Draft Core Strategy January 2011

Draft Core Strategy January 2011 - interactive online version

8 Our Environmental and Sustainable Development

Climate Change and Sustainable Construction

8.1 The Government emphasises the importance of the planning system in helping to achieve sustainable development and addressing environmental issues, in particular:

  • mitigating the causes of, and adaptation to, climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the use of renewable energy, avoiding areas at risk of flooding, etc
  • protecting and enhancing the natural and historic environment
  • ensuring the efficient and prudent use of resources
  • protecting and enhancing landscapes, wildlife, species and habitats and natural resources and the promotion of biodiversity.

8.2 The Oxfordshire and the West Oxfordshire Sustainable Community Strategies identify these themes as priorities for the area, in particular the importance given to environmental quality. Each of these themes is considered in this section.

Climate Change and Sustainable Construction

8.3 Achieving sustainable development and addressing climate change underpins and permeates this Core Strategy. The need to reduce the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions - a major contributor to climate change - is particularly important.

8.4 Over the last 10 years or so the emphasis, nationally and locally, has been in getting development in the most sustainable locations and in so doing reduce the need to travel and car dependence and thus reduce CO2 emissions from transport. This continues to be the approach adopted in this Core Strategy.

8.5 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 also essential in addressing climate change, through influencing resource use, especially energy, as well as carbon emissions. An important part of this is the use of decentralised and renewable or low-carbon energy sources (such as biomass, solar, wind and heat pumps). Assessing the impacts of the inevitable changes to our climate, which are likely to include higher temperatures and more extreme weather events, is also important - both in terms of where to locate new development and its design, layout and proposed land uses.

Addressing climate change - overall approach

8.6 The overall strategy aims to deliver sustainable development and address the causes (through mitigation) and impacts (through adaptation) of climate change.

Key considerations in addressing climate change include, in particular:

Mitigation

Sustainable settlement pattern
- distribution and selection of new development based on an analysis of sustainability factors
Sustainable transport - emphasis on proposals that reduce the need to travel and encourage the use of walking, cycling and public transport
Energy - incorporating energy efficiency, decentralised and renewable or low carbon energy, including in particular, passive solar design, solar water heating, photovoltaics, heat pumps and biomass generated energy
Resources - optimising energy, carbon and resource efficiency
Carbon sequestration - promoting land uses that act as carbon sinks

Adaptation

Design
- approaches resilient to climate change eg the use of passive solar design approaches for heating and cooling
Flooding - minimising the risk of flooding, including incorporating sustainable drainage measures, increasing flood storage to reduce run-off, reinstating naturally functioning floodplains and the use of energy crops eg Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) on flood prone areas
Heat waves - provision of open space and water, planting and green roofs, for example, for their cooling effect
Water management - to address issue of both high and low precipitation
Biodiversity - help wildlife adapt eg through improving habitat connectivity and by using SRC as 'wildlife corridors'
 
Energy hierarchy

8.7 Looking specifically at the issue of energy, there is a need to establish an order of priority in applying policy and assessing proposals. It would be counter-productive to encourage the increased generation of on-site renewables if energy is being wasted by lack of, often inexpensive, efficiency measures. The volatility of the energy market reinforces the merits of this approach. 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
Renewable Energy Generation

8.8 There are opportunities for renewable energy technologies that generate electricity (wind, solar PV, small scale hydro) or heat (biomass, solar thermal, heat pumps) or both eg biomass/wood fuel Combined Heat and Power (CHP).

Stand-alone renewable energy development - strategic opportunities

8.9 West Oxfordshire's high-valued landscape and historic environment impose significant constraints on large scale stand-alone renewable energy development. While in relation to wind development there may be some potential for larger, commercial, wind turbines, the development pattern is likely to be one of single turbines and small scale community-owned clusters, scattered rather than being grouped in a particular part of the District.  The constraints - especially the AONB, landscape character, airfields and widely distributed settlement patterns - means each scheme will need a high level of testing.  Single, small scale community turbines (eg connected through schools or village halls) may have an important role to play and offer the opportunity for community 'buy-in', whilst being less intrusive.

8.10 The level of environmental and technical constraints on wind power in the District, means that to achieve significant levels of renewable energy generation, the development of biomass as a fuel source will need to play a crucial role.  Biomass might be used in small scale power stations or District Energy Schemes.  Certainly biomass is a good, viable option for new build development (and existing buildings) where the necessary infrastructure such as underground pipework can be laid whilst major construction is underway.  The County has a large number of small woodlands.  These, together with larger woodlands and estates in West Oxfordshire, should be capable of producing enough biomass to expand the existing but small local wood fuel industry.  Not only will this provide renewable, low carbon energy, there will also be local environmental and economic benefits.  Further work is underway to stimulate demand and develop local, sustainable supply chains through a West Oxfordshire Wood Fuel Network.                    

 Key Evidence
  • West Oxfordshire Local Plan (adopted 2006)
  • West Oxfordshire Design Guide SPD
  • West Oxfordshire Climate Change Policy 2008-12 The District Council has signed the Nottingham Declaration, demonstrating its commitment to tackling climate change and reducing its own 'carbon footprint', and has set out a number of actions it intends to undertake in order to reduce local carbon emissions through a Climate Change Policy 2008-12 and associated Action Plan.
  • West Oxfordshire Local Climate Impacts Profile (LCLIP)The LCLIP highlights how the District is likely to experience more extreme weather conditions.
  • UKCP09 weather scenarios (http://ukcp09.defra.gov.uk/)
  • CAG Consultants 'Renewable energy and sustainable construction study' - the CAG Study (2009)