The website of West Oxfordshire District Council, Oxfordshire, England

West Oxfordshire District Council

3. Environment

3.1.

INTRODUCTION

This major Chapter brings together policies that specifically address the qualitative and environmental aspects of development in general. These policies form the main planning framework for achievement of the Council’s overall aim set out at the beginning of the previous Strategy Chapter i.e. to protect and enhance the natural and built environment whilst at the same time securing new development of a good environmental standard. 

3.2.

This Chapter is divided into two main sections (The Built Environment and The Natural Environment) with the following sub-sections:

The Built Environment

  • General Development Standards
  • Open Space in Settlements Historic Areas, Vernacular Buildings and Archaeology
  • Advertisements, Signs and Shopfronts
  • Telecommunications
  • Pollution

The Natural Environment

  • Countryside
  • Landscape
  • Natural Resources
  • Ecology and Geology
3.3.

A range of the policies in these sections is likely to apply to new development proposals. These policies will require, where appropriate, an assessment of the impact of the proposals upon the existing rich heritage of West Oxfordshire. 

3.4.

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT

GENERAL DEVELOPMENT STANDARDS

Policies BE1–BE3, which contain general development criteria, will be applicable to all proposals, irrespective of land use or location. Virtually all new development, however, will take place within or adjacent to existing towns and villages.

POLICY BE1 - Environmental and Community

Development will not be permitted unless appropriate supporting transport, service and community infrastructure is available or will be provided and appropriate provision has been made to safeguard the local environment. Contributions will be sought from developers and/or landowners in accordance with Government advice. 

3.5.

The County strategy of directing growth away from Oxford and Central Oxfordshire has over the last two decades placed severe pressures on the infrastructure of the district. Parts of the road system are inadequate and congested with resultant damage to the quality of the local environment. Provision for pedestrians, cyclists and users of public transport is often poor, and existing educational, community and leisure facilities district-wide are becoming increasingly strained. 

3.6.

Although considerable private funding of new facilities and infrastructure is being secured from major new developments through planning obligations (S.106 agreements), this source of finance alone can not provide for all the future needs of new residents. It has proved difficult to ensure that infrastructure and service provision keeps pace with growth. As a consequence, quality of life to some degree has deteriorated. 

3.7.

Policy BE1 reflects Circular 1/97 and Structure Plan Policy G3 and will be applied in accordance with existing legislation, Government advice and Court decisions. The Council will seek agreements, through negotiation with developers and/or landowners, which secure appropriate provision for environmental improvements and infrastructure facilities directly related to the proposed development, taking into account the scale and range of its impact, the specific development proposed and the costs associated with delivering that development. This may well include seeking contributions from small scale developments in areas where the cumulative impact of growth will progressively strain existing infrastructure. These contributions are called “planning obligations”. 

3.8.

Planning obligations sought will vary depending on the level and type of development proposed and the impact and pressures it is likely to create. They may include:

  • Improvements to transport infrastructure, including the provision of new roads as appropriate, measures to manage travel demand and manage traffic movement, with particular emphasis on an improved network and facilities for the pedestrian, cyclist and users of public transport;
  • Additional nursery, primary, secondary and specialist school provision, improved health care facilities and community facilities such as expansion of the library, police or fire service or the provision of a meeting hall;
  • Additional recreational/leisure facilities including playing fields, parks and indoor facilities (See section in Chapter 8: Tourism, Leisure and Community Facilities);
  • Affordable housing;
  • Creation of attractive landmark features within the urban or rural environment, including works of public art;
  • Provision of amenity open space and play areas together with commuted sums for maintenance (See section in Chapter 8: Tourism, Leisure and Community Facilities);
  • Comprehensive service infrastructure, particularly in relation to foul and surface water drainage. Thames Water and the Environment Agency will advise the Council and potential developers where deficiencies will need to be rectified.
3.9.

Environmental measures sought will provide direct benefits for people using the development (such as a country park) as well as helping to mitigate the impact of development in the wider environmental context. Substantial tree planting can help to modify the microclimate and absorb pollution. 

3.10.

Proposals that would create an adverse environmental impact will not be permitted. In cases where the impact can be addressed through appropriate mitigation measures, Policy BE1 seeks to ensure that the necessary measures are delivered as an integral part of the development proposals, through planning conditions and/or planning obligations. To assist the local authority, proposals for development may need to be accompanied by statements of their environmental impacts. (Mitigation
measures will only be considered when all other reasonable options have been exhausted). 

3.11.

Where necessary supporting infrastructure and facilities are lacking and cannot be provided within a reasonable timescale, development proposals will be refused. Policy BE1 is a key policy which will be applied in conjunction with the more specific detailed policies in this Plan. More detailed guidance will be published by the Council to supplement this policy approach. 

POLICY BE2 - General Development Standards

New development should respect and, where possible, improve the character and quality of its surroundings and provide a safe, pleasant, convenient and interesting environment.

Proposals for new buildings and land uses should clearly demonstrate how they will relate satisfactorily to the site and its surroundings, incorporating a landscape scheme and incidental open space as appropriate.

A landscape scheme accompanying detailed proposals for development should show, as appropriate, hard and soft landscaping, existing and proposed underground services, a phasing programme for implementation and subsequent maintenance arrangements.

Proposals will only be permitted if all the following riteria are met:

Quality of Development and Impact upon the Area:

  1.  the proposal is well-designed and respects the existing scale, pattern and character of the surrounding area;
  2. new buildings or extensions to existing buildings are designed to respect or enhance the form, siting, scale, massing and external materials and colours of adjoining buildings, with local building traditions reflected as appropriate;
  3. the proposal creates or retains a satisfactory environment for people living in or visiting the area, including people with disabilities;
  4. existing features of importance in the local nvironment are protected and/or enhanced;
  5. the landscape surrounding and providing a setting for existing towns and villages is not adversely affected;
  6. in the open countryside, any appropriate development will be easily assimilated into the
    landscape and wherever possible, be sited close to an existing group of buildings.
Crime:
  1. good design has been used to help reduce the opportunities for crime.
Energy and Resources:
  1. regard has been given to:
  1. principles of energy and resource conservation;
  2. provision for sorting and storage facilities to facilitate recycling of waste.
3.12.

Quality of Development and Impact upon the Area

West Oxfordshire is generally of high environmental quality with landscape and historic settlements of Cotswold character. Unfortunately, much post-war development, particularly during the 1960s, did little to enhance the local environment. However, more recent developments, most notably
small housing schemes, are of increasing high quality, both in design and execution and make a positive contribution to West Oxfordshire’s ‘sense of place’. The emphasis on high quality design does not prevent the introduction of innovative modern buildings which are sympathetic to the locality. (Further guidance can be found in the Council’s West Oxfordshire Design Guide) 

3.13.

Development proposals of poor design which are unsympathetic to the local character and which would not provide a safe, secure and attractive environment, especially where elements are un-neighbourly, discordant, monotonous or inappropriately prominent, will not meet the tests of Policy BE2. Planning permission will be refused in such circumstances. Although this Plan seeks to
ensure that land is used efficiently, great care will be taken to avoid over-development which would damage the amenities of the area and adversely affect the quality of life for people in that area. (Policy H3 relates to the efficient use of residential sites). 

3.14.

The design of new development is given more weight in recent Government advice. The appearance of proposed development and its relationship to its surroundings are fully recognised as material planning considerations. Good design should be the aim of all those involved in the development process and should be encouraged everywhere. 

3.15.

The Council will expect proposals for significant new development (such as a new employment area or a residential development of 0.5 hectares or more) to be accompanied by a statement, with illustrative material as appropriate, to explain how the development will fit into its surroundings with the design principles being used. Planning briefs prepared by developers for major sites should be drawn up in consultation with the local authorities and local community (also see Policy H3). 

3.16.

In the open countryside sensitive siting and design and use of appropriate materials and screening is essential to integrate necessary development outside built-up areas into the landscape. Useful guidance on landscape impact can be found in the West Oxfordshire Landscape Assessment 1998. 

3.17.

Existing features which are of landscape, topographical, historical or ecological importance are to be retained and adequately protected and enhanced. Features likely to be of high value include existing open space, attractive views, landmarks, trees, hedgerows, ponds, stone walls, paths, or historic tracks. Where vulnerable features are incorporated within new development, such as existing vegetation, appropriate measures for protection during construction work will be required. Guidelines set out in British Standard BS5837:1991 “Trees in Relation to Construction” will be used. 

3.18.

High quality landscape schemes with the use of native plant species of local provenance appropriate to the locality, and proper provision for future maintenance are an important part of achieving an attractive environment. They should not be treated as an afterthought. In some cases a landscape strategy will be required at the outline stage to enable the impact of the proposals to be comprehensively assessed. Survey details of the site will be required as necessary. Generally, however, landscape proposals will be required to accompany detailed planning applications, with
sufficient detail submitted to enable the quality of the proposed development to be properly and fully assessed. The proposed arrangements for future maintenance of landscape areas should form part of the submitted information. A plan showing existing and proposed underground services should also be submitted where appropriate to ensure conflict with planting proposals is avoided. 

3.19.

When changes are proposed to the highway network, or car parking areas, the implementing authority will be urged to retain existing landscape features, implement a comprehensive landscape scheme as appropriate, and use materials for surfacing, kerbing, embankments, bridging, walling and fencing etc., which respect the locality. Signing should be kept to a minimum and carefully sited. The visual impact and energy consumption of street lighting should be reduced by the careful selection and location of light fittings. This is particularly the case in Conservation Areas.

3.20.

Street furniture generally should be sited and designed in sympathy with the surrounding area. Where stone walls, iron railings and traditional pavings are present, they should not be removed where they contribute to the interest, variety and texture of the street scene. 

3.21.

Similar care for the environment is needed by the water and sewerage companies, Environment Agency and statutory undertakers, when carrying out their functions as their works can have a significant effect on the appearance of an area. Overhead cables should be placed underground wherever possible, in locations which do not materially affect trees and hedgerows. 

3.22.

Statutory undertakers, such as Thames Water and the Environment Agency, recommend that developers consult them at the earliest possible stages in any development. 

3.23.

Crime

The achievement of an attractive, safe and secure environment includes using design to minimise opportunities for crime. Circular 5/94 contains advice on ways of “planning out crime”. In Witney town centre this could include, as appropriate, the provision of external Closed Circuit TV within the design of new development to link up with the overall CCTV scheme.

3.24.

Energy and Resources

The use of materials which are energy efficient in terms of their production or which are produced locally and which will result in low transport costs will be encouraged.

3.25.

Where possible, new buildings should be designed and orientated on the site to maximise energy efficiency. The orientation of buildings to maximise passive solar gain can reduce the need for energy derived from fossil fuels. Similarly, the avoidance of particularly cold or windy sites or the creation of more sheltered micro-climates, for example through tree planting, can minimise the amount of energy needed. Such issues are also addressed in Structure Plan Policy G6. 

3.26.

One of the four broad principles of the Government’s sustainable development strategy is the prudent use of natural resources including water. Techniques which improve water efficiency will be encouraged, including, for example, incorporating water conservation practices in landscaping schemes. (Further information can be obtained from Thames Water and the Environment Agency). 

3.27.

The Government has set targets through Waste Strategy 2000 for the recycling and composting of wastes. Recycling materials reduces the energy used in making new products. In order to facilitate effective recycling, adequate on-site provision for the sorting, storage and collection of individual household and business waste needs to be incorporated into development schemes from the outset. (See also the section on ‘Minerals and Management of this chapter). 

3.28.

Guidance will be issued by the Council on implementation of Policy BE2 and kept under review.

POLICY BE3 - Provision for Movement and

Provision for Movement and Parking

Development should make provision for the safe movement of people and vehicles, whilst minimising impact upon the environment. Within built-up areas priority should be given to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.

Proposals will only be permitted if all the following criteria are met:

  1.  safe and convenient circulation of pedestrians and cyclists, both within the development and externally to nearby facilities, with provision to meet the needs of people with impaired mobility as appropriate;
  2. safe movement of all vehicular traffic both within the site and on the surrounding highway network;
  3. provision for the increased use of public transport as appropriate to the scale of development;
  4. provision for the parking of vehicles, including bicycles and motorcycles, in accordance with the standards in Appendix 2.

Development which would have a significant impact on the highway network will not be permitted without the prior submission of a Transport Assessment.

3.29.

This Policy reflects Government transport objectives and the Oxfordshire Transport Vision set out in the Local Transport Plan. This seeks to maintain or improve access for people and goods whilst reducing dependence on travel by private car by increasing the number of trips that can be made on foot, by bicycle and by public transport. 

3.30.

In consultation with the County Highway Authority, the District Council will ensure, when determining planning applications, that the relevant current standards of design and safety for all traffic movements are met, with particular attention to the movement of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.

Roads in residential areas should be designed to ensure that traffic speeds are low thus enabling people, especially children, to move freely and safely around their home environment by foot and cycle.

3.31.

Transport Assessments will be required where significant traffic generators are proposed so that the full impact of the development can be assessed before any decision is made on the proposals. Where the movement of people and vehicles will not be satisfactorily accommodated Policy BE1 will apply. 

3.32.

Parking standards in Oxfordshire were reviewed in conjunction with the Local Transport Plan, taking into account current Government advice. Parking standards are expressed as maximums (See Appendix 2). This means that the number of parking spaces provided as part of a development must not exceed the standard, although the level of parking can be below the standard. Planning applications proposing numbers of parking spaces significantly below the standard will be required to submit supporting information justifying the level of parking. This information will need to illustrate how the lower parking provision can be justified, for example in terms of the availability of public transport services, cycling and walking facilities, and to assess whether the proposal will cause on-street parking with road safety implications. Applicants may also be required to produce a Travel Plan. This additional information will be used to judge the acceptability of the proposed parking
provision. 

3.33.

Where a new parking area for public use is proposed within or adjacent to a main shopping centre it should not be reserved solely for use in connection with the development proposed nor encourage non-essential use of the motor car. 

3.34.

In general, the District Council wishes to see improved access for everybody, including wheelchair users and people with physical or sensory disabilities, elderly people, and those with toddlers or infants in pushchairs. Consideration should be given to the needs of these people in all developments and environmental improvement schemes.

POLICY BE4 - Open space within and adjoining

Proposals for development within or adjoining the built-up area should not result in the loss or erosion of:

  1. an open area which makes an important contribution to:
    1. the distinctiveness of a settlement; and/or
    2. the visual amenity or character of the locality;
  2. a facility of benefit to local residents;
  3. an area of nature conservation value;
  4. common land or a village green.
When assessing any proposals for development which could affect existing open space, consideration will be given to the opportunity to:
  1. remedy deficiencies in provision, and
  2. exchange the use of one site for another to substitute for any loss of open space.
3.35.

Open space takes many forms and may have a variety of designations or no designations at all. Some spaces which form a strategic role are shown on the Inset Maps, especially at Witney and Carterton. Protection of particular types of open space is addressed by several policies in this Plan in recognition of its high value to the local environment. Policy BE4 is a general policy which applies to all built-up areas of the District. 

3.36.

Open spaces are of value to the local community and fulfil a wide range of historical, conservation, social, cultural, ecological and amenity functions. Open spaces and other areas of ‘green space’ in our towns and villages include:

  •  parks and gardens (private and public);
  • playing fields, sports grounds and children’s play areas;
  • allotments;
  • churchyards;
  • woodland, hedgerows and individual trees;
  • designated nature conservation sites;
  • paddocks and informally grazed small fields;
  • grass verges and landscaped areas;
  • streams, rivers and their banks;
  • ponds and their associated margins;
  • commons and greens;
  • disused railway lines and embankments and cuttings;
  • landscape strips and incidental open space on ew developments.
3.37.

The value of such open spaces is not diminished by a lack of public access or by untidyappearance.
For example, large private gardens, whilst not accessible to the public, may often offer valuable visual amenity and contribute greatly to the general character of a neighbourhood. 

3.38.

To the general public and residents of a village or town, open spaces have two basic functions,which are not mutually exclusive. The first is to provide recreational value, which can be quite easily identified. The second is the value which spaces give to the character of a village, the sense of identity for the settlement and its relationship with the wider landscape. This is undoubtedly
more difficult to describe, but these are the particular spaces that give settlements their unique identity. 

3.39.

The built up areas of all settlements within the District are distinguished by the unique relationship of the buildings to the greenery of open spaces and gaps in the street scene. The disposition, density and outline of buildings in relation to the surrounding spaces are essential in creating a special character and significance for each hamlet, village and town. Some villages are loose-knit with areas of open space separating pockets of development, such as at Chadlington, or providing the setting for historic buildings such as the Chartist bungalows at Minster Lovell, whilst other settlements are more densely built and nucleated such as Bampton and Stonesfield. (The Council’s West Oxfordshire Design Guide contains a more detailed analysis of the settlement characteristics.) 

3.40.

Within West Oxfordshire the towns and villages have grown over the years and some of the areas of open space within settlements have been lost. Local planning policies have long sought to protect open space in settlements. However in more recent years the irreplaceable value of open space to an individual settlement and its residents has become increasingly apparent. 

3.41.

The emphasis on developing ‘brownfield’ or ‘previously developed’ sites within an urban or built-up area can reduce the need to use ‘greenfield sites’ but this must not be at the expense of the character or qualities, including nature conservation value, of the built environment. Previously developed land, which includes gardens within the curtilage of buildings, may not be appropriate for redevelopment where it is of value as open space. Government advises (in PPG17: Planning for open space, sport and recreation) that parks, recreation grounds, playing fields and allotments must not be regarded as ‘previously developed land’ and, even where land does fall within the definition, its existing and potential value for recreation and other purposes should be properly assessed before development is considered. 

3.42.

Policy BE4 does not preclude the development of all areas of open space; development on some areas of open space can provide opportunities to improve open space provision. For example, where there is an identified surplus in one type of open space but a deficit in another type, the Council may consider it appropriate to use planning conditions or obligations to secure part of the development site for the type of open space that is in deficit. Similarly, planning obligations or conditions may be used to secure the exchange of land and ensure any necessary works are undertaken and that the new area is capable of being maintained adequately through management and maintenance agreements. Any new land and facility should be at least equivalent in terms of size, usefulness, attractiveness and quality.

HISTORIC AREAS, VERNACULAR BUILDINGS AND ARCHAEOLOGY

Conservation Areas

POLICY BE5 - Conservation Areas

The special architectural, historic and environmental character or appearance of the Conservation Areas will be preserved or enhanced. Every effort will be made to ensure that this character or appearance is not eroded by the introduction of unsympathetic development proposals
either within or affecting the setting of the designated area. 

POLICY BE5A - Designation and Review of Conservation Areas

When considering areas for designation as a Conservation Area, and when reviewing existing areas, a detailed assessment of the elements that contribute to, and detract from, the area will need to be undertaken which fully demonstrates that the area has a special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance. 

3.43.

There are currently nearly 50 Conservation Areas in West Oxfordshire (at April 2006). These are identified on the Proposals Map and listed in Figure 3.1. There are, however, other settlements in the District of sufficient architectural and historic interest to merit Conservation Area status. When assessing areas for Conservation Area designation and amending existing areas, a detailed character appraisal will be required. Such an appraisal will need to address the issues set out in PPG15: Planning and the historic environment, especially the criteria in paragraph 4.4. The support
of Parish Councils, community organisations and residents is vital in implementing policies to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of designated areas. Any proposals for new designations will be the subject of consultation with the Parish Council/Meeting. 

3.44.

The designation of a Conservation Area is a positive process. The aims are to preserve and enhance the settlement and its setting. A programme of conservation area character appraisals is underway. These identify the specific qualities which make up the particular and unique character of each Conservation Area. 

3.45.

Conservation Area designation does not preclude new development or change if carried out in a sensitive and appropriate manner. Nor does designation imply that change is undesirable, although to be acceptable, new buildings and structures must positively enhance the character or appearance of the Conservation Area. 

3.46.

There are no pre-determined design approaches, which can be prescribed for development. What may be appropriate on a particular site may be wholly undesirable on another, even within the same Conservation Area. 

3.47.

The context to the site and the wider area will vary between different sites in the same Conservation Area and, of course, between Conservation Areas. With these considerations in mind the District Council will encourage and where appropriate require the submission of ‘full‘ planning applications rather than applications in ‘outline’ form. Where an applicant is seeking to establish the principle of development, through an outline application, the District Council is likely to require the submission of substantially more detailed information than might be necessary outside of a Conservation Area. The additional information required is likely to include detailed site surveys to show levels and existing features such as trees and walls; elevations to show the context of the development in the street scene and any proposals for hard and soft landscaping treatment. PPG15 considers this level of information to be necessary. 

POLICY BE6 - Demolition in Conservation Areas

Applications for the demolition of unlisted buildings in a Conservation Area will only be permitted if:

  1. the structure to be demolished makes no positive contribution to, or has an adverse impact upon, the character or appearance of the area, or
  2. the demolition forms part of redevelopment proposals that will positively enhance and improve the character and setting of the Conservation Area.

Figure 3.1 Conservation Areas In West Oxfordshire

  First DesignatedExtended/revised 
Alvescot
May 1988 
Asthall
February 1993
 
AstonJuly 1998
 
Bampton
February 1976
 
The Bartons
June 1993
October 2004 & February 2005
Bladon
August 1990
 
Burford
December 1970
February 1991
Cassington
November 1992
 
Charlbury
February 1974
February 1991
Chastleton
August 1995
 
Chipping Norton
December 1970
August 1989, February 1991 & November 1992
Churchill
October 1998
 
Cogges (Witney)*
July 1976
June 1981
Combe
April 1989
 
Cornwell
April 1994
 
Ducklington
October 1988
 
Eynsham
March 1975
February 1982
Fawler
February 1991
 
Filkins
November 1986
 
Finstock
January 1991
 
Great Rollright
August 1990
 
Great Tew
August 1978
 
Hailey
November 1992
 
Hanborough
April 1990 (covering Church Hanborough)
October 2004 (now including Millwood End)
Hardwick
June 1989
 
Idbury
October 1991
 
Kelmscott
August 1995
 
Kencot
April 1994
 
Kingham
July 1986
 
Langford
August 1992
 
Leafield
June 1993
 
Minster Lovell
October 1990
 
Northmoor
October 1990
 
Over Norton
February 1992
 
Radcot
May 1995
 
Ramsden
January 1991
 
Sandford St Martin
February 1991
 
Shilton
December 1985
 
Shipton-u-WychwoodOctober 1989
 
Spelsbury, Taston & DeanJanuary 1991
 
Stanton Harcourt & Sutton
April 1989
 
Stonesfield
May 1988
 
Swerford
May 1988
 
Swinbrook
June 1990
February 1991
Tackley
June 1994
 
Taynton
December 1970
 
Witney (centre)
May 1970
June 1988 & January 1990 (*now including Cogges)
Woodstock
June 1975
 
Wootton
May 1976
February 1992
3.48.

The purpose of Conservation Area designation is to protect areas of special character. There is no standard definition as to what constitutes character. There are many contributory factors including the form and layout of buildings, the spaces between them, the influence of historic street and land use patterns (for example burgage plots), the mix of historic and contemporary land use, the nature of surfaces and detailed features, and relationship to open spaces and important trees, as well as historic buildings themselves. 

3.49.

Demolition of unlisted buildings and structures can have a dramatic effect upon the character of a Conservation Area. Policy BE6 is intended to safeguard these buildings which do make a contribution to the character of the Conservation Area. Where the loss of existing buildings and redevelopment of the site is acceptable, the Council may wish to ensure that demolition of existing structures permitted in a Conservation Area Consent will be followed within a reasonable timescale by redevelopment on the site.

POLICY BE7 - Alterations and Extensions to Listed Buildings

The special interest of all listed buildings should be preserved or enhanced. Any additions or alterations shall be in scale and sympathy with the original character of the building. The use of traditional materials and building techniques will be encouraged and the imaginative use of modern materials and contemporary design will be considered in its context. 

3.50.

Buildings of special architectural or historic interest on the statutory lists are nationally important because they represent the best of our historic and architectural built heritage. PPG 15 describes them as a finite resource and an irreplaceable asset. 

3.51.

The objective of national and local planning policy is to protect and maintain the stock of historic buildings. The District Council whilst not responsible for the listing of buildings, is charged with the responsibility of administering the legislation in respect of them. There are approximately 3,200 Listed Buildings in West Oxfordshire. About 92% are of Grade II interest, 6.6% are of Grade II* interest and 1.4% are Grade I. 

3.52.

There are many aspects of policy that are relevant to making a planning decision affecting listed buildings. The Council has produced a leaflet “Listed Buildings in West Oxfordshire” which provides useful advice. 

3.53.

It is essential that proposals affecting listed buildings must be fully justified. Full information in the form of accurate plans, elevations, sections and surveys will be required in order that an accurate assessment can be made of the likely impact of any proposal on the special architectural or historic interest of the building and its setting. In some instances, applicants may be required to supply working details to illustrate their proposals. Certain proposals for alterations or demolition may expose or destroy fabric or features of architectural or historical interest; in other cases hidden  features may be exposed during works. Applicants will be required to arrange appropriate programmes of investigation and recording in such cases (see also Policy BE13 on archaeology). The County Archaeology Services is available to provide advice on recording. 

3.54.

Small changes such as alterations to chimneys, windows or doors, or the removal of original internal features, such as staircases can easily affect the character or appearance of an historic building. When considering applications affecting listed buildings the Council will therefore keep in mind the need to preserve the intrinsic character of a building. To do this alteration should be kept to a minimum, repairs carried out in preference to replacement and the dangers of over-restoration guarded against. 

3.55.

Extensions should never dominate the original building and generally, the use of traditional or matching materials is considered the most appropriate. 

3.56.

Listed Buildings are often hundreds of years old, they are consequently very durable and successful structures. Traditional construction is flexible and ‘breathes’, so the use of new materials (such as PVCu), and cement rich materials are likely to do more harm than good. 

3.57.

There may be some instances however where a contemporary design approach to an extension or alteration and/or the use of modern materials such as glass and steel may be a more appropriate design solution than a slavish pastiche copy of traditional forms using traditional materials covering modern structural elements. Such an approach, if sensitively handled, is of value in adding to the cumulative changes within the building, reflecting its history and ownership. However as listed buildings do vary greatly in the extent to which they can accommodate change, advice should always be sought from the District Council on individual listed buildings. 

3.58.

Financial Assistance for Listed Buildings

Under the provisions of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas Act 1990), local authorities are empowered to contribute towards the cost of repairs to buildings of Architectural or Historic Interest. 

3.59.

The Council operates a grant scheme for listed buildings. The grants are intended as a contribution towards the high cost of retaining original features and materials, and are not intended to be used for routine maintenance works or alterations. A large proportion of the grants awarded are for the renewal of vernacular materials. The grants are also given towards the cost of rebuilding stone walls in dangerous condition which make a significant contribution to the character of a Conservation Area.

POLICY BE8 - Development affecting the Setting of a Listed Building

Development should not detract from the setting of a listed building. 

3.60.

Many of the buildings in West Oxfordshire listed for their architectural or historic interest are susceptible to change; not only in terms of change to their built fabric but also to their setting in the wider environment. The setting of a particular building may be affected by development immediately adjoining it and in some cases by development some distance away. For example many of the West Oxfordshire’s Churches are important in the wider landscape and development some distance away can affect the setting of these buildings.

POLICY BE9 - Change of Use of a Listed Building

A change of use of part or the whole of a listed building will only be permitted if its character and features of special architectural or historic interest would be protected. Proposals for a change of use should incorporate details of all intended alterations to the building and its curtilage, to
demonstrate their effect on its appearance, character and setting. 

3.61.

Generally the best way of securing the upkeep of listed buildings is to keep them in active use. This will often be the use for which the building was originally designed and continuation or reinstatement of that use should be the first option when the future of a building is considered. However this may not always be appropriate or possible and that a financially viable alternative use is likely to assist in the long term future of the building. Any viable use will however need to be compatible with the
fabric interior and setting of the listed building, in order to preserve its architectural and historic interest.

Unlisted Vernacular Buildings

POLICY BE10 - Conversion of Unlisted Vernacular Buildings

The conversion of unlisted vernacular buildings should not:

  1. extensively alter the existing structure or remove features of interest;
  2. include extensions, or an accumulation of extensions, which would obscure the form of the original building.

Planning permission for conversion will only be granted if the existing building is of permanent and substantial construction and a structural survey shows that the building is capable of being converted to the proposed use without major or complete rebuilding, extension or alteration tantamount to the erection of a new building. 

3.62.

A vernacular style of building is one that is historically used as the normal design in a particular area, employing the use of local building materials. The high quality of the landscape in West Oxfordshire is heavily influenced by the presence of vernacular buildings that are not listed. Some buildings lie within open countryside, others in the villages and towns. Their built form has been strongly influenced by a readily available source of local building stone. Many of these unlisted buildings of traditional design and construction are no longer needed for their original purpose.

Changing farming techniques, school and church closures, together with high maintenance costs, have all contributed to this process. Barns, mills, schools, chapels and churches become empty
and the buildings are sometimes in danger of being lost. If their loss is to be prevented, new uses must be found which are compatible with the size and character of the original building and its location. Policies H9, H10, E4, and TLC2 are the key policies applicable to possible new uses. Ensuring the appropriate conversion of these buildings will prolong their life and the important contribution they make to the history of a settlement or the wider landscape. Although sometimes a building is so isolated or specially sited in the rural scene that no use is appropriate other than the original use for which the building was designed. Abandonment may be the only option available. 

3.63.

Once the principle of a change of use has been accepted it is important to ensure that detailed proposals for conversion respect the original character of the building and its setting and that
any historical features of interest are retained. Large extensions or an accumulation of extensions can easily obscure the simple forms of traditional buildings and should be avoided. 

3.64.

Applications for the conversion of vernacular buildings, should include accurate detailed survey drawings of the original building, which indicate clearly which elements will be replaced, altered or removed, together with a structural engineers report confirming that the existing fabric is capable of retention in situ in the course of the conversion work. The main reason for allowing uses within these buildings is to preserve the traditional features of the landscape and streetscape. To obscure
their form and original functional design would remove the reason for retention of these buildings as well as result in a loss of our heritage. 

3.65.

Care for the historic context applies equally to the curtilage of these buildings, which are also extremely susceptible to change. For example, a domestic garden surrounding a large functional agricultural building can look particularly out of place in a rural setting. A clear definition of the curtilage and its uses will be required together with appropriate landscape and boundary treatments to ensure these vernacular buildings maintain a sympathetic context. 

3.66.

In all conversion proposals, nature conservation interests, particularly protection of bats and barn owls (which are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) need to be protected and accommodated in the detailed design and methodology of the conversion. This may include the choice of fungicide and pesticide treatments for wood. If the presence of protected species is discovered, English Nature should be contacted for advice.

Historic Parks and Gardens

POLICY BE11 - Historic Parks and Gardens

Development will not be permitted that adversely affects the character, setting, amenities, historical context or views within, into or from a Park and Garden of Historic Interest. 

3.67.

A register of historic parks and gardens has been produced by English Heritage under the National Heritage Act 1983. They are graded I, II* and II, with Grade I representing sites of international importance. The Register is regularly updated. 

3.68.

There are 16 Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in West Oxfordshire. These are identified on the Proposals Map and are listed in Figure 3.2. Although the listing of the sites carries no statutory obligations, the Government has advised local authorities to consider the impact of development upon such historic parks and gardens as a material consideration in planning terms and to consult English Heritage on any development proposals that may affect them. Historic Parks and Gardens are an essential part of the nation’s heritage, the Council will resist proposals
for development that would damage their appearance or character, whether they are registered or not. 

3.69.

In addition to the parks and gardens of special historic interest, Blenheim Palace is also registered as a World Heritage Site.

Although no further additional statutory controls follow from the inclusion of a site in the World Heritage List, its inclusion does however highlight the outstanding international importance of the site which should be taken into account when considering any proposals likely to affect Blenheim.

Figure 3.2 Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest

 Grade
Blenheim Palace
I
Chastleton House
II*
Cornbury
II*
Cornwell Manor
II
Ditchley
II*
Eynsham Hall
II 
Great Tew
II
Heythrop College
II*
Kelmscott Manor
II
Kiddington Hall
II
Rousham
I
Sandford Park
II
Sarsden House
II*
Shipton Court
II
Swerford
II
Tackley
II*

Archaeology

POLICY BE12 - Archaeological Monuments

Development proposals that adversely affect the site or setting of nationally important archaeological monuments and monuments of local importance, whether scheduled or not, will not be permitted. 

POLICY BE13 - Archaeological Assessments

Prior to determining applications affecting sites and areas of archaeological potential, applicants may be required to provide an archaeological assessment and/or field evaluation to determine:

  1. the significance, character and importance of any archaeological monument or remains and
  2. the likely impact of the proposed development on such features
  3. the level of mitigation required to suitably protect the archaeological resource through preservation in situ or preservation by record including excavation, post excavation analysis and publication.
3.70.

The large number of surviving historic landscapes, ancient monuments and archaeological sites in West Oxfordshire reveal a long history of human settlement. The Upper Thames Valley especially is of outstanding importance because of the rich concentration of pre historic, Romano British and Anglo Saxon sites on the gravel terraces. The Cotswold and West Oxfordshire Uplands also have significant remains of the prehistoric and Romano British periods with a high concentration of Roman villas. 

3.71.

There are nearly 150 Scheduled Ancient Monuments in the District as shown on the Proposals Map (in Appendix 4 the sites are listed by parish). During the course of this plan many more will be scheduled through the Monument Protection Programme. 

3.72.

The Scheduled Ancient Monuments are protected under the terms of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and consent for works directly affecting the structure of the monuments must be obtained from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. 

3.73.

As the District is rich in archaeological remains any prospective developers would be advised to undertake initial site assessments to establish whether the site is known or is likely to contain archaeological remains. This will give an accurate idea early in the development process as to the likely impact any remains and their recording and/or preservation will have on a scheme. 

3.74.

The County Archaeologist can provide expert advice on the effect of development proposals on known or potential archaeological remains and the options for preservation by record. In cases where there are indications that archaeological remains may exist, the applicant may be required to make provision for archaeological field evaluation (carried out by a professionally qualified archaeological organisation) prior to any application being determined. Such a field evaluation would indicate:

  1.  the character, extent and level of preservation of any archaeological features within the application area; and
  2. the likely impact of the development proposal on such features; and
  3. the means for mitigating the effect of proposals through preservation in situ or prior recording and excavation of the monument, remains or buildings.
3.75.

In some cases the significance of the archaeological remains will preclude development. However on the majority of sites there will be no subsequent objection to development on archaeological grounds provided that the development is designed to achieve the physical preservation in situ of
archaeological deposits. Where the importance of the development proposals outweigh the significance of the archaeological remains, provision will be made for site investigation and recording to be carried out, i.e., preservation by record. Such recording will be required by condition or legal agreement accompanying a planning permission. It will be the responsibility of the developer to organise the preservation of features and artefacts, their analysis and the publication of the results. 

3.76.

ADVERTISEMENTS, SIGNS AND SHOP FRONTS

Commercial uses contribute significantly to the character of the built environment whether they are major activities within an urban centre or a small workshop, public house or post office in a village. The need for advertising is accepted and can promote and attract vitality to an area if appropriately designed. The essential concern is to ensure that an appropriate level and sensitivity of design is achieved when balancing the necessary promotion of commercialism with its environmental impact. The Council has published a Shop Fronts and Advertisements Design Guide as an aid to applicants and will have regard to this in considering proposals whilst continuing to treat each application on its
individual merits. 

3.77.

Policy BE14 provides guidance for the installation or alteration of shop fronts whereas Policy BE15 covers all advertisements and signs whether they are related to shop fronts, or other premises or are free-standing directional signs.

POLICY BE14 - Shop Fronts

New and altered shop fronts will only be permitted where the proposal:

  1.  respects the whole elevation with particular regard to the degree of horizontal and vertical emphasis of the building and adjoining buildings;
  2. retains and repairs any existing historic features in the shop front;
  3. makes any blind or canopy an integral feature of a shop front and so that it is retractable;
  4. uses either internal lattice, or removable grilles if a security shutter is proposed;
  5. incorporates fascias which are in scale, in their depth and width, with the overall shop front and the building and in particular, do not extend upwards beyond first floor sill level;
  6. uses illumination of signs and fascias through external means only.
3.78.

A shop frontage comprises part of the whole elevation of a building, usually within an established street scene. The elements that make up a shop front consist of the windows, doors, blinds and fascias usually on the ground floor of a property. The approach required to design a shop front, and any blinds and security shutters requires a specific design analysis and response for each situation. However in all cases the design of a new shop front will be required to respect the scale and character of the building within which it forms a part, and the street frontage as a whole. This will entail shop fascias and signs being kept to a size that relate satisfactorily to the scale of the building and to the size of the shop window. Where old shop fronts of historic interest survive these should be retained. Large commercial concerns with a corporate identity will be expected to adapt their image to suit the building they occupy as well as their surroundings. Generally simple designs, subtle colours and careful detailing will be the most appropriate design approach. 

3.79.

Strict control will be exercised over security grilles in order to protect the special character of West Oxfordshire. In many circumstances, a solid external shutter, which completely covers a shop front, would have an unacceptable affect on the character of the area. It would give the frontage a dead appearance and contribute to the creation of a hostile atmosphere. 

3.80.

The legitimate security needs of business must be borne in mind, as indicated in Circular 5/94. However there are very few instances where external roller blinds covering the whole of the shop front will be appropriate. Alternatives such as internal lattice grilles, security systems, or use of laminated glass should be considered. 

3.81.

Pressure to change the character of traditional shop fronts derives primarily from the rationalisation of shop units, increased advertising and expansion of display space, the need to minimise costs of property maintenance and the desire for novelty. Whilst these objectives can be realised with careful design, new modern shop fronts may be unsympathetic to the character of the individual
buildings and to the street scene.

POLICY BE15 - Advertisements and Signs

Strict control will be exercised over advertisements and signs. Consent will only be granted where:

  1. signs and all other means of advertising are carefully designed to relate to the scale and character of the building and street frontage as a whole, particularly in Conservation Areas;
  2. the use of inappropriate materials, colours, scale and designs of signs are avoided;
  3. illuminated signs are designed to suit their context and the individual building or structure on which they are located;
  4. a proliferation of signs or inappropriate standardised advertisement styles is avoided;
  5. advertisements do not adversely affect public safety.
3.82.

The legislation relating to advertisements makes it clear that only two issues are relevant; i.e. visual amenity and public safety. In assessing visual amenity, regard will be had to the size, colour, materials proposed, type and intensity of any illumination, method of display and support for any advertisement. In terms of public safety, advertisements must not distract or cause danger to road users, or obscure or hinder the reading of road signs. It also entails having regard for pedestrian and cyclist safety. 

3.83.

Due to the predominantly rural character of the district and the high quality of the landscape, illuminated advertisements will require very careful control. Illumination of signs will usually only be allowed where the business needs to operate at night or where use of illumination is necessary in the interests of public safety of information. Even in these cases individual site specific solutions will be required which are likely to preclude standardised illuminated signage. The Institute of Lighting Engineers provides guidance in their technical report ‘Brightness of Illuminated Advertisements’. 

3.84.

There are many small commercial concerns in West Oxfordshire which rely on passing tourist trade to attract its business. In many cases the businesses are not located on the main roads and directional signage is often requested to attract business. Government guidance on such proposals is provided in PPG19 and 21. Great care needs to be taken that signs are appropriate for their rural location. The District Council will encourage the provision of standardised advanced warning signs for businesses without a frontage on a public highway, subject to the prior agreement of the
Highway Authority. Such advanced warning directional signs would be permitted where it was clear they were needed to provide essential information to visitors, provided they:

  1.  follow an approved format;
  2. are not subject to visual objection; and
  3. there is no highway objection.
3.85.

The format the District has adopted follows the nationally recommended display for tourist signs, involving a brown background with white surround and lettering. 

POLICY BE16 - Feature Illumination

The use of floodlighting on landmark features and buildings will be permitted subject to the following criteria:

  1. the means of lighting will be unobtrusively sited;
  2. the level and type of illumination will enhance the feature itself and the character and amenity of the area;
  3. the proposal will not have a detrimental effect on the amenity of surrounding occupiers;
  4. the proposal will not have a detrimental impact on nature conservation sites designated for their wildlife interest.
3.86.

Mainly in town centres there is some scope for creative and sensitive use of lighting both on public spaces and prominent buildings. The technique is used to best effect on a limited number of important landmark features. The District Council will also encourage the County Council as Highway Authority to use imaginative non-standard street lighting wherever possible to add interest to town and village centres at night. (As external lighting can have an effect on the behaviour of birds and nocturnal mammals, careful consideration will need to be given to the impact of illumination when proposed in or next to nature conservation sites).

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

POLICY BE17 - Telecommunications

Proposals for telecommunications development should:

  1. make use of existing buildings or structures for support and share facilities wherever possible;
  2. be sited and designed so as to minimise any visual impact on the streetscene, the appearance or setting of a building and on the environment generally, particularly Conservation Areas, the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the World Heritage Site.
  3. include a landscape scheme where appropriate to help mitigate the impact of the structure, ancillary compound and access roads.

Conditions will be imposed to require the removal of installations when they are no longer needed. 

3.87.

The Government wishes to facilitate the growth of new and existing telecommunications systems, whilst keeping the environmental impacts to a minimum - protecting urban and rural areas and public health, the countryside and urban areas, especially AONBs, SSSIs, Green Belt and areas and buildings of architectural or historical importance. Modern telecommunications are seen as an
essential and beneficial element in the life of the local community and in the national economy. Government encourages local planning authorities and operators to work together to find the optimum environmental and network solution. It also encourages predevelopment and pre-application discussions between operators, and between operators and authorities, local people and other interested bodies. Government guidance on telecommunications development is contained within PPG 8 and a Code of Best Practice on Mobile Phone Network Development. 

3.88.

Some telecommunication installations are permitted under Part 24 of the General Permitted Development Order (1995) as amended. Larger installations and those within SSSI’s do require permission, as do most installations on land designated as Article 1(5) land which includes the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Conservation Areas. Smaller scale telecommunication development may require “prior notification” to the local planning authority. As the legislation on telecommunications is complex, confirmation on the need for planning permission or prior notification should be sought from the local planning authority. 

3.89.

In an attractive area of undulating countryside such as West Oxfordshire, telecommunication development requires careful design and siting to avoid being visually intrusive and it may be necessary to provide details of different design solution. It is however recognised that there are a number of technical and operational constraints over the location of telecommunication installations, such as where lines of sight are required. In considering planning applications or prior notification it will be necessary to receive details of constraints faced by the operator together with:

  • information about the purpose and need for the particular development. terms of the operators licence and how farthese terms have been met.
  • overall plan of the network coverage (including gaps) and existing installations. the area of search, including those sites already rejected by the operator.
  • site appraisal, including an assessment and supporting statement of the visual impact.
  • details of other masts and reasons why the site or the mast cannot be shared, or existing buildings or structures used.
  • statement that a proposed mobile phone base station, when operational, will meet the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines.
  • statement indicating site location, proposed antenna height, the frequency and modulation characteristics, and details of power input.
  • evidence of relevant consultation (especially n relation to mobile phone base station development on or near a school or a college).
3.90.

Sympathetic design and camouflage should be used to minimise the impact of development on the environment, particularly in designated areas such as the Cotswolds AONB (where the developer also needs to demonstrate that there are no suitable alternative locations). In order to ameliorate and minimise visual impact, bare skyline sites are best avoided in areas of open countryside, although areas of woodland or large farm buildings can often provide a useful foil to such proposals. Areas of woodland and other landscape features used to screen installations, their ancillary compounds and access roads need to be in the control of the applicant to ensure screening is retained in the long-term. Conditions to secure care, maintenance and replacement of the landscape framework over a period of normally ten years will be imposed upon permissions for
installations in visually sensitive locations. 

3.91.

In towns and villages, existing buildings and structures can be used for support and can provide good disguises for larger installations. However care will need to be taken in locating telecommunication equipment in the historic villages and town centres, particularly in the Conservation Areas, on Listed Buildings and on sites affecting their setting. In all locations the option of sharing facilities will need to be fully explored before new sites are proposed. Planning conditions will be imposed to ensure that, when installations are no longer needed, they are removed. 

3.92.

There has been increasing awareness and ublic concern about the effects upon health of electromagnetic fields from telecommunications installations. This specific issue was addressed in the Stewart Report (the independent expert group on mobile phones, base stations and transmitters). This report recommended a “precautionary approach” to the use of mobile phone technologies until there is more information on any health effects. The Government has, in part, accepted this approach. All applications will be considered against guidelines published by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), including that emissions
from mobile phone base stations should meet their guidelines for limiting public exposure. It is Government’s view that the planning system is not the place for determining health safeguards; if a proposed mobile phone base station meets ICNIRP guidelines it should not be necessary for a local planning authority to consider the health aspects further. 

3.93.

A register of existing masts, masts with prior approval, masts with planning permission and other structures is kept by the District Council in order to positively promote mast sharing where appropriate. 

3.94.

The District Council encourages developers to consider, in close consultation and co-operation with telecommunication operators, how the telecommunication needs of the occupiers of their development will be met. In general, it is preferable to locate new cabling underground or along the external surface of buildings. 

3.95.

POLLUTION

Pollution may be caused by the release of substances into the air, ground or water or by excessive noise, dust, vibration, light or heat. The role of the planning system in pollution control is relatively limited: much of the control is the statutory responsibility of other bodies. Pollution issues will be taken into account in two main ways in this Local Plan: the control of development that would give rise to pollution, or the risk of pollution; and the control of development that may be affected by existing pollution, or the risk of pollution, either on polluted or potentially polluted sites, or on sites
in proximity to the potential source of pollution.

POLICY BE18 - Pollution

Planning permission will not be permitted for development which could give rise to unacceptable levels of pollution, unless adequate mitigation measures are provided to ensure that any discharge or emissions will not cause harm to users of land, including the effects on health and the
natural environment. 

3.96.

The Council will be guided by the advice of the relevant pollution control agency in the determination of planning applications that could give rise to pollution. 

3.97.

Specific policies on noise, hazardous installations and lighting are contained in the following paragraphs. Water quality is addressed in the later section on Natural Resources. 

3.98.

There is increasing emphasis on the role that development planning can play in reducing air pollution. One of the key factors relates to traffic and the Oxfordshire Local Transport Plan sets out objectives to reduce airborne pollutants and noise contributed by traffic. Government policy stressing the need for locational policies that reduce the need to travel and promote the use of modes other than the car (so reducing emissions in the longer term), underlies the overall strategy
of this Local Plan. In determining a planning application, the Council will consider the impact of the development on the air quality caused by both the operational characteristics of the development (industrial, commercial and domestic) and the traffic generated by it. Regard will be had to the National Air Quality Strategy objectives and the results of air quality reviews and assessment being produced by the District Council. 

3.99.

Land Affected by Contamination

Past developments and processes have resulted in the contamination of land both in urban and rural areas. As West Oxfordshire was not an area of heavy industry, contaminated land is not a major issue in the District. However, in the few locations where contamination has occurred it could pose a threat both to the health of future users of the site, and to the surrounding environment, especially if redevelopment takes place. Few sites are so badly contaminated that they cannot be reused at all. Government policy is to encourage the reuse of such sites, subject to the risks to human health and the environment being adequately dealt with. In assessing the need for remedial works, the District Council will adopt a “suitable for use” approach in which the level of remedial action required should be sufficient to overcome any acceptable risks to health or the environment, taking into account the actual or intended use of the site. The Environment Agency is a statutory consultee and the Agency will seek appropriate controls
to protect the water environment as set out in the Environment Agency’s Policy and Practice for the Protection of Ground-water. As such, where the redevelopment of contaminated sites is proposed, the Agency will ask for a full site investigation before any redevelopment work commences. All site investigation work should be undertaken in line with British Standard
Guidance. 

3.100.

Responsibility for providing information on whether land is contaminated rests primarily with the developers. Developers will be required to cover the costs of suitable investigations to assess the nature and extent of contamination and the costs of any appropriate sustainable mitigation or remedial measures. While the District Council will encourage appropriate development on or
near land which is known or suspected to be contaminated, permission will only be given if effective remediation measures can be taken to remove the threat of contamination to future occupiers of the site and the development is not likely to result in contamination of the local environment, including surface or underground water resources. In addition, the District Council has a duty through the
Contaminated Land Regulations 2000 to encourage remediation of contaminated sites where redevelopment is not imminent.

Noise and Public Safety

POLICY BE19 - Noise

Planning permission will not be granted for:

  1.  housing and other noise sensitive development if the occupants would experience significant noise disturbance from existing or proposed development;
  2. development including the use of land, if because of the noise it will create, the occupants of housing and other noise sensitive development would be exposed to significant noise disturbance, unless there is an overriding need for the proposal which cannot be met elsewhere.
3.101.

Government guidance recognises that “noise can have a significant effect on the environment and on the quality of life enjoyed by individuals and communities”, and therefore the planning system should aim to minimise the adverse impact of noise where this is possible (PPG 24). Noise sensitive development is defined as dwellings, caravans, schools, hospitals, hotels and other similar institutions. 

3.102.

Wherever possible, significant and intrusive sources of noise should be kept away from property and areas sensitive to noise. Where segregation is not possible, noise nuisance can be reduced through mitigation measures, for example by the provision of physical barriers, sound insulation and/or restrictions limiting operating time of source. 

3.103.

The level of disturbance that is generally acceptable depends upon existing background levels, and the duration of the noise. Advice on noise levels and their degree of significance given in PPG 24 will be used to help assess the acceptability of development proposals.

POLICY BE20 - Protection for hazardous substances, installations and airfields

Development will not be permitted which would adversely affect safety near notifiable installations and safeguarded airfields. 

3.104.

Certain sites and pipelines are designated as notifiable installations by virtue of the quantities of hazardous substance stored or used. The siting of such installations will be subject to planning controls aimed at keeping these separated from housing and other land uses with which such installations might be incompatible from the safety viewpoint. To this end, the Council will seek the advice of the Health and Safety Executive on the suitability of that development in relation to the risks that the notified installation might pose to the surrounding population. 

3.105.

The area covered by this Local Plan already contains a number of installations handling notifiable substances, including high-pressure natural gas transmission pipelines. They are subject to stringent controls under existing Health and Safety legislation. New development will also be controlled in the vicinity of these installations. The Council has been advised by the Health and Safety Executive of consultation distances for each of these installations. In determining whether or not to grant consent for a proposed development on land within these consultation distances the Council will take account of the advice it receives from the Health and Safety Executive about risks to the proposed development from the notifiable installation. 

3.106.

There are a number of existing aerodromes within and adjoining West Oxfordshire. The Council has been advised by the Civil Aviation Authority (for the civil airfield, Oxford Airport, Kidlington) and the Ministry of Defence (for military bases) of safeguarding areas around these locations, and of the types of development which might have an adverse effect upon aviation operations, such as wind turbines, high buildings, increased lighting and developments which have the potential to increase the bird hazard risk. The safeguarding areas are shown on Figure 3.3 (some of which extend beyond the District boundaries). In determining proposals for development within these areas
the Council will take account of advice received after consulting the civil airfield operators or Ministry of Defence as appropriate. 

External Lighting and Light Pollution

POLICY BE21 - Light Pollution

The installation of external lighting and proposals for remote rural buildings will only be permitted where all of the following criteria are satisfied:

  1.  the means of lighting is appropriate, unobtrusively sited and would not result in excessive levels of light;
  2. elevations of buildings, particularly roofs, are designed to limit light spill;
  3. the proposal would not have a detrimental effect on the amenity of surrounding occupiers;
  4. the proposal would not have a significant adverse impact on the character of a town or village and its setting or of the wider countryside;
  5. the proposal will not be detrimental to an area of nature conservation interest.
3.107.

External lighting can perform a wide variety of functions ranging from floodlighting of sporting activities to illuminating important buildings within a town centre environment (See Policy BE16). In recent years, however, recognition has been given to the pollution caused by excessive lighting. In rural areas in particular light pollution has increasingly become a problem. It is accepted that lighting is required for a number of purposes, e.g. highway safety, security, provision of information, and for some night-time outdoor recreation. These needs should be balanced against any adverse impact lights might have on the visual character of the area, the ‘night sky’ or the reasonable living conditions of local residents. 

3.108.

One relatively new phenomenon has been the construction of large buildings in remote locations that are used at night-time for recreational uses, e.g. indoor equestrian buildings and golf clubhouses. The insertion of roof lights into these buildings to provide natural light in the day-time can result in a source of light pollution at night. Attempts should be made to design such remote buildings with solid roof planes and elevations. 

3.109.

Impact of lighting can be reduced in the following ways:

  • Employing the most efficient lighting equipment with minimal diffusion of light away from the area being lit.
  • Using site specific solutions appropriate to the location rather than a standardised approach.
  • Where appropriate, such as lighting proposed for safety or security purposes, reducing the height of columns to a minimum (in some instances lighting can be achieved by low level illuminated bollards).
  • By following the” Guidance Notes for the Reduction of Light Pollution” revised by the Institute of Lighting Engineers in 1994, and the Department of the Environment and Countryside Commission publication entitled “Lighting in the Countryside: Towards Good Practice”.

THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

COUNTRYSIDE

POLICY NE1 - Safeguarding the Countryside

Proposals for development in the countryside should maintain or enhance the value of the countryside for its own sake: its beauty, its local character and distinctiveness, the diversity of its natural resources, and its ecological, agricultural, cultural and outdoor recreational values. 

3.110.

The countryside of West Oxfordshire has a predominantly agricultural landscape that is renowned for its gentle scenic beauty. However, the Government recognises that countryside has more value than just its agricultural productivity or landscape quality: its overall aim is to:

“protect the countryside for the sake of its intrinsic character and beauty, the diversity of its landscapes, heritage and wildlife, the wealth of its natural resources and so it may be
enjoyed by all.”

(PPS7 Sustainable Development in Rural Areas). 

3.111.

South East Regional Planning Guidance emphasises that the effective protection of the environment and the prudent use of natural resources are fundamental aspects of the vision for this region. This is especially the case in West Oxfordshire with its high quality environment under continuing pressure from, for example, changes in farming and the expansion of the built environment to accommodate the demand for housing, jobs, roads and minerals. An important role of this Local Plan is to balance and control the pressures on the countryside in order to conserve and enhance the environmental quality of the District, for the sake of its scenic, ecological, agricultural, historical, cultural and recreational value and its overall diversity, distinctiveness and character. Development
will not be permitted that would damage the countryside unless there is an overriding social or economic need. Measures to mitigate any damage will be sought and where environmental assets, including nature conservation assets, are unavoidably damaged the Council will seek environmental compensation. 

3.112.

The countryside is a living and working environment as well as being of important scenic and ecological value. A healthy rural economy is fundamental to the future care and management of the landscape and the culture of an area. It is, therefore, vital that the positive aspects of diversification and change in the present countryside are encouraged as this will help to protect and improve the countryside for the benefit of its inhabitants and visitors.

POLICY NE2 - Countryside around Witney and Carterton

Only the following types of development are considered appropriate within the strategic gaps/buffer areas defined on the Proposals Map:

  1.  buildings for agriculture or forestry that cannot be accommodated elsewhere;
  2. recreational and community uses of an open nature appropriate to the countryside;
  3. minor alterations and additions to existing buildings; and
  4. the conversion of appropriate existing buildings.

Development in the strategic gaps/buffer areas which would harm the rural character of an area or lead to the undesirable sprawl of a settlement will not be permitted.

3.113.

The countryside around settlements can be particularly valuable as it performs a wide variety of functions, for example acting as a setting to the built-up area, a transition between urban and rural areas and a physical separation of neighbouring settlements or communities. It is also the most accessible countryside for local people, providing opportunities for walking, nature watching and other activities without the need to travel by car. And yet, because of their very proximity to the existing built-up area, these same areas can be under the greatest pressure for loss to development. 

3.114.

Policy NE1 seeks to safeguard the countryside, including that adjoining towns and villages. Policy NE2 seeks to give additional protection to some of the most vulnerable “gaps” or “fringe/buffer areas” adjacent to the two largest towns. In these areas development that would compromise the open character of the countryside will be resisted in order to prevent urban sprawl, the further intensification of existing loose-knit urban-fringe development and/or coalescence of neighbouring settlements. Any appropriate development (e.g. local smallscale playing fields, well landscaped cemetery, necessary operational development at sewage treatment works) in the Witney and Carterton buffer areas will need to comply with the other policies of this Plan as well as Policy NE2.

LANDSCAPE

POLICY NE3 - Local Landscape Character

Development will not be permitted if it would harm the local landscape character of the District. Proposals should respect and, where possible, enhance the intrinsic character, quality and distinctive features of the individual landscape types.

NB. When considering proposals the West Oxfordshire Landscape Assessment, the Lower Windrush Valley Project Report and the Windrush in Witney Project Report will be taken intoaccount where appropriate.

3.115.

West Oxfordshire is a predominantly rural, agricultural district which embraces large areas of unspoilt countryside and a diverse pattern of landscapes. Since the 1954 County Development Plan most of the landscape of the District has been locally designated as an area of high landscape value. The boundaries of this landscape area were extended and refined in the Rural Areas Local Plan and more recently in the 1997 District-Wide Local Plan. 

3.116.

With a relatively small part of the District lying outside a landscape notation, these undesignated areas tended to be perceived as having little of merit, despite their own intrinsic landscape attributes. In recognition of this and in response to Countryside Commission advice and the Government’s revisions to PPG7, the Council has reviewed its landscape policy for the District, using an approach which identifies the unique character of different areas within West Oxfordshire. 

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A comprehensive landscape assessment of the whole District was commissioned in 1997. The assessment was approved by the Council in July 1998 for the purposes of not only informing the Local Plan Review but also for use in day-to-day development control decisions, helping in the assessment of the impact of new development on the landscape, and in determining priorities
for grant aid to countryside projects and land management advice. 

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The Countryside Commission (now the Countryside Agency), English Nature and English Heritage have analysed the distinctive features of the English countryside and produced a ‘New
Map of England’. This map identifies broad areas of cohesive character which can be described in terms of their landscape character, sense of place, local distinctiveness, characteristic wildlife and natural features, and nature of change. These areas provide the broad context for defining landscape character areas at a local level. 

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The northern and central area of West Oxfordshire is characterised by relatively high, rolling landscape with a predominance of larger scale arable farmland dissected by more intimate valleys. The southern area is mainly low lying and pastoral in nature, with long flat views. Water, hedges and ditches are key features. The District contains wellmanaged parkland and estate farmland, with
significant areas of woodland. Figure 3.4 shows the 13 Character Areas identified in the West Oxfordshire Landscape Assessment. The individual landscape types within these Areas are defined in the Landscape Assessment Report. 

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One of the objectives of the character-based approach to assessing landscape is that it should help in accommodating appropriate development in the countryside without sacrificing local character. It can help ensure that development respects or enhances the distinctive character of the land and the built environment. 

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When assessing the impact of development proposals upon the landscape, the Council will have regard to the advice of the West Oxfordshire Landscape Assessment and will take into account a wide range of factors including the landform, use and structure of the area, the historical context, the degree of enclosure or prominence of features, important views or skylines, and the relationship between existing buildings and the surrounding countryside. A further consideration would
be whether appropriate mitigation or compensation measures would overcome any potential harm to the landscape character. 

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The Landscape Assessment contains detailed information on the character, quality and sensitivity of different parts of the District. Particularly sensitive areas for new development are the small and larger-scale valleys crossing the District, as well as the open landscapes of the elevated wolds and flat clay vales. Here tall or large-scale structures are especially difficult to accommodate without serious harm to the landscape. Land associated with watercourses is also particularly sensitive, both in terms of landscape and its ecological value (see Water Environment Policies NE7 & NE9). 

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The District Council, together with other organisations, provide a wide range of assistance to encourage the maintenance and improvement of West Oxfordshire’s landscape (see, for example, the later section on new hedgerows and trees). 

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Lower Windrush Valley and Eastern Thames Fringes

 The south eastern fringe of the District (known as the Lower Windrush Valley and Eastern Thames Fringes in the West Oxfordshire Landscape Assessment) has been, and, continues to be, an area of major landscape change. It has long been associated with mineral extraction, with large parts of the floodplain occupied by gravel pits in various stages of active quarrying, restoration or recolonisation. Due to the high water table and the lack of sufficient and suitable fill materials, the large majority of the restored pits have become lakes, forming a mosaic of wetland habitats of recreational and wildlife value (see also the section on waterbased recreation in the Tourism, Leisure and Community Facilities Chapter). 

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The area has a distinctively flat, low-lying landscape, extensive parts of which are tranquil and remote in character. Such a landscape can be particularly sensitive to change; new buildings and changes in the use of land may be visible over long distance and have a direct impact on, for example, views from the River Thames. It is important, therefore, that any development respects the intrinsic qualities of the area and is  generally rural in nature. Great care is needed in the siting and design of any buildings or structures within this landscape. 

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Proposals in the County Minerals and Waste Local Plan mean that gravel extraction will continue in this area well into this century. The area will, therefore, continue to be subject to change. The Minerals and Waste Local Plan also provides a co-ordinated policy framework for the restoration and after-use of the existing and emerging gravel pits. Any development proposal will need to be in accordance with both the County’s Local Plan and relevant policies in this West Oxfordshire Local Plan. The District Council will encourage the production of a more detailed strategy for after-uses, especially recreational uses and nature conservation issues. 

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In recognition of the continuing changes that are taking place and the sensitivity of the area (plus its landscape, nature conservation and recreational potential) a detailed study has been undertaken of the Lower Windrush Valley section of this landscape area on behalf of the County Council and Smiths of Bletchington (gravel operators). The Study (the Lower Windrush Valley Project) sets out a number of objectives. One of the key landscape objectives is to strengthen the character of the Study Area. This Area is shown on Figure 3.5. Most of the nature conservation and landscape objectives are fundamentally linked. Proposals will, therefore, also be considered against the nature
conservation objectives of the Study (see the section at the end of this Chapter). 

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Witney lies immediately to the north of the Lower Windrush Valley Project area. A detailed examination is also being undertaken of the Windrush Valley through the town – the Windrush in Witney Project. This District Council Project aims to establish clear guidance for the management and development of the area so as to protect and enhance its special landscape, as well as its character, ecology and cultural value. The Project Area is shown in Figure 3.5 and is largely covered by Policy WIT3.

Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

POLICY NE4 - Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty of the landscape and countryside of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty will be given great weight when determining development proposals within or impacting upon the AONB.

Regard will be had to the economic and social well-being of the area and its communities.

Major development will not be permitted in the AONB unless:

  1.  it is in the public interest in terms of any national considerations and the impact on the local economy; and
  2. the lack of alternative sites outside the AONB and of means of meeting the need in some other way justifies an exception being made.
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The western parishes of the District have been part of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) since its designation in 1966. A review of the boundaries took place in the 1980’s resulting in a three-fold increase of the AONB in West Oxfordshire. The boundary is shown on the Proposals Map. 

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AONBs are nationally designated areas, for which the Government gives the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty. ‘Landscape and scenic beauty’ does not relate just to visual quality. The characterbased approach to landscapes recognises that geology, topography, flora and fauna, historical and cultural aspects, all combine to contribute to the character of an area. The Cotswolds AONB is a living and working landscape within which people and businesses should prosper. It is a landscape with a remarkable visual unity, resulting from the underlying oolitic limestone. This limestone also provides the material for attractive buildings and features, such as dry-stone walls, and supports important plant and animal communities.

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The fundamental aim of the Council when considering any development proposal in the Cotswolds AONB is to conserve and enhance the very features and characteristics that make the Cotswolds special. There has long been a strong resistance to large scale development within the area. PPS7 states that major developments should not take place within AONBs, save in exceptional circumstances. Major developments should be demonstrated to be in the public interest and will be subject to the most rigorous examination. (Paragraph 22 of PPS7 sets out the key considerations for
such proposals). 

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Generally, development necessary to facilitate the economic and social well-being of the Cotswolds, including the provision of adequate housing to meet identified local needs, will be supported by the Council. Development will need to be compatible with the aims of designation and sympathetically designed and located to respect the local architecture and landscape. Careful control will be exercised over not just the scale of the proposed development but also the design, siting, use
of materials and landscaping of buildings; the environmental effects of a proposal; and the use of land generally. Planning applications should be accompanied by sufficient supporting information to enable a full assessment of the impact of the proposal upon the AONB, together with details of any mitigation measures. 

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The Council has appointed a Member to the Cotswolds Conservation Board which was established in December 2004 under the provision of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. The Board has two statutory purposes: to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the Cotswolds AONB and to increase the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the Cotswolds AONB. The Board is able to address a wide variety of issues and take direct action, e.g. through the Cotswolds Warden Service. A Management Plan has been adopted setting out how the AONB will be managed and the action that will be taken to keep the area special. This, together with other publications such as the Cotswolds Landscape Character Assessment and the Local Distinctiveness Guide, provide invaluable guidance to help in the conservation and enhancement of the natural resource of the AONB.

Oxford Green Belt

POLICY NE5 - Oxford Green Belt

Within the Oxford Green Belt planning permission will not be granted for development, particularly new buildings, other than:

  1. for purposes of agriculture and forestry;
  2. essential facilities for outdoor sport and outdoor recreation, for cemeteries and for other uses of land which preserve the openness of the Green Belt and which do not conflict with the purposes of including land within the Green Belt;
  3. the re-use of existing buildings (provided it does not have a materially greater impact than the present use, including any associated uses of land surrounding the building, on the openness of the Green Belt and the purposes of including land on it);
  4. limited infilling within the built-up areas of Bladon and Cassington and limited affordable housing for local community needs, in accordance with Policy H12;
  5. limited extension, alteration or replacement of existing dwellings (provided the proposals do not result in a dwelling that is materially larger than the original dwelling).

Where new development is permitted in accordance with this policy, either within or where it would be visible from the Green Belt, it should be designed and sited to preserve the openness, rural character and visual amenity of the Green Belt. 

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The Structure Plan for Oxfordshire identifies an area approximately four to six miles around Oxford as Green Belt. While the Structure Plan sets out the need for and purpose of the Green Belt, together with broad policy guidelines, it leaves the definition of the precise boundaries and detailed matters of planning policies to be dealt with in local plans. 

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Most of the Oxford Green Belt area has been subject to Green Belt controls for over 30 years. As far as West Oxfordshire is concerned, only a small part of its area has been affected by these controls. Cassington parish, with parts of the parishes of Bladon, Hanborough and Eynsham, have been included within the Green Belt designation. The only settlements included within the area, however, are Cassington and Bladon. In the 1980s amendments were made to the Green Belt boundaries historically used in West Oxfordshire. These were to use the new eastern bypass at Eynsham as the boundary definition and at Bladon, to include all of the village on both sides of the
A4095 within the Green Belt. The boundaries of the Oxford Green Belt are identified on the Proposals Map. The Council is of the opinion that circumstances have not materially changed during the last 10 years, in particular, Government’s Green Belt planning policy objectives, to warrant any further boundary changes during this Local Plan period. 

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Within the Green Belt there is a general presumption against new development apart from those uses set out in Policy NE5. Where development does take place it must be carefully designed and sited so as to minimise the impact on the character of the Green Belt. 

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As it is important to retain the openness and rural character of the Green Belt, new housing and employment development beyond the edges of Bladon and Cassington will be inappropriate. Small-scale development within the existing built-up area of these villages which does not affect the openness of the Green Belt, nor conflict with the purposes of the Green Belt, may, however, be acceptable. Housing proposals will be considered against Policy H6 and employment proposals against Policies E3- E5, in particular. 

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A small part of the Green Belt in West Oxfordshire has consent for sand and gravel extraction in accordance with the Minerals and Waste Local Plan. It is recognised that such extraction need not be incompatible with Green Belt objectives, provided that high environmental standards are maintained and that the site is well restored. When considering proposals for the after-use of the gravel area, particularly related to the use of new lakes, only uses which retain the open nature and rural character of the Green Belt will be allowed.

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NATURAL RESOURCES

Agriculture

Agricultural Land

While protection of the countryside to retain its productive value for agriculture no longer has the same priority as in the past, farming remains the major user of land and continues to play an essential role in shaping and maintaining the fabric of the countryside. There are few planning controls over agriculture itself but the protection of agricultural land, especially the protection of the ‘best and most versatile’ (BMV) farmland from irreversible development, has been long-standing Government policy and a fundamental basis to much of town planning since the 1940s. (Structure Plan Policy EN3 reflects this approach). 

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Government Guidance in PPS7 advises that ‘where significant development of agricultural land is unavoidable, local planning authorities should seek to use areas of poorer quality land (grades 3b, 4 and 5) in preference to that of a higher quality, except where this would be inconsistent with other sustainability considerations’. (Grades 1,2 and 3a of the Agricultural Land Classification are defined as the best and most versatile land). In West Oxfordshire the good farming land is normally Grade 2 and 3A. In assessing the BMV land the Council already takes into account factors such as the location of development in relation to farms, farm size and structure and the environmental importance of available ‘lower graded’ land. The desirability to protect the quality of landscapes, wildlife and habitats,  recreational amenity and our historic and cultural heritage has meant that there has been a change in emphasis in the protection of farmland away from its special treatment within the planning system. PPS7 explains that the presence of BMV ‘should be taken into account alongside other sustainability considerations (e.g. biodiversity; the quality and character of the landscape; its amenity value or heritage interest; accessibility to infrastructure,
workforce and markets; maintaining viable communities; and the protection of natural resources, including soil quality) when determining planning applications’. Policy NE1, together with other policies in this Plan, reflects this advice. 

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New Agricultural Buildings

New agricultural buildings are required to meet the needs of agriculture but they can damage the appearance of the countryside. Their siting and design is normally guided by function and economy, rather than to fit into the landscape. Although in the past there has been little planning control over buildings for agriculture or forestry or the construction of access roads, other than dwellings or intensive livestock units, the 1988 General Development Order has now been amended to require farmers to seek a determination from the local authority as to whether prior approval will be required for such proposals. Where planning permission or prior approval is necessary, the Council will require special attention to be given to the siting, scale, materials and general appearance of any building (or access way). Its siting should not be prominent in the landscape, nor cause serious damage to the environment, and its design and materials should be sympathetic to the rural surrounding, with appropriate landscaping undertaken as necessary. A new agricultural building, structure or access way should acknowledge and incorporate the local landscape, seek to contribute to and enhance the local landscape wherever possible and minimise its impact upon the landscape and the amenities of any nearby properties.

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Farm Diversification

 A recent study of farming in Oxfordshire (The Oxfordshire Farming Study, 1999) has highlighted dramatic falls in farm incomes, profits and employment levels in agriculture. The diversification into non-agricultural activities can be vital to the continuing viability of many farm enterprises. This Council is generally supportive of well conceived farm diversification schemes but is anxious to ensure that proposals for diversification contribute to sustainable development objectives, including the overall need to conserve and enhance the landscape character, biodiversity value and historical interest of the countryside, while securing long-term benefits for the farming community and the local economy. Key policies for enabling farm diversification to accommodate employment and tourism uses are Policies E3, E4, E5, TLC2 and TLC3.

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While having a generally supportive approach, farm diversification should not result in excessive expansion and encroachment of buildings into the countryside; existing buildings should be re-used, where feasible. Farm diversification schemes must be complementary to the agricultural operations, operated as part of the farm holding, compatible with a countryside location, consistent in scale with a rural location and not result in a loss of amenity to local people nor spoil the enjoyment of
other users of the countryside. A whole farm plan can help in providing evidence to support a diversification proposal. (The District Council, in partnership with the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, can provide grant aid towards the production of Whole Farm Conservation Plans within the Wychwood Forest Project area). Grant aid is also available from the Council for certain types of employment uses and advice can be given on the provision of tourist related facilities. 

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The changing nature of agriculture and the need for the industry to move closer to their markets may well lead to the need for developments such as co-operative grain stores, packing and distribution facilities, feed mills etc. In the event of such proposals coming forward in West Oxfordshire, policies in the Employment Chapter will apply. In addition, any special need arising from the proposed agricultural venture such as location, will be treated as a material consideration in
determining individual proposals. PPS7 explains that in terms of farm diversification proposals in the Green Belt, the wider benefits of the diversification may contribute to the ‘very special circumstances’ required by PPG2 for inappropriate development to be granted planning permission.

Trees, Woodland and Hedgerows

POLICY NE6 - Retention of Trees, Woodlands and Hedgerows

Planning permission will not be granted for proposals that would result in the loss of trees, woodlands or hedgerows, or their settings, which are important for their visual, historic, or biodiversity value. Removal will only be allowed where it can be demonstrated that the proposed
development would enhance the landscape quality and nature conservation value of the area. 

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Areas of woodland, hedgerows, groups and individual trees while having their own intrinsic beauty also make a fundamental contribution to the landscape or townscape of an area. They often characterise a locality, providing local distinctiveness. They can provide wildlife and ecological interest, adding to an area’s biodiversity and providing historic continuity. They can screen development from view, soften its impact, improve its appearance, help assimilate it into the landscape and, at the same time, act as wind breaks and shelter belts, giving energy conservation and noise reduction benefits to the development. Added to this is the increasing recognition of their role in pollution control, for example, absorbing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. 

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It is important, therefore, that existing trees, hedgerows and woodlands and their settings are protected, especially as new tree planting takes many years to make a significant impact on the landscape. It is the Government’s policy through its forestry strategy, for there to be a
steady expansion of woodland and a sustainable management of existing woodland resources.
The policy includes a presumption against the clearance of woodland for other land uses unless there is an overriding public interest. The removal of woodland, hedgerows or trees will only be allowed if it can be demonstrated that the proposed development will enhance the local area in terms of landscape quality and nature conservation value. In these circumstances, a comprehensive landscaping and replanting scheme, using predominantly native, local species must be implemented as an integral part of the proposals. Where it is possible new planting should be used to link
existing hedgerows and woodland to provide wildlife corridors, so securing a greater biodiversity value. 

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The Council will expect proposals for development to include appropriate measures for retention of existing vegetation and, wherever possible, for it to be supplemented by new planting. Where existing vegetation forms a significant feature of a site, the Council will:

  1. require a survey showing position, size and species of existing vegetation;
  2. expect plans for new development to provide for the retention and sympathetic incorporation of existing suitable trees and hedgerows giving them appropriate space and setting;
  3. where appropriate serve Tree Preservation Orders to ensure the continuing protection of important trees; and
  4. impose conditions on planning permissions to ensure that adequate protection is given to retained trees and hedgerows during site clearance and building operations.
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After the loss of many hedgerows from the landscape, their value is being increasingly recognised. If a proposal is put forward which necessitates the removal of a hedgerow the Council will require an evaluation to be undertaken of the hedgerow’s ecological, archaeological and landscape value before determining the application. Certain hedgerows are given special protection through the 1997 Hedgerows Regulations. The Council will issue Hedgerow Retention Notices where the
removal of such hedgerows is being proposed. The loss of important hedgerows will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances. 

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Where trees or groups of trees are threatened and it is considered that the tree(s) make an important contribution to the local amenity, the Council will impose a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). Permission is required from the Council to fell or carry out other works to a tree protected by a TPO. When determining an application to carry out such work regard will be had to the health and stability of the tree and its likely future life and likely contribution of the tree to public amenity. An application will not be allowed unless sufficient evidence is put forward to support the case which justifies overriding the amenity value of the tree. Where trees protected by a TPO are felled, the Council will require that they are replaced in a suitable position with locally appropriate species in the current or next planting season. 

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Ancient woodlands are listed on a draft register maintained by English Nature. They are those places which have had a continuous woodland cover since at least 1600 AD, and have only
been cleared for underwood or timber production. These woodlands and ancient seminatural
woodlands have landscape value but also an important habitat for native flora andfauna. They are an irreplaceable asset that, once destroyed, can never be re-created. Policies  NE13 and NE14 provide additional protection for such woodland. They are shown on the Proposals Map and Figure 3.6. 

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New Trees and Hedgerows

The Government’s Forestry Strategy, sets out actions to achieve an increase in woodland cover in England, promoting not only substantial woodlands but also rejuvenated hedgerows, parklands, orchards, copses, shelterbelts and trees. In line with national objectives, the District Council is encouraging new tree planting in West Oxfordshire, both directly through land use planning and indirectly through grant aid and support of local initiatives.

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The Forestry Strategy wishes to promote forestry through planning, identifying in particular how the setting of future development can be enhanced by the incorporation of new wooded and other green elements. The District Council is already achieving woodland and tree planting within
and adjoining the development areas currently under construction at Witney and Carterton. Substantial planting is again proposed as part of the additional development areas allocated in
this Local Plan. In general, the Council will be seeking landscape schemes of high quality as an integral part of all new development proposals (see Policy BE2). Off-site planting to mitigate
against the impact of development will be sought in appropriate cases. 

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The importance of existing trees and the need for new planting has been further heightened in West Oxfordshire by the significant loss of trees during the last 30 years. Disease, age, agricultural change, land management practices and new development have all contributed to this loss. Small woods, farm and village ponds, and riverline willows are also not being effectively managed. In time they will have little economic, wildlife, visual or recreational value. In many woods this will lead to their further decline and, in the case of river valley willows and farm ponds, their ultimate loss. 

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To help reverse the decline in the tree population the Council offers grants for amenity tree planting. As it is important to encourage the management of existing countryside features, grants are also offered by the Council for the restoration of ponds and for the pollarding of willows where they are an important local feature. In order to encourage positive management of small woodlands, the District Council contributes to the Oxfordshire Woodland Project which provides practical help
and advice to Oxfordshire’s small woodland owners. (Other sources of assistance are available. See, for example, the section on new habitats at the end of this Chapter and the Oxfordshire Nature Conservation Forum’s publication “The Truly Useful Nature Conservation Directory”). 

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One of the largest projects supported by the District Council is the Wychwood Forest Project. This project aims to revive the landscape character and mix of habitats found in the area when it was a royal hunting forest in the Middle Ages. It covers 41 parishes in West Oxfordshire. Figure 3.6 shows the boundaries of the Project Area and sets out the Project’s objectives, including the objective to
promote and support woodland management and increase levels of new woodland planting in appropriate locations. Development proposals within the Project Area will need to give special
consideration to the objectives of the Project. 

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Water Quality and the Water Environment

The Environment Agency is the body primarily responsible for the protection and enhancement of the water resources, both surface and ground, within West Oxfordshire. However, the Agency is reliant upon the District Council resisting land use changes and development that would have an adverse affect upon the quality of water resources and increase the risk of flooding.

POLICY NE7 - The Water Environment

Development should not have an adverse impact on the water environment. Initiatives which seek to restore or enhance the natural elements of this environment will be supported. 

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Water is a precious and finite resource. There is now a greater awareness of the need to protect, not only the sources of water (both surface and underground) and the quality of water, but also the general environment associated with surface water areas. Rivers, lakes and ponds are sources of water supply and also important resources for nature conservation, amenity and recreation. Their
value for the enjoyment of the general public is increasingly emphasised. The environment associated with water bodies can be a sensitive area where the harmful effects of development
are usually irreversible. In such areas, development which would have an adverse impact upon the environment will be refused planning permission. 

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River corridors can be especially valuable:

  • acting as wildlife corridors, helping to sustain ecological diversity;
  • providing recreational opportunities, including water sports and access routes, connecting town to country; and
  • strengthening the local distinctiveness of an area.
  • River corridors can also be especially sensitive to change. The loss of otters and water voles are just two ecological examples. The Council, in consultation with the Environment Agency, will, therefore, promote river corridors as important areas of open land by:
    1. Conserving existing areas of value and wherever possible, seeking to restore the natural elements, within the corridors and margins (see, in particular, NE9 and NE13);
    2. Resisting development which would have an adverse impact on nature conservation, fisheries, landscape, public access and water related activities (see, for example, Policies NE3 and NE4 and TLC1 and TLC9). NB. Special attention will be given to otter and water vole habitats;
    3. Promoting appropriate public access (see Policies TLC8);
    4. Identifying appropriate locations for water related activities (see Policies TLC10 and TLC11);
    5. Protecting and improving access for operational and maintenance purposes, including the provision of maintenance strips when practical.
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When a watercourse is likely to be affected by a proposal the Council will generally require an ecological appraisal to be submitted by the applicant. Consent must be obtained from the Environment Agency for works within 8 metres of all main rivers. 

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Where development adjoining a watercourse is acceptable, appropriate riverside landscaping, open space and river corridor habitat restoration will be required. All new development must retain a buffer strip on either side of the watercourse so as not to prejudice the river corridor’s function as a wildlife habitat. 

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Proposals which involve the culverting of water courses will not normally be allowed. Culverting can increase flood risk and break the continuity of a river corridor.

(NOT SAVED) NE8 - Flood Risk

New development or intensification of existing development will not be permitted within areas at risk from flooding which is likely to:

  1. impede the flow of water;
  2. result in the net loss of flood plain storage; or
  3. increase the flood risk elsewhere.
Within areas at risk of flooding an appropriate Flood Risk Assessment must be undertaken when preparing development proposals.

(NOT SAVED) NE9 - Surface Water

New development or intensification of existing development will not be permitted where the additional surface water run-off would result in adverse impacts such as an increased risk of flooding, river channel instability or damage to habitats, unless appropriate attenuation and pollution control measures are provided. 

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The Environment Agency has published maps indicating areas at risk from flooding and have made them available on their website. These maps are based on the best information currently available but it must be remembered that there are uncertainties inherent in the prediction of flooding and that flood risk is expected to increase due to a variety of factors, including climate change. Further revisions of the maps will be released by the Agency at intervals. (The 2000 indicative flood plains are shown in Figure 3.7). This whole issue will be kept under review in the light of developing
information about climate change and flood risk. It is advisable to contact the Environment Agency for further information. 

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Development within areas at risk from flooding is not only itself at risk but, by reducing the amount of land available for flood water storage and by impeding flood flows, it can increase the risk of flooding in off-site and sometimes remote locations. There have been longstanding policies to resist development in areas at risk from flooding. In view of the apparently increased frequency and severity of flooding in recent years PPG 25 (Development and Flood Risk), published in 2001, increases the weight to be given to flood risk in the planning process. In applying Policy NE8 full regard will be given to PPG25 (and emerging PPS25). 

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Floodplains have a natural role as a form of flood defence as well as providing important wildlife habitats and adding landscape value. New built development in functional floodplains will be exceptional and limited to essential transport and utilities infrastructure that has to be there. 

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Government now advises that the issue of flood risk and its management should be looked at in a wider context, considering it on a wholecatchment basis not just the flood plain. A precautionary approach is to be applied to the issue of flood risk using a risk-based sequential test that directs development towards sites at lower risk and away from areas with a higher risk of flooding. 

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The overall aim is to avoid inappropriate development in flood risk areas and to ensure that new development does not lead to additional flood risk. A Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) will need to be carried out for all areas at risk of flooding, including areas at low risk where the proposed development could increase flooding elsewhere by significantly increasing the area covered by an impermeable surface. The FRA must assess the risk of flooding to the proposed development, the
possible impact which it may have on flooding elsewhere (in terms of flood flow, flood storage capacity, and run-off) and propose mitigation measures where appropriate and acceptable.
The scope and content of a FRA should be appropriate to the scale and nature of the proposed development. Advice is contained in Appendix F of PPG25. The Council will take advice from the Environment Agency when looking at the issue of flood risk. 

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Additional surface water run-off can increase the risk of flooding. Development of greenfield sites usually results in an increase in the amount of impermeable land. Surface water from such areas is generally conveyed directly to a watercourse, reducing the natural recharge of groundwater, wasting a valuable resource, increasing pollution risk and increasing river flows. Such additions to river flow increases the risk of flooding in areas downstream and physical damage to river environments. 

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Wherever possible, surface water should be disposed of as close to the source as possible. Where risks are identified, appropriate flow attenuation facilities or mitigation measures may be a pre-requisite for development. Developers will be expected to cover the costs of assessing their proposed development’s impact and of any appropriate attenuation or mitigation works, including long term management. 

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In recent years the Environment Agency has been promoting source control methods of water disposal, through sustainable drainage systems (SuDS). The use of softer engineering structures such as swales, detention ponds, infiltration basins and porous surfaces, as alternatives to conventional drainage systems are advocated, where appropriate. CIRIA (Construction Industry Research and Information Association) offer detailed advice on how best to achieve satisfactory drainage of new development. It is important that developers include, where appropriate, the
provision of SuDS into their proposals at the earliest possible stage in consultation with the Environment Agency, this District Council and the County Highways Authority.

POLICY NE10 - Water Resources

Development will not be permitted which increases the requirement for water unless adequate water resources either already exist or will be provided in time to serve the new development and without detriment to existing uses. 

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As the demand for water increases, further development places additional pressures on existing resources. In order to manage water resources on a sustainable basis, development will be limited to those locations where adequate resources already exist, or where new provision can be made without adversely affecting existing abstraction, river flows, water quality, agriculture, fisheries, amenity or nature conservation, and where this coincides with the timing of the development. Measures to reduce the demand for water, including water efficiency devices and conservation practices, should be incorporated into new development wherever  practicable. Thames Water will provide advice on the availability of water resources. The Environment Agency can provide further advice and information on both water efficiency and conservation measures that can be adopted.

3.171.

The Environment Agency is responsible, through a system of abstraction licensing, for ensuring that water resources are managed effectively and for the benefit of everyone. Anybody wishing to take water from a river, stream, canal, or underground source will normally require a licence. The granting of a licence will be dependent on the availability of water resources locally and on the acceptability of any resulting impact on the environment and existing protected rights. Anybody considering abstracting water should contact the Water Resources and Licensing Section of the
Environment Agency to discuss the proposal before any abstraction takes place.

POLICY NE11 - Water Quality

Development should not have an adverse impact on the quality of surface or ground water supplies and resources. 

3.172.

The pollution of water can have a serious effect on drinking water supply and industrial and agricultural practices. The general amenity, fisheries, water based recreation, navigation and  conservation value of areas is also reduced by water pollution. Water quality, therefore, needs to be protected. 

3.173.

Underground water resources play an important role in water supply and in providing spring flow into rivers and water courses. Geologically, large areas of West Oxfordshire  comprise of fissured oolite limestone which often exhibits shallow water tables and rapid flow rates. The protection of such sensitive aquifers needs to be achieved at all times. Water resources are susceptible to a wide
range of threats arising from land-use policies. The threats to groundwater can be especially  severe, as once groundwater has been contaminated it is difficult, if not impossible, to rehabilitate it. Guidance on development and groundwater is contained in the “Policy and Practice for the Protection of Groundwater”, which includes maps identifying the vulnerability of groundwater to contamination, published by the Environment Agency. 

3.174.

Waste Water Management

With increasing population and water use many sewer systems are becoming overloaded.
Further development in the areas served by these systems is likely to lead to pollution of watercourses unless additional infrastructure is provided. New development will not be permitted unless foul sewers and sewage treatment works of adequate capacity and design are available or will be provided in time to serve the development (see Policy BE1). The responsibility for demonstrating that a new development is effectively served by a sewerage system rests primarily with the developer. The Local Authority will be advised by Thames Water and the Environmental Agency on the issue of Waste Water Management. 

3.175.

The use of septic tanks will only be considered if connection to the mains sewerage is not
feasible, and only then if ground conditions are satisfactory and the plot of land is of sufficient size to provide an adequate subsoil drainage system. (Circular 3/99 provides further advice on the exercise of planning controls on nonmains sewerage and associated sewage disposal). The proliferation of small private package sewage treatment plants and other types of discharge direct to watercourse within sewered areas will be discouraged. Government has made it clear that if non-mains sewerage and sewage disposal proposals are assessed as being unsatisfactory, this is normally sufficient to justify refusal of planning permission. 

3.176.

Minerals and Waste Management

West Oxfordshire is the major producer of sharp sand and gravel in the County. The main
deposits are found in the Thames and Windrush Valleys which have been subject to exploitation
for over 50 years. The 1996 County Minerals and Waste Local Plan proposed the lower Windrush Valley, south of Witney, together with the Cassington-Yarnton area (north of A40) as the areas where the principle of extraction has been accepted for the duration of the plan period up to 2006. 

3.177.

The Minerals and Waste Local Plan also includes proposals for after-use in these gravel areas,
incorporating the approach jointly pursued by the County Council and District Council for several years. The proposals in the Cassington- Yarnton area include pedestrian and cycle routes, utilising the route of the old railway line where possible. 

3.178.

For waste disposal and recycling the County Council’s Minerals and Waste Local Plan sets out criteria against which proposals will be judged. The Oxfordshire Structure Plan (especially Policy G6 on energy and resource conservation and Chapter 12: Waste management) and the Oxfordshire
Joint Household Waste Management Strategy provide further guidance and set out the overall
strategy for the area. (The County Council is the determining authority for applications for
minerals and waste development). 

3.179.

The priorities for dealing with waste follow a waste hierarchy: reduction (minimisation); re-use, recovery – materials recycling; recovery – composting and organic waste treatment; recovery – energy; disposal – landfill. Many of these issues have land-use implications. The District Council is keen to see waste managed in a more sustainable way and will generally support, for example, the development of facilities to treat organic waste (e.g, through digestion or composting), or facilities for the collection, sorting, bulking and haulage of recyclable waste, or plants enabling the
recovery of energy from waste. Such proposals ill be considered in the light of wider county implications and needs, as part of a comprehensive county or regional approach to developing sustainable waste management. Permission will be subject to an assessment of the likely environmental, amenity and transport impacts. 

3.180.

Although the District Council has introduced a kerbside collection service of certain recyclable  domestic waste, there is still a need to provide community collection facilities, for example, for glass, paper and cans. The District Council will support the provision of such facilities, especially in areas of major new development, including new shopping development.

Energy

POLICY NE12 - Renewable Energy

Proposals for the development of renewable energy schemes will be permitted if all the following criteria are met:

  1. there would not be an unacceptable mpact upon the environment and resources of the area;
  2. an unacceptable level of nuisance by reason of noise, safety, shadow flicker, electromagnetic interference or reflected light will not be created.

Within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, proposals will only be acceptable where they are small in scale and where it can be shown to be in the public or national interest and no alternative sites exist. 

3.181.

There is general acceptance that the global climate is changing as a result of human activities which produce greenhouse gases. A major greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide, a byproduct of energy use. Government sees the planning system as having an important role in helping to deliver its targets and goals for climate change. The two main areas of influence are through encouraging energy efficiency and renewable energy. Policy BE2 addresses the first issue. 

3.182.

Government is committed to encouraging a significant contribution to energy supply from renewables. It has set a target of obtaining 10% of UK electricity requirements from renewables
by 2010. Renewable energy can be obtained from naturally occurring resources, for example,
solar, water or wind power, energy from plant material, or from recycling waste. (The South East Renewable Energy Assessment provides details of potential resources in Oxfordshire). The development of new and renewable energy sources brings opportunities for increased diversity and security of power supply, as well as reducing emissions of harmful greenhouse gases. Chapter 10 of the Structure Plan (covering Policies EG1-3) sets out the planning approach to renewable energy development in Oxfordshire. The Government’s planning policy guidance is published in PPS22 on renewable energy, and the accompanying Companion Guide which contains technical advice and
guidance on individual renewable technologies and examples of good practice. 

3.183.

The District Council will generally encourage the development of alternative sources of renewable energy. Special consideration will need to be given to local environmental issues, especially the area’s landscape character and amenity, as renewable energy developments can have adverse environmental implications. Development proposals will be expected to demonstrate any environmental, economic and social benefits as well as how any environmental and social impacts have been minimised through careful consideration of location, scale, design and other measures. 

3.184.

In sites with nationally recognised designations (Sites of Special Scientific Interest, National Nature Reserves, Scheduled Monuments, Cotswolds AONB, Conservation Areas, Listed Buildings and Registered Parks and Gardens) proposals for renewable energy will only be acceptable where it can be demonstrated that the objectives of designation of the area will not be compromised. Within the Cotswolds AONB appropriate renewable energy developments are likely to be small in scale. 

3.185.

ECOLOGY AND GEOLOGY

Traditionally, nature conservation has been regarded as the protection and management of designated sites and the protection of individual endangered species. But PPS9 (Biodiversity and Geological Conservation) recognises that nature conservation cannot succeed by merely protecting a series of isolated sites or species; nature conservation is increasingly seen in the context of the wider natural environment and, in particular, biodiversity. Biodiversity is dependent upon a healthy and balanced environment. The need to conserve this environment for the benefit of this and
future generations is a fundamental part of Government’s commitment to sustainable development. 

3.186.

Biodiversity, the variety of life on earth, helps to define the character and qualities of our local landscapes. It contributes to the natural beauty and amenity that makes every area distinctive. English Nature has used this approach to divide England into a series of Natural Areas, the boundaries of which are based on the distribution of wildlife and natural features, reflecting the geology, land use and land use history of each area. Within these areas English Nature has identified the chief threats to, and opportunities for, nature conservation and have set out a series of objectives to protect and manage the biodiversity and geological assets. West Oxfordshire falls within two Natural Areas: the Cotswolds and the Thames and Avon Vales. Policies in this Plan seek to protect the distinctive character and quality of the areas. 

3.187.

Arising out of the Rio Earth Summit, a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (B.A.P) was published in 1994, setting out a programme for the conservation and sustainable use of the country’s biological diversity. It identified a range of ‘priority’ habitats and species of at least national importance. In response to the UK Plan, Oxfordshire produced its own “Action for Wildlife” Local B.A.P. framework. This highlighted seven priority habitats: woodland; neutral meadows and grazing marsh; chalk
and limestone grassland; farmland; heathland; wetland; and towns and villages. A number of more detailed Action Plans have now been prepared for each of these habitat types. Apart from chalk grassland all these habitats are found within West Oxfordshire. 

3.188.

The Biodiversity Action Plan and the Habitat Action Plans provide invaluable information on the biodiversity of the District. Further analysis is contained within a District Council report: “An Ecological Audit of West Oxfordshire”. These publications together with a Nature Conservation Strategy prepared for Oxfordshire in 1993 by the local authorities, in conjunction with a wide range of interested parties (plus the results of a recent investigation of landscape, character and biodiversity across the county – the Oxfordshire Wildlife and Landscape Study) will be used as guidance on nature conservation issues within the District. Advice will also be sought from English Nature, the County Ecologist and other relevant organisations, as appropriate.

POLICY NE13 - Biodiversity Conservation

In determining planning applications, the Council will seek to safeguard, maintain and enhance priority habitats and species within the District. Development proposals should include measures to mitigate any effects upon features of nature conservation value, including where appropriate the provision of compensatory habitats or management. 

3.189.

An important part of the overall strategy of this Local Plan is to safeguard, maintain and enhance the natural environment of West Oxfordshire, particularly its biodiversity (see the General Strategy Chapter). The Council will resist any net loss of interest in the biodiversity resources of the District, will seek gains wherever possible and will endeavour to protect irreplaceable ecological and geological habitats (including, for example, ancient woodland, veteran trees and ancient hedgerows). To help achieve this the Council, when considering development proposals, will use the following approach:

  •  Avoid direct loss or damage of priority habitats
  • Condition any permissions to protect habitats
  • Use mitigation/compensation measures here necessary
  • Seek planning agreements to secure sympathetic management of priority habitats
  • Use conditions/seek planning agreements to ncourage habitat creation
3.190.

Even for minor proposals it is important to take full account of the effects upon biodiversity. The combined or cumulative effect of a number of apparently insignificant small-scale developments may seriously damage the integrity of habitats or habitat networks, for example, through landtake, fragmentation, severance disturbance or hydrological changes. Similarly even the smallest opportunities for habitat creation or enhancement can be significant and can build into major contributions over time. 

3.191.

Where a designated site or species protected by law (including ancient woodlands and sites containing veteran trees) would be likely to be affected by a proposal, or where the nature conservation value of the site is uncertain or the effects of the development on the site are uncertain, an ecological appraisal will be required. Such an appraisal should be undertaken to the extent necessary to provide adequate information about the effects of the proposed development. The Council will normally require such an appraisal to be submitted by the applicant.

POLICY NE14 - Sites of Nature Conservation or Geological Importance

Development that is likely to adversely affect a Special Area of Conservation, National Nature Reserve or Site of Special Scientific Interest will not be permitted. On locally designated sites of nature conservation importance, development that would damage biodiversity or geological interest will not be permitted unless the importance of the development outweighs the local value of the site and the loss can be mitigated.

NB. This policy also applies to Candidate Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), proposed Special Protection Area (SPA) sites and proposed Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs); such sites are afforded the same protection as those which are designated.

3.192.

The majority of priority habitats for nature conservation within the District are now reduced to a series of small, fragmented and isolated sites. It is vital that this remaining resource is safeguarded, managed sympathetically, and expanded in accordance with the actions and targets set out in the
relevant Habitat Action Plans and Species Action Plans for West Oxfordshire. 

3.193.

Many of the sites are designated according to their nature conservation importance. The hierarchy of designated sites is set out in Appendix 5. Some of the Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are designated for their geological importance. The Government’s guidance is that designated sites should be protected, taking into account their relative significance as international, national or locally important sites: the more important the designation, the more weight should be given to it in decision-making and the more critical should be the scrutiny of development proposals which may cause the site demonstrable harm. The importance of the rich ecology to the intrinsic character of West Oxfordshire means the District Council wishes to protect all designated sites. Local nature
reserves, for example, can be as significant to the character and diversity of an area for local people as sites of international importance. 

3.194.

Internationally Important Sites

International protection (through European legislation) is afforded to the most important nature conservation sites which are critical to the biodiversity of Europe as a whole. Proposals for development or land use change which may affect a European site, a proposed European site (such as Cassington Meadows Candidate Special Area of Conservation), or a RAMSAR site will be subject to the most rigorous examination. Development or land use change not directly connected with or necessary to the management of the site and which is likely to have significant effects on the site (either individually or in combination with other plans or projects) and which would affect the integrity of the site, may only be permitted if there is no alternative solution and
if there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest for the development or land use change. Where the site concerned hosts a priority natural habitat type and/or a priority species, development or land use change will not be permitted unless it is necessary for reasons of human health or public safety or beneficial consequences of primary importance for nature conservation. 

3.195.

Nationally Important Sites

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) are notified by English Nature for their ecologicalor geological value. They form a national network of sites which represent the best examples of important habitats and geological features in the country. There are 29 SSSIs in West Oxfordshire, including Wychwood Forest and Chimney Meadows which are also National Nature Reserves (NNRs). The SSSIs are shown on the Proposals Map and listed in Figure 3.8. 

3.196.

Government advice is that statutorily designated sites, including SSSIs, “should be protected from damage and destruction, with their important scientific features conserved by appropriate management” and that “development proposals in or likely to affect them must be subject to special scrutiny”. This is reflected in Structure Plan Policy EN5. It is in the national interest that SSSIs
are protected from both direct and indirect harmful operations. Where development may have an adverse effect, directly or indirectly on the SSSI, it will not be permitted unless the reasons for the development clearly outweigh the nature conservation value of the site itself and the national policy to safeguard the national network of such sites. Where the site concerned is a NNR or a site identified under the Nature Conservation Review (NCR) or Geological Conservation Review (GCR)
particular regard will be paid to the site’s national importance. 

3.197.

Other Sites of Importance

ites of critical importance for nature conservation within Oxfordshire, which are not already statutory designated, are referred to as County Wildlife Sites (CWSs) or other wildlife sites of more local importance. These sites are largely irreplaceable and selected against a number of criteria which have been adopted by Local Authorities in Oxfordshire, the Oxfordshire Biological Records Centre,
English Nature and the Wildlife Trust (BBOWT). (Appendix 6 lists the CWS in West Oxfordshire).

3.198.

There are 112 CWSs in West Oxfordshire. These include examples of all the priority habitats and sites which support a particularly rich assemblage of species. There are over 30 sites important for their woodland (including, for example, Cogges Wood, East of Witney), over 30 neutral grassland sites, 26 limestone grassland sites (e.g. Enstone Quarry), 6 sites of heath/acid grassland (e.g. Bladon Heath) and 16 wetland sites (e.g. Burford Watercress Beds). The sites are identified on Alert Maps held by the local planning authorities and are used as part of the planning process. 

3.199.

The landscape importance of woodland and parkland is recognised earlier in this chapter (see Policy NE6 and associated paragraphs). Most woodland and parkland also has nature conservation importance, especially broadleaved and yew woodland and lowland wood pastures and parkland which are identified as national priority habitats. Veteran trees, like those in the parkland of Blenheim, are particularly important in Oxfordshire: the County has about 10% of Europe’s veteran
trees. Such trees have a high value for biodiversity conservation, as well as being the defining characteristics of certain landscapes. 

3.200.

English Nature has prepared a provisional inventory of ancient woodland sites which have existed from at least medieval times. Many are of nature conservation importance as well as an important landscape feature. The District Council is advised to consult with the Forestry Authority when considering development proposals within 500m of an ancient woodland site. Areas of ancient woodlands, greater than 2 hectares in extent, are specifically shown on the Proposals Map and at Figure 3.6. Much of this is concentrated in the centre of the District and comprises remnants of the former Wychwood Royal Forest. 

3.201.

Where appropriate, Local Authorities have the statutory power to set up and manage Local Nature Reserves (LNR). Such sites offer special opportunities for the general public to see, learn about and enjoy wildlife in their natural surroundings. There are currently two LNRs in West Oxfordshire at Crecy Hill, Tackley and along part of the Salt Way at Ditchley (see Proposals Map). 

3.202.

Although specific site protection is extremely important there is now the recognition that the health and quality of the wider countryside can have a profound effect on the long term viability of individual, often isolated, habitats and species. Within the wider countryside wildlife corridors/ecological networks can play an important role in maintaining the diversity of the natural environment. Corridors (such as hedgerows, road verges and rivers and their banks) and ecological networks (including small woods and ponds) are often important nature conservation and landscape features in their own right but they can also allow the continuity of a habitat and can form links or ‘green chains’ which can be essential for the migration, dispersal and genetic exchange of wild species, and fundamental in maintaining the viability of isolated sites. Development should not destroy or adversely impair the integrity of such corridors/networks/green wedges. Every opportunity should be taken to consolidate and strengthen these features. For example, the Council will ensure that new development within or adjoining such areas contributes to their operation through appropriate landscaping. 

3.203.

Biodiversity is strongly linked to the landscape character of an area. The West Oxfordshire Landscape Assessment identifies opportunities for safeguarding, maintaining and enhancing local landscape character and, implementation of these, should strengthen the biodiversity resource of the District. 

3.204.

English Nature is promoting the identification of Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Sites (RIGS) through the establishment of local groups comprising representatives from Geological Societies, Local Authorities, Museum Services, etc. RIGS are non-statutory, locally based sites which are designated and managed informally and voluntarily. The Oxfordshire RIGS Group has recently been formed and has begun the process of identifying and designating RIGS within the County. All RIGS will be notified to the County Ecologist and included on the Alert Maps. 

3.205.

Development likely to have an adverse effect on a regionally or locally important nature conservation or geological site, an ancient woodland or wildlife corridor/ network, will not be permitted unless it can be clearly demonstrated that there are reasons for the proposal which outweigh the need to safeguard the substantive nature conservation or geological value of the site or feature. Where development is permitted which would damage such value, the damage must be kept to a minimum. Where appropriate the District Council will consider the use of conditions and/
or planning obligations to secure appropriate compensatory measures.

POLICY NE15 - Protected Species

Development that would have an adverse ffect on a site supporting a specially protected species will not be permitted unless damage to the ecological interest can be prevented through compliance with conditions or planning obligations. 

3.206.

In addition to important habitats there are a number of individual plants and animal species that are specially protected by law, primarily because of their endangered status. Specially protected species which are rare or threatened in Europe are included within the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc) Regulations 1994. Species which are rare or threatened nationally are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended, although others, such as badgers, are protected by their own legislation. 

3.207.

The presence of a protected species is a material consideration when a Local Planning Authority is considering a development proposal which, if carried out would be likely to result in harm to the species or its habitats. Thus, planning permission will not be granted for development or land use changes which would have an adverse impact on badgers or species protected by Schedules 1,5 or 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended. 

3.208.

‘European Protected Species’ have an even greater level of protection than the species protected by UK law. If development has an impact on a European Protected Species then the applicant must apply for a DEFRA development licence should planning permission be granted. A survey and suitable mitigation must be agreed in consultation with English Nature before a decision is made on the planning application. 

3.209.

The Ecological Audit of West Oxfordshire provides information on species within the District. Species found in West Oxfordshire that are included in the shortlist of globally threatened and declining species from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan include: water vole, otter, dormouse, skylark, song thrush, great crested newt and native or freshwater white clawed crayfish. Priority species are also identified in the H.A.Ps for Oxfordshire (Creeping marshwort, Broadleaved cudweed, Early gentian and Cotswold pennycress). In addition, certain species will have Species Action Plans (S.A.Ps), for example water voles and otters. Not all these locally important species are specially protected. The District Council , however, aims to prevent damage to these species. The H.A.Ps and S.A.Ps provide further nature conservation guidance. 

3.210.

Development and the protection of endangered and important species need not be incompatible. Sometimes planning permission may be granted where species can be sensitively incorporated into the development proposals, or where relocation will be a practical option (this is a final option; all other options must be considered first). The Council will use planning conditions and/or legal agreements to help safeguard, maintain and enhance the population of important species (i.e. species protected or given priority status or locally important). Such conditions/planning agreements will be used, for example, to:

  1. reduce disturbance to the species to a minimum;
  2. aid the survival of individual members of the pecies; and
  3. ensure that, in all relevant cases, discrete colonies of the species can be sustained.
3.211.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is an offence intentionally to disturb barn owls while they are preparing to nest or during the actual process of breeding. In the case of buildings proposed for conversion or any alterations to roof spaces requiring planning permission where use by barn owls or bats is known, the Council will require continued provision on site to be made, for example, by the incorporation of an owl loft. Bats are a European Protected Species. It is an offence
to damage, destroy or obstruct access to bat roosting places. English Nature will provide advice to householders who wish to undertake any work within a dwelling house which may affect bats. 

3.212.

Enhancement and Creation of New Habitats

Central Government has set out its commitment to not only conserve the biological diversity of the country but also to enhance this diversity. The District Council supports Structure Plan Policy EN2, the final paragraph of which states:

“In determining proposals for development local planning authorities will seek environmental measures and promote the use of conditions  and management agreements to help protect,
manage and expand the biodiversity resource of the county, in particular priority habitats and species."

3.213.

One of the main functions of Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs) is “to focus resources to conserve and enhance biodiversity”. Priority will be given to restoring and/or increasing the habitats/species identified within the various Action Plans covering West Oxfordshire, especially those close and accessible to local residents. The areas identified as benefiting from landscape management and enhancement in the West Oxfordshire Landscape Assessment will also be given priority. The judicial use of planning conditions/obligations/management agreements will be key mechanisms in achieving these priorities. 

3.214.

The management of the countryside, incorporating nature conservation objectives, has been taken on board in a number of Government agri-environment schemes. For example, the new scheme of Environmental Stewardship, managed by DEFRA, aims to conserve wildlife, maintain and enhance
landscape quality and character, protect the historic environment and natural resources and promote public access and understanding of the countryside. This scheme builds on the success
of DEFRA’s Countryside Stewardship which in West Oxfordshire provided incentive payments for historic landscapes, limestone grassland areas and waterside landscapes. One such scheme was carried out by Carterton Town Council to improve the management of the Shill Brook meadows combined with public access. 

3.215.

The District Council supports the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) which, among other things, assists landowners in the preparation of Whole Farm Plans (WFPs) (see also farm diversification in the earlier agricultural section). The Council encourages WFPs which include biodiversity objectives. Such plans are also more likely to secure agri-environment grants like Countryside Stewardship. In addition, the District Council supports woodland projects, for example
the Wychwood Project, which have strong biodiversity objectives (see Figure 3.6). 

3.216.

Development itself can create opportunities for the establishment of new wildlife habitats. Provision for wildlife was made in the major new development areas at Witney and Carterton in the 1997 Local Plan, particularly associated with Madley Brook in North East Witney and the country park at Carterton. Further provision is included in this plan within the areas identified for development. 

3.217.

A number of new wildlife habitats have been formed in the gravel producing areas. The Lower Windrush Valley Project, co-ordinated by Oxfordshire County Council, is seeking the establishment of 2 nature reserves and other areas for nature conservation as part of restoration agreements with gravel operators. Proposals in this respect are set out in the County Minerals and Waste Local Plan and the Lower Windrush Valley Project Report. The Project Report sets out a series of nature conservation objectives (for example, the establishment of wildlife zones and corridors and the preparation and implementation of management plans for existing lakes)
which should have the effect of improving the biodiversity of the Study Area. Many of the objectives complement those within the Environment Agency’s Local Environment Agency Plan for the area. (See also the earlier section on the Lower Windrush Valley and the section on water-based recreation in the Tourism, Leisure and Community Facilities Chapter and the Habitat Action Plan for Gravel Pits). 

Disclaimer: All Local Plan policies and proposals are 'saved' beyond June 2009 other than Policies NE8, NE9, T5 and T7 and Proposals 2, 6, 13 and 14 – see decision letter, Direction and Schedule.

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