NG2 Business Park
8 Experian Way
29th February 2016
Planning Policy Team
Mansfield District Council
Chesterfield Road South
RE: Mansfield District Council Local Plan Consultation Draft
Further to the duty to co-operate under Section 33 (A) 9 of the Localism Act 2011 Lowland Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Local Nature Partnership will support the District Council to achieve sustainable development through strategic local planning. We aim to ensure that your area’s natural environment assets (i.e. natural capital) are accounted for in strategic planning so that they can support people both economically and socially. We have reviewed the Local Plan Consultation Draftand make the following responses.
Vision, Objectives and Strategic Priorities
We welcome the vision of promoting positive economic, social and environmental changes through growth and development. The LNP is concerned that there is a potential disconnect between section 3.16 of ‘Our future Mansfield District’ and the vision and strategic priorities which could jeopardise delivering sustainable development. Section 3.16 mentions “…important natural assets will be retained, enhanced and protected from inappropriate development.”It is unclear which assets these are and which are deemed important. There are eight natural capital assets which are all equally important in supporting economic growth and social well-being.
We seek clarification from the Council regarding which natural capital assets it is accounting and which are being prioritising as important for retention, enhancement or protection for our future Mansfield.
In relation to this we also seek clarification as to the meaning of “environment” and “sustainable environment” in the vision and corporate strategic objectiveswith respect to the meaning of natural assets in section 3.16.
In our response to the Local Plan Scoping Report Lowland Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire LNP recommended that a primary sustainable development objective should be included in the plan. Although this recommendation has not been adopted we recognise that sustainable development is now included within Objective 6. We also recommended changes to Objectives 5, and 7 to ensure that your area’s natural capital is accounted for in your strategic objectives. We note that the recommended changes have been made and we welcome this.
Strategy and Policy
We welcome the Council’s policies aimed at ensuring that development is sustainable and in particular those policies aimed at developing, regenerating and diversifying the economy. We comment as follows:
Policy S1 sustainable development: Any development that impacts natural capital and causes a net negative impact or contributes to an existing negative impact would not be deemed sustainable. Our concern with this policy is that the assets identified here are restricted to ecological communities and species (S1b -green infrastructure); land (S1c - heritage assets) and sub soil assets (S1i - land stability). This policy scope is too narrow and assets such as air, soil, freshwater and minerals are excluded.
Policy S1 must ensure that development proposals are supported that do not create an unacceptable net negative impact for any natural capital asset or a negative impact or risk that is not mitigated to an acceptable level. In particular, the impact and combined impact of significant large scale development across Mansfield on air, freshwater, soil and minerals assets, in addition to those assets already identified in the policy, need to be evaluated. We view this policy as having a significant gap in relation to sustainable development and it must be reviewed and strengthened.
Policy CC1 Climate Change and new development: We welcome this policy’s aim of driving higher design standards in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change. However, we are unclear if these measures will in reality be implemented since the policy’s minimum requirement is for only one of the measures to be implemented. This is not effective. All the measures should be required unless, through the planning decision making process, they are deemed not relevant to the development or provide no or insignificant benefit.
Policy CC1 has a significant gap in relation to implementing measures to achieve sustainable development. The policy must state that all measures are considered necessary and are incorporated on an appropriate cost benefit basis that considers the environmental risks and Mansfield’s planning policy. We ask the Council to review and strengthen this policy.
Policy NEW2 Green Infrastructure: We welcome this policy and its emphasis on GI documentation and consultation during the planning process. We are concerned that over time, individual developments could collectively reduce the quantity, spatial distribution including connectivity, and quality of Mansfield’s ecological communities and species assets. Therefore, the impact of each development should consider the impact on Mansfield’s total stock of ecological communities and species, and be monitored through the local plan period. The impact of the local plan developments needs to show the change to the stock of these assets.
Policy NE2 is welcomed but the impact of the local plan developments on Mansfield’s total stock of GI assets cannot be identified from this plan.
Policy NE5: Protection of local green space: There is a risk from this policy of a net loss of local green space containing natural capital assets including ecological communities that provide resilient networks and species diversity along with other benefits, for example, flood alleviation. Developments should only be granted that promote a net gain in the asset across the Mansfield area.
We urge the Council to review the wording and standard of this policy. Developments should only be granted that provide a net gain in biodiversity or green space.
Policy NE6 Protection of trees: The ambiguity of Policy NE6 d creates a risk from this policy of a net loss in Mansfield’s woodland and forest. The meaning of adequate replacement is unclear. In addition there is no standard for transforming the species mix for future climate change adaption.
We urge the Council to review the wording and standard to ensure that development results in no net tree loss and climate change adaptation opportunities are realised.
Policy NE7 Biodiversity and Geodiversity: We welcome this policy and the approach including off-site compensation when net loss occurs. However in addition to “… granting developments which conserve…biodiversity”, the policy should also refer to transforming habitats to support climate change adaptation. We are concerned that the developer’s lack of capability and poor ongoing maintenance will result in poor quality habitats.
We urge the Council to review this policy and the need to incorporate habitat transformation in response to climate change within the requirements of the ecological assessment that accompanies each development proposal, and to ensure quality and maintenance expectations are strengthened in this policy and incorporated into the ecological assessments.
Policy NE8: Protection of designated biodiversity and geodiversity sites. We are concerned that this policy does not strongly impress that development that impacts designated sites should only be in exceptionalcircumstances and should be avoided in strategic local planning. We recognise that certain developments, such as Nationally Important Infrastructure Projects can cause conflicts and, therefore, a factual economic and environmental impact assessment and balanced decision needs to be undertaken. However, local planning decision making should seek as a corporate strategic priority to protect critical natural capital assets required to support the economy and well- being.
We urge the Council to review the opening statement of this policy to ensure that development that impacts the most critical natural capital assets are extreme exceptions.
Policy NE9 Air quality: We welcome this policy in the light of the impact of air pollution on health and wellbeing. We are concerned that the terms “will” be required to assess the likely impacts of the development are insufficient. We urge that “will” is replaced with “must” and that air quality assessment must identify the likely impacts under normal and abnormal or range of development scenarios. In addition, the assessment of cumulative impacts should be clarified to include the impacts of other developments within the local plan. Without this, the contribution of each development on the total cumulative impact could be significantly understated.
We urge the Council to carefully review Policy NE9 to strengthen air quality impact assessments including the assessment of cumulative development impacts of the plan.
Policy NE11 Statutory nuisance: we welcome a separate policy on statutory nuisance. We are concerned that issues of tranquillity and the cumulative impacts of noise, odour or vibration may not be adequately addressed by impact assessments.
We urge the Council to include tranquillity assessments and standards within this policy and a requirement to assess the plan and developments in the context of cumulative nuisance impacts.
Natural Capital Assets
The LNP views the safeguarding of natural resources as a primary objective to ensure that their condition does not deteriorate and impact on those ecosystem services that support local economic growth or the health and wellbeing of the local population. In order to ensure development is sustainable it is of upmost importance that Mansfield District Council has a full understanding of its natural capital assets, their extent and condition and how the local plan will affect them.
We have assessed the Plan with respect to the eight Natural Capital assets in the context of their identification, quantification, spatial distribution and condition quality. Our assessment does not consider data in the evidence base or sustainability report which are reviewed under separate consultations.
The attachedtableis a review of the references we identified to natural capital assets in the Mansfield plan. For each of the assets our comments are as follows:
(a)Ecological Communities: We welcome the references within both the Plan and theGreen Infrastructure Technical Paper to improving ecological connectivity in order to promote ecosystem resilience. We welcome the incorporation of data on a variety of habitats in the mapping of GI in the GI technical paper. However, some habitats of significant size in the Lowland Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire area are missing including Wood Pasture and Parkland and Open Mosaic Habitat. The omission of ecological assets and the impact of the proposed developments on them is a concern.
(b)Soil: We welcome the fact that you encourage developers to restore contaminated land. However, the plan does not consider the extent of soil condition across the area, particularly for safeguarding prime agricultural land. This is a significant omission.
(c)Species: We welcome the designation of Woodhouse, Sherwood Woodland and Heathlandand Cauldwell within the GI technical paper as strategic GI areas based partly on their importance as habitats for rare and protected species. We have noted that species are identified within Policy NE7. However, we note that apart from references to these strategic GI areas the most critical species and their spatial distribution have not been identified.This is a significant omission.
(d)Freshwater: We welcome the clear identification of water resource availability and quality concerns and of flood risks, in some key areas of Mansfield district. We note that Policy CC4 addresses the impact of development on water quality and availability and that Green SUDS Priority Areas have been identified and mapped. However, it is unclear from the Plan the extent and condition of both groundwater and surface water bodies, including rivers for the area as a whole.This is a significant omission.
(e)Air: We note Policy NE9 with regard to air quality and the recognition that traffic congestion hotspots near Mansfield area have consequential effects on local air quality. However, the current air quality condition across the district and the impact that the development plan will have on air quality are unclear.These are significant omissions.
(f)Sub-soils: We acknowledge Policy NE 8 that Local Geological Sites will be protected and that you have a map showing where ecological and geological sites are within the district. However, we could not identify the location and distribution of LGSs in relation to proposed development.This is a significant omission.
(g)Land: We welcome the emphasis in Policy NE1 to conserve, and where appropriate restore, Mansfield’s landscape character and the use of landscape character assessments. However, the impact on the landscape character for each development proposal, and any mitigation measures that would need to be applied, is unclear.
(h)Minerals: Nottinghamshire County Council’s Minerals Local Plan identifies safeguarding areas where potential minerals extraction will not be needlessly sterilised by non-mineral development. Mansfield’s Local Plan does not make reference to these safeguarding areas and how proposed development in the Mansfield Local Plan area may impact on them. This is a significant omission.
Further to these omissions it is unclear of the impact of the proposed developments, including their combined impact, on the natural capital assets. The LNP, therefore, consider that the sustainability appraisal must assess the impact of the combined local plan developments on the natural capital assets of Mansfield and areas close to the LPA boundary.
We recommend that you include the quantity and spatial distribution of the eight natural capital assets in your strategic plans and/or sustainability appraisal. This natural capital information is held by the LNP and supporting stakeholders such as Natural England, the Environment Agency, Forestry Commission and Derbyshire County Council. We recognise that some of it is included in your evidence base. The LNP is developing its strategy to identify how to increase, maintain and enhance our area’s natural capital to ensure that development is sustainable. We will share this strategy with you in due course.
I trust our response will help you deliver your goal to achieve sustainable development. I would be grateful if you acknowledge receipt of our response. The LNP is looking forward to ongoing discussions with you. If you have any further questions do not hesitate to contact Rosy Carter our LNP Co-ordinator at the above address.
Tim Farr, Chair, Lowland Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire LNP board
Tony Hams, Vice-Chair, Lowland Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire LNP board
Natural Capital table
The table cells are highlighted as follows and refer to the Local Plan document only.green = asset fully identified / orange = asset partially identified / red = asset not identified
For the 8 Natural Capital assets: / Are they Identified per se? / Is quantity identified? / Is spatial distribution identified? / Is quality identified?
Ecological Communities / Some:
GI is identified in policy NE2
Local green space in NE5
Trees in NE6
Biodiversity in NE7
Designated sites in NE8 – SSSIs, LNRs and LWSs / GI is mapped
LGS - no
Trees – no
Des sites mapped in NE8 / GI is mapped
LGS - no
Trees - no
Des sites mapped in NE8 / GI - No
Local green spaces are described
Trees - no
Biod – no
Des sites - no
Soils / Only contaminated soils / No / No / No
Species / Biodiversity addressed as a whole in NE7 but no specific groups of species / No / No / No
Freshwater / Policy CC4 addresses the impact of development on water quality and availability. / No / Priority areas for creating Green SUDS and restoring areas of low flow are mapped / Overall quality of Rivers Maun and Meden is given
Air / Air quality is identified as a concern in policy NE9 / No / No / No
Sub-soil assets / Partially:
Designated geological sites in NE8 / Designated geo sites mapped in NE8 / Des geo sites mapped in NE8 / No
Land / Partially:
Policy NE1 addresses Landscape character / No / Landscape policy zones are mapped / ?
Minerals / No – there are references to NCC Minerals Plans / No / No / No