Policy G1: Protecting and Enhancing Green and Blue Infrastructure
Protecting green and blue assets
Development proposals which avoid the loss of existing green or blue assets (as defined in paragraphs 4.71, 4.72 and Table 1) with significant recreational, heritage, cultural, ecological, landscape or townscape value will be supported.
Where the loss of green or blue assets of significant value is unavoidable then alternative equivalent provision should be provided on-site or off-site where this is not viable or practicable.
Enhancing green and blue assets
Development proposals which provide additional green or blue assets, particularly those that address deficiencies within Our Neighbourhood, will be supported.
Any new or replacement green or blue assets should be appropriate to the context, having regard to the landscape, townscape and ecology of the locality and where appropriate the setting of heritage assets.
Protecting and enhancing public rights of way and other footpaths
Development proposals should have regard to the local distinctiveness, character, quality and biodiversity of public rights of way and other footpaths. Proposals which connect to, improve or extend the network of public rights of way and improve its accessibility will be supported.
Protecting and enhancing green corridors
Development proposals that impact on green corridors should maintain or enhance their functionality and connectivity and avoid significant harm to ecological connectivity.
Development proposals that improve existing green corridors or create green corridors on-site that connect to or improve existing green corridors shall be supported.
Development proposals that provide net gains for biodiversity by restoring, recreating or creating wildlife habitats, particularly for locally protected and priority species, will be encouraged and supported.
Protecting geological features
Development proposals should avoid significant harm to features of geological value.
Protecting and enhancing the banks of the River Wear
Development proposals that avoid loss of or restrictions to access to the banks of the River Wear and retain public rights of way, other footpaths, green corridors or dark corridors will be supported.
Development proposals which provide additional pedestrian access points to the banks of the River Wear that are desirable in relation to public safety, ecology and heritage will be supported. Where appropriate, development proposals next to the banks of the River Wear should incorporate a public route along the riverbank which creates a footpath, green corridor and cycle route in that order of priority and avoids any significant impact on existing heritage or green or blue assets.
Protecting dark corridors
Development proposals incorporating new lighting should be designed to minimise any ecological impact and avoid significant harm to existing dark corridors.
4.91 Small sites (i.e. sites where 10 or more homes will be provided, or the site has an area of 0.5 hectares or more) face practical constraints on both the retention of green assets when designing the development and in the provision of compensatory (or additional) green assets. Trees or hedgerows around the perimeter of a site might be practicable to retain for example, whereas a tree or group of trees in the centre of a site could prevent the development unless they were removed. As well as compensatory (or additional) green assets in the form of small trees and small landscaped garden areas or flowerbeds, other alternatives could be used, e.g. green roofs, green walls, water features, bat or bird boxes and roosting sites.
4.92 Information on public rights of way in Our Neighbourhood are available in Durham County Council’s Definitive Public Rights of Way map https://www.durham.gov.uk/definitivemap. ‘Other footpaths’ are defined as the footpaths in Our Neighbourhood which are used by the public but which are not public rights of way. These include both paths with permissive access negotiated with the landowner and paths used less formally.
4.93 There are many green corridors and dark corridors in Our Neighbourhood as the definition used in para. 4.71 demonstrates, i.e.
- green corridors (a narrow strip of land containing enough habitat to support wildlife and connecting wildlife populations and habitats separated by human activities or structures (such as buildings or roads). They include riverbanks, cycle paths and footpaths, road verges);
- dark corridors (unlit strips of land (e.g. footpaths, verges and riverbanks) that provide wildlife with protection from artificial lighting and routeways between larger, unlit areas of habitat).
4.94 An assessment of open spaces in Our Neighbourhood has been undertaken for this Neighbourhood Plan (Durham City Neighbourhood Planning Forum, 2018, http://npf.durhamcity.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Open-Spaces-Assessment-Final.pdf) which includes sites that form the larger green corridors. Smaller green corridors such as strips of trees and hedgerows alongside roads, cycle paths, pavements and footpaths have not been listed in this document. Major areas of darkness are also listed in this document. The location of street lights is given in Durham County Council’s Street Lights map.
4.95 One of the aims of Initiative 5 in the companion document ‘Looking Forwards: Durham as a Creative and Sustainable City’ is the mapping of green corridors and dark corridors. This will form part of the evidence base for a future revision of the Plan.
4.96 The ‘banks of the River Wear’ are defined as the area from the waterline up to and including the footpath / pavement running alongside the river (except for the Peninsular riverbanks). In the peninsular areas the riverbanks are well defined within the World Heritage Site (see Map 1) and go up to the first boundary wall.)
4.97 Darkness is important to wildlife and to the special setting of the World Heritage Site and the Durham City Conservation area, and provides health benefits to people of relaxation, tranquillity and appreciation of the night sky. Though an urban area, this Neighbourhood Plan considers that parts of Our Neighbourhood should be treated as Zone E1 or E2 for the provision of lighting (Durham County Council, Neighbourhood Services, 2014; Durham County Council, Regeneration and Local Services, 2016), e.g. the World Heritage Site, along the riverbanks and along the traditional footpaths criss crossing Our Neighbourhood. This would entail either restricting lighting, or providing minimal intensity lighting with a full horizontal cut off. Darkness contributes to the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site (Durham World Heritage Site, 2017, p.62)
Justification for Policy G1
4.98 Public authorities have a duty to have regard for conserving biodiversity and part of the way to achieve this is through the planning system (NPPF para. 8, PPG ‘Natural environment’ para. 009, 019, 023). The NPPF states the importance of access to high quality open spaces for the benefits to health and well-being (NPPF para. 96 to 98). Saved policies of the City of Durham Local Plan are also relevant (E5, Q8, R1).
4.99 A key document is the Open Space Needs Assessment 2018 (Durham County Council, 2018c). This document assesses open space, sport and recreation facilities in County Durham by: identifying local needs; auditing local provision and assessing this against quality, quantity and access standards. It identified an under supply in all types of open space in the Durham City Assessment Area (which includes Our Neighbourhood but covers a wider area).
4.100 The complementary ‘Playing Pitch Strategy’ (Durham County Council, 2011a, 2012b) contains an audit of provision and aims to ensure that the quantity and quality of playing pitches and accessibility of playing pitches meets the needs of the local population now and in the future. It includes policy recommendations for the Durham City Area Action Partnership (which is wider than Our Neighbourhood) covering safeguarding and enhancing of provision.
4.101 Public open spaces are used by a range of different people for different purposes. A well-designed open space should be located near to the community it serves, have connectivity, be accessible, flexible in meeting different needs, adaptable to meet future needs, welcoming, safe and secure, clean and well maintained. (CABE Space, 2007) CABE, The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, was the government’s advisor on architecture, urban design and public space from 1999 to 2011.
Next section: Policy G2: Designation of Local Green Spaces