Draft Local Plan October 2012

Prudent Use of Natural Resources

4.14 As a planet we are living beyond our means, consuming natural resources at a faster rate than they can be replenished. The use of fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil has increased exponentially in the last few decades and the resultant increases in CO2 emissions are generally acknowledged to have contributed towards an increased rate of climatic change. It is essential that we reduce our consumption of natural resources and planning has a key role to play.

4.15 We have already explained how the location of development can help to reduce the need to travel and thereby reduce the consumption of oil and emission of carbon dioxide (CO2). As well as influencing the location of development, the Local Plan can ensure that new development uses less energy through greater efficiency in the use and management of resources. A three-step hierarchy is to be used:

  • Lean - use less energy, by the use of sustainable design and construction measures
  • Clean - supply energy efficiently, giving priority to decentralised energy supply
  • Green - use renewable energy, especially biomass

4.16 The starting point is to minimise energy use (for example, through energy efficiency improvements to buildings such as loft and cavity wall insulation), before consideration is given as to how to supply energy more efficiently and then to the generation of renewable energy. In this section we address the first stage of the energy hierarchy - sustainable design and construction. The use of decentralised and renewable energy is addressed in Section 7.

4.17 With emissions from buildings accounting for approximately 50% of CO2 emissions in the UK (and West Oxfordshire having higher levels of domestic energy consumption per person than the South East average), there is increasing recognition that constructing buildings using sustainable techniques, is essential in addressing climate change, through influencing resource use, especially energy, as well as carbon emissions.

4.18 In 2009, the District Council jointly commissioned a study of the potential for decentralised, renewable and low carbon technologies and local requirements for sustainable construction. The study concluded that in West Oxfordshire these objectives can most easily and effectively be achieved through the adoption of the Code for Sustainable Homes (a national system for measuring the sustainability performance of new homes) and BREEAM requirements (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) a similar construction standard for non-domestic buildings.

4.19 While use of the Code/BREEAM should lead to the greater use of decentralised and renewable or low carbon energy, the big advantage is that it also addresses the wider issues of sustainable design and construction, contributing to a range of policy objectives, such as ensuring greater efficiency in the use and management of resources, the reduction of pollution and waste, improvements to water and air quality, and the protection and enhancement of features of importance, including wildlife and landscapes.

4.20 As a general principle, all developments will be expected to meet or exceed relevant national minimum standards for sustainable construction. All sites allocated through the Local Plan will be expected to exceed the minimum standards as with larger sites, the potential to exploit renewable energy sources is generally greater.

4.21 In West Oxfordshire, where water scarcity, surface water run-off, ecology and the aim of achieving low carbon and renewable energy are important issues, particular emphasis in achieving these elements of the Code/BREEAM will be required. The use of local sustainability targets has been trialled since summer 2010 and these targets will be reviewed in the light of experience, government advice and the adoption of Core Policy 3. Further local sustainable construction planning guidance will also be published.

CORE POLICY 3 - Prudent Use of Natural Resources

All development proposals (including new buildings, conversions and the refurbishment of existing building stock) will be required to show consideration of the efficient and prudent use and management of natural resources, including:

  • making the most efficient use of land and buildings, whilst having regard to the character of the locality
  • minimising use of non-renewable resources, including land and energy, and maximising opportunities for travel by sustainable means
  • minimising their impact on the soil resource*
  • minimising energy demands and energy loss through design, layout, orientation, landscaping, materials and the use of technology;
  • maximising passive solar heating, lighting, natural ventilation, energy and water efficiency and reuse of materials;
  • minimising risk of flooding;
  • making use of appropriate sustainable drainage systems;
  • using recycled and energy efficient materials;
  • minimising waste and making adequate provision for the re-use and recycling of waste; and
  • causing no deterioration and, where possible, achieving improvements in water or air quality

All development proposals will be required to achieve high standards of sustainable design and construction. In particular:

  • new dwellings will be expected to achieve at least Code for Sustainable Homes (or equivalent) Level 3 with immediate effect, Code Level 4 from 2013 and Code Level 6 from 2016;
  • on strategic development areas, at least Code Level 4 will need to be achieved with immediate effect;
  • all non-domestic developments will be expected to achieve at least BREEAM 'very good' from 2013 and BREEAM 'excellent' from 2016;
  • all larger non-domestic developments (over 1000 m2 floorspace) will be expected to meet BREEAM 'very good' or equivalent with immediate effect;
  • within strategic development areas emphasis will be given to those elements/themes of the Code for Sustainable Homes/BREEAM which relate to water consumption, surface water run-off and ecology

Where developers cannot meet the above requirements, they will need to provide a robust assessment that has been independently validated, to demonstrate why it is not feasible, viable and deliverable.

* Guidance includes the 2011 DEFRA publication: Construction Code of Practice for the Sustainable Use of Soils on Construction Sites