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Greater renewable energy focus needed in development for 226 homes at Old Malling Farm Lewes

Re: SDNP/18/06103/OUT, Old Malling Farm, Old Malling Way, Lewes, BN7 2DY: Outline approval for residential development comprising up to 226 dwellings with associated landscaping and parking, with access from Monks Way (All Matters Reserved except Access and Layout).

The Society objects to the development in its present form. We believe that the current plan should be referred back to the developer so that the road layout and access arrangements can be reviewed along with the submission of a revised sustainability assessment. Accordingly, the application should be deferred so that improvements to the application can be made.

Our main reasons for opposing this development in its present form are:

  1. The current application does not recognise the importance of the road layout in relation to solar power generation. The road layout is inappropriate as it causes the alignment of most roofs to be east-west and not southerly facing.
  2. There are insufficient measures included within the development to cope with climate change.
  3. The Environmental Statement submitted with this application takes no account of the provision of renewable energy other than the possibility of ‘some’ solar panels being installed on some houses. We believe this is insufficient bearing in mind the importance of tackling climate change which are supported by national and local policies as we demonstrate in this document. As you will no doubt be aware the government have stated that gas central heating will no longer be allowed in new homes from 2025. This is less than 6 years away. In the light of this and the warnings given by both the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) it would be a travesty of the planning system if this development were allowed to proceed without provision for other forms of renewable energy such and ground and air source heating alongside the provision of solar panels.Please remember that the UK government is committed to the Paris Agreement which came out of the COP21, [the 21st Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change)], held in Paris on December 2015. We will not meet our 2050 targets in accordance with this agreement if we continue to use fossil fuels.
  4. The provision of infrastructure for walking, cycling and mobility users is not treated with equal importance as the provision of roads. At this stage there should be the same amount of importance given to all forms of transport. Greater consideration must be given for sustainable forms of transport such as walking and cycling into and out of the site.
  5. Insufficient importance has been given to the provision of bus infrastructure in relation to the road layout and access to the site.

The South Downs Society would particularly like to draw the applicant’s attention to the provisions of the following planning documents and policies:

  • The Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan
  • NPPF
  • South Downs Local Plan
  • Lewes District Local Plan Part 1 Joint Core Strategy 2010-2030
  • Lewes Neighbourhood Plan Policies (LNP)

Our comments are as follows:

1)  Applicant’s Environmental Statement

Other than the quotations from local planning policy we are surprised that the applicant makes no mention of climate change except with regard to flooding. Surely, and bearing in mind that the local planning policy and the NPPF guide applicants to take account of climate change and therefore aim for low carbon solutions, this matter should take a higher priority.

The same applies to renewable energy. There are no mentions of these important matters in the solutions proposed for the site. The document is limited to:

  • 5.0 LANDSCAPE AND VISUAL
  • 6.0 HIGHWAYS AND ACCESS
  • 7.0 ECOLOGY AND NATURE CONSERVATION
  • 8.0 HERITAGE
  • 9.0 FLOOD RISK DRAINAGE AND WATER QUALITY
  • 10.0 LIGHTING
  • 11.0 AIR QUALITY

2)  Applicant’s Design and Access Statement

We are surprised that the word sustainability, carbon emissions and renewable energy only appear once in each case. In ‘Sourcing Materials’ and ‘Energy Waste and Sustainability.’

Surely, and bearing in mind that the local planning policy and the NPPF guide applicants to take account of climate change and therefore aim for low carbon solutions, this matter should be addressed more thoroughly.

We also surprised that the comment about solar panels would lead the reader to think that roof orientations are all in the ideal position. As we have said elsewhere many of the houses are facing east-west not south. Additionally, we are surprised that no effort has been made to consider any other form of renewable energy apart from partial solar energy coverage on roofs.

3)  Lewes Neighbourhood Plan Policies (LNP)

1. Road Layout
It is considered crucial that the developer should take account of PL2 para 4 of the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan where it says, “where appropriate building should be orientated to benefit from passive solar heating”. Therefore, the design of the road layout should not be approved without proof that all roofs are correctly oriented so they may generate solar energy.

It is our contention that the road layout should also not be agreed in isolation from a Renewable Energy Plan for the whole site bearing mind that gas central heating is likely to be banned for new housing from 2025.

As you will see from this extract from the layout plan many of the houses are oriented east-west which is not the best aspect to maximise solar gain:

renewable energy

 

Road Layout & Solar Energy
To ‘fix’ or ‘fossilise’ the road layout may cause the same issues identified on the North Street site if the site is to rely on PV for energy generation.  To accord with the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan, housing should be orientated to take advantage of solar power.  Approving a road layout before the development’s carbon footprint has been addressed would be premature.

2. Flood Resilience
Policy PL3 is also applicable. The access point of the proposed development is within the 2000 flooded area as shown by the detailed Lewes 2015 Flood Plan. It is therefore suggested that this access point, although it is in the Local Plan, should be moved further south and higher up the slope so and in no circumstances would it flood as the it did in the year 2000.

It should also be noted in this area is surrounded by land that flooded and a sustainable urban drainage system should be incorporated into the new development.

Please Note:

2015 Flood Plan
The 2015 Flood Plan produced by Lewes and Eastbourne Council shows a map of flooding, that clearly shows the proposed junction at Mantell Close under water in 2000 (5.21, Flood Risk Sectors, Area B.  The Sussex Express Newspaper refers to concerns expressed by residents of Monks Way and Mantell Close.  It therefore seems unwise to have the only traffic access, within the identified flooded area, notwithstanding its identification in the Local Plan.  It also seems unwise to bring traffic from 200+ houses into a quiet cul-de-sac when it could be further south near the junction with Old Malling Way and above flood area.

Permeable Layer – Roadway Surfaces and the Avoidance of Flash Flooding

The Applicant states:

“The main adoptable onsite highway shall be Asphaltic Concrete (Bitumen/Macadam) laid over subbase and capping designed in accordance with DMRB and the ESCC adoption standard details. The onsite private residential streets are proposed to incorporate block paving shared surfaces and private drives as well as use of block paving in car parks and on raised tables to promote low speeds and careful driver behaviour.”

We object to this. We believe that parking areas, driveways for cars, footpaths and estate roads should be constructed with a porous surface so as to allow the dissipation of floodwater. Without this, heavy rainfall and flash floods will cause excessive flooding into the River Ouse.

3. Renewable Energy and the Resource and Energy Efficiency of New Buildings

Policy PL4 will also apply to this development. These aspects of the policy apply:

  • The energy efficiency of new buildings
  • Incorporate low-carbon on-site power generation subject to the resulting proposals demonstrating good standards of urban design.
  • Design of new buildings and the that actively promote water efficiency measures which is critical on a site that is liable to flooding

4. Active Travel Networks
The layout Policy AM1 is critical of the new development. This policy says under item 1 – “New development should prioritise and support existing safe, direct, walking and cycling routes, car-free where possible and including safe routes to schools. Particular attention will be paid to supporting the independent movement of the young, the elderly and people with mobility difficulties. These aspects of pedestrian and cycle travel to provide short direct and safe routes should be considered at this stage and not just the roads.

5. Natural Capital
Policy LE1 applies particularly to this site because it is the only greenfield site allocated for housing (in this case allocated by a planning inspector). It is very important that there is an assessment of the existing natural capital for this site – see the box on page 35 of the LNP.  This must be done at this stage and before a commitment is made to road access and layout.

The developer needs to provide proof yo the planning authority that there is a net gain in the existing natural capital on this site. Thus, the developer should take on board the need to create ‘pockets’ or ‘sequences’ within the site where wildlife that can cross the site and wildlife can flourish.

6. Heritage Protection of Landscape and Townscape
The applicant’s attention should be drawn to Policy HC3B para 3 where it says “that materials are durable for the projected life of the buildings and include built-in energy savings measures and water conservation in their design and execution.

The protection of the setting of the Malling Deanery Conservation Area will require additional landscaping.  In particular, the winter view of the older tree line showed the need for more evergreen and deciduous planting to protect its setting at the southern end of the site.

7. General Housing Strategy
We would expect the development to comply with Policy PL1 A of the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan in particular para 3 – where it says, “new residential development should comply with the development plan requirement for affordable housing this shall include maximizing the amount of Lewes low-cost housing to meet local housing need unless proven to be undeliverable.”

8. Architecture & Design
Policy PL2 of the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan also applies to this site, the LNP says “that all new development should be built to a high standard of design having regard to the design principle set up in the LNP design guidance principles” – see inset box pages 106-107 of the neighbourhood plan.

Most of the paragraphs of PL2 will apply.  In particular support would be given for proposals that balance environmental considerations with respect for the use of traditional materials. The impact of this development on the Malling Deanery conservation area to the immediate south of the site is particularly relevant and the Friends of the South Downs Society welcome the proposed use of low-rise housing, adjacent to the Malling Deanery Conservation Area.

4)  NPPF

We would draw your attention to the following paragraphs in the NPPF:

Adapting to climate change
2.8 c) an environmental objective – to contribute to protecting and enhancing our natural, built and historic environment; including making effective use of land, helping to improve biodiversity, using natural resources prudently, minimising waste and pollution, and mitigating and adapting to climate change, including moving to a low carbon economy.

20 d) conservation and enhancement of the natural, built and historic environment, including landscapes and green infrastructure, and planning measures to address climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Also, in these paragraphs:

Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
148. The planning system should support the transition to a low carbon future in a changing climate, taking full account of flood risk and coastal change. It should help to shape places in ways that contribute to radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, minimise vulnerability and improve resilience; encourage the reuse of existing resources, including the conversion of existing buildings; and support renewable and low carbon energy and associated infrastructure.

Risk of overheating from rising temperatures.
149. Plans should take a proactive approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change, taking into account the long-term implications for flood risk, coastal change, water supply, biodiversity and landscapes, and the risk of overheating from rising temperatures. Policies should support appropriate measures to ensure the future resilience of communities and infrastructure to climate change impacts, such as providing space for physical protection measures, or making provision for the possible future relocation of vulnerable development and infrastructure.

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
150. New development should be planned for in ways that:

a) avoid increased vulnerability to the range of impacts arising from climate change. When new development is brought forward in areas which are vulnerable, care should be taken to ensure that risks can be managed through suitable adaptation measures, including through the planning of green infrastructure; and

b) can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as through its location, orientation and design. Any local requirements for the sustainability of buildings should reflect the Government’s policy for national technical standards.

Use and supply of renewable and low carbon energy and heat, plans
151. To help increase the use and supply of renewable and low carbon energy and heat, plans should:

a) provide a positive strategy for energy from these sources, that maximises the potential for suitable development, while ensuring that adverse impacts are addressed satisfactorily (including cumulative landscape and visual impacts);

b) consider identifying suitable areas for renewable and low carbon energy sources, and supporting infrastructure, where this would help secure their development; and

c) identify opportunities for development to draw its energy supply from decentralised, renewable or low carbon energy supply systems and for co-locating potential heat customers and suppliers.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Annex 2 page 65:

Climate change mitigation: Action to reduce the impact of human activity on the climate system, primarily through reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Conserving and enhancing landscape and scenic beauty in National Parks
172. Great weight should be given to conserving and enhancing landscape and scenic beauty in National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which have the highest status of protection in relation to these issues. The conservation and enhancement of wildlife and cultural heritage are also important considerations in these areas, and should be given great weight in National Parks

5)   South Downs National Park Local Plan

As the main public hearing stage has been completed and the Inspector has limited further comments to the ‘main modifications’ only, we believe that, other than the sections of the local plan which are affected by the main modifications, the National Park Local Plan now carries great weight in considering planning applications.

The main modifications, as proposed by the inspector do not affect most spatial and key planning policies, in the draft Local Plan. We therefore believe is right to refer to these policies when reviewing the planning application for Old Malling Farm. The Society’s comments, in relation to this planning application are:

Allocation Policy SD79: Land at Old Malling Farm, Lewes
This policy states:

“In order for the development to have an overall positive impact on the ability of the natural environment to contribute to ecosystem services, development proposals must address the following:”

Accordingly, we draw your attention to the following key paragraphs:

  • “Provision of suitable pedestrian and cycle links to the adjacent countryside and to the existing rights of way network;”
  • Protect and enhance trees within the site where possible, and where trees are lost, provide at least the equivalent in new tree planting on site. Trees on the site boundary should be retained and new tree planting should be undertaken particularly at the western and eastern fringes of the site; and
  • New planting should be suitable for pollinating species; and
  • Minimise hard surfaced areas on site and use permeable surfaces and soft landscaping where possible to maximise infiltration of water and reduce surface water run-off.”

Strategic Policy SD5: Design
We draw your attention to the following key paragraphs:

“Development proposals will only be permitted where they adopt a landscape-led approach and respect the local character, through sensitive and high-quality design that makes a positive contribution to the overall character and appearance of the area. “

Strategic Policy SD8: Dark Night Skies
We draw your attention to the following key paragraphs:

  • “Development proposals will be permitted where they conserve and enhance the intrinsic quality of dark night skies and the integrity of the Dark Sky Core as shown on the Policies Map.
  • Development proposals must demonstrate that all opportunities to reduce light pollution have been taken and must ensure that the measured and observed sky quality in the surrounding area is not negatively affected, ……….”

Strategic Policy SD9: Biodiversity and Geodiversity
We draw your attention to the following key paragraphs:

“Development proposals will be permitted where they conserve and enhance biodiversity and geodiversity, giving particular regard to ecological networks and areas with high potential for priority habitat restoration or creation.”

Core Policy SD3: Major Development
This policy states:

“In determining what constitutes major development the National Park Authority will consider whether the development, including temporary events should they be deemed to constitute development, by reason of its scale, character or nature, has the potential to have a serious significant adverse impact on the natural beauty, wildlife or cultural heritage of, or recreational opportunities provided by, the National Park. The potential for significant adverse impact on the National Park will include the consideration of both the impact of cumulative development and the individual characteristics of each proposal and its context.”

Accordingly, we draw your attention to the following key paragraph:

“…. Development proposals should be sustainable as measured against the following factors:

  • Zero Carbon Zero Waste
  • Sustainable Transport
  • Sustainable Materials Sustainable Water
  • Land Use and Wildlife Culture and Community Health and Wellbeing.”

Strategic Policy SD19: Transport and Accessibility
We draw your attention to the following key paragraph:

  • “Development proposals will be permitted provided that they are located and designed to minimise the need to travel or and promote the use of sustainable modes of transport.
  • The following improvements to transport infrastructure will be supported:
  • Public transport waiting facilities, particularly those with reliable and accessible information;
  • Improvements to walking, cycling and bus connectivity at all transport interchanges;
  • In town and village centres, development will be permitted which appropriately provides for improved footways and cycle routes, ….”

Development Management Policy SD21: Public Realm, Highway Design and Public Art
We draw your attention to the following key paragraphs:

  • “Development proposals will be permitted provided that they protect and enhance highway safety and follow the principles set out in the document, Roads in the South Downs, or any future replacement.
  • Development will not be permitted where it would reduce the biodiversity, landscape and amenity value and character of historic rural roads. Particular attention will be given to new access points and other physical alterations to roads, and to the impacts of additional traffic.
  • Site layout must be designed to protect the safety and amenity of all road users. The design and layout of new development must give priority to the needs of pedestrians, users of mobility aids, cyclists and equestrians. Movement through the site must be a safe, legible and attractive experience for all users, with roads and surfaces that contribute to the experience rather than dominate it.”

Strategic Policy SD48: Climate Change and Sustainable Use of Resources
We draw your attention to the following key paragraphs:

  • “The Authority will encourage all new development to incorporate sustainable design features, as appropriate to the scale and type of development.
  • All development proposals, including retrofitting, will be required to demonstrate, proportionately, how the development addresses climate change mitigation and adaptation through the on-site use of zero and/or low carbon technologies, sustainable design and construction, and low carbon materials.
  • Major development proposals should also include an energy assessment to demonstrate how carbon dioxide emissions are to be minimised on-site.”

Page 199
We draw your attention to the following key paragraph:

“Item: 7.272 The use of renewable energy rather than fossil fuels will help to reduce carbon emissions and thus reduce climate change. Renewable energy offers a more sustainable use of natural capital and therefore is an important ecosystem service….”

6)  Lewes District Local Plan Part 1 Joint Core Strategy 2010-2030

Spatial Policy 4 – Old Malling Farm, Lewes
We would draw your attention to these opening words

“Development is consistent with positive local character and local distinctiveness and respects the character, amenity and setting of the adjacent Malling Deanery Conservation Area and the listed Church of St Michael;”

Also, to these sub paragraphs

“vii. Impacts on tranquillity, dark night skies and biodiversity are minimised by restricting access to some areas of floodplain outside the site and by providing only limited night lighting and the use of low-level lighting where required;

Also, the sub clauses:

viii. An ecological survey is undertaken, and appropriate measures are implemented to mitigate adverse impacts on the South Malling Disused Railway SNCI and Offham Marshes SSSI;

xiii. Development is subject to a geophysical survey and trial trench evaluation of the archaeological potential in the area and any resulting measures are implemented;

xv. Measures are put in place to improve access from the site to the town centre by non-car modes through the preparation and implementation of a Travel Plan to be approved by the Local Planning authority in consultation with the local highway authority; “

In addition, Items 6.66, 6.67 & 6.70

“………disused railway cutting (a Site of Nature Conservation Importance SNCI), providing single track access to Old Malling Farm from Old Malling Way”

“……….. The site also lies within an area of high archaeological potential being in the vicinity of a medieval settlement and the ruins of a college of Benedictine Canons”.

“Landscape mitigation measures must address the following sensitivities…….”

Core Policy 8 – Green Infrastructure (Key Strategic Objectives):
We would draw your attention to this Key Strategic Objective:

“To conserve and enhance the high quality and character of the district’s towns, villages, and rural environment by ensuring that all forms of new development are designed to a high standard and maintain and enhance the local vernacular and ‘sense of place’ of individual settlements”.

Core Policy 9 – Air Quality Key Strategic Objective:
We would draw your attention to these opening statements:

  • “To reduce the need for travel and to promote a sustainable system of transport and land use for people who live in, work in, study in and visit the district” and
  • “To ensure that the district reduces locally contributing causes of climate change and is pro-active regarding climate change initiatives”.

And to this policy statement:

All applications for development will be required to:

5.Promote opportunities for walking, cycling and public transport and congestion management to reduce traffic levels in areas of reduced air quality, particularly in town centre locations, and promote the opportunity for cycling through the provision of cycleways.

Core Policy 13 – Sustainable Travel – Key Strategic Objectives:
We would draw your attention to these opening statements:

  • “To reduce the need to travel and promote a sustainable system of transport and land use for people who live in, work in, study in, and visit the district” and
  • “To ensure the district reduces locally contributing causes of climate change and is proactive regarding climate change initiatives”

And to these policy statements:

“2. Ensuring that the design and layout of new development prioritises the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and users of public transport over ease of access by the motorist.

4.Ensuring that new development minimises the need to travel and incorporates appropriate measures to mitigate for any transport impacts which may arise from that development.

5.Requiring new development to provide for an appropriate level of cycle and car parking in accordance with parking guidance approved by the Local Planning authority.”

Core Policy 14 – Renewable and Low Carbon Energy and Sustainable Use of Resources Key Strategic Objective:
We would draw your attention to this opening statement:

“To ensure that the district reduces locally contributing causes of climate change and is proactive regarding climate change initiatives”.

Also, we draw your attention to these policy statement:

“1. Encourage renewable and low carbon energy in all development, … “and

“2. Support applications for low carbon and renewable energy installations, ….”

And:

“3. Require planning applications relating to Core Strategy strategic site allocations to be accompanied by an Energy Strategy. ….”.

7)  Other matters
The other reasons for objecting to the development are:

Bus Turning Area
We believe there is insufficient room for a bus turning area despite the applicant being sympathetic to providing bus facilities. If the application were to go ahead there would need to be modifications to the estate access road.

Traffic Calming
We are pleased that the developer proposes some traffic calming measures but the detail of these should not be agreed until a formal traffic calming scheme be drawn up. This scheme should be the subject of consultation with not only the Highway Authority but also the local town council.

Cycle & Pedestrian Routes
The plans as they stand now do not make it clear exactly what the cycle routes are through the estate. We believe provision for cycling is an essential part of a sustainable travel strategy. Cycle routes should not be considered as an add-on at a later stage to the road layout. Cycle, footpath/ pedestrian and roadways should all be part of one design.

National Planning Guidance and the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan prioritise pedestrian access (including children going to school and those with disabilities).  The application should include the design of traffic free pedestrian and cycle routes within the estate and out of the site. It is important to include these in the design layout which will help avoid the temptation to use a motorcar to take children to the nearby school. Transport planning and funding must put this at a high priority at this stage and not just consider road layout.

Access to/from the site from the southeast corner:
A case in point is shown up by inspecting the developer’s plans. The outline plans show only an ‘indicative’ or ‘possible’ additional route through the south east corner for cycling and walking. It is essential that the developer’s plans encourage the logical flow of non-motorised traffic to/from the estate and to help integrate to the rest of the town.

Access here would be very beneficial to encourage pedestrian and cycle traffic onto the old railway track and then to the Malling Recreational ground, the Malling Community centre and access to the town in general. This would also provide a traffic free access for part of the route to the South Malling Church of England Primary and Nursery School.

 

8)  UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan

We would like to draw your attention to the government’s environment plan launched by the Prime Minister in January 2018:

‘A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment’, sets out what we will do to improve the environment, within a generation’.

As you will see this plan specifically refers to reducing our carbon emissions and tackling climate change.

The Society supports this plan and we would hope that the SDNPA will implement it especially as it is backed by important paragraphs in the NPPF, in its own Local Plan, The Lewes District Local Plan and the Lewes Town Neighbourhood Plan.

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