Core Strategy Preferred Policies

[estimated] Ended on the 1 February 2010
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8. Achieving a high quality environment

8.1 East Hampshire is a desirable place to live with outstanding historic market towns and attractive villages in delightful countryside. The buildings, open spaces and landscape all contribute to the character of the area. Throughout the district there are more than 1,600 listed buildings (buildings of special architectural or historic interest), 43 conservation areas (areas of architectural or historic interest) and 98 scheduled ancient monuments which are registered for special protection. It all adds up to a rich heritage for people who live and work here, and also attracts tourists and visitors.

8.2 The Council understands that to achieve a high quality environment it must ensure new development makes a positive contribution to the appearance of our towns and villages. Design and layout should take account of neighbouring buildings as well as the surrounding area. New development can be striking but must respect or enhance local character. It is vital that design goes beyond the focus of the individual development and also takes account of sense of place, safety and security.

8.3 The Core Strategy, therefore, needs to include policies to achieve high quality in new development and at the same time to protect and enhance existing historic character. Due to the importance of the historic environment within the district this is considered separately in this section.

Quality of design

8.4 Government guidance already requires new development to be of the highest quality and break the mould of mediocrity that has previously characterised so much development. East Hampshire is blessed with attractive, historic town and village centres, but also outstanding countryside that, in many cases, surrounds these settlements. In order to try to respect this distinct character the Council needs to raise the standard of design that is accepted. Only the best exemplary design that respects and enhances the special qualities of our towns, villages and countryside will be acceptable. This will be a key challenge for all development in the district. 

8.5 The policies contained in the South East Plan recognise that development has a profound influence on quality of life. Future developments must be fit for purpose for many years and meet the changing circumstances and needs of everyone.

8.6 The main settlements of Alton, Petersfield, Horndean, Liphook and Whitehill/Bordon provide opportunities for encouraging new high-quality and imaginative designs.  In addition, smaller rural villages will benefit from high quality design while retaining their overall character. The close relationship between new development, existing features and open spaces will be given priority in all future proposals for the district.

CP24 PREFERRED DESIGN POLICY

The district’s built environment should be of an exemplary standard.  It will be protected and enhanced and development will be expected to:

1. seek exemplary standards of design and architecture that respects the district’s unique characteristics;

2. apply national and regional policies in respect of design, landscape townscape and historic heritage;

3. ensure that the layout and design of development contributes to local distinctiveness and sense of place, is appropriate and sympathetic to its setting in terms of scale, height, massing and density, and its relationship to adjoining buildings and landscape features;

4. ensure that new development makes a positive contribution to the overall appearance of the area including the use of good quality materials, reusing existing materials where appropriate, and seeking to achieve a high standard of finish;

5. promote local understanding of good innovative and imaginative design;

6. ensure new development is accessible to all and designed to minimise crime and anti-social behaviour without diminishing the high quality of the overall appearance;

7. provide car parking in a way that secures a high quality environment, taking account of relatively high levels of car ownership;

8. promote and encourage communities to undertake town and village design statements for future adoption as SPD.

Policy conformity

PPGs / PPSs / Circulars PPS1, PPS3 (and Companion Guide ‘Better Places to Live By Design’), PPS6, PPS7
South East Plan Policies CC6, BE1, BE2, BE3, BE4, BE5
Sustainable Community Strategy Priority outcomes:
5.1 (4): Prevent the loss of our community’s distinctive character by ensuring new development takes account of the wider area, such as neighbouring buildings, townscape and landscape. For example, through the use of town and village design statements.
5.5 (1): Develop and improve the built environment in the town in away that safe guards its superb landscape.
5.5 (2): Create an attractive environment where people want to live, work, shop and play with good community facilities, leisure and employment opportunities and improved mix of housing types.
5.5 (3): Improve the quality of building design using innovative, modern environmentally friendly design incorporating modern eco-home methods of construction.
Council Strategy 1. Intensify our protection of the built and natural environment.
  • Using planning more effectively to promote our quality of life
  • Caring for our natural environment
Core Strategy objective To conserve and enhance the district’s attractive built and historic environment, including heritage sites, conservation areas, listed buildings and important open areas.
Policy indicator

Core output indicators:

Local output indicators:
- number of new village design statements adopted as non-statutory planning guidance.
Delivery body EHDC, HCC, town and parish councils, developers, local residents

Background evidence

8.7 Planning Policy Statement 1 (Delivering Sustainable Development) (PPS1) calls for an approach to design policies based on understanding the local area with a clear framework setting out design principles and criteria. It emphasises that good planning must care about how a place feels and functions. PPS1 sets out key principles on sustainable development, including the need for planning policies to promote high quality design not just for the short term but also long into the future. Design which fails to take the opportunity for improving the character and quality of an area should not be accepted. 

8.8 PPS1 goes on to say that an area’s characteristics and needs should influence design policies so ensuring that developments are right for the location.

8.9 Planning Policy Statement 3 (Housing) (PPS3) says local authorities should aim to create: "Places, streets and spaces which meet the needs of people, are visually attractive, safe, accessible, functional, inclusive, have their own distinctive identity and maintain and improve local character." Councils should, therefore, look positively at plans which create or enhance a distinctive character and support a sense of local pride and civic identity.

8.10 There is a growing recognition that design affects people’s lives. Health can be a good example of this. Well-designed buildings with good use of open space, for example, can encourage healthy lifestyles with scope for walking, cycling, and other leisure pursuits that may help to prevent problems such as obesity. This approach has to be applauded but should not overshadow the need to secure good architectural and landscape design for buildings and spaces. 

8.11 Good design is about making places that are functional, durable, good for people to use, and that reflect the importance of local character and the surrounding area. The result should be places that are attractive to look at and live and work in. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), which works with many different individuals and organisations offering guidance on projects, advises that the basics of design policy should be set out in the Core Strategy. 

8.12 CABE itself has produced a Building for Life standard that gives 20 criteria for achieving good design. This provides a useful guide for developers on the standards that are now expected and what factors are considered when assessing design. The criteria are not exhaustive nor meant to be regarded as providing a ceiling to innovation. Rather they are seen as helping to provide a framework for assessment.

8.13 Policy CC6 of the South East Plan recognises the importance of distinctive settlements and encouraging innovation to provide the best design. The chapter entitled Management of the Built Environment expands upon this. It looks at the concept of urban renaissance, which sets out policies looking beyond just development in urban areas and focuses on making our towns’ places where people choose to live, work and spend their leisure time. East Hampshire can use this advice and guidance to help encourage towns and villages to aspire to high quality environments that recognise the value of imaginative design alongside the retention of distinctive features.

8.14 Taking account of the emphasis placed on high quality, innovative and imaginative design, it is considered that a local policy would add value by highlighting the need to address this and at the same time taking account of other local issues. For example, the rural nature of the district has created a pattern of high car ownership. This is a pattern that may well continue despite efforts being made to create more sustainable communities. With this in mind the design of any new development would have to give this careful consideration. 

8.15 Parking provision in new housing developments in East Hampshire has not always been adequate and has often caused inconvenience for residents resulting in poor on-street parking and detracting from the overall character of the environment.

8.16 Car parking spaces should be an integral part of the layout and design of new homes and other developments. Care is required to ensure that parking is convenient, easy to use and well located to overcome the problems arising from haphazard on-street parking. Spaces should be identified close to buildings or within garages or car ports either integrally or set back from the road.  Parking for flats should be next to the building so cars can be seen by neighbours.

8.17 Local input in any development is, of course, crucial and that is why town and village design statements are so important. Putting up new buildings alongside something much older can sometimes be contentious, so it is important to be aware of any local special features of particular merit and to relate any proposals to the context of the site. The design of new buildings should be woven into the fabric of the living and working community. This point is reinforced in PPS1 paragraph 34 which says: "Design which is inappropriate in its context, or which fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions, should not be accepted."

The Core Strategy issues and options consultation revealed:

8.18 The SNAP consultation looked at various categories and how important people rated them to be in terms of achieving high quality design. Each of the categories was generally rated as being important (over 50% in each category). The highest category concerned the effective use of resources. People also rated highly the need to consider sense of place, integrating new development into the landscape, retaining open spaces to help the environment and ensuring that a safe environment was achieved, also rated highly around 60%.

8.19 Comments were made about the importance of taking account of available guidance, in particular from CABE, as well as making use of local town and village design statements and conservation area character appraisals. The need to allow for car parking and to design houses to allow people to go on living independently for a considerable part of their lives, were raised as issues. Some people were concerned that gardens would be used to minimise the impact of development on the countryside.

8.20 Natural England recommended that local character should be respected and enhanced. They added that all factors, particularly maintaining and creating green space, biodiversity and landscape design and sustainable design are essential.

Options considered

8.21 The option of relying on national and regional guidance alone was considered.  This was weighed against the alternative of including a policy in the Core Strategy which would seek to achieve high quality design in all planning decisions. It is clear from all current government advice that we should aim to raise the quality of our built environment. Policies should aim to encourage the use of good quality and imaginative design wherever possible and at the same time seek to retain features of distinctive value. On balance, it was decided that there should be a specific policy aimed at delivering these aims and objectives, including through town and village design statements. This will ensure local distinctiveness and at the same time encourage innovation wherever possible. 

8.22 What the council is aiming for is a built environment in East Hampshire which is protected and enhanced. It will achieve this by creating a high quality environment where people can live, work and spend their leisure time. This should be a central message in the Core Strategy, one that mirrors the aims of the South East Plan.

Historic environment

8.23 The historic environment is made up of individual buildings, groups of buildings, conservation areas, historic parks and gardens, archaeological sites and other features that are important to the overall character of towns and villages. East Hampshire has a rich and diverse historic environment which is seen as an important asset. It is also part of the wider environment which draws people to the area either to live, visit or for investment. It is important to recognise that this environment is sensitive to change and requires protection. The challenge for the district is managing changes so that it continues to meet the needs of the future population, while protecting the historic environment.

CP25 PREFERRED HISTORIC ENVIRONMENT POLICY

The district’s historic environment will be protected and enhanced.  Priority will be given to:

1. applying national and regional policies in respect of design, landscape, townscape and historic heritage;

2. protecting, enhancing, maintaining and managing the historic environment for the future;

3. ensuring that development makes a positive contribution to the overall appearance of the local area including the use of good quality materials, reusing existing materials where appropriate, and seeking to achieve a high standard of finish;

4. producing conservation area appraisals including identifying specific areas for environmental improvements or enhancements.

Policy conformity

PPGs / PPSs /Circulars PPS1, PPG15, PPG16
South East Plan Policies CC6, BE6
Sustainable Community Strategy Priority outcomes:
5.1 (4): Prevent the loss of our community’s distinctive character by ensuring new development takes account of the wider area, such as neighbouring buildings, townscape and landscape. For example, through the use of town and village design statements.
5.5 (2): Create an attractive environment where people want to live, work, shop and play with good community facilities, leisure and employment opportunities and improved mix of housing types.
Council Strategy 1. Intensify our protection of the built and natural environment.
  • Using planning more effectively to promote our quality of life
  • Caring for our natural environment
Core Strategy objective To conserve and improve the district’s attractive built environment, including heritage sites, conservation areas, listed buildings and important open areas.
Policy indicator Core output indicators:
None
Local output indicators:
- the number of adopted conservation area character appraisals.
- change in the number of listed buildings at risk.
Delivery Bodies EHDC, town and parish councils, developers, local residents

Background evidence

8.24 Planning Policy Statement 1 (Delivering Sustainable Development) (PPS1) recognises the value of the historic environment and says that the government is committed to protecting and enhancing the quality of the natural and historic environment, in rural and urban areas. In addition, it recognises that the condition and appearance of peoples’ surroundings has a direct impact on the quality of life and the conservation and improvement of our environment brings social and economic benefits. Positive policies on design, conservation and public space can aim to achieve a high quality environment in which people can live.

8.25 Planning Policy Guidance Note 15 (Planning and the Historic Environment) (PPG15) seeks the protection of the historic environment through the co-ordination and integration of planning policies that may affect it. Imaginative policies can help to reduce threats to the historic environment and contribute to the fabric of the community and its local distinctiveness. The historic environment provides an irreplaceable record of our cultural heritage, adds to the quality of life by enhancing the local scene and sustains the sense of local distinctiveness that is such an important aspect of the character and appearance of towns, villages and countryside. In addition, it can also be of immense importance for leisure and recreation. However, we need to recognise that it cannot, in practice, be preserved unchanged.

8.26 Clearly national guidance already recognises the importance of the historic environment through legislation and planning advice. In addition, the South East Plan in Policy BE6 has addressed the value that can be attributed to this environment through its ability, if carefully managed, to contribute to a sense of place. The long-term management of the historic environment through the planning system needs to include an understanding of its significance and vulnerability to change. This is more important than ever bearing in mind the pace of growth that is anticipated throughout the south east in the next few years.

8.27 There are over 1,600 listed buildings, 43 conservation areas and 98 scheduled ancient monuments in East Hampshire. This heritage is a valuable asset to the district. In order to retain this heritage it will be essential to protect and enhance the historic environment. In the residents’ survey of Autumn 2007, the environment was rated as the one of the most important considerations to people.  Taking this into account, it is considered that a policy needs to be included in the Core Strategy which sets out and recognises our own priorities for the district’s historic environment. 

The Core Strategy issues and options consultation revealed:

8.28 English Heritage said that sustainability issues should be integrated, not balanced, to avoid losses. They added that the wealth of locally important heritage assets should be recognised, and that not all important archaeology is scheduled. Enhancement of the historic environment is also important and the objectives should refer to built and historic environment.

Options considered

8.29 The option of relying on national guidance alone was considered. This was weighed against the alternative of including a policy in the Core Strategy which would seek to underline the emphasis the district places on our historic environment. Taking account of the high number of listed buildings, conservation areas and other historic features in the district and the value that local people attach to this, it was considered that, on balance, a policy should be included in the Core Strategy which recognises the value and importance of this local distinctiveness.

8.30 The preferred option for the district’s historic environment is therefore that it will be protected and enhanced. This approach will contribute to building local sustainable communities and places.

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