Some assistance with council policy
- Braintree District Council current Local Plan states “The Plan will provide for
future local needs for homes,
employment, and business
sites, whilst protecting the
most valuable countryside and
maintaining a high quality of life
in the District”. Does this proposal do that?
- Did you know that the site is wholly outside the Braintree District Boundary approved in September 2014 in the Pre Submission Plan and so this development is building on land not allocated for development.
- Braintree District Council’s own core strategy states that the council, in planning decisions shall seek “To protect, restore and enhance the natural habitats, biodiversity, landscape character, amenity and environmental quality of the countryside and the open spaces and green corridors within towns and villages and improve ecological connectivity across the District. Apart from the identified Growth Locations, the open countryside between the Main Towns, Key Service Villages and Other Villages should be kept undeveloped.”. Does this proposal do that?
- Did you know the site is Greenfield land (i.e. previously undeveloped land)? Braintree District Council’s own Core Strategy on sustainability states that the Council will promote the development of previously developed sites (i.e. brownfield sits) and urban regeneration to limit the extent of greenfield land required. 344 potential development sites were submitted to the council in 2014 in it’s “Call for Sites” and 89 are Brownfield sites which themselves could accommodate 2383 homes. The total land in the call for sites amounted to 3176 hectares of land, accommodating over 68000 new homes. The Council must build between 12000 and 15000 up until 2033. Therefore the land that has been put forward is 4 ½ times that which is required! There is no shortage of sites. As the call for sites process has not yet been concluded no one can say that any of those sites are unsuitable. The new local plan is not yet in place and so the council (and residents) have no blueprint or cohesive development plan in place. This application is therefore unsuitable and also premature as there is no evidence that there are not lots of alternative sites that are more suitable in planning terms.
- Did you know the Council have policies specifically to prevent the coalescence (merging) of Braintree, Rayne and Notley?The Braintree District Settlement Fringes Evaluation of Landscape Analysis Study of Braintree and environs report prepared for
Braintree District Council and dated June 2015 stated the land subject to this application “played important roles in preserving the separation between Braintree and… Rayne…and are landscapes sensitive to change as they provide a rural setting to the settlements. In the southern portion of Braintree’s environs there are several small towns or villages that are settlements physically separated from Braintree, namely Rayne… Great Notley. Thus Parcels in the intervening areas between Braintree and these settlements have typically been assessed as having a Medium-Low capacity to accommodate future development” The Council’s own report therefore says that this land has a low-medium capacity for development and that only land assessed as medium-high should be used, or certainly used first. The Essex County Council heritage and conservation officer has stated the development “will almost eradicate the separation and negatively affect the character and appearance of Rayne including the conservation area and grade II and I buildings.”
- The Essex County Council Heritage and Conservation Advisor has told the Council that he is strongly opposed to the development as the potential benefit does not outweigh the very real harm which will be caused to heritage assets in the area including grade II buildings. His view is it offends s66 and s72 of the Planning (listed buildings and conservation area) Act 1990. Parliament’s intention in enacting s.66 was that decision makers should give “considerable importance and weight” to the desirability of preserving the setting of listed buildings when carrying out the balancing exercise. The law states that the Council “shall have special regard to the desirability of preserving the building or its setting or any features of special architectural or historic interest which it possesses” and “Where a proposed development will lead to substantial harm to or total loss of significance of a designated heritage asset, local planning authorities should refuse consent, unless it can be demonstrated that the substantial harm or loss is necessary to achieve substantial public benefits that outweigh that harm or loss”. It is not. The law therefore dictates that this should be refused on heritage grounds alone.
- Did you know that Natural England in its consultation deemed the land to be “best and most versatile” Paragraph 112 of the National Planning Policy Framework states that councils should seek to use areas of poorer quality land in preference to that of high quality land?
- The Flitch Way is deemed as a Country Park, defined as areas for people to visit and enjoy recreation in a countryside environment predominantly natural or semi-natural landscape, e.g. woodland, grassland, wetland, heathland or parkland.” Would this development retain those features of the Flitch Country Park?
- It is also deemed as a Suitable Accessible Natural Greenspace (SANG). A SANG must have ‘no unpleasant intrusions’ and should provide ‘naturalistic space with areas of open countryside and areas of dense and scattered trees and shrubs. Would that remain the case if this development went ahead.
- Also the site is an official Local Wildlife Site, which the Wildlife Trust says “Local Wildlife Sites (LWSs) are identified and selected for their local nature conservation value. They protect threatened species and habitats acting as buffers, stepping stones and corridors between nationally-designated wildlife sites.”. Braintree District Council’s policy CS8 states “the enhancement of the natural environment will be encouraged through…protecting local wildlife sites”. Will the development protect the wildlife site?
- Braintree Council planning Objectives 8, 11 and 14 seek to promote accessibility and ensure there is necessary infrastructure to support it, reduce contributions to climate change and improve air quality. Would the extra traffic do this? Is there appropriate infrastructure in place or would this just increase the congestion/ already saturated local traffic issue especially at Pods Brook roundabout? Are the plans proposed adequate to meet this issue?
- Braintree planning objective 13 states to avoid development in areas at risk of flooding. This risk will only increase with climate change. This proposal is in flood zones 2 and 3. The Governments Technical Guidance to the National Planning Policy Framework paragraph 5 states: “The overall aim should be to steer new development to Flood Zone 1. Where there are no reasonably available sites in Flood Zone 1, local planning authorities allocating land in local plans or determining planning applications for development at any particular location should take into account the flood risk vulnerability of land uses (see table 2) and consider reasonably available sites in Flood Zone 2, applying the Exception Test if required (see table 3). Only where there are no reasonably available sites in Flood Zones 1 or 2 should the suitability of sites in Flood Zone 3 be considered, taking into account the flood risk vulnerability of land uses and applying the Exception Test if required.” There is no evidence that any of the other sites in the call for sites is in flood zones 2 or 3. Therefore to comply with this important policy surely the other suitable sites must be ruled out first because at present there is evidence that there are other reasonably available sites not in flood zones 2 or 3?