Local Plan Review - Publication Plan

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13. Climate change and sustainable development

Renewable and low carbon energy

13.1 The council declared a Climate Emergency in 2019, recognising the urgency and scale of the climate crisis. The Local Plan Review needs to play its part in achieving the rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions required to provide a liveable future for residents in the district and beyond. Currently Staffordshire's demand for electricity is around ten times greater than the County's renewable energy generation capacity, with this gap only set to increase with the increasing reliance on electricity for transport and low carbon heating. Local evidence suggests that bridging this gap will require both decentralised renewable energy generation and large-scale increases in renewable technology, particularly wind and solar energy.

13.2 Providing a policy framework for rapid growth in these technologies will be crucial to ensuring that South Staffordshire plays its part in decarbonising the grid by 2035. Policy NB6 is designed to drive decentralised renewable provision on new development sites. However there has been limited growth in large scale renewable schemes within South Staffordshire during the previous plan period. Specifically, there has been no new large-scale onshore wind schemes consented and limited growth in large scale solar farms. Evidence suggests this needs to be addressed quickly if the government's ambition to increase growth in onshore wind and solar through the 2020s is to be realised.

13.3 To provide a policy framework to deliver growth in renewable energy generation, Policy NB5 indicates support for such schemes within the district. It also provides clear criteria to guide solar and wind schemes to less sensitive areas of the district. These are designed to help balance the rapid growth required in these technologies with the need to protect the amenity of the district's residents, safeguard its valuable agricultural land resources and address specific issues relevant to wind technologies in particular. It also recognises that many of the opportunity areas for renewable schemes within the district are in the Green Belt, addressing this issue to provide clarity to applicants.

Policy NB5: Renewable and low carbon energy generation

The development of renewable or sustainable energy technologies and complementary infrastructure will be supported throughout the district, subject to conformity with other local plan policies. Such technologies include solar, wind, district heating, hydroelectricity, ground source heat and complementary battery storage schemes. In considering the impacts of a scheme the cumulative impact of the proposed development will be considered along with other planned, committed or completed development.

In addition to conformity with other local plan policies, solar energy proposals must also demonstrate that:

  1. The use of agricultural land is necessary and no alternative available and suitable previously developed site within the district can accommodate a scheme of similar scale. The area of search considered should have regard to a viable connection (in distance) to the National Grid;
  2. If (a) is satisfied but the scheme is on Best and Most Versatile Agricultural Land, that there are no alternative sites on lower grade agricultural land that could accommodate the scheme; and
  3. That the proposal has considered opportunities for continued agricultural use (where feasible) and will maximise biodiversity benefits around arrays.

In the case of wind energy proposals, the whole of the district is designated as an area of search suitable in principle for wind energy development. In addition to conformity with other local plan policies, wind proposals must also demonstrate all of the following:

  1. The development does not create a potential hazard to the public, including users of highways, footpaths, bridleways or other public rights of way.
  2. The development does not interfere with telecommunication paths or air traffic services including those associated with the military.
  3. They do not have an overshadowing or overbearing effect on nearby residents.
  4. The development avoids or adequately mitigates shadow, flicker, noise and any other adverse impact on amenity.
  5. Following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by affected local communities have been fully addressed.

Within the district's Green Belt, elements of many renewable energy schemes may comprise inappropriate development and in all such cases schemes must demonstrate very special circumstances in order to be granted permission. Benefits of schemes relevant in considering whether very special circumstances exist may include (but are not limited to) the wider environmental benefits associated with increased production of energy from renewable sources.

Development proposals should be consistent with other Local Plan policies.

Key Evidence
  • Staffordshire Climate Change Adaptation & Mitigation - Baseline
  • Staffordshire Climate Change Adaptation & Mitigation - Final Report
  • Climate Change Topic Paper
Implementation

Local/national Funding

Partnerships

Section 106/278

Development Management

Supplementary Planning Document

No Yes No Yes No

Sustainable Construction

Addressing the Climate Emergency – new development

13.4 Emissions from buildings are the district's biggest source of emissions aside from surface transport. New development needs to avoid worsening this issue and can play a part in encouraging widespread use of the technologies needed to decarbonise the wider built stock in the district. The Local Plan Review anticipates significant increases in residential and employment growth and it is important that emissions associated with the energy needs and construction of this growth are minimised as far and as quickly as possible.

13.5 It is also vital that decentralised renewable energy generation is delivered wherever possible and that increased monitoring of new development occurs to ensure that 'as built' outcomes match those proposed at the design stage. If these issues aren't addressed, the district will fail to play its part in decarbonising Staffordshire's energy demands and there will continue to be a performance gap in building standards. The district is in an area of serious water stress, and the effects of climate change will only serve to worsen this issue in future.

13.6 To address these issues the policy draws on existing national assessment frameworks to set carbon reduction targets for energy use in new developments, whilst increasing monitoring of 'as built' outcomes to offer greater assurance that the required reductions are actually achieved on the ground. It also requires larger developments to robustly assess and seek opportunities to reduce their embodied carbon footprint. This recognises that embodied emissions are as significant a source of emissions as a building's energy needs. Policy standards are also set for water efficiency, recognising the scale of the issue facing the district's water supply and the need to minimise new developments' impact on this.

Policy NB6: Sustainable construction

1. Residential development carbon reduction and water efficiency standards

New development of one or more new dwellings must achieve net zero regulated carbon emissions. In achieving this all schemes must demonstrate application of the energy hierarchy through submission of an energy statement showing compliance with all of the following:

  1. A minimum 63% reduction in carbon emissions is achieved for each dwelling by on-site measures compared to the relevant baseline rates set by Building Regulations Part L 2021. In achieving this, each dwelling must demonstrate at least a 10% improvement on the Part L 2021 Target for Fabric Energy Efficiency and must not include fossil fuel-based heating systems or be connected to the gas grid.
  2. Once minimum improvements in fabric efficiency and carbon reduction in (a) are delivered, additional on-site renewable energy generation must be provided, or connections made to on or near site renewable/low-carbon community energy generation and storage networks. Any such measures must be sufficient to achieve at least zero regulated carbon across the scheme and schemes should also look for opportunities to go beyond this standard where feasible. If full compliance is not achieved proposals must demonstrate how such technologies have been provided to the greatest extent feasible.
  3. For major developments, any remaining residual regulated carbon emissions which demonstrably cannot be addressed via on or near site, renewable technologies must be offset. Offsetting will only be considered an acceptable alternative to renewable energy generation in meeting net zero carbon requirements if it can be demonstrated that the necessary emission reductions achieved via renewable energy generation are demonstrably unfeasible. Offsetting will be delivered via an in lieu financial contribution to the District Council's carbon offsetting fund. Any offsetting sum must reflect 30 years of residual emissions arising from the development. The carbon offset price is the latest central figure from the nationally recognised non-traded valuation of carbon, set through the Treasury Green Book.

All residential schemes' energy statements must also show compliance with a water efficiency standard of 110 litres/person/day. Water reuse and recycling and rainwater harvesting should be incorporated wherever feasible to reduce demand on mains water supply, subject to viability.

2. Non-residential development carbon reduction standards

New development with a gross internal area of 1,000sqm or more of new non-residential floorspace should demonstrate application of the energy hierarchy through submission of an energy statement which meets all of the following:

  1. Demonstrates compliance with the latest BREEAM 'Excellent' standard as a minimum, targeting compliance with BREEAM 'Outstanding' wherever possible;
  2. Whilst achieving compliance with the standards in (a), priority must be given to maximising credits achieved under BREEAM criteria Ene01 in all cases;
  3. Demonstrates the fullest viable use of onsite renewable energy generation measures to meet operational energy demand from the scheme.

3. Embodied carbon and closing the performance gap

All major development must also demonstrate in the energy statement how the embodied carbon of the proposed materials to be used in the development has been considered and reduced where possible, including with regard to the type, life cycle and source of materials to be used. Proposals for development of 50 dwellings or more or 5,000sqm or more of new non-residential gross internal floorspace must be accompanied by a nationally recognised Whole Life Carbon Assessment and demonstrate actions to reduce life-cycle carbon emissions.

For all major residential and non-residential developments, applicants must also implement a recognised quality regime that ensures the 'as built' performance (energy use, carbon emissions, indoor air quality, and overheating risk) matches the calculated design performance of dwellings as specified above. This will be secured via planning conditions. Developers must ensure that a recognised monitoring regime is put in place to allow the assessment of energy use, indoor air quality, and overheating risk for 10% of the proposed dwellings (of the council's choosing) for the first five years of their occupancy, and ensure that the information recovered is provided to the applicable occupiers and the planning authority.

4. Retrofit

Proposals which would result in considerable improvements to the energy efficiency, carbon emissions and/or general suitability, condition and longevity of existing buildings will be supported, with significant weight attributed to those benefits.

Development proposals should be consistent with other Local Plan policies.

13.7 To assist in showing compliance with this policy, all energy statements for residential developments should lay out the U-values and airtightness of any proposed dwellings in comparison to the notional values in the 2025 Future Homes Standard (indicative specification, or final, as available at time of application).

13.8 Carbon offsetting projects delivered through this policy could include but are not limited to: renewable energy generation; retrofitting in existing buildings; large-scale tree planting. Projects will be delivered within South Staffordshire wherever possible but could include neighbouring authorities and cross-border initiatives where there is a benefit to doing so (e.g. deliverability; economies of scale; social benefits).

13.9 The council will prepare and maintain supplementary planning guidance setting out how contributions to the Carbon Offset Fund will be utilised to enable net-zero carbon, and how the council's discretion will be exercised with regards to assessing the acceptability of any alternative off-site offsetting solutions that may be proposed by developers. This will include a list of projects to be funded and regularly reviewed in line with the council's Climate Emergency Action Programme to ensure that there is transparency throughout the process.

13.10 Further guidance on how to achieve compliance with this policy and the operation of any carbon offsetting fund will be set out in a Sustainable Construction and Climate Change SPD.

Key Evidence
  • Staffordshire Climate Change Adaptation & Mitigation - Baseline
  • Staffordshire Climate Change Adaptation & Mitigation - Final Report
  • Water Cycle Study 2020
  • Climate Change Topic Paper
Implementation

Local/national Funding

Partnerships

Section 106/278

Development Management

Supplementary Planning Document

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Managing flood risk, sustainable drainage systems & water quality

13.11 The Environment Agency retains a strategic overview of flood risk management relating to main rivers and is a statutory consultee for development within Floodzones 2 and 3 as well as development within the riverbed or within 20m of a main river.

13.12 Flood risk arises from several sources; River Flooding (fluvial), Surface Water, groundwater, sewers and where ordinary watercourses become overwhelmed. These sources have been examined in the SFRA which informs this plan. Developers should refer to the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment which preparing proposals and their approach should reflect and take into account its contents.

13.13 The NPPF requires the Plan to reduce and manage flood risk by firstly assessing that risk and applying the sequential test, to allocating or developing land to avoid locating development in areas of higher risk and where that is not possible managing and mitigating that risk taking into account the vulnerability of site users.

13.14 Any proposed development within 8m of a main river watercourse will require an environmental permit from the Environment Agency, and any development that could impact the flow within an ordinary watercourse will require consent from Staffordshire County Council as Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA).

13.15 Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDs) are designed to reduce the potential impact of surface water drainage discharges from both new and existing developments. SuDS aim to replicate natural systems of surface water runoff through collection, storage and cleaning before releasing water slowly and reducing the possible risk of flooding. Existing conventional drainage systems can bring about rapid runoff which may result in flooding, pollution and potential contamination of groundwater sources. Climate change is expected to result in more episodes of shorter rainfall duration and greater water volume for which some existing infrastructure is likely to be inadequate. Examples of the type of system that can be provided for large-scale developments are reed beds and other wetland habitats that collect, store and improve water quality along with providing a habitat for wildlife. For smaller developments SuDs might include green roofs or rainwater harvesting techniques.

13.16 SuDs potentially have such an important influence on the layout of new development schemes that early engagement with the LLFA, Local Planning Authority and other relevant authorities are considered crucial to their success. Engagement with Staffordshire County Council as the flood risk authority is encouraged.

13.17 In the site-by-site consideration of land that can be counted towards open space, quite often SuDs features e.g. ditches or steep sided open water retention ponds, cannot be included as being useable open space for public use. Where for example, such features have steep sides, or are likely to be soggy on a regular basis or for long time periods their function as public open space may be compromised. There may be instances where public use of open spaces would harm the effective functioning of the SuDs and where maintenance requirements would necessitate a lack of public access e.g. land being fenced off, it should not be classed as public open space. Where there is a clear conflict between both roles, SuDs should not be counted as open space provision.

13.18 The protection of groundwater is one of the important considerations in dealing with contaminated sites. The Local Authority have a duty to maintain and protect the quality and quantity of groundwater resources for current and future abstraction, for dependent ecosystems and indirect uses. The Environment Agency may object (through planning or their permitted controls) to development activities

Policy NB7: Managing flood risk, Sustainable urban drainage systems & water quality

1. Managing flood risk

New development shall be located on Flood Zone 1 or areas with the lowest probability of flooding, taking climate change into account, and will not increase flood risk elsewhere. Any proposals for new development (except water compatible uses) within Flood Zones 2 and 3 will be required to provide sufficient evidence for the council to assess whether the requirements of the sequential test and exception test have been satisfied, taking climate change into account. Where development meets the sequential test in an area of higher flood risk, it must be designed to be flood resilient and safe for its users for the lifetime of the development, taking climate change and the vulnerability of any residents or users into account.

For developments within Flood Zones 2 and 3, and for developments elsewhere involving sites of 1ha or more, development proposals must be accompanied by a site-specific Flood Risk Assessment which meets the requirements of the NPPF and Planning Practice Guidance. Flood Risk Assessments submitted must take into account an assessment of flood risk across the life of the development taking climate change into account in accordance with the latest Environment Agency guidance.

All more Vulnerable and Highly Vulnerable development within Flood Zone 2 and 3 should set finished floor levels 300mm above the known or modelled at 1% and 3.3% annual exceedance probability (AEP) flood level, including an allowance for climate change in accordance with the latest National guidance.

For developments located in areas at risk of fluvial flooding, safe access/egress must be provided in the form of a safe dry route for people as a minimum and vehicles wherever possible.

For all developments (excluding minor developments and change of use) proposed in Flood Zone 2 or 3, a Flood Warning and Evacuation Plan should be prepared.

All new development in Flood Zones 2 and 3 should not adversely affect flood routing or result in a net loss of flood storage capacity that would increase flood risk elsewhere. Where possible opportunities should be sought to achieve an increase in the provision of floodplain storage.

Flood resilience measures should be incorporated into design including taking into account allowances for climate change.

Where the development site would benefit from the construction of Flood Management Infrastructure such as Flood Alleviation Schemes, appropriate financial contributions will be sought.

2. Sustainable urban Drainage Systems (SuDS)

All new major development or developments involving large areas of hard standing (e.g. car parks) will incorporate Sustainable urban Drainage Systems (SuDS) appropriate to the nature of the site. Such systems shall provide optimum water runoff rates and volumes taking into account relevant local or national standards and the impact of the Water Framework Directive on flood risk issues, unless it can be clearly demonstrated that they are impracticable.

Sustainable drainage systems will be expected to reflect the design requirements and drainage hierarchy set out in the Staffordshire County Council Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) Handbook - February 2017, or subsequent updates.

SuDS design should be an integral part of the design and clear details of proposed SuDS together with how they will be managed and maintained will be required as part of any planning application.

Only proposals which clearly demonstrate that a satisfactory SuDs layout with appropriate maintenance is possible, or compelling justification as to why SuDs should not be incorporated into a scheme, or are unviable, are likely to be successful. SuDs systems should be designed to ensure that it can be accessed for maintenance and operation requirements and that ongoing maintenance costs are economically proportionate.

The dual use of land for Sustainable Urban Drainage and Open Space can be supported where neither use is compromised by the other. It may be supported in circumstances where land is safely usable by the public as open space and where SuDs will contribute towards an attractive and well landscaped environment where use as open space does not compromise the efficient and effective functioning of the SuDs in the short or longer term.

3. Water quality

Development should not adversely affect the quality or quantity of water, either directly through pollution of surface or ground water, or indirectly through the treatments of wastewater.

In order to protect and enhance water quality, all development proposals must demonstrate all of the following:

  1. There are adequate water supply, sewerage and land drainage systems (including water sources, water and wastewater infrastructure) to serve the whole development, or an agreement with the relevant service provider to ensure the provision of the necessary infrastructure prior to the occupation of the development. Where development is being phased, each phase must demonstrate sufficient water supply and wastewater conveyance, treatment and discharge capacity.
  2. The quality of ground, surface or water bodies will not be harmed, and opportunities have been explored and taken for improvements to water quality, including denaturalisation of river morphology, and ecology.
  3. Appropriate consideration is given to sources of pollution, and appropriate Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) measures incorporated to protect water quality from polluted surface water runoff.

Foul drainage to a public sewer should be provided wherever possible, but where it is demonstrated that it is not feasible, alternative facilities must not pose unacceptable risk to water quality or quantity.

Development proposals should be consistent with other Local Plan policies.

Key Evidence
  • Strategic Flood Risk Assessment Level 1
  • Strategic Flood Risk Assessment Level 2
Implementation

Local/national Funding

Development Management

Partners

Section 106 agreement

Supplementary Planning Document

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

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