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West Bergholt Neighbourhood Plan


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View Comments (18) 14. Environment

14.1 Objectives

  • To maintain the distinctiveness of the parish and its identity by protecting, conserving and enhancing the natural and built environment for the enjoyment of future generations.
  • To explore opportunities to create new areas of open space.
  • To integrate new areas of development into the environment in a way which complements the built and natural environment.

14.2 Background & Intent

Situated on the edge of the Colne valley on a hill rising from St Botolph's Brook, the Parish is part of an attractive landscape with a mixture of arable and dairy farms extending from the curtilage of the village itself. Within the village are areas of open and recreational space and allotments and although there is a mixture of urban form the village has a good proportion of historic and grade listed buildings. Both rural and urban environments throughout the parish are valued by our community. There is no doubt that the village and its setting within a very rural parish combined with its degree of separation from Colchester makes the area a very desirable place to live, resulting in pressure on the environment.

So, whereas the environment is generally well maintained there are aspects which need careful attention if future generations are to continue to enjoy it. These may be classified as areas where protection is needed, enhancements to quality of man-made and natural environments and accessibility to environments.

14.3 Evidence

14.3.1 Open Spaces

Open space in the parish is predominantly sited in the village where the recreational areas (when not used for sporting activities) are available for walking, jogging and exercising. There is a fragment of ancient heath in front of the village school as well. Due to the way that development has blended in with the environment these areas are attractively lined with mature hedges and tree planting, some of which are protected by Tree Preservation Orders (TPO) which overspills into neighbouring streets creating natural walking routes which reinforce the feeling of being in a rural are despite the expansion of the village to over 3000 inhabitants. The main issue over recent years is that the majority of the recent housing developments that have been built have not made provision for further open space. An aspect that was picked up in the Parish Plan was that biodiversity action plans are required for the open spaces and allotment areas and especially the Heath notwithstanding the need for these to continue to serve sports uses and cater for informal recreation.

14.3.2 Colne Valley

On the west and south-west approaches to the village, the topography changes and land slopes down to the Colne Valley which can be reached by numerous footpaths which are extensively used by residents. The area also contains Hillhouse Wood an area of ancient woodland purchased by the community for the Woodland Trust who maintain it with the assistance of a "Friends" group of local volunteers. Although the overall area has general protection by Colchester Borough Council countryside policies, there is a need for a careful mix of improved access, good husbandry and only allowing development of a sympathetic type which respects this special landscape setting. The community surveys demonstrated a strong affection for this landscape.

14.3.3 Urban Character

This plan has followed the advice provided by Historic England on their website concerning Neighbourhood Planning and the Historic Environment.

The village has the greatest concentration of housing in the parish and despite the rather unsympathetic non-indigenous styles which have appeared of late, a number of vernacular styles are discernible and have been included in the Village Design Statement. Developers are encouraged to respect these building styles, when designing new dwellings or when householders are considering extensions to their properties. There are several listed buildings which are adequately protected by current planning legislation from either wholescale change or unsympathetic extensions. More recent developments have tended not to include adjacent enhancements to the streetscape which would include features such as seating and paved areas as well as tree planting and landscaping. Mumford and Pirie Road estates are good examples of where there is a lack of streetscape which contrast markedly with the "Lanes" character areas in the older parts of the village. (see Map PP6)

14.3.4 Informal Recreation

Great use is made of the many footpaths leading from the village to all other parts of the parish, especially The Essex Way which in this part of Essex links the neighbouring parish area of Fordham to the west and Great Horkesley to the east. There is a general lack of bridleways and few dedicated cycle ways. It is an ambition to recreate the circular walking and cycling guides which help people navigate their way around the village to enjoy the many historic and attractive features that exist.

14.3.5 Environmental Stewardship

With the loss of certain public services which the community used to take for granted comes the need for environmental stewardship. The village has the services of three handymen who attend to vegetation management as well as picking up litter and making running repairs to communal gates and fencing. This is an ever-expanding area of the Parish Council's work and care will be needed with new development to ensure that future housing areas are afforded a similar level of stewardship. Funding these "village wardens" is a constant concern.

14.3.6 Local Green Spaces and Green Infrastructure

Local green spaces can help to provide social, economic and environmental benefits, indeed some of the community and environmental benefits of local green spaces in West Bergholt include:

  • Providing such in the public realm, where social interaction can take place;
  • Providing pitches and facilities for sports and physical activity;
  • Providing habitats for wildlife and natural corridors;
  • Providing flexible space for recreation and local cultural events;
  • Providing an attractive setting and outlook for surrounding residential properties;
  • Providing part of the character and setting of historic buildings.

Following advice from the National Planning Policy Framework the Local Green Spaces will only be formally designated in this Plan where the green space is:

  • in reasonably close proximity to the village;
  • demonstrably special to the village and holds a particular local significance;
  • local in character and is not an extensive tract of land.

The sites to be designated as Local Green Space, referenced as LGS, are as listed below and as shown on Map PP5:

LGS1 - Hillhouse Wood

LGS2 - Lorkin Daniell Field

LGS3 - Poor's Land

LGS4 - Heath/Village Green

LGS5 - Allotments

LGS6 - Mumford Close Oak Tree

LGS7 - Churchyard: St Mary the Virgin Church

LGS8 - Churchyard: Old St Mary's Church

LGS9 - Pocket Park - Maltings

LGS10 - Erle Havard Park – Pirie Road

LGS11 - Queen's Road Pond

LGS12 - Lexden Road Pond

LGS13 - Hall Road Pond

LGS14 - Village Sign/Beacon Area

Green infrastructure is the network of green spaces, river systems and numerous other environmental features in the Parish that are also vital to the sustainability of West Bergholt. It includes the River Colne and St Botolph's Brook.

West Bergholt's green infrastructure also includes the play parks, the playing field and Poor's Land, large domestic gardens, the village green, woodland, scrub and heathland, wetlands, road corridors, pedestrian paths, rights of way, the allotments, cemeteries and churchyards, be they in private or public ownership and whether or not they are publicly accessible.

All green spaces and Local Green Spaces in the Parish form part of West Bergholt's green infrastructure.

However, to protect, enhance and increase the village's green infrastructure a separate policy will be developed, respecting the landscape, character and distinctiveness of West Bergholt, for the benefit of its people and wildlife.

14.3.7 Local Wildlife Sites

There are ten Local Wildlife Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation within the area which are protected within the local planning system. They are:

Co61 - Wood near Fordham Place

Co63 - Hillhouse Wood

Co65 - West Bergholt Wet Woods (including Aldercar Woods)

Co69 - Spring Wood

Co70 - Stitching Wood

Co71 - Grove Wood

Co72 - West Bergholt Hall Church

Co77 - West Bergholt Heath

Co79 - West Bergholt Church

Co87 - Spring Grove

14.3.8 Essex Coast Recreational Disturbance Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy (RAMS)

The Essex Coast is rich and diverse and has many European protected sites. There are a number of Local Plans in preparation in Essex which seek to deliver a significant number of homes over the coming 15-20 years. These new homes have a potential to bring new visitors to sensitive coast areas, resulting in potential impacts on protected sites both individually and in combination through recreational disturbance.

As a consequence, Natural England in September 2017 advised that 11 districts/boroughs Councils across Essex should jointly prepare an Essex Coast Recreational Disturbance Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy (RAMS). The strategy sets a strategic approach to identifying the scale of recreational disturbance to Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation and Ramsar sites along the Essex Coast and proposes measures to mitigate impacts.

14.3.9 Flooding and Sustainable Urban Drainage (SUDs)

The village of West Bergholt in its elevated position is within an area designated by the Environment Agency as Flood Zone 1, being an area with a low probability of flooding. The exception is to the south east and south west boundaries to the Parish, to the banks of the River Colne and St Botolph's Brook, which not by coincidence are in Flood Zone 3.

It is not thought that any development site will be situated in anything other than Flood Zone 1, however, if it was then it would require its own flood risk assessment.

Where appropriate, development sites will be expected to be provided with their own sustainable urban drainage system (SuDS) as an alternative way to manage surface water by reducing or delaying rainwater run-off.

They aim to mimic the way rainfall drains naturally rather than conventional piped methods, which can cause problems such as flooding, pollution or damage to the environment. SuDS is as a sustainable and natural way of controlling surface water run-off. Soakaways are commonly used SuDS features but so are permeable surfaces and filter drains, green roofs and swales integrating with the landscape design to add amenity for the community as well as aiding biodiversity.

14.4 Summary of SWOT

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Surrounded by open countryside.
  • Attractive open farmland
  • Protected woodland and trees.
  • The Colne Valley.
  • Rural open spaces.
  • Some historic and listed buildings.
  • Historic character areas in residential neighbourhoods.
  • Separation from Colchester's urban sprawl.
  • Area of wild heathland in the centre of the village.
  • Three ponds of differing ecological importance.
  • Time consuming and professional management of rural areas and open spaces required.
  • Litter and fly-tipping.
  • Lack of bridleways.
  • Legacy of poor-quality urban planning of previous large developments.
  • Need for biodiversity action plans for open spaces.
  • Dog fouling.

Opportunities

Threats

  • Increasing the available amount of public open space especially where new development is proposed.
  • Enhancing our environment through planting and urban realm improvements.
  • Protecting vulnerable environments through community action.
  • Improved access to rural environments through enhanced public rights of way (PROW).
  • Sympathetic management of open spaces to promote wildlife.
  • All planting programmes undertaken to enhance the natural & visual environment.
  • Developing relationships with local land & property owners to enhance the natural, visual environment (hedges & verges).
  • Concern that future development proposals will adversely affect the urban and rural environments that we all enjoy.
  • Natural landscape may degrade over time if not managed.
  • Overdevelopment leading to lack of wildlife corridors in the village.
  • Invasive species-related diseases altering the landscape for the poorer.

14.5 The Plan's Approach

The approach to this area of the plan is very much seeking to ensure that new development is able to make a positive contribution to the environment either through its design or through planning contributions to the upkeep of the environment.

As the objectives relate in part to the use and development of land and wider community aspirations both Planning Policies and Community Ambitions have been developed.

14.6 Policies and Community Ambitions

Policy No.

Environment Planning Policies

PP4:

Open Spaces

All development proposals should ensure new open spaces are intrinsic to their proposals and not designated as single purpose use but deliver multiple functions and benefits, which link to the green infrastructure network, through green corridors, cycle or footpaths and demonstrate environmental gains.

Development that results in the loss of open spaces or that results in any harm to their character, setting, accessibility or appearance, general quality or to amenity value will only be supported if the community would gain equivalent benefit from provision of a suitable replacement space.

PP5:

Local Green Spaces

The following areas designated as Local Green Space, are shown on Proposals Map PP5:

LGS1 - Hillhouse Wood

LGS2 - Lorkin Daniell Field

LGS3 - Poor's Land

LGS4 - Heath/Village Green

LGS5 - Allotments

LGS6 - Mumford Close Oak Tree

LGS7 - Churchyard: St Mary the Virgin Church

LGS8 - Churchyard: Old St Mary's Church

LGS9 - Pocket Park - Maltings

LGS10 - Erle Havard Park – Pirie Road

LGS11 - Queen's Road Pond

LGS12 - Lexden Road Pond

LGS13 - Hall Road Pond

LGS14 - Village Sign/Beacon Area

Proposals for any development on Local Green Spaces will be resisted other than in very special circumstances.

PP6:

Character Area

A "Character Area" in the village has been designated as shown on Map PP6, this area, which reflects the built local distinctiveness of Essex's heritage, will be protected from degradation. Development proposals will be expected to respect its features and character in relation to the scale, design and setting of any development.

PP7:

Heritage Assets

Any changes to heritage assets will be expected to be carried out sympathetically so that their character and appearance is preserved or enhanced proportionally.

PP8:

Trees and Hedgerows

Any development that would result in the loss of trees or hedgerows of arboricultural and amenity value will not normally be supported. The retention of trees and hedgerows in situ will always be preferable. Where the loss of such features is unavoidable, replacement provision should be of a commensurate value to that which is lost.

PP9:

Natural Environment

All development should protect and where appropriate enhance biodiversity by:

a) Protecting designated sites, protected species and ancient and species-rich hedgerows, grasslands and woodlands; and

b) Preserving ecological networks, and the migration and transit of flora and fauna; and

c) Protecting ancient trees or trees of arboricultural value, or ancient woodlands; and

d) Promoting the mitigation, preservation, restoration and recreation of wildlife habitats, and the protection and recovery of priority species; and

e) Providing a net gain in flora and fauna; and

f) Adopting best practice in sustainable urban drainage.

Proposals must demonstrate that ecological considerations have been properly assessed in relation to the application site and those adjacent to it. Where necessary mitigation measures must be carried out.

PP10:

Recreational disturbance Avoidance & Mitigation Strategy (RAMS)

All residential development within the zones of influence of Habitat Sites will be required to make a financial contribution towards mitigation measures, as detailed in the Essex Coast RAMS, to avoid adverse in-combination recreational disturbance effects on Habitat Sites. In the interim period, before the Essex Coast RAMS is completed, all residential development within the zones of influence will need to deliver all measures identified (including strategic measures) through project level HRAs, or otherwise, to mitigate any recreational disturbance impacts in compliance with the Habitat Regulations and Habitats Directive.

PP11:

Area of Separation

An "Area of Separation" is designated for the part of the parish, as shown centred on Map PP11. Changes in land use and development that adversely affect the key landscape and visual characteristics of the area will be resisted.

P12:

Key Views

The views indicated on Map PP12 will be protected and wherever possible enhanced. Any development or alteration to an area within these views must ensure that the key features of the views can continue to be enjoyed including distant buildings, areas of landscape and the juxtaposition of village edges and open agricultural countryside.

Ambition No.

Environment Community Ambitions

CA3

Streetscapes will be enhanced through planting and good verge and hedge management.

CA4

New areas of green infrastructure will be incorporated within an appropriate maintenance plan. All areas of green infrastructure will be enhanced through a biodiversity plan which seeks to improve the conditions for wildlife.

CA5

Access to the countryside will be improved through use of the existing public rights of way network

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