Open Spaces Strategy

Ended on the 2 October 2015
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(1) Chapter 7 Harborough District: Spatial Portrait and Open Space

7.1. Location

7.1.1. Harborough District covers an area of 238 square miles of south and east Leicestershire. It has a population of approximately 86000 which is split between the two market towns of Market Harborough and Lutterworth, large villages of Broughton Astley, Great Glen, Kibworth and Fleckney and Bushby, Thurnby and Scraptoft . The remaining population live in the smaller rural settlements, 71 of which have a population of less that 500.

7.1.2. Market Harborough (20,000 population) is the largest settlement in the District. Lutterworth and Broughton Astley, both settlements with a population in the region of 9,000, are located in the west of the District.

7.1.3. We will seek to enable the provision of Open Space where it will have the maximum benefit for most people, however some typologies of open space are best provided in areas that are more sparsely populated ( e.g. Natural and semi natural greenspace). We will seek to enable this type of open space where it can have the best outcomes for our environment and either support existing projects or programmes, or discharge the District Councils requirement to reduce the effects of climate change or to meet the requirements of legislation such as the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act and Water Framework Directive amongst others.

7.2. The People

7.2.1. Market Harborough, Lutterworth and Broughton Astley have seen the biggest rises in population.

7.2.2. Harborough District varies from national population trends in a number of ways. Most noticeable is the relatively low proportion of people within the 16 - 29 age bands when compared to the national average. This trend is particularly pronounced in rural villages as a large proportion of young people are concentrated in the two market towns. In contrast there is a higher proportion of people aged 45-64 living in the District than nationally and county-wide.

7.2.3. Recognising that our District population departs from the national trends is important for us to target open space, and the facilities provided by them, towards the age structure of the population. It is important that a larger population of children and young people is catered for, but also a higher that average older population.

7.2.4. The District's quality of life and rural character mean that it is seen as an attractive place to live. This pressure and its proximity to Leicester and other centres of employment, has created a buoyant housing market and has resulted in very high average prices.

7.2.5. Where household incomes and average house process are high, there is often a high expectation within the community for good quality open space provision. The quality of new open space and maintenance of existing open space should be very good, and present good value for money. This is not an easy balance to strike when District Council budgets are being reduced.

7.3. Transport

7.3.1. Public transport provision within the District is patchy. There is a frequent and reliable bus service between the two market towns as well as regular links to Leicester, Hinckley and Northampton. The more remote smaller rural settlements of the District are served by limited community transport services to larger settlements. This lack of comprehensive public transport services means that there is often no viable alternative to the use of the private car.

7.3.2. Where possible open spaces should be linked to public transport networks and safe walking and cycling networks. This is especially important when an open space is a destination site, offering more facilities than would normally be used by local people. This approach will give safe and easy access for all and provide access in a sustainable way.

7.4. Health

7.4.1. People in Harborough are generally healthier than Leicestershire averages and significantly better than national averages. The importance of health is recognised in surveys which suggest health services are the second most important factor in making somewhere a good place to live.

7.4.2. Open spaces can make an important contribution towards health and well being. This can be from organised sport, but also quiet contemplation and informal exercise. It is also important that wider links are made with the countryside to encourage people to walk or cycle longer distances.

7.5. The Environment

7.5.1. Harborough is predominately a rural area and will remain so. Whilst there are no national landscape designations, the district of is made up of five broad landscape character areas (as determined by the Harborough District Historic Landscape Character Assessment).

7.5.2. The visual appeal and perception of our towns and built up areas in Harborough District can be greatly enhanced by our parks and open spaces. The natural landscape can contribute as much to the quality of the urban environment as design of buildings.

7.5.3. The visual amenity of the natural landscape, trees, grass and water are high. Parks and open spaces reconnect us to nature, and give colour, shape, form, texture, movement and smell to our environment. When people are choosing where to live or locate businesses, this can make the difference; businesses place a high value on image and wish to be associated not only with successful locations but ones that attract repeat spend. Healthy environments are more likely to support healthy workforces, improving productivity and reducing absenteeism.

7.5.4. Pleasant and attractively landscaped routes play an important part in travel choices and are far more likely to attract people to make a meaningful and sustainable change in travel choices than hard infrastructure alone.

7.6. Water and Flood Management

7.6.1. The Rivers Welland and Avon form much of the district's southern boundary and other main rivers are the Swift, Sence and Eyebrook. The Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal is a particularly important landscape and cultural heritage asset for the district and incorporates the Grade II* listed Foxton Locks.

7.6.2. The Open Spaces Strategy will allow the District Council to improve the natural environment when and where possible, and assist other organisations to help discharge the Council obligations under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act, Water Framework Directive, The Environment Protection Act, and The Wildlife and Countryside Act amongst others. ( See Appendix E for a more detailed legal framework under which this Strategy should operate.)

7.6.3. A number of watercourses in the District are prone to flooding during extreme weather conditions. The River Welland, which flows through the centre of Market Harborough, is particularly vulnerable although recent remedial work by Anglia Water has reduced flood risk in the Town. A list of the water bodies in Harborough District, their ecological status and details of at risk of flooding can be found at Appendix F.

7.6.4. The majority of the flood zones are in rural areas and therefore in general the flood risk within the District is not considered to be a significant risk. However, localised run off from agricultural land has proved to be a risk to households and has caused flooding events in the past. The effects of climate change may exacerbate the flooding problems.

7.6.5. The Open Spaces Strategy can help to mitigate against flood risk by creating areas for detention of run off from new development and a the same time creating spaces that can be enjoyed by people and create habitat for wildlife.

7.6.6. The soil and vegetation of parks and open spaces is permeable and capable of absorbing even substantial rainfall. By recharging groundwater in this way it reduces the volume and rate of run-off and contributes to a more sustainable drainage solution. The rate of run-off for surfaces with trees and grass is estimated to be 10-20%, compared to 60-70% for hard landscaped urban areas.

7.6.7. Where urban development has included natural flood plains or other flood mitigation solutions, there is less pressure on piped drainage systems during periods of heavy rain fall and flooding.

7.7. Biodiversity

7.7.1. Like much of the East Midlands and Leicestershire, Harborough is relatively poor in biodiversity and geodiversity terms. 1.21% of the District's area is covered by Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), whilst a further 0.42% is covered by Local Wildlife Site designations. There are 2 Local Nature Reserves at Scraptoft and North Kilworth. The Leighfield Forest, where several SSSis protect what remains of the ancient woodland, is designated as a Biodiversity Conservation Area and recognised in the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust Biodiversity Action Plan. Whilst there are no Regionally Important Geological Sites in the district, there is one Geological SSSI, Tilton Railway Cutting SSSI, which is a 750m section of disused railway cutting (A list of SSSIs can be found at Appendix G).

7.7.2. A defining characteristic of the both the landscape and townscape of Harborough District is the quantity and quality of its historic assets. Integrating new development with minimum impact into this historic environment by careful planning of open space assets is an important element of the strategy.

7.7.3. With regard to CO2 emissions, road transport is by far the biggest contributor in Harborough, contributing to almost half- or 45% of the district's total emissions.

7.7.4. Trees planted on open space can have a not insignificant affect on the reduction of carbon emissions. Trees and plant life have an important role in improving the air quality in our environment and reducing pollutants. A tree's ability to offset carbon emissions is determined by size, canopy cover, health, and age, but large trees can help lower carbon emissions in the atmosphere by 2-3%.

7.7.5. The canopies of trees act as a physical filter for pollution. The fine particles known as PM10s are trapped on the surface of the leaves. When carried into the lungs, PM10s make chronic diseases such as asthma and bronchitis worse. Trees have been shown to remove substantial quantities of PM10s and are very effective at trapping toxic particles such as lead. Gases such as carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) are known to cause respiratory problems and can also increase sensitivity to allergens. It has been estimated that woodland can reduce concentrations of SO2 and NO2 in the air by 4-5%.

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