Draft Local Plan October 2012

Environmental Protection

7.40 Protection of the area's high environmental quality is an important objective of the Local Plan. Overall, air and water quality are generally good in West Oxfordshire and land contamination limited. In addition, the rural nature of the District means there are still areas of relative tranquillity and low levels of light pollution. Development has, however, the potential to affect the quality of land, soil health, air and water which, in turn, can impact upon public health and quality of life. New development, therefore, needs to be appropriate for its location and take into account known risks and the effects of pollution on health, the natural environment and general amenity.

Air Quality

7.41 While in general West Oxfordshire's air quality is good, there are specific areas experiencing problems, mainly attributable to road transport. Addressing air quality issues is, therefore, complementary to the aim of reducing the need to travel, achieving a reduction in transport emissions and addressing climate change. Poor air quality is linked to respiratory illness, heart disease and asthma.

7.42 When assessing development proposals, consideration will be given to the impact of the development on the air quality by both the operational characteristics of the development (industrial, commercial and domestic) and the traffic generated by it. The cumulative impact of development will also need to be assessed. Regard will be had to the National Air Quality Strategy objectives. Local air quality reviews have resulted in the designation of two Air Quality Management Areas in the District, each with an Action Plan: one at Chipping Norton and one at Witney. The Habitats Regulation assessment for the Local Plan has identified air quality as a significant issue in relation to the internationally important Oxford Meadows Special Area of Conservation (see also Core Policy 18 - Biodiversity).

Contaminated Land

7.43 As West Oxfordshire was not an area of widespread heavy industry, contamination of land is not a major issue. In the few areas where contamination has occurred (for example associated with the former blanket industry and landfill sites), it could pose a threat both to the health of future users of the site and to the surrounding environment, especially if redevelopment takes place. Few sites are so badly contaminated that they cannot be reused. The level of remedial action required for such sites needs to be sufficient to overcome any acceptable risks to health or the environment, taking into account the actual or intended use of the site.

7.44 Contamination of land can also have an impact on water quality. The Environment Agency will seek appropriate controls to protect the water environment. Where development is proposed on contaminated land, the Agency will expect the developer to undertake site investigations to assess the nature and extent of contamination and cover the costs of any appropriate sustainable mitigation or remedial measures.

Soil

7.45 As a largely rural district, the sustainable management of our soils is especially pertinent. Soil is a fundamental natural resource, providing many essential services, including food production, water management and support for valuable biodiversity and ecosystems. It also plays a vital role in climate change, storing carbon. The NPPF and Core Policy 3 advocate the prudent use of natural resources including soils. In addition, Core Policy 22, in addressing pollution, also relates to the need to consider soil pollution. New and existing development should not contribute to or be put at unacceptable risk from, or be adversely affected by, unacceptable levels of soil pollution.

Hazardous substances, installations and airfields

7.46 West Oxfordshire has a number of installations handling notifiable substances, including high-pressure natural gas transmission pipelines. They are subject to stringent controls under Health and Safety legislation. New development will be carefully controlled in the vicinity of these installations, taking full consideration of advice from the Health and Safety Executive.

7.47 There are a number of existing airfields within and adjoining West Oxfordshire. The Civil Aviation Authority (for Oxford Airfield at Kidlington) and the Ministry of Defence (for RAF Brize Norton) have identified safeguarding areas around the airfields and provide advice on the types of development which might have an adverse effect upon aviation operations, such as wind turbines (an Airport Wind Turbine Safeguarding Zone covers the whole of West Oxfordshire), high buildings, increased lighting and developments which have the potential to increase the bird hazard risk.

Artificial Light

7.48 External lighting can perform a wide variety of functions ranging from floodlighting of sporting activities, to illuminating important buildings, to improving highway safety. These needs for lighting should be balanced, particularly in rural areas, against any adverse impact lights might have on the visual character of the area, the 'night sky', nature conservation or the reasonable living conditions of local residents.

Noise

7.49 Noise can have an adverse effect on the environment and on the health and quality of life enjoyed by individuals and communities. Although West Oxfordshire is a largely rural area, noise pollution is still an issue locally. For example, the active military airport of RAF Brize Norton and busy roads, such as the A40, are two sources of significant noise disturbance. Wherever possible, significant and intrusive sources of noise should be kept away from property and areas sensitive to noise. Where segregation is not possible, noise nuisance can be reduced through mitigation measures (e.g. bunding is proposed between the West Witney Strategic Development Area and the A40).

Water Resources

7.50 Rivers, lakes and ponds are sources of water supply but also important resources for nature conservation, fisheries, navigation, amenity and leisure. All these uses can be seriously affected by pollution. The environment associated with water bodies can be a sensitive area where the harmful effects of development are usually irreversible. In such areas, development which would have an adverse impact upon the environment will not be acceptable.

7.51 The geology of West Oxfordshire means that, in addition to surface water bodies, large areas of the District contain aquifers which are especially important in terms of groundwater as a source of drinking water, but also for their role in supporting surface water flows and wetland ecosystems. The threats to groundwater can be particularly severe. The Environment Agency publishes maps showing the Aquifer and Groundwater Protection areas and their vulnerability to contamination. The protection of these sensitive aquifers needs to be achieved at all time.

CORE POLICY 22 - Environmental Protection


Proposals which are likely to cause pollution or likely to result in exposure to sources of pollution or risk to safety, will only be permitted if measures can be implemented to minimise pollution and risk to a level that provides a high standard of protection for health, environmental quality and amenity. The following issues require particular attention:

Air quality

The air quality within West Oxfordshire will be managed and improved in line with National Air Quality Standards, the principles of best practice and the Air Quality Management Area Action Plans for Witney and Chipping Norton.

Contaminated land

Proposals for development of land which may be contaminated must incorporate appropriate investigation into the quality of the land. Where there is evidence of contamination, remedial measures must be identified and satisfactorily implemented.

Hazardous substances, installations and airfields

Development should not adversely affect safety near notifiable installations and safeguarded airfields.

Artificial light

The installation of external lighting and proposals for remote rural buildings will only be permitted where:

i) the means of lighting is appropriate, unobtrusively sited and would not result in excessive levels of light;

ii) elevation of buildings, particularly roofs, are designed to limit light spill;

ii) the proposal would not have a detrimental effect on local amenity, character of a settlement or wider countryside, intrinsically dark landscapes or nature conservation

Noise

Housing and other noise sensitive development should not take place in areas where the occupants would experience significant noise disturbance from existing or proposed development.

New development should not take place in areas where it would cause unacceptable nuisance to the occupants of nearby land and buildings from noise or disturbance.

Water resources

Proposals for development will only be acceptable provided there is no adverse impact on water bodies and groundwater resources, in terms of their quantity, quality and important ecological features they support.

Waste

Planning permission will be granted for appropriately located development that makes provision for the management and treatment of waste and recycling, in accordance with the Oxfordshire Joint Municipal Waste Strategy and local waste management strategy.

Minerals

7.52 The Upper Thames Valley and its tributaries, particularly the Lower Windrush Valley, has been a major producer of sharp sand and gravel. Elsewhere in the District quarrying of rock takes place. Extensive areas of sand and gravel remain but, as a finite resource, it is essential these minerals are used efficiently, especially as, lying within historically important and biodiversity rich areas their exploitation has a major impact upon the quality of life of local communities and the environment in general. Increased emphasis must be placed upon more sustainable construction methods than use of primary land-won aggregates.

7.53 The future minerals strategy for Oxfordshire is being pursued by the County Council through its Minerals and Waste Development Framework. West Oxfordshire District Council has concerns about the continued working of sand and gravel within the District. Whilst it is accepted that minerals can only be worked where they are found, it is considered that there are other options closer to major planned growth outside the District which should be more fully explored and tested. We will continue to engage with the County Council in relation to this issue.

7.54 In accordance with national policy, we will consult Oxfordshire County Council in relation to development proposals within the defined 'Mineral Consultation Area' that runs across the south of the District. This is shown on the Key Diagram and Proposals Map.

Waste

7.55 The national strategy for waste management is that, in order of preference, waste should be reduced, re-used, recycled, recovered and lastly disposed of through landfill. As part of sustainable construction, considerations should be given to the waste hierarchy during the design and construction of new development, for example, waste minimisation and re-use and recycling of waste materials, and when the site is occupied, making space available for home-composting and storage of re-cycling bins (Core Policy 3).

7.56 There is a significant need for expanded reuse, recycling and composting facilities to reduce the quantities of waste disposed through landfill. Waste management facilities outside the main landfill site in the District (Dean Pit) and the anaerobic digestion facility at Cassington (where bacteria breaks down organic material, such as householder food-waste, into constituent parts, the gaseous component of which is captured and burnt for energy, whilst the remaining solid organics are utilised as fertiliser) are expected to be small-medium in scale providing local facilities only, such as proposed recycling facilities at Greystones, Chipping Norton. The need for and location of new waste management facilities will be covered in the Minerals and Waste Development Framework and Waste Sites DPD being prepared by Oxfordshire County Council. Some new facilities may be satisfactorily accommodated on existing employment sites.