites. Such sites with derelict buildings and areas of hard standing provide suitable habitats for amphibians and reptiles. Development will either be refused or be subject to a requirement that reasonable precautions be taken. This is not an issue restricted to the countryside, as bats, for example, may roost in the roof spaces of buildings in towns and villages.

Policy ENV5 - Protection of Agricultural Land

Development of the best and most versatile agricultural land will only be permitted where opportunities have been assessed for accommodating development on previously developed sites or within existing development limits. Where development of agricultural land is required, developers should seek to use areas of poorer quality except where other sustainability considerations suggest otherwise.

Policy ENV6 – Change Of Use of Agricultural Land to Domestic Garden

Change of use of agricultural land to domestic garden will be permitted if the proposal, particularly its scale, does not result in a material change in the character and appearance of the surrounding countryside. Conditions regulating development rights associated with the proposal may be necessary.

Policy ENV7 - The Protection of the Natural Environment - Designated Sites

Development proposals that adversely affect areas of nationally important nature conservation concern, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserves, will not be permitted unless the need for the development outweighs the particular importance of the nature conservation value of site or reserve.

Development proposals likely to affect local areas of nature conservation significance, such as County Wildlife sites, ancient woodlands, wildlife habitats, sites of ecological interest and Regionally Important Geological/ Geomorphological Sites, will not be permitted unless the need for the development outweighs the local significance of the site to the biodiversity of the District. Where development is permitted the authority will consider the use of conditions or planning obligations to ensure the protection and enhancement of the site’s conservation interest.

Policy ENV8 – Other Landscape Elements of Importance for Nature Conservation

Development that may adversely affect these landscape elements

Linear tree belts
Larger semi natural or ancient woodlands
Semi-natural grasslands
Green lanes and special verges
Ponds reservoirs
River corridors
Linear wetland features
Networks or patterns of other locally important habitats.

will only be permitted if the following criteria apply:

a) The need for the development outweighs the need to retain the elements for their importance to wild fauna and flora;
b) Mitigation measures are provided that would compensate for the harm and reinstate the nature conservation value of the locality.

Appropriate management of these elements will be encouraged through the use of conditions and planning obligations

Policy ENV9 – Historic Landscapes

Development proposals likely to harm significant local historic landscapes, historic parks and gardens and protected lanes as defined on the proposals map will not be permitted unless the need for the development outweighs the historic significance of the site.


5.18. Policies ENV10 and ENV11 aim to ensure that wherever practicable, noise sensitive developments are separated from major sources of noise such as road, rail and air transport and certain types of industrial development

5.19. Aircraft movements are a particular major source of noise in Uttlesford. Aircraft taking off from Stansted are required to follow “noise preferential routes” (NPRs) to a height of 3,000 feet (4,000 feet at night time), maintaining a minimum climb gradient of 4%, and remain within a 1.5 kilometre swathe either side of the centre line of the NPR. Two sets of NPRs have been designated by the Civil Aviation Authority. There are statutory requirements for landing aircraft. Aircraft using the Instrument Landing System should not descend below 2,000 feet prior to intercepting the glidepath, and then not fly below it. At night, aircraft should not descend below 3,000 feet until on their final approach and less than 10 nautical miles from touchdown.

5.20. Calculation of the noise index of exposure to aircraft noise takes into account the level of use of each NPR and glide path, the number of aircraft movements and aircraft type. Indices are calculated for each year, based on the actual number of movements, and for the future scenario of 25mppa using assumptions. Monitoring of air noise patterns will help to ensure that the policy continues to be applied to the most appropriate area. Noise sensitive developments include residential uses.

5.21. National guidance on Planning and Noise indicates the appropriate response to the level of noise by source. This includes road, rail and mixed sources as well as air noise.

Policy ENV10 - Noise Sensitive Development and Disturbance from Aircraft

Housing and other noise sensitive development will not be permitted if the occupants would experience significant noise disturbance. This will be assessed by using the appropriate noise contour for the type of development and will take into account mitigation by design and sound proofing features

5.22. It is equally important that new development involving noisy activities should if possible be sited away from noise sensitive land uses. Development that generates noise is typically associated with economic activity. A B2 general industrial use, transport infrastructure, or a significant traffic generator are examples. It will be necessary to weigh the benefit of the jobs created, the value of the business supported, the reduction in congestion costs and any other benefits against the degree of annoyance caused by the noise in the case of these developments, taking into account any controls and mitigation measures that could reasonably be imposed by condition.

Policy ENV11 - Noise Generators

Noise generating development will not be permitted if it would be liable to affect adversely the reasonable occupation of existing or proposed noise sensitive development nearby, unless the need for the development outweighs the degree of noise generated.

Protection of Water Resources

5.23. The Environment Agency publishes information on the localities where contamination of ground water is a critical issue because of proximity to abstraction sites where water is drawn off for potable supply. There are four such sites under the upper reaches of the Cam, at Arkesden, Debden Road Saffron Walden, Springwell and Uttlesford Bridge Wendens Ambo; two in the Pant valley, at Hempstead and Gambers Hall Bardfield; and three in the Chelmer Valley, at Armitage Bridge and Bolford Street Thaxted and Great Dunmow. A major aquifer lies under most of the northern half of the district.

5.24. Development must minimise its impact on the environment by adopting environmental best practice and necessary pollution measures. Supplementary Planning Documents will be prepared on design issues including measures to protect water resources.

Policy ENV12 –Protection of Water Resources

Development that would be liable to cause contamination of groundwater particularly in the protection zones shown on the proposals map, or contamination of surface water, will not be permitted unless effective safeguards are provided.

Air Quality

5.25. The Council’s air quality management strategy has identified that, based on traffic forecasts, poor air quality is anticipated alongside the M11 and the new A120. Since both run through the open countryside where there is strict control on new buildings it is unlikely there will be many proposed developments close to either road. The widths of the zones are based on Government standards for the traffic levels predicted. The extent of the zones is based on Local Air Quality Management Technical Guidance Note 3 in respect of Nitrogen Dioxide using the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges Screening Model.

Policy ENV13 – Exposure to Poor Air Quality

Development that would involve users being exposed on an extended long-term basis to poor air quality outdoors near ground level will not be permitted. A zone 100 metres on either side of the central reservation of the M11 and a zone 35 metres either side of the centre of the new A120 have been identified on the proposals map as particular areas to which this policy applies.

Contaminated Land

5.26. The principle of sustainable development means that, where practicable, brownfield sites, including those affected by contamination, should be recycled into new uses. Any proposal on contaminated land needs to take proper account of the contamination. Mitigation measures, appropriate to the nature and scale of the proposed development will need to be agreed.

Policy ENV14 – Contaminated Land

Before development, where a site is known or strongly suspected to be contaminated, and this is causing or may cause significant harm, or pollution of controlled waters (including groundwater) a site investigation, risk assessment, proposals and timetable for remediation will be required.

Renewable Energy

5.27. Forms of renewable energy include wind power, solar power and biomass (plant materials either grown specifically for energy production or generated as a by product of another industry such as forestry wastes). In Uttlesford it is expected that acceptable schemes in the District would be relatively small scale e.g. solar panels, single wind turbines serving single or small groups of dwellings and/or businesses. Schemes should be sited close to settlements or groups of buildings in rural areas and close to the origin of the energy resource. Development will only be permitted in locations where the local road network is capable of handling any additional traffic generated by the proposal.

Policy ENV15 - Renewable Energy

Small scale renewable energy development schemes to meet local needs will be permitted if they do not adversely affect the character of sensitive landscapes, nature conservation interests or residential and recreational amenity.

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For further information, please telephone (01799) 510454 or 510461. Email: planning@uttlesford.gov.uk