New Local Plan Options
10. Green Infrastructure
144. In addition to housing and employment, there are a number of other issues which we would like your views on before we prepare the draft new Local Plan. The new Local Plan will set out our priorities and policies in terms of the District's green infrastructure. This section looks at our emerging approach to green wedges, the prevention of settlements merging together and the designation of local green space.
145. Harborough's two existing green wedges form part of a wider network of green wedges around the Leicester urban area. They have formed part of planning policy for the Leicester urban area for almost 30 years and their role, as set out in the adopted Core Strategy, is fourfold:
- to prevent the merging of settlements;
- to guide development form;
- to provide access from urban areas into green spaces/countryside; and
- to provide recreational opportunities.
146. They are strategic green infrastructure designations and as such the benefits of Harborough's green wedges (Leicester/Scraptoft and Thurnby/Leicester/Oadby) extend beyond our boundaries to communities in the neighbouring Local Authority areas of Oadby and Wigston and Leicester City. We are committed to maintaining our green wedge designations and protecting them from inappropriate uses. An update to the current Leicester/Scraptoft Green Wedge forms part of the Scraptoft Neighbourhood Plan as submitted for independent examination.
147. Some amendments to their boundaries may be necessary to ensure they are defensible and robust. The Green Wedge Review - Draft Technical Update (2015) assesses the current boundaries and functions of the green wedge designations. Green wedge boundary changes can only be finalised once the distribution strategy for the District has emerged as some development options may impact on their function and boundaries. This will become clearer as the new Local Plan process progresses.
Preventing the Coalescence of Settlements
148. We recognise that local communities place great importance on maintaining the identity of settlements. There are a number of settlements in the District which are at risk of coalescence (or merging together) and many of these have Conservation Area status, meaning that protecting individual settlement character has added significance. Distances between these settlements are such that inappropriate development could lead to a loss of physical separation and, consequently, erode individual settlement character.
149. Current policies define specific Areas of Separation and set out policy safeguards to control development that could adversely affect the predominantly open character of the land or which would result in a reduction in the existing open land separating settlements. Whilst saved Local Plan policy EV/3 defines Areas of Separation for Market Harborough/Great Bowden, Lutterworth/Bitteswell/Magna Park and Scraptoft/Thurnby, the Broughton Astley Neighbourhood Plan defines an Area of Separation between Broughton Astley and Sutton in the Elms, and the Scraptoft Neighbourhood Plan Examination Version proposes an amended Scraptoft/Thurnby Area of Separation.
150. It is important to note, however, that since the introduction of the NPPF, with its presumption in favour of sustainable development, there has been a number of planning appeal decisions which have called into question the effectiveness of defining Separation Areas. Planning Inspectors are increasingly assessing how individual development proposals impact on the degree separation between settlements rather that simply taking into account the Separation Area designation without question. This issue has been considered in preparing the options below.
151. We need a robust policy approach which prevents the coalescence of settlements whilst allowing for sustainable development which does not unduly impact on the separation of settlements. The purpose of such a policy would be to prevent development which undermines the physical and visual separation of settlements. Two suggested policy options to achieve this (G1 and G2) are set out below:
152. Areas of Separation would be defined in areas where the potential risk of settlements merging together is at its greatest. Within these defined areas planning proposals would be assessed on whether they would result in an unacceptable reduction in the physical and visual separation of settlements. Applicants putting forward proposals in these defined areas would need to show they have considered the effect on coalescence and are applying mitigation. The policy would allow for development which does not impact unduly on the separation between settlements. We are in the process of carrying out a replacement to the Areas of Separation Review (2011). This will take into account appeal and planning decisions since 2011 and identify areas where the threat of settlements merging together is a particular issue.
153. A specific criterion will be included in the Settlement Development policy which ensures that development on a particular site does not lead to settlements merging or does not undermine the physical and visual separation of settlements. This would be one of a number of criteria aimed at protecting the character of individual settlements (see draft Settlement Development policy criteria). We consider that such an approach would ensure that the effect of the potential coalescence of settlements is taken into account across the District, not just in selected areas, and would allow for development which does not impact unduly on maintaining the separation of settlements. Specific Areas of Separation would not be defined in the new Local Plan under this policy option.
154. Final proposals in respect of preventing merging will only be possible once the development strategy for the District to 2031 emerges as development proposals may impact on the separation between settlements.
Q11: Which is your preferred option to prevent the coalescence of settlements?
Please click on the pencil icon next to the relevant Option(s) and state whether you SUPPORT or OBJECT TO this option. Please explain your answer. If you would like to suggest a completely different option for preventing the coalescence of settlements, or a hybrid of the options we have proposed, please describe it here.
- Option G1
- Option G2
Local Green Space
155. The Local Green Space designation was introduced in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2012 (para 78). It is a new way to provide special protection from inappropriate development for green areas of particular importance to communities.
156. Local Green Space can be designated through Local Plans or Neighbourhood Plans; however, they must fit criteria set out in the NPPF and be of special significance to communities. The NPPF states that most green space will not be suitable for Local Green Space designation (NPPF para 77).
157. Two Call for Sites have been undertaken by the Council in 2012 and 2013 and the submitted sites have been assessed by officers. The results of this assessment were reported to Local Plan Executive Advisory Panel in September 2014. See Appendix J for the list of sites that are considered to fit the Local Green Space Criteria set out in the NPPF.
158. We are intending to designate the sites listed in Appendix J as Local Green Space in the new Local Plan. The proposed sites and the rationale for their designation is explained in the 'Local Green Space background paper 2015' and can be viewed at on our website (see 'Background Documents' below).