Developer Contributions Supplementary Planning Document

If you are having trouble using the system, please try our help guide.

(9) 8 NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

Local Plan Policies

Other relevant Strategies & Guidance

  • SP11: Natural resources and sustainability
  • SP12: Green Infrastructure, landscape and biodiversity
  • D1: Sustainable design
  • Policy NEx: Strategic green infrastructure
  • NEx: Biodiversity and geological sites
  • NE4: Protecting open space
  • NEx: New and improved open space
  • NE7: Reducing flood risk
  • Policy
  • NE8: Sustainable drainage systems
  • NE9: Water quality and environment
  • NE10: Water conservation and wastewater infrastructure
  • NE11: Contaminated land
  • NE12: Renewable and low carbon energy development
  • Site-specific policy criteria

  • North Hertfordshire Playing Pitch Strategy and Action Plan
  • A Green Space Management Strategy for North Hertfordshire
  • Hertfordshire Rights of Way Improvement Plan
  • NHDC Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP)*
  • Planning for biodiversity and the natural environment in Hertfordshire: guiding principles
  • Hertfordshire Biodiversity Action Plan
  • Hertfordshire County Council Guide to Developer Infrastructure Contributions[31]
  • Therfield Heath SSSI Mitigation Strategy*
  • North Hertfordshire Green Infrastructure Strategy
  • NHDC Green Space Action Plans (various)
  • Strategic Flood Risk Assessment Update (2016)
  • Affinity Water Draft Drought Management Plan 2017
  • Hertfordshire Renewable and Low Carbon Energy Technical Study
  • Thames and Great Ouse River Basin Management Plan

*Forthcoming

8.1 Policy context

8.1.1 The NPPF identifies that access to a network of high quality open spaces is important for the health and well-being of communities[32]. It also seeks to minimise impacts on, and provide net gains for, biodiversity and advocates a proactive approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change[33].

8.1.2 Open spaces are a defining feature of North Hertfordshire and provide a valuable resource for recreation, sports and culture. The quality of the open spaces is critical to ensure that active lifestyles can be promoted.

8.1.3 The Local Plan contains a range of policy requirements relating to open space and the natural environment which, collectively, seek the provision and retention of a network of quality spaces.

8.1.4 These policy requirements are supported by a breadth of supporting strategies produced by the District Council, County Council and other bodies.

8.2 Biodiversity

8.2.1 Where biodiversity measures are provided in, or otherwise associated with, a development (e.g. through the provision of natural or semi-natural greenspace), a long-term maintenance and management plan will be required having regard to the advice provided in relation to open spaces above.

8.2.2 Similarly, planning conditions and legal agreements will be used to set out the required biodiversity mitigation measures (including during the construction phase) or as a last resort, compensation, as required by Policy NEx Biodiversity and geological sites.

8.3 Therfield Heath SSSI Mitigation Strategy

8.3.1 Therfield Heath is a popular destination for recreational walkers at the west of Royston. This site is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is necessary to manage recreational disturbance to protect the notified features of the site.

8.3.2 The Council is working with Natural England and the heath's Conservators to develop a planning mitigation strategy to inform new developments within the SSSI's identified Zone of Influence (ZOI). Sites within the ZOI may be required to make appropriate contributions towards projects or approaches identified in the Strategy, or any other management strategy (or equivalent) produced for this area.

8.3.3 This approach may require schemes to make provision for and / or contributions towards:

  • Enhanced open space provision within the development scheme;
  • Contributions towards provision or projects within the SSSI to be delivered in agreement with Natural England and / or the Conservators of Therfield Heath;
  • Alternate recreation provision or projects within Royston and the surrounding area that provide alternate open space, leisure routes and / or recreational opportunities.

8.4 Open Spaces

General principles and standards

8.4.1 Contributions towards new or improved open space are required by the Local Plan. The priority is to secure on-site provision, however the policy recognises that financial contributions may be accepted in certain instances. The Local Plan identifies that long term maintenance and management plans are needed and planning obligations may be used to secure such arrangements. Engagement with the appropriate Parish, Town or Community Council(s) should be undertaken in relevant areas.

8.4.2 In determining the amount of open space required on development sites, applicants should have regard to the Council's open space standards. The current standards for on-site open space provision are outlined below. These standards may be updated over time.

2016 Open Space Standards

8.4.3 For developments where the anticipated unit mix is known, the Council will have regard to the following household sizes when determining the level of open space provision in a particular development. These household sizes have been derived from average household sizes taken from the 2011 Census. Where the unit mix is not known (e.g. at pre-application or outline application stage), an overall occupancy level of 2.4 persons per home will be used.

8.4.4 All schemes should have regard to these standards as a guide when proposals are developed. The open space standards should not be treated as a cap for open space provision. We will encourage provision at above minimum standards wherever possible.

Qualitative criteria: determining the type of open space provided

8.4.5 The Council will take a pragmatic approach to the application of the standards and the delivery of new open space. To streamline the open space standards, and to recognise the need to respond to specific site circumstances, the general 'Multi-functional Open Space' category is used. This category includes Amenity Greenspace & Recreation as well as Natural and Semi-Natural Greenspace. Provision can therefore be adapted depending on the site in question, taking into account deficiencies, surpluses and priorities, which will be variable over the plan period and in different locations.

8.4.6 It is acknowledged that some types of open spaces can only be delivered at a strategic scale due to the amount of space that would be required and that they may need to be grouped together to ensure the long term management.

8.4.7 No standards have been set for the on-site provision of the following types of open space. These are often either strategic in nature, more likely to be provided as standalone facilities and/or provided as part of other forms of open space or landscaping:

  • Parks and Gardens
  • Cemeteries and Churchyards
  • Green Corridors

8.4.8 Provision towards these forms of open space will be considered on a case-by-case basis having regard to:

  • The generated needs arising from the scheme suggested by recognised benchmark guidelines, such as the Fields in Trust standards;
  • Any specific requirements set out in other adopted plans or strategies (such as the Green Space Management Strategy and any associated Action Plans); and
  • The advice in this document

Parks and gardens

8.4.9 Parks and gardens includes urban parks (normally with formally laid out paths, planting and / or areas of maintained grass for general amenity and recreation), formal gardens and country parks.

8.4.10 Most proposed sites will not be large enough to accommodate a meaningful park or garden on-site or would be served by an existing facility or other strategic-scale open space provision. For this reason, we have not identified a specific standard for new developments. On non-strategic sites, contributions may be sought towards existing facilities having regard to specific projects identified in green space strategies or action plans, Neighbourhood Plans or other relevant documents.

8.4.11 Of the largest, strategic sites in the Local Plan, the proposed North of Baldock and East of Luton sites would each generate a requirement of five hectares or more open space provision when considering the Fields in Trust recommended standards and expected occupancy figures. The most appropriate approach to parks and gardens provision on these sites will be negotiated as applications are brought forward having regard to the standards mentioned above and other relevant information.

8.4.12 In relation to the remaining proposed strategic sites, provision for this type of open space may be dealt with as set out below and appropriate contributions may be sought towards relevant projects:

  • The site North of Letchworth Garden City is located adjacent to the existing recreation ground which could provide opportunities for some more formal provision.
  • The site North of Stevenage would have access to the proposed Forster Country Park (within Stevenage Borough), which would provide strategic scale open space provision.
  • The Land off Mendip Way site in Great Ashby would have access to Great Ashby District Park.
  • The Highover Farm site in Hitchin is smaller in size and residents are likely to make use of existing strategic facilities in Hitchin or Letchworth Garden City.

Provision for children and young people

8.4.13 The Council will expect on-site provision for children and young People where application of the standards generates a requirement equal to or exceeding 0.8 facilities. In determining the size of facilities provided on-site, the Fields in Trust recommended facilities sizes should be used. These are as follows:

Outdoor sports facilities and allotments

8.4.14 In relation to Outdoor Sports Facilities and allotments, the Council will only seek on-site provision where this would generate a usable quantity of open space for a form of provision for which there is an identified requirement.

8.4.15 On strategic sites, where contributions towards sports facilities are provided, the Council will expect the inclusion of Community Use Agreements to ensure that the use of the facilities can be maximised,

8.4.16 The most up to date Playing Pitch Strategy and Action Plan sets out a series of management and programming actions and this should be used to identify projects for future developer contributions.

8.4.17 For allotments, the Council may accept provision in the form of informal community gardens or landscaping with space for residents to grow food rather than towards the provision of formalised plots, which tend to be grouped together in larger numbers. Where this is the case, a maintenance and management plan should be provided to ensure the long-term quality of such sites.

8.4.18 Where on-site provision is not deemed appropriate, financial contributions may be sought towards identified projects.

Payments in lieu towards any type of open space

8.4.19 Payments in lieu may be considered where the full amount of required open space cannot be realistically delivered on-site. Financial contributions may be directed towards the creation of new, or improvements to existing open spaces. This may apply to any type of open space sought.

Management of open spaces

8.4.20 Long term management regimes should be demonstrated (such as private management companies secured through S106 Obligations), or arrangements made for a commuted sum to cover the cost of long term maintenance. This is important in light of the Council's current Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS), which recognises that significant savings in revenue expenditure in green spaces is required over the coming years. It should also be noted that the Countryside Management Service provides management support to deliver maintenance at many of the countryside sites through 'friends of…' or groups of volunteers.

8.4.21 The Council's approach will generally be to not adopt open spaces which are considered a long-term liability to the organisation. In un-parished areas, the Council will normally expect the applicant to make arrangements for a management company to take on responsibility for the ongoing maintenance of areas of open space within the development.

8.4.22 In parished areas, applicants should approach the relevant Parish, Town or Community Council(s) at an early stage in the process to determine whether they may wish to adopt any of the open spaces that are planned. If this approach is unsuccessful, a management company will be required as above.

8.4.23 Where any open spaces are to be transferred to the District, Parish, Town and / or Community Council(s), the developer will maintain ownership and management responsibilities throughout the construction phase. Upon completion of the development, the space(s) should be transferred. A payment to cover at least ten years maintenance costs will be required. For larger or strategic sites, the ten-year timeframe may be extended.

8.4.24 In the event of a legal agreement seeking a transfer or open space to the District Council, the Council will also seek to ensure that the legal / administrative costs of the transfer are secured through the S106 agreement as well as the on-going maintenance charge.

8.5 Flood risk and management

8.5.1 Policy SP11 Natural resources and sustainability expects that development is directed at areas of lowest risk of flooding and that Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) and other appropriate measures are in place. Applicants are required to work with the Lead Local Flood Authority (Hertfordshire County Council), the Environment Agency and Internal Drainage Boards at the earliest opportunity.

8.5.2 It is expected that any necessary flood mitigation measures are to be provided by the developer through on or off site provisions to make the proposed development acceptable and this will be secured by planning conditions and/or legal agreement.

8.5.3 Where SuDS are required, on-going management and maintenance arrangements will need to be demonstrated. All management and maintenance arrangements for SUDs will be at nil cost to the Council and in no circumstances will the Council seek to adopt SUDs schemes as part of a wider open space transfer.

8.6 Waterways

8.6.1 Policy NE9 Water quality and environment requires river restoration and resilience improvements where proposals are situated close to a river or considered to affect nearby watercourses. In some instances contributions will be required towards these measures. These may also form part of a programme to deliver biodiversity gains associated with new development.

8.6.2 In particular there are a number of rare chalk streams in Hertfordshire. There are only around 200 such streams in the world of which 85% are found in the UK. The Environment Agency has been working with water companies and key partners to improve and restore chalk streams in the area. Contributions may be sought towards appropriate projects.

8.6.3 Developments may also need to incorporate improvements in the efficiency of water use, surface drainage systems and pollution prevention measures and such measures will be secured via planning conditions or legal agreement.

8.6.4 Applicants should work with the Council, the Internal Drainage Board and the Environment Agency where proposals affect water resources.

8.7 Other forms of Green Infrastructure

8.7.1 The subsections above refer to various forms of green infrastructure. However, these are not exhaustive. The provision of open space (in the context of Section 8.4), for example, relates to more formal, and mainly publically accessible, opportunities within settlements or proposed developments.

8.7.2 The definition of Green Infrastructure is much broader than this. It includes green spaces outside of settlement boundaries such as areas of woodland, other key habitats or species-rich areas. These may or may not be publically accessible. It also encompasses access links such as the rights of way network, long-distance paths and cycle routes and the broader setting of all of these assets in the landscape.

8.7.3 The District's Green Infrastructure Plan identifies a range of potential measures. Where it is reasonable to do so, the Council may also seek contributions towards identified projects in this or any equivalent successor document.

8.8 Water supply and waste-water infrastructure

8.8.1 Local Plan Policy SP11 Natural resources and sustainability requires that the water environment is protected, enhanced and managed. The Water Cycle Studies for both the Rye Meads catchment area and Royston identify technical solutions that will be secured via planning conditions and/or legal agreement.

8.8.2 The Environment Agency's Catchment Data Explorer should be used to identify contributions that may be required by development proposals towards improvements to water resources.

8.8.3 Residential schemes are required by Policy D1 Sustainable design to meet or exceed the optional water efficiency standards. This will be secured by planning conditions and/or legal agreement.

8.8.4 Mechanisms for delivering any necessary new or improved water and/ or wastewater infrastructure, including foul water treatment and disposal, may be required via planning conditions and/or legal agreement in accordance with Local Plan Policy NE10 Water Conservation and wastewater infrastructure.

8.9 Development on contaminated land

8.9.1 The Council will support proposals that involve the remediation of contaminated land in line with Local Plan Policy SP11 Natural resources and sustainability.

8.9.2 Where a contaminated land study/contaminated land risk assessment identifies required remediation works in accordance with Local Plan Policy NE11 Contaminated land, these will be secured through planning conditions and/or legal agreement. Remediation works may include measures to safely manage land contamination before, during and after development.

8.10 Climate change and renewable and decentralised energy

8.10.1 Local Plan policy SP11 Natural resources and sustainability supports proposals for low carbon energy and Policy D1 Sustainable design requires development proposals to reduce energy consumption and future proof for changes in technology and lifestyle. In securing such measures relating to design (including materials used) and the use of technology, the Council will use planning conditions and/or legal agreements.

8.10.2 Policy NE12 Renewable and low carbon energy development refers to renewable and low carbon energy development comprising wind, wave, tidal, hydro or solar power and biomass fuels. On larger schemes, there may be opportunities for decentralised energy. In line with the National Planning Policy Framework, any impacts of this type of development should be addressed. This may include the use of planning conditions and/or legal agreement to secure any mitigation measures.

8.10.3 The Hertfordshire Renewable and Low Carbon Energy Technical Study should be used when considering energy opportunity areas in the District.


Appendix A: S106 process flow-chart

Proposal development and early engagement

Development proposal designed in accordance with Council policy and early engagement with Council officers to determine if planning obligations will be required

Pre-application stage

Where planning obligations are required, and a pre-application is submitted to the Council, the Council will consider the impacts of the proposal and provide indicative S106 Heads of Terms to the applicant

Other organisations may run their own pre-application services

Heads of Terms

Discussion and agreement of Heads of Terms between applicant and Council

Planning application stage

Application submitted alongside planning obligations statement and draft Heads of Terms, solicitors contact details and land title information

All obligations will be coordinated by the case officer. Applications will be recommended for refusal if necessary obligations are not agreed

Consultation

Application validated and public consultation on the application and any revision to Heads of Terms if needed

Committee

Heads of Terms included in the report to planning committee and decision made to approve or refuse subject to completion of the S106 agreement.

Positive recommendations will be presented to the Planning Control Committee only following the completion of an agreed S106 Obligation document by all parties (not signed) to avoid unacceptable delays between Committee resolution and completion of a S106 Obligation.

The application will be refused if the legal agreement is not signed within the agreed timescale

Completion of legal agreement

Legal agreement signed and planning permission issued


[31] Hertfordshire County Council Guide to Developer Infrastructure Contributions (…TBC…) https://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/about-the-council/consultations/environment/draft-developer-contributions-guide-consultation.aspx

[32] NPPF Paragraph 96

[33] NPPF Paragraphs 149 and 170

If you are having trouble using the system, please try our help guide.
back to top back to top