Local Plan Review - Publication Plan

Ends on 23 December 2022 (19 days remaining)
If you are having trouble using the system, please try our help guide.

Part E: The natural and built environment

12. Protecting and enhancing the natural environment

Protecting, enhancing and expanding natural assets

12.1 The council is committed to supporting and enhancing the quality of the natural environment and the species which it supports. South Staffordshire has a diverse range of biodiversity and geodiversity habitats, including sites and species of national regional and local importance. There are currently 11 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the district including Mottey Meadows, Kinver Edge and Highgate Common. Mottey Meadows is also a National Nature Reserve (NNR). Staffordshire County Council have identified a number of Sites of Biological Importance (SBI's) across the district and contain most of the best remaining areas of semi-natural habitat in Staffordshire. There are also 5 Local Nature Reserves (LNR's) in the district including Shoal Hill Common and Wom Brook Walk.

12.2 National legislation and policy are promoting an integrated approach to nature conservation to develop a National Recovery Network (NRN) of habitats with the aim of reversing the long-established trends of habitat and species loss. In addition to protecting designated sites, new development will be expected to contribute a biodiversity net gain (Policy NB2) as a means of compensating for losses arising from new development schemes. In addition, the protection and creation of multi-functional Green Infrastructure (Policy HC19) has the potential to support the creation of green linkages to sustain an expanding and robust interconnected network of habitats.

Policy NB1: Protecting, enhancing and expanding natural assets

Support will be given for proposals which protect and enhance the quality of the natural environment. The restoration, enhancement and creation of habitats and linkages will be supported, particularly were these contribute to the Nature Recovery Network and priorities identified in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and the Staffordshire Biodiversity Action Plan.

When determining planning applications, the council will apply the principles relevant to habitats and species protection as set out in national legislation and policy. Development proposals which are likely to affect any designated site or habitat, species or geological feature must be supported by adequate information to ensure that the impact of the proposal can be fully assessed.

Internationally Designated Sites (SACs, SPAs and Ramsar)

Where a proposed development is likely to have an adverse impact on a European designated site (whether individually or in combination with other plans or proposals) permissions will not be granted unless there is due compliance with the requirements of the Habitats and Species Regulations (2017) (as amended). Where adverse impacts are identified measures must be put in place to avoid or, if this is not possible, mitigate these impacts. Adverse impacts that cannot be avoided or adequately mitigated will not be permitted except where there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest.

Nationally Designated Sites (SSSI and NNR)

Development proposals which directly or indirectly cause harm to sites of national importance (whether individually or in combination with other developments) will not be permitted. The only exception is where satisfactory mitigation or compensation is provided, and the benefits of the proposed development clearly outweigh both the likely impacts on the features of the site that make it of national importance and any impacts on the wider national network of sites.

Locally Designated Sites (SBIs and LNRs)

Local sites will be safeguarded from development through the use of the mitigation hierarchy with avoidance as the preferred approach. Where impact is unavoidable, developers must provide mitigation or, as a last resort, compensation in the form of replacement habitat in a suitable location to ensure there is a net gain of biodiversity and that the coherence of any local ecological network is maintained.

The loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats including ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees will not be acceptable unless there are wholly exceptional reasons, and a suitable compensation strategy is agreed. Areas of very high or high habitat distinctiveness identified in the District's Nature Recovery Network Mapping (or subsequent survey work) should be avoided in the first instance.

Valued soils will be protected and enhanced, including the best and most versatile agricultural land, and development should not contribute to unacceptable levels of soil pollution.

Where there is a confirmed presence or reasonable likelihood of protected species or priority species being present on or immediately adjacent to a development site, the developer will be required to undertake an ecological survey prior to determination and will be required to demonstrate that an adequate mitigation plan is provided and where necessary suitable licenses secured to ensure no harm to protected species and no net loss of priority species.

Development proposals should be consistent with other Local Plan policies.

Key Evidence
  • South Staffordshire District Nature Recovery Network Mapping (2020)
  • Staffordshire Ecological Records
  • Evidence Base relating to Cannock Chase SAC (see policy NB3)
  • Habitats Regulations Assessment
Implementation

Local/national Funding

Development Management

Partners

Section 106 agreement

Supplementary Planning Document

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Biodiversity

12.3 The term biodiversity is used to describe the variety of different types of life found on the planet and the variations within species. Biodiversity is fundamentally important to conserve for their own sake and they also offer significant social, environmental and economic benefits which are essential to life as we know it.

12.4 The State of Nature Report published in 2019 describes: 'how the abundance and distribution of the UK's species has, on average, declined since 1970 and many metrics suggest this decline has continued in the most recent decade. There has been no let-up in the net loss of nature in the UK.'

12.5 The Environment Bill received Royal Assent on 9 November 2021 and is now an Act of Parliament. The Act is designed to 'improve air and water quality, tackle waste, increase recycling, halt the decline of species, and improve our natural environment'. The Act requires that developments and projects will now need to ensure there is at least a 10% net gain to biodiversity.

12.6 Although the 10% biodiversity net gain (BNG) requirement has not yet been introduced into planning law, the Government published a consultation on Biodiversity Net Gain Regulations and Implementation on 11 January 2022. The consultation sets out proposals on the detail of implementation of mandatory BNG.

12.7 Paragraphs 179 – 182 of the NPPF sets out the frameworks approach towards biodiversity and protected habitats.

12.8 The South Staffordshire District Nature Recovery Network Mapping was undertaken by Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and published in 2020. It forms a strategic assessment of the district's biodiversity and habitat networks. The document outlines the existing picture of the district's nature network and describes key locations where habitats may be created or enhanced to contribute to nature's recovery. The South Staffordshire District Nature Recovery Network Mapping should be considered when off-site contributions are agreed.

12.9 Applications for development affecting, or with the potential to affect, a nationally or locally designated site, protected species, priority species or priority habitat on the Red Data List, or habitat suitable for a protected species or species on this list, will need to be accompanied by an ecological survey. This survey shall be undertaken to the standards set out by BS42020:20132013 unless alternative approaches are agreed as being appropriate with the District Council's ecologist.

Policy NB2: Biodiversity

All new developments must consider biodiversity as part of any proposal. Opportunities should be taken to achieve positive gain through the form and design of development. Measures may include creating, enhancing and managing wildlife habitats and networks, and natural landscape. The built environment should be viewed as an opportunity to fully integrate biodiversity within new development through innovation. Features including green walls, roofs, bat and bird boxes will be supported on new developments where appropriate.

Previously developed land (brownfield sites) will not be considered to be vacant of biodiversity. The reuse of such sites must be undertaken carefully with regard to existing features of biodiversity interest. Development proposals on such sites will be expected to include measures that maintain and enhance important features and appropriately incorporate them within any development of the site.

Biodiversity net-gain

All new development will provide a minimum of 10% biodiversity net gain as part of the development. Proposals must meet all of the following criteria:

  1. Delivery of the biodiversity net-gain on-site wherever possible, in a manner consistent with national requirements, ensuring that existing habitats on site are maintained and enhanced as a priority. Where it is demonstrated that this cannot be achieved on site, the required level of off-site biodiversity net-gain must be provided. As a last resort, statutory biodiversity credits may be acceptable.
  2. Measurement against the latest Natural England Biodiversity Metric.
  3. Securing of the habitat in perpetuity. Where it is demonstrated that this is not possible, the habitat must be secured for at least 30 years. This will be achieved via a S106 agreement or planning conditions.

Where new habitats are created the council will seek opportunities for habitat creation that mitigates the effect of climate change on species, enhances links between habitats and facilitates species migration.

Development proposals should be consistent with other Local Plan policies.

Key Evidence
  • The South Staffordshire District Nature Recovery Network Mapping 2020
  • Infrastructure Delivery Plan
Implementation

Local/national Funding

Development Management

Partners

Section 106 agreement

Supplementary Planning Document

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Cannock Chase SAC

12.10 The main heathland areas of the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and are protected under the European Directive 92/43/EEC (The Habitats Directive). In 2007 a cross boundary partnership comprising statutory bodies with planning and land use responsibilities was formed to oversee work relating to the SAC. The partnership commissioned a number of evidence base studies which highlighted a range of impacts on the SAC arising from high visitor numbers. The studies also indicated that the increase in visitor numbers resulting from proposed new housing growth identified in local plans within a 15km radius of the SAC is likely to have a significant effect unless measures are taken to prevent harm. These impacts include fragmentation of habitat from new paths and tracks, track and path widening through erosion, trampling and compaction and soil enrichment as a consequence of dog fouling. To address these potential impacts the SAC partnership has developed a range of mitigation measures to ensure that new residential development does not adversely affect the Cannock Chase SAC. Funding to support the delivery of these management measures is derived from a per dwelling contribution paid by each net new dwelling built within the 15km Zone of Influence.

12.11 The protection afforded to the SAC by international and national directives mean that there is a legal duty on Local Planning Authorities when determining planning applications and producing plans to take account of the potential impacts of any new development on the integrity of the SAC. If any potential negative impacts are identified, the council must either refuse development, or ensure that appropriate mitigation measures are in place to enable the proposed development to proceed.

12.12 Further details on the per dwelling financial contribution and the range of proposed mitigation measures are provided in a separate Guidance Note. Governance of the SAC partnership and details of funding arrangements for mitigation measures are outlined in a joint Memorandum of Understanding and associated Financial Agreement. Funds are collected by the member authorities including South Staffordshire and remitted to Stafford Borough Council who act as the financially accountable body.

Policy NB3: Cannock Chase SAC

Development will only be permitted where it can be demonstrated that the proposal, either directly or in combination with other plans or projects, will not be likely to lead to an adverse effect upon the integrity of the Cannock Chase Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

In addition to any other likely significant effects identified all development that leads to a net increase in dwellings within the Zone of Influence around Cannock Chase SAC has the potential to have an adverse impact upon Cannock Chase SAC and must mitigate for such effects. Mitigation can be secured through developer contributions as outlined in the Guidance to Mitigation Note.

The effective avoidance of, and/or mitigation for, any identified adverse effects on the Cannock Chase SAC must be demonstrated to the council as the Competent Authority and Natural England and secured prior to the council giving approval for development. This policy has jurisdiction over developments within South Staffordshire only; however, it will be implemented jointly with neighbouring authorities via the application of complementary policies in partner Local Plans.

Development proposals should be consistent with other Local Plan policies.

Key Evidence
  • Planning Evidence Base Review Stage 1 (2017)
  • Planning Evidence Base Review Stage 2 (2021)
  • Cannock Chase SAC Partnership MOU and Financial Agreement (2022)
Implementation

Local/national Funding

Development Management

Partners

Section 106 agreement

Supplementary Planning Document

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Landscape Character

12.13 The district contains a variety of landscape character areas and designated and undesignated assets that contribute to what the district is today. At a high level the district is split into three broad character areas. The flat or gently undulating, lush, pastoral farmland of the Shropshire and Staffordshire Plain dominates the north-west of the district, with the predominantly rural Mid Severn Sandstone Plateau covering the district's southern extent. In contrast, the former coalfields and protected heathlands of the Cannock Chase and Cank Wood area cover the district's north-western extent. Within each of these areas are more localised areas that positively contribute to the district's landscape character, most notably the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the north-east and the numerous Historic Landscape Areas and pockets of Ancient Woodland scattered throughout the district.

12.14 National policy requires all areas to protect and enhance valued landscapes, recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside and to give significant weight to the protection and enhancement of areas of outstanding natural beauty. Policy NB4 seeks to offer an appropriate response to these issues, providing clarity on how the district will manage development so that it responds positively to the district's distinctive landscape character, whilst ensuring existing landscape guidance is followed and informs proposals.

Policy NB4: Landscape Character

The intrinsic rural character and local distinctiveness of the South Staffordshire landscape should be maintained and where possible enhanced. Throughout the district, the design and location of new development should take account of the characteristics and sensitivity of the landscape and its surroundings, and not have a detrimental effect on the immediate environment and on any important medium and long-distance views. Proposals must consider the County Council Landscape Character Assessment and Historic Landscape Characterisation in assessing their impacts upon landscape character and should also (where applicable) have regard to the findings of the latest Landscape Sensitivity Study prepared by the council.

All trees, woodland, and hedgerows should be protected and retained. Where any loss of these assets is demonstrably necessary or would facilitate increased biodiversity appropriate mitigation must be delivered by the applicant and appropriate maintenance arrangements established. New and replacement planting should seek to maximise biodiversity in a manner that complements the habitats within and character of the surrounding area.

Proposals within the Historic Landscape Areas (HLA) defined on the Policies Map should have special regard to the desirability of conserving and enhancing the historic landscape character, important landscape features and the setting of the HLA.

All proposals within the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and its setting must conserve and enhance the landscape and scenic beauty of the area. In assessing proposals within the AONB or its setting regard must be had to the Cannock Chase AONB Design Guide 2020 and Cannock Chase AONB Views and Setting Guide 2020, or subsequent updates of these documents. Proposals that contribute to the objectives of the Cannock Chase AONB Management Plan, the Forest of Mercia and other local initiatives that will contribute to enhancing landscape character will be supported.

Development proposals should be consistent with other Local Plan policies.

Key Evidence
  • Landscape Sensitivity Study 2019
  • Planning for Landscape Change - Staffordshire County Council
  • Cannock Chase AONB Design Guide 2020
  • Cannock Chase AONB Views and Setting Guide 2020
  • Cannock Chase AONB Management Plan
  • Historic Landscape Characterisation
Implementation

Local/national Funding

Development Management

Partners

Section 106 agreement

Supplementary Planning Document

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

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