Policy G1

Policy G1: Protecting and Enhancing Green Infrastructure

Protecting and enhancing green assets

(defined in para. 4.65 and 4.66, and Table 1)

Regarding development proposals for housing sites more than 0.4 hectares or 10 housing units, or for other types of development sites more than 0.4 hectares:

Such proposals should not result in the loss of existing green assets unless:

  1. the affected asset does not have a significant recreational, heritage, cultural, ecological, landscape or townscape value; or
  2. the affected asset can be demonstrated to be surplus to local requirements

If the loss is unavoidable, a compensatory amount of green assets of an equivalent or better quality must be provided within in, or adjacent to, or nearby Our Neighbourhood, with easy access via walking, cycling or public transport.

Where feasible, such development proposals should provide additional good quality green assets on site for new and existing residents’ needs, with regard to deficiencies of green assets within Our Neighbourhood, and with regard to the Emerald Network.

Green assets provided 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.

Development proposals for housing of 0.4 hectares or 10 housing units, or under, or for other types of development sites of 0.4 hectares, or under,will be supported if they:

  1. do not result in the loss of existing green assets within the site that have visual or environmental value; and
  2. provide additional green assets. Such green assets would include trees, private gardens, communal gardens, and where space is at a premium, innovative solutions such as green roofs, green walls, natural or artificial water features, bat or bird boxes and roosting sites.

Protecting footpaths

Development proposals that would result in the loss of, or deterioration in the local distinctiveness and quality of, existing footpaths will not be permitted, unless it can be demonstrated that the deterioration or loss is necessary to achieve substantial public benefit that outweighs the deterioration or loss. If the loss of a footpath route is unavoidable, appropriate mitigation measures, such as an equivalent alternative should be included in the proposal.

Development proposals should maximise opportunities to connect to the network of footpaths, public rights of way and bridle paths in Our Neighbourhood.

Proposals for improving existing footpaths, or providing new footpaths, to provide 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 green corridors

(defined in para. 4.65 and 4.66, and Table 1)

Development proposals must not adversely impact on ecological connectivity.

In considering development affecting green corridors:

Development proposals that would result in the loss of, or deterioration in the quality of, green corridors within the site will not be permitted, unless the remaining elements of the green corridors are enhanced to maintain their continued functioning and connectivity, or alternative routes are provided or enabled.

Development proposals that are adjacent to, or encroaching upon, green corridors must maintain or enhance their functionality and connectivity.

Development proposals should contribute to the network of interlinked green routes that connect built up areas with nearby destinations and the open countryside and reduce the fragmentation of green corridors or habitat by:

  1. creating green routes within the development site that connect to green routes outside the site; or
  2. contributing to improvements in green routes outside the development site but within, or adjacent to, or nearby Our Neighbourhood.

Protecting biodiversity, habitats, protected species and geological features

Where wildlife habitats, protected species, or features of ecological, geological and geomorphological interest have been identified on development sites, proposals that would cause irreversible or serious damage to such habitats, or species or features will be refused unless:

  1. acceptable mitigation measures to minimise these adverse effects are provided on site; or
  2. compensation measures to offset any harm which cannot be completely avoided or mitigated are provided off site.

In order to enhance the nature conservation value of Our Neighbourhood and provide net gains for biodiversity, development 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 trees and hedgerows

In considering development affecting trees and hedgerows:

Development proposals should retain areas of woodland, groups of trees, copses and individual trees and hedgerows wherever possible. Where loss is unavoidable, an equivalent number of trees and hedgerows should be planted, in, or adjacent to, or nearby Our Neighbourhood.

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 footpaths, cycle paths, green corridors and dark corridors must be retained.

Proposals for existing developments to provide additional access points to the banks of the River Wear, where feasible and desirable in relation to public safety, ecology and heritage impacts, will be supported.

New developments, or redevelopments, next to the banks of the River Wear in Our Neighbourhood should incorporate where possible a safe pedestrian path along the riverbank. Opportunities should be maximised to create a 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 wildlife friendly in siting and design and not adversely impact on existing dark corridors.

4.86 A definition of green assets (including open spaces, green corridors and dark corridors) and a typology of open spaces is given in para. 4.66 and Table 1.

Justification for Policy G1

4.87 This justification is additional to that provided at the start of this theme.

4.88 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 para. 007, 008, 017 to 020). 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). The County Durham Green Infrastructure Strategy (Durham County Council, 2012a) recommends that existing public open spaces should be protected, new development should contain sufficient open space for new and existing residents’ needs and open spaces should be of good-quality, attractive and functional.

4.89 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).

4.90 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.

4.91 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.

4.92 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 values (OUV) of the World Heritage Site (Durham World Heritage Site, 2017, p.62)

4.93 Consultants have produced a suggested light and darkness strategy for Durham (Speirs and Major Associates, 2007). The environment was included as one of the key lighting design criteria to be observed.

Next section: Policy G2: Designation of Local Green Spaces

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