Policy G1: Protecting and Enhancing Green Infrastructure
Protecting and enhancing green assets
Green assets are defined in para. 4.65 and 4.66, and Table 1.
Protecting and enhancing green assets
Protecting green assets
Development proposals must not result in the loss of existing green assets unless:
- the affected asset does not have a significant recreational, heritage, cultural, ecological, landscape or townscape value; or
- the affected asset can be demonstrated to be surplus to local requirements and there are alternatives which are capable of serving the needs of the occupants of the development and of the environment; and
- retention of the existing green asset within the site is not viable or practicable.
If the loss of green assets is unavoidable, a compensatory amount of green assets should be provided within the site in the first instance. Where opportunities within the site are constrained then consideration will be given to provision off site which is capable of serving the needs of the occupants of the development and of the environment. In all instances opportunities to incorporate innovative solutions on site should be exhausted.
Enhancing green assets
Where viable, development proposals are encouraged and will be supported to provide additional good quality green assets on site with regard to deficiencies of green assets within Our Neighbourhood.
Any new green assets provided should be native species, 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 footpaths and the footpath network
The local distinctiveness, characteristics, quality and biodiversity of existing footpaths shall be a primary consideration in their protection.
Development proposals should maximise opportunities to connect to the network of footpaths, public rights of way and bridle paths in Our Neighbourhood.
Proposals for the purpose of improving existing footpaths, or providing new footpaths, or providing access for people with disabilities, and for people with push chairs, will be supported where this would not cause damage to heritage assets and to green assets.
Protecting and enhancing green corridors
Development proposals must not cause significant harm to ecological connectivity.
Development proposals that are adjacent to, or encroaching upon, green corridors must maintain or enhance their functionality and connectivity.
Development proposals must contribute to the network of green corridors that connect built up areas with nearby destinations and the open countryside by:
- creating green corridors within the development site that connect to green routes corridors outside but abutting the site; or where such adjacent green corridors do not exist
- contributing to improvements in existing green corridors outside the development site but within, or adjacent to, or nearby Our Neighbourhood.
In order to enhance the nature conservation value of Our Neighbourhood and provide net gains for biodiversity, proposals that:
- restore damaged habitats; or
- re-create lost habitats; or
- create new wildlife habitats, particularly habitats supporting local protected and priority species
will be encouraged and supported.
Protecting geological features
Development proposals must avoid significant harm to features of geological value.
Protecting and enhancing the banks of the River Wear
Development proposals which restrict, or result in a loss of, existing access to the banks of the River Wear will be refused. Existing footpath routes, cycle paths, green corridors and dark corridors must be retained.
Other opportunities to provide additional pedestrian access points to the banks of the River Wear should be investigated, where practicable and desirable in relation to public safety, ecology and heritage impacts, and will be supported.
New developments, or redevelopments, next to the banks of the River Wear in Our Neighbourhood should incorporate where viable a safe pedestrian path along the riverbank. Opportunities should be maximised to create a footpath, green corridor and cycle access, in that order of priority. Such provision must not adversely impact on existing heritage assets and green assets.
Protecting dark corridors
New lighting proposals must be ecologically friendly in siting, design and intensity and extent of emissions and not cause significant harm to existing dark corridors.
4.90 Small sites (i.e. sites for housing of 0.4 hectares or 10 housing units, or under, or other types of development sites of 0.4 hectares, or under) 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.
4.91 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
4.92 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).
4.93 A key document is the Open Space Needs Assessment 2018 (Durham County Council, 2018d). 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).
4.94 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.
4.95 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