Draft Core Strategy January 2011

Draft Core Strategy January 2011 - interactive online version

Natural Environment

8.38 A key characteristic of West Oxfordshire is the quality and diversity of its natural environment. One of the biggest challenges for the Core Strategy is to protect, sustain and enhance this natural environment, while at the same time accommodating necessary development.

Landscape

8.39 West Oxfordshire has a predominantly rural, agricultural landscape with large country estates, including historic parks, and is renowned for its gentle scenic beauty, about a third of which has national recognition as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - part of the Cotswolds AONB.

8.40 Conserving and enhancing the quality of our landscape - whilst supporting suitably located and designed development necessary to facilitate the economic and social well-being of the area and its communities - are important objectives. Within the Cotswolds great weight will be given to conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, landscape and countryside, not just within the AONB but affecting its setting. Advice from the Cotswolds Conservation Board, including the Cotswolds AONB Management Plan and Landscape Assessment, is invaluable.

8.41 The West Oxfordshire Landscape Assessment describes the landscape characteristics of the district, giving guidance on landscape enhancement, planning and development. This, together with guidance in the West Oxfordshire Design Guide SPD, the more detailed appraisals of the landscape setting of the main towns (undertaken to inform strategic site allocations) and the Oxfordshire Wildlife and Landscape Study (OWLS), will be used to assess development proposals with potential landscape impacts.

8.42 It is not just physical features which affect landscape character; large parts of rural West Oxfordshire are noted for their peace and tranquillity. Pollution, especially noise and light, can undermine this 'unspoilt' character. Any development should maintain or improve the existing level of tranquillity.

8.43 In addition to more general district-wide landscape considerations, there are three areas in West Oxfordshire that are given special policy attention: the Lower Windrush Valley Project Area (an area of major landscape change associated with mineral extraction and after-uses, especially for recreation, tourism and nature conservation); the Windrush in Witney Project Area (a fundamental component of the town's attractive character); and the Wychwood Forest Area (a project that aims to revive the landscape character and mix of habitats found in the area during the Middle Ages). These three areas, together with the Cotswolds AONB, will continue to be identified for special landscape protection and enhancement (see Figure 8.2).

Policy CS24 - Natural Environment
The quality and character of West Oxfordshire’s natural environment, its diversity and its local distinctiveness, will be conserved and enhanced, including its landscape, countryside and biodiversity.

New development must respect and, where possible, enhance the intrinsic character, quality and distinctive features of the local landscape of the area.

When determining development proposals within or impacting upon the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, high priority will be given to the conservation and enhancement of the area’s natural beauty.

Special attention will be given to the landscape and biodiversity of the Lower Windrush Valley Project, the Windrush in Witney Project Area and the Wychwood Forest Area.

 

Key Evidence
  • West Oxfordshire Local Plan 2011
  • West Oxfordshire Design Guide SPD Especially Chapter 2 on local characteristics and Chapter on biodiversity and landscape character
  • West Oxfordshire Landscape Assessment 1998
  • Carterton Landscape Assessment 2009
  • Chipping Norton Landscape Assessment 2009
  • Witney Landscape Assessment 2007
  • Oxfordshire Wildlife and Landscape Study (OWLS)
  • Lower Windrush Valley Project
  • Windrush in Witney Project
  • Wychwood Forest Project
  • Cotswolds AONB Management Plan 2008-2013
  • Cotswolds Conservation Board Position Statements (especially: Setting of the AONB; and Tranquility and Dark Skies) and Landscape publications

 

Biodiversity

8.44 The landscape and biodiversity of an area are inter-related. In the same way as West Oxfordshire has a rich and diverse landscape, so too does it contain a rich variety of habitats, supporting a wide range of wildlife and legally protected species. (In turn, these are also fundamentally connected to the geological diversity of the area.) About 4% of the District's countryside falls within sites designated for their biodiversity or geological importance, including 29 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and the internationally important Cassington Meadows Special Area of Conservation (SAC), part of the Oxford Meadows SAC. However, the bulk of our wildlife lives outside nature reserves and specifically protected areas.

Figure 8.1 Biodiversity Conservation Target Areas (click to enlarge)
Figure 8.1 Biodiversity Conservation Target Areas

 

8.45 The protection of West Oxfordshire's wildlife and the conservation, enhancement and restoration of its biodiversity and geodiversity are promoted. A strategic approach is advocated, giving recognition to the contributions made by sites, areas and features, individually and in combination. Networks of natural habitats provide a particularly valuable resource and need protection and, where possible, reinforcement and integration, not least because this will increase the opportunity for species and habitats to adapt to climate change.

8.46 Conservation bodies in Oxfordshire have assessed the county's key strategic habitats and devised Conservation Target Areas (CTAs) (see Figure 8.1). These are the most important areas for wildlife conservation where targeted conservation action will have the greatest benefit. The main aim within CTAs is to restore biodiversity at a landscape-scale through maintenance, restoration and creation of Biodiversity Action Plan priority habitats. In planning terms, they can be considered as potential areas of ecological constraint but, more particularly, as areas of ecological opportunity. West Oxfordshire target areas include the Upper Windrush and Wychwood Forest.

8.47 In addition to the more strategic approach to habitat enhancement and creation, there are relatively small measures that can be undertaken through the development process that cumulatively will bring benefits for biodiversity, including incorporating bird boxes and bat boxes and providing wildlife friendly landscapes, green walls, balconies and roofs. The Code for Sustainable Homes includes specific credits for addressing ecology in developments. We will encourage this approach, especially for larger development proposals (see earlier section on Sustainable Construction).

 
Policy CS25 - Biodiversity

The overall biodiversity of West Oxfordshire shall be protected and opportunities to achieve a net gain actively pursued, including:

• giving sites of international conservation importance the highest level of protection

• avoiding damage to nationally important sites of special scientific interest

• seeking to ensure that damage to local wildlife sites and locally important wildlife and geological sites is avoided

• avoiding damage to a site supporting a specially protected species

requiring all developments to mitigate any harm and to enhance the biodiversity of the site or the locality, especially within the Conservation Target Areas and areas of green infrastructure.

Key Evidence
  • PPS9 Biodiversity and Geological Conservation with Guide to Good Practice
  • Biodiversity Action Plans
  • Conservation Target Areas
  • Biodiversity and Planning in Oxfordshire (published by Oxfordshire County Council, BBOWT and TVERC) www.oxfordshire.gov.uk
This provides local information on protected and priority habitats and species and opportunities for biodiversity enhancement, including Green Infrastructure.

Figure 8.2 Special Landscape Policy Areas (click to enlarge)
Figure 8.2 Special Landscape Policy Areas

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