Policy S1

Policy S1: Sustainable Development Requirements of all Development and Re-development Sites Including all New Building, Renovations and Extensions

All development proposals should, where relevant and appropriate, demonstrate the following principles.

Promotion of economic well-being by:

  1. Contributing to a mix of uses which meet Our Neighbourhood’s employment and other development needs identified in the Local Plan and in the Durham City Neighbourhood Plan;
  2. Supporting the sustainability of existing businesses and promoting the vitality and viability of Our Neighbourhood;

Conservation, preservation and enhancement of Our Neighbourhood by:

  1. Harmonising with its context in terms of scale, layout, density, massing, height, materials, colour, and hard and soft landscaping;
  2. Conserving the significance of the setting, character, local distinctiveness, important views, tranquillity and the contribution made to the sense of place by Our Neighbourhood’s designated and non-designated heritage assets;
  3. Protecting and enhancing the diversity of Our Neighbourhood’s natural environment in terms of biodiversity / geodiversity, designated wildlife sites and protected species, seeking biodiversity net gain wherever possible ;

The responsible use of resources and increase in resilience to climate change by:

  1. Maximising opportunities for the redevelopment of brownfield sites and vacant or under-used buildings;
  2. Efficiently utilising land, energy, and water and incorporating use of local and renewable building materials through sensitive design, layout, density and orientation;
  3. Securing, wherever possible, on-site renewable energy generation, minimising energy consumption and carbon emissions, and securing the local sharing of technologies such as district heating schemes;
  4. Avoiding of air, land and water pollution and maximisation of waste avoidance, reuse and recycling in both construction and the lifetime of the operation;
  5. Applying the Sequential Test and if necessary the Exceptions Test (as required by the NPPF) with the aim of directing development away from the Flood Zones 2 and 3 where possible and necessary, or otherwise manage flood risk, taking into account the level of flood risk vulnerability for the relevant land uses;
  6. Incorporating the sustainable urban drainage system (SUDS) to achieve improvements in water quality, aquatic ecosystems, and habitats in order to increase resilience to climate change;

Securing equity and benefit to the local community by:

  1. Improving inclusivity by demonstrating a good level of public accessibility and where relevant incorporating seating and public toilets;
  2. Securing a design and layout which is capable of reducing crime and/ or the fear of crime, as well as respecting privacy of, and visual impact on, occupiers of neighbouring properties; and
  3. Ensuring the location and layout of the development maximise public transport, walking and cycling opportunities, and provide paving, lighting and signs which meet all needs, including those of people with disabilities, older people, and children.


4.17 Sustainable development Policy S1 sets out the economic, social and environmental criteria that development proposals will be required to meet. S1 is the first policy of the Plan for the following reasons;

  1. emphatic championing of the vision of a sustainable future for the City
  2. support for developments that achieve high levels of sustainability
  3. consistency provided for the other Themes 2 to 6 and the avoidance of duplication

4.18 The 14 elements included in Policy S1 have been placed in four groups to reflect the strong views received during the development of the plan. They are:

  • Promotion of economic well-being
  • Conservation, preservation and enhancement of Our Neighbourhood
  • The responsible use of resources and increasing resilience to climate change
  • Securing equity and benefit to the local community

4.19 Within the scope of each of these groups there are strategies, plans, policies, and advice already in place which emanate from national, regional and local bodies which are given local application throughout this Neighbourhood Plan.

Promotion of economic well-being
4.20 These matters are covered in detail in Theme 3: A City with a Diverse and Resilient Economy. Aspects that relate specifically to the responsible use of resources are included here.

Conservation and enhancement of Our Neighbourhood
4.21 These matters are covered in detail in Theme 2a: A Beautiful and Historic City – Heritage and in Theme 2b: A Beautiful and Historic City – Green Infrastructure. Aspects that relate specifically to the responsible use of resources are included here. Both the NPPF and Historic England have advised that conservation and enhancement go hand in hand.

The responsible use of resources and increasing resilience to climate change
4.22 In addition to the protection and enhancement of green assets (covered in Theme 2b: A Beautiful and Historic City – Green Infrastructure), there are four key environmental sustainability issues relevant to Our Neighbourhood: resilience to climate change, air quality, water quality and flood risk, as fully set out in Figure 1.

Securing equity and benefit to the local community
4.23 These matters are covered in detail in Theme 6: A City with an Enriched Community Life and Theme 4: A City with Attractive and Affordable Places to Live. Aspects that relate specifically to the responsible use of resources are included here.

Figure 1: The Climate Crisis and the Neighbourhood Plan

Resilience to climate change

1. The NPPF (Chapter 14) covers ‘Meeting the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change’. It notes that

The planning system should support the transition to a low carbon future in a changing climate, taking full account of flood risk and coastal change. It should help to: shape places in ways that contribute to radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, minimise vulnerability and improve resilience; encourage the reuse of existing resources, including the conversion of existing buildings; and support renewable and low carbon energy and associated infrastructure. (para. 148)

Proactive strategies are needed to mitigate and adapt to climate change, taking full account of flood risk, coastal change and water supply and demand considerations.

2. Durham County Council has addressed sustainability in its ‘Climate Change Strategy and Delivery Plan’ (County Durham Environment Partnership, 2015a,b). This key document provides a context for consideration of sustainable development in the Durham City Neighbourhood Plan and the two documents are complementary when taken together. The strategy has seven key themes; the relevant ones to this issue are:

  • A low carbon economy including: encouraging green jobs, technology innovation (e.g. micro/community energy generation) and green tourism
  • The built environment including: the challenge to ensure current buildings and businesses are energy efficient and to encourage uptake of Sustainable Urban Drainage
  • The natural environment including: protecting and enhancing the network of green spaces and corridors, enhancing biodiversity and ensuring more resilience to climate change, encouraging water management
  • Transport and infrastructure including: promoting travel choices and alternatives to private motor travel, and to diesel and petrol cars (e.g. providing electric vehicle charging points)
  • Community engagement: commitment of local people to successful delivery of a low carbon future.

The Delivery Plan states that the Council wants to engage with residents, groups and businesses so as to successfully deliver the Strategy.

3. The Council further supports sustainability in the ‘ Sustainable Communities Strategy for County Durham 2014-2030’ (County Durham Partnership, 2014). Relevant aspects include: ‘Altogether greener’ – deliver a cleaner and more attractive sustainable environment; reduce carbon emissions and adapt to the impact of climate change. The ‘Durham Strategic Green Infrastructure Framework’ (Durham County Council, 2018b) supports green infrastructure which is important to manage flooding and to help to mitigate the effects of climate change. Again, the two strategies form an essential context for the consideration and promotion of sustainable development in this Plan.

Air quality

4. The government has produced a ‘Draft UK Air Quality Plan for tackling nitrogen dioxide’ and outlined a Clean Air Zone Framework (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Department for Transport, 2017a,b). The aim of the draft Air Quality Plan is to reduce concentrations of Nitrogen Dioxide around roads and to achieve the statutory limit values for the whole of the UK within the shortest possible time. Local authorities are required to take the lead in tackling this by establishing Air Quality Management Areas, where applicable, and drawing up an action plan detailing remedial measures. A Clean Air Zone is

an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality [from all sources of pollution] … in order to shape the urban environment in a way that delivers improved health benefits and supports economic growth. ‘… [with] measures to accelerate the transition to a low emission economy … and restrictions to encourage only the cleanest vehicles to operate in the city. (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Department for Transport, 2017a, p.1,2)

5. Durham County Council declared an Air Quality Monitoring Area in May 2011, extended in July 2014, for those parts of the City where air quality is a risk to human health (i.e. the A690 from Gilesgate roundabout to Stonebridge; Gilesgate Bank (leading to Sunderland Road and Marshall Terrace); New Elvet; Claypath; Framwellgate Peth). In order to address the issues an Air Quality Action Plan was approved in June 2016 (AECOM, 2016). In support of the policy, Theme 5: A City with a Modern and Sustainable Transport Infrastructure promotes and supports alternatives to private motor vehicles, i.e. walking, cycling and use of public transport.

Water quality

6. The River Wear lies in the Northumbria River Basin District. A management plan for this river basin has been produced (Environment Agency, 2016). The purpose of a river basin management plan is to provide a framework for protecting and enhancing the water environment through land-use planning. Neighbourhood plans need to ensure that developments do not negatively affect, either directly or indirectly, the quality of the water environment, and where possible reduce the impact on the water environment.

Flood risk

7. The River Wear flows through Our Neighbourhood and there are Zone 3 Flood Risk areas on both banks: historically there have been serious floods every few years. A map of the flood risk at a specified postcode can be seen at https://flood-warning-information.service.gov.uk/long-term-flood-risk/map The NPPF (para. 155 to 165) and Planning Practice Guidance on ‘Flood risk and coastal change’ cover the approach to development and flood risk and the Environment Agency has produced a flood map for planning (currently in beta version). The NPPF (para. 157 to 164) advocates a sequential approach to the allocation of sites for future development and/or regeneration, in which areas of very low, or no, flood risk are sought as a priority. The Flood Zones comprise:

  • Zone 3b – functional floodplain
  • Zone 3a – high probability of flooding
  • Zone 2 – medium probability of flooding
  • Zone 1 – low probability of flooding

The sequential test requires that:

  1. The overall aim of decision-makers should be to steer new development to Flood Zone 1.
  2. Where there are no reasonable available sites in Flood Zone 1, decision-makers should take into account the flood risk vulnerability of land uses and consider reasonable available sites in Flood Zone 2.
  3. Only where there are no reasonably available sites in Flood Zones 1 and 2 should decision-makers consider the suitability of sites in Flood Zone 3, taking into account the flood risk vulnerability of land uses.

Typically, residential development is considered ‘more vulnerable’ for planning purposes, whereas commercial development will fall into ‘less vulnerable’. Where a risk of flooding has been identified within a site, it will be necessary to incorporate design measures to ensure that this is mitigated safely, and does not result in increase in flood risk elsewhere. In the Neighbourhood Plan all designated housing and economic sites lie in Zone 1 (low probability of flooding).

8. Durham County Council has a statutory requirement to consider the risk of flooding when determining where, and what type of development should be allowed within the County. The Council’s strategic flood risk assessment (AECOM, 2018; Durham County Council, 2016e; Durham County Council, Regeneration and Local Services, Technical Services, 2016) has the primary purpose of providing an overview of areas in County Durham that will be susceptible to flooding in a range of predictable flood events. As well as river flooding, parts of Our Neighbourhood are at risk of surface water flooding when heavy rainfall causes flooding from sewers, drains, groundwater, and runoff from land, small watercourses and ditches. It is important to follow the principles of sustainable drainage and water management in order to meet these challenges.

9. The Durham City Regeneration Masterplan (Durham County Council, 2014) outlines a number of implementation projects and actions for Our Neighbourhood (a subset of the Durham City area covered by the Masterplan). Ones relevant to flooding are: Modern infrastructure – flood mitigation measures with the Environment Agency. The saved policy U9 from the City of Durham Local Plan states that developments affecting watercourses are only permissible if they do not result in flooding or increased flood risk elsewhere, do not result in pollution of the watercourse, do not adversely affect nature conservation interests and the appearance of the landscape, and the environmental impact is properly assessed. This has informed policies in our Neighbourhood Plan.

Next section: Policy S2: The Requirement for Master Plans or Other Design and Development Frameworks

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