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Draft Local Plan Review


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10. Promoting Quality of Place

Introduction

339. Solihull Borough is made up of five distinctive 'places' with common characteristics and within the Rural Area, a finer grain of attractive rural villages. The thrust of the Spatial Strategy is to remain an economically successful Borough through sustainable economic growth whilst sustaining its attractiveness and without undermining the qualities and defining characteristics of those places, which attract people and investment to Solihull.

340. The policies contained in this section are critical to retaining the quality of Solihull's distinctive places. Together with the other policies in the Plan, particularly, in the chapters dealing with Protecting and Enhancing our Environment, and Supporting Local Communities; and the application of Policies in this section will ensure Solihull remains an attractive, locally distinctive and prosperous Borough.

341. High quality design is fundamental to making places more attractive, sustainable, safe, healthy and accessible. Good design can help reduce and mitigate the impacts of climate change; promote healthier lifestyles; create safer places and make high quality and attractive places that foster civic pride.

342. NPPF states that local planning authorities should set out in their Local Plan a positive strategy for the conservation and enjoyment of the historic environment, including heritage assets most at risk and should seek to conserve them in a manner appropriate to their significance.  Heritage assets include buildings, monuments, sites, places, areas or landscapes identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions.

343. Most of the undeveloped area of the Borough is designated as Green Belt, where national policy provides a presumption against development that is inappropriate in a rural area. The Borough's Green Belt includes the strategically important open land between the urban areas of Birmingham and Solihull and the city of Coventry, known as the Meriden Gap, and key gaps between urban areas and rural settlements. Protecting the Green Belt in Solihull will contribute to the purposes set out in the national policy. It is also vital for maintaining the attractive rural setting and environment that helps to bring investment and people to the Borough. Management of the countryside is largely dependent on agricultural businesses, which face significant pressures on incomes and changing demands for products.

344. The Green Belt in Solihull has been under constant pressure since it was first proposed in 1960. Successive development plans for Solihull have removed land from the Green Belt to meet housing and other needs. Developments of national and regional significance have also been allowed, justified by very special circumstances. This plan recognises that the scale of the growth faced by the Borough and the lack of significant development opportunities outside the Green Belt mean that substantial adjustments to the Green Belt are required to meet development needs.

Policy P15 Securing Design Quality

All development proposals will be expected to contribute to, or create, high quality places and spaces which have regard to local distinctiveness to achieve high quality, inclusive and sustainable design.  Proposals will be expected to meet the following key principles:

•Conserves and enhances local character, distinctiveness and streetscape quality and ensures that the scale, massing, density, layout, territory (including space between buildings), materials and landscape of the development respect the surrounding natural, built and historic environment;

•Secures the sustainable long-term use of new development through flexible, robust and future-proofed design and layout;

•Makes appropriate provision for water management within development, and provides innovative design solutions for all development;

•Be proactive in responding to climate change and adopts sustainable and low carbon construction principles in terms of their design, layout and density, meeting the requirements of Approved Document M of the Building Regulations, or subsequent equivalent;

•Conserves, restores or enhances biodiversity;

•Respects and enhances landscape quality, including trees, hedgerows and other landscape features of value, and contributes to strategic green infrastructure;

•Creates attractive, safe, active, legible and uncluttered streets and public spaces which are accessible, inter-connected and easily maintained, and encourages walking and cycling and reduces crime and the fear of crime through the adoption of Secured by Design principles in all developments.

All residential development proposals shall demonstrate how they meet Building for Life 10, or its equivalent.

All developments should comply with the urban design principles set out in established current design guidance, including at present; Urban Design Compendium 1 and 2 (2007), By Design (2000 and 2001), Manual for Streets 1 (2007) and 2 (2010), Car Parking: What Works Where (2006), Building for Life 10 and Secured by Design principles, or their equivalents, and the adopted SPG New Housing in Context.

Applicants are encouraged to engage in pre-application discussions at an early stage in the design process and will be required to demonstrate that they have followed the robust Assessment-Involvement-Evaluation-Design process outlined in the national guidance on Design and Access Statements. Major development proposals are required to demonstrate how the local community has been consulted and engaged in the design process, in accordance with the Council's adopted Statement of Community Involvement. Significant development proposals will also be encouraged to engage with and be reviewed through the Regional Design Review process (MADE).

Justification

345. The Government's policy on design is clear in the NPPF.  'The Government attaches great importance to the design of the built environment. Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development, is indivisible from good planning and should contribute positively to making places better for people'. The NPPF also highlights the importance of high quality design in planning and creating places and demonstrates that good design is concerned with more than just the aesthetics of a building, it is integral to the success of buildings and places, how they function and how people connect with the surrounding built, natural and historic environment.  Although there can be many individual design 'issues' to be addressed, the key to a successful design is how they integrate to create a place in a holistic manner.

346. As such, Policy P15 provides a set of design principles for applicants to adhere to, concerning the scale and visual appearance of the building (including the territory it sits within), as well its environmental performance, impact on flood risk and the natural environment, its integration with its surroundings and neighbouring public spaces. The policy recognises that high quality sustainable materials and construction standards are also important to ensure the durability and longevity of new development.

347. Policy P15 also requires development proposals to create safe and attractive streets and public spaces, which reduce crime and the fear of crime. Whilst adherence to Secured by Design principles is important for all new built development, it can also be relevant to smaller scale proposals such as changes of use to licensed premises and the installation of cash points, where applicants should engage with a West Midlands Crime Prevention Design Advisor at an early stage. As well as considering the impact of development proposals on public safety and the incidences of anti-social behaviour, the reference to crime in the Policy also relates to creating safer buildings and places that are better protected from terrorist attack. This reflects the Government's strategy for countering terrorism. Applications for development which affect higher risk buildings or spaces such as those that could attract crowds of people, are encouraged to consider the advice provided in the national guidance; "Crowded Places: The Planning System and Counter-Terrorism" (January 2012).

348. The Borough's high quality environment is fundamental to its success as an attractive place to live, work and invest. As such, the policy strives to create development with the highest standards of design and sustainability, across the Borough. This should be evidenced by an appropriate national standard such as BREEAM or Building for Life. Development associated with the key economic assets within UK Central will be expected to be designed to the highest quality standard to ensure these areas become design exemplars for the Borough and sustainable communities. Policy P1 makes clear that to assist the growth proposals for the High Speed 2 (HS2) Interchange, a concept framework will be prepared to guide the development of the area.

349. However, not all parts of the Borough have a high quality environment and a key part of the strategy is to improve the environment in the North Solihull Regeneration Area and parts of the Mature Suburbs. In order to raise the design quality in North Solihull, the North Solihull Design Code will continue to be applied.

350. Concept Masterplans will be sought for each of the allocated sites to be taken forward to the submission version of the plan.  These should also indicate how physical and green infrastructure (including open space) is to be integrated into the development, including capacity for high-speed digital connectivity, sustainable drainage systems and potential for renewable and low carbon energy schemes.

351. The Council will undertake a review of its current principal supplementary planning guidance relating to design (New Housing in Context) to ensure it remains fit for purpose or whether it requires amending to ensure it provides appropriate guidance to assist in the application of this policy.  This is particularly the case to ensure that new development being assimilated into an existing residential area is designed to avoid 'town cramming', where overly large properties are squeezed onto plots that are only big enough for smaller dwellings.

Challenges and Objectives Addressed by the Policy

A Reducing inequalities in the Borough

C Sustaining the attractiveness of the Borough for people who live, work and invest in Solihull

D Securing sustainable economic growth

E Protecting key gaps between urban areas and settlements

F Climate change

H Increasing accessibility and encouraging sustainable travel

J Improving health and well being

K Protecting and enhancing our natural assets

L Water quality and flood risk

Policy P16 Conservation of Heritage Assets and Local Distinctiveness

The Council recognises the importance of the historic environment to the Borough's local character and distinctiveness, and to civic pride, and the cultural, social, environmental and economic benefits that its conservation brings. Heritage assets are an irreplaceable resource that should be conserved as appropriate to their significance, sustained and enhanced, and put to viable use consistent with their conservation.

The Council considers that the following characteristics make a significant contribution to the local character and distinctiveness of the Borough:

•The historic core of Solihull Town Centre and its adjacent parks;

•The historical development and variety of architectural styles within the Mature Suburbs and the larger established rural settlements of Meriden, Hampton-in-Arden, Balsall Common, Knowle, Dorridge, Bentley Heath, Hockley Heath, Cheswick Green and Tidbury Green;

•The Arden landscape, historic villages, hamlets, farmsteads, country and lesser houses and the distinct medieval core of historic rural settlements including Berkswell, Barston, Temple Balsall, Meriden Hill, Walsal End, Hampton-in-Arden, Bickenhill and Knowle;

•Parks, gardens and landscape including common, woodland, heathland and distinctive fieldscapes as defined in the Warwickshire Historic Landscape Characterisation; and

•The canal and railway network, including disused railway lines and the working stations at Solihull, Olton, Dorridge and Shirley, together with associated structures.

Development proposals that impact upon this character and significance will be expected to demonstrate how this impact has been assessed and minimised, using a recognised process of assessment, involvement, evaluation and design.

Development will be expected to conserve heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance, conserve local character and distinctiveness, create or sustain a sense of place and seek and take opportunities to enhance the contribution made by the historic environment to the character of a place. In Solihull, heritage assets include; Listed Buildings, Scheduled Ancient Monuments, Registered Parks and Gardens, Conservation Areas and also non-designated assets. The latter include buildings, monuments, archaeological sites, places, areas or landscapes positively identified in Solihull's Historic Environment Record, or during development management work as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions, such as those identified on the Local List of Heritage Assets. The historic landscape includes ancient woodlands, hedgerows and field boundaries, and archaeological features such as earthworks.

All applications that affect the historic environment will be expected to have considered and used, as a minimum the evidence in the Solihull Historic Environment Record to inform the design of the proposal. Heritage assets should be assessed using further sources and appropriate expertise where necessary. This should be explained in the accompanying Design and Access Statement or, for significant proposals, in a Heritage Statement.

Proposals seeking to modify heritage assets for the mitigation of and adaptation to the effects of climate change will be expected to be sympathetic and conserve the special interest and significance of the heritage asset or its setting.

Justification

352. Paragraph 126 of the NPPF advises that 'Local Planning Authorities should set out in their Local Plan a positive strategy for the conservation and enjoyment of the historic environment', recognising that 'heritage assets are an irreplaceable resource' which should be conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance. The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 also places several duties on Local Planning Authorities:

  • In considering whether to grant listed building consent for any works, to pay special regard to the desirability of preserving the listed building or its setting or any features of special architectural or historic interest which it possesses;
  • To designate and review the designation of Conservation Areas and publish proposals for their preservation and enhancement; and
  • To pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of Conservation Areas.

353. The Council recognises the importance of the historic environment to the Borough's local character and distinctiveness, its contribution to the five distinct 'places' of Solihull and the cultural, social, environmental and economic benefits of conserving heritage assets in proportion to their significance. Policy P16 defines the special characteristics which the Council considers make a significant contribution to Solihull's local distinctiveness and advocates strong protection of those qualities and the Borough's wider historic environment. The policy also seeks to ensure that all development preserves or enhances heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance, as defined in the evidence base for the Local Plan, or as their significance emerges during the planning process.

354. To conserve the heritage assets and sense of place within Solihull, all development proposals affecting heritage assets will also be expected to adhere to current established guidance.  At present this includes National Planning Practice Guidance and all relevant Historic England[39] publications including Conservation Principles, Policies and Guidance (2008).

355. A substantial body of evidence on the historic environment has been collected and informed the development of the Local Plan and this Review, its strategy for the Borough's historic environment and the selection of sites allocated for development. Key pieces of evidence such as the Warwickshire Historic Landscape Characterisation (June 2010), Warwickshire Historic Farmstead Characterisation Project (August 2010), Warwickshire Landscape Guidelines: Arden (November 1993), Solihull Characterisation Study (December 2011) and Solihull Historic Environment Record have been used to develop an understanding of Solihull's historic environment, local distinctiveness and its heritage assets; those parts of the historic environment which have a particular value or significance. The Historic England Heritage at Risk registers, Solihull's Conservation Area Appraisals and Management Plans have also identified current threats to the Borough's historic environment and one of the purposes of Policy P16 and the delivery strategy is to focus on addressing such threats. The Solihull Landscape Character Assessment provides evidence of the character and local distinctiveness of the landscape, including historic landscapes.

Challenges and Objectives Addressed by the Policy

C Sustaining the attractiveness of the Borough for people who live, work and invest in Solihull

D Securing sustainable economic growth

E Protecting key gaps between urban areas and settlements

F Climate change

K Protecting and enhancing our natural assets

Policy P17 Countryside and Green Belt

The Council will safeguard the "best and most versatile" agricultural land in the Borough unless there is an overriding need for development that outweighs the loss, and will seek to protect the character of the countryside.

Inappropriate development will not be permitted in the Solihull Green Belt, unless very special circumstances have been demonstrated in accordance with the NPPF.  Paragraphs 89 and 90 of the NPPF set out forms of development that are not regarded as inappropriate.  In interpreting these paragraphs the following provisions will apply:

•Limited in-filling or redevelopment may take place in the following settlements without constituting an inappropriate development:

oChadwick End

oCheswick Green

oMillison's Wood

oTidbury Green

•Limited infilling in villages shall be interpreted as the filling of a small gap within an otherwise built up frontage with not more than two dwellings.

•Disproportionate additions shall be interpreted as additions that are more than 40% of the original floorspace of the building.

•Where the re-use of buildings or land is proposed, the new use, and any associated use of land surrounding the building, should not conflict with, nor have a materially greater impact on, the openness of the Green Belt and the purposes of including land in it, and the form, bulk and general design of the buildings shall be in keeping with their surroundings.

In considering proposals for inappropriate development in the Green Belt, the following factors may be taken into account as very special circumstances:

•The reasonable expansion of established businesses into the Green Belt will be allowed where the proposal would make a significant contribution to the local economy or employment, providing that appropriate mitigation can be secured.

•Changes of use to accommodate outdoor sport and recreation uses provided they preserve the openness of the Green Belt.

•Changes of use to accommodate natural burial grounds provided they preserve the openness of the Green Belt.

•Waste management operations that create new capacity towards the treatment gap provided the development accords with the waste management policy of the plan.

Development within or conspicuous from the Green Belt must not harm the visual amenity of the Green Belt by reason of siting, materials or design.

The small settlements of Hampton-in-Arden, Hockley Heath, Meriden and Catherine de Barnes are inset in the Green Belt and are not therefore subject to Green Belt policy. Nevertheless, the Council, in considering applications for development in these settlements, will take into account the importance of their rural setting and of their attributes, such as historic buildings, open space, density of development, landscape and townscape that contribute towards their special character. Immediately beyond the inset boundary, strict Green Belt policies will apply.

Justification

356. Most of the countryside within the Borough is in use for agriculture, and farmers are largely responsible for managing the land.  Farmland is generally of good to moderate quality capable of supporting a healthy mixed farming economy. About one fifth of the farmland falls within the 'best and most versatile' agricultural land category, which Solihull's Countryside Strategy 2010-2020 indicates should be protected, as an irreplaceable resource and for its contribution to the rural character of the Borough. The Solihull Landscape Character Assessment highlights the character and local distinctiveness of the landscape and its sensitivity to development, and is a key tool in helping to manage change.

357. Green Belt policy is set out in the national policy and will apply across the whole of the rural area of the Borough, other than the inset areas around settlements and other major developments. National policy makes clear that established Green Belt boundaries should be altered only in exceptional circumstances and only when a local plan is being prepared or reviewed. It also describes the circumstances when built and other development should be considered as an exception to inappropriate development.

358. The pressure on the Green Belt in Solihull has been intensified by the requirement for development emerging from housing needs (both for the Borough and wider HMA); the lack of vacant and derelict land in the Borough; national guidance on windfall housing; and local requirements for employment land, waste management and mineral extraction. This is reflected both in the significant number of sites in the Green Belt in the SHELAA, and the paucity of sites in the urban area.

359. Significant adjustments to Green Belt boundaries are required in the UK Central Hub Area to provide an appropriate planning framework for the Council's ambitions for the HS2 Interchange and adjoining area, and to meet the needs of the key economic assets within the area. Further significant adjustments are required elsewhere to meet local housing and employment land needs and to address Solihull's contribution toward the shortfall in new housing land across the wider housing market area. Where land is to be deleted from the Green Belt as part of this Plan, exceptional circumstances are considered to be met to justify the change in boundaries, as required by the NPPF.

360. The Solihull Strategic Green Belt Assessment (GBA)[40] assesses the contribution that the Green Belt in the Borough makes towards the purposes of including land in the Green Belt. The GBA demonstrates that the Green Belt in the Meriden Gap between Solihull and Coventry makes the most significant contribution, although the Green Belt on the edge of the urban area and some settlements also contributes significantly. The findings have been used to help justify the removal of land in the UK Central Hub Area from the Green Belt and to identify suitable sites for new housing and other purposes elsewhere.

361. A small number of minor changes will be made to address anomalies in Green Belt boundaries across the Borough, taking into account an assessment of submissions made during the preparation of this Plan.

362. The policy is consistent with national Green Belt policy, but provides some further guidance to help establish whether development would be inappropriate.

363. Limited infilling in villages, identified as appropriate development in the Green Belt in the NPPF, will be permitted in Chadwick End, Millison's Wood and Tidbury Green, as defined on the Proposals Map. In the other Green Belt villages and hamlets in the Borough, new building, other than that required for agriculture and forestry, outdoor sport, outdoor recreation and cemeteries, or for extensions and alterations will be considered to be inappropriate development, in order to protect the Green Belt and the character and quality of the settlements. The policy provides some additional guidance to assist interpretation of limited infilling.

364. A number of established businesses are located within or adjacent to the Green Belt in Solihull, such as Jaguar Land Rover and Whale Tankers. The reasonable expansion of such businesses into the Green Belt, whilst remaining inappropriate development, will be allowed where justified by a significant contribution to the local economy or employment.

365. The re-use of permanent and substantial buildings in the Green Belt is not inappropriate development. Locally, there is considerable pressure for the conversion of agricultural barns to new uses. The policy sets out some additional criteria for re-use of buildings to ensure that the new use does not conflict with or have a materially greater impact on the Green Belt, and is in keeping with the surroundings.

366. Most changes of use within the Green Belt amount to inappropriate development.  However some such uses can make beneficial use of land in the Green Belt without having an undue impact on the openness of the Green Belt.  Policy P17 seeks to identify these and that they may constitute very special circumstances in favour of the granting of a planning permission.

367. Policy P12 identifies the need for additional waste management capacity in the Borough, a number of strategic waste management sites, and an area of search for new waste management facilities within the Green Belt. This policy is consistent with guidance in the NPPF but makes clear that the contribution towards new waste management capacity in the Borough may amount to very special circumstances, provided the development accords with the waste management policy in this plan.

368. The NPPF supports positive planning to retain and enhance landscapes, visual amenity and biodiversity, and this policy indicates that development within or conspicuous from the Green Belt must not harm visual amenity through siting, materials or design.

369. The settlements of Catherine de Barnes, Hampton in Arden, Hockley Heath and Meriden are inset from the Green Belt. Whilst Green Belt policies do not apply within these settlements, the Council will take into account their rural setting and special character in considering development proposals.

Challenges and Objectives Addressed by the Policy

C Sustaining the attractiveness of the Borough for people who live, work and invest in Solihull

E Protecting key gaps between urban areas and settlements

F Climate change

I Providing sufficient waste management facilities and providing for sand and gravel aggregates


View Comments (122) 20. Do you agree with the policies for quality of place?  If not why not, and what alternatives would you suggest?

[39] Including those published under the organisations previous name of English Heritage.

[40] Atkins (2016)

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