The Planning Policy Team Leader said representations supported the protection of the historic environment, but expressed concern about the impact of specific developments and suggested further detail was required regarding how the built and natural environments would be protected.
In response to a question from the Chairman, the Planning Policy Team Leader said the Council was working with Historic England to develop a full Historic Impact Assessment. In addition to looking at the impact of garden communities on heritage assets, it would also consider the character of landscape. A Sustainability Appraisal would examine the policies in the plan to ensure they were delivering sustainable development.
Councillor Dean said a comment from Historic England on page 673 said policy appeared to prioritise renewable energy provision over the protection and enhancement of the historic environment. Similarly, a comment said Policy D9 placed rigid expectations on energy efficiency in all development and might make schemes unviable.
Councillor Dean said developers and landowners could afford to invest in the design of low-energy properties and he thought the Council should be ambitious in dealing with the energy efficiency of both new and existing properties.
The Chairman said he thought the group endorsed Councillor Dean’s point.
In response to a point made by Councillor Dean regarding a comment by the National Trust about the impact of development on Hatfield Forest, the Chairman said it was right to appropriately protect the forest, but the problem of restricting access to it was not a reason to prevent development.
The Planning Policy Team Leader said the National Trust and Natural England were doing research on how far people would travel to go to Hatfield Forest and how to mitigate the effects of development. The provision of green infrastructure in new developments would help to mitigate this, but Hatfield Forest was very much a destination which people would choose to visit on a day out, as opposed to country parks which might meet more day-to-day needs. The Council would meet again with the National Trust at the end of January.
In response to Councillor Dean’s question as to whether the Local Plan was going to safeguard land for future potential development, the Chairman said it would not, but Saffron Walden was trying to plan for the future. Many people would hope that Carver Barracks would be available for development for the next Local Plan period, and so the Saffron Walden Neighbourhood Plan could build in the potential for a relief road for Carver Barracks.
In response to Councillor Loughlin’s question about how air quality would be monitored, the Chairman said the Council had a statutory obligation to monitor air quality.
Councillor Dean said a review monitoring air quality in Stansted had taken place and monitors were due to be put in place this month.
Councillor Lodge said there had been a number of policy reviews on air quality. Policy EN16 was weaker than before and there was no reason why it shouldn’t be stronger. Neighbouring authorities were being more robust. Policy should be along the lines of “a new development should not adversely affect air quality levels within an Air Quality Management Area”. This was a very reasonable request. Measures could be put in place to ensure air quality did not deteriorate.
The Chairman said it was difficult if levels of traffic would increase too, although this would hopefully be less of a problem as technology developed.
The Chairman said officers should relook at policy regarding air quality, and also whether initiatives could be brought forward to protect air quality.
Councillor Mills asked if there would be a minimum standard for houses to be built to in new garden developments. These houses would also be more environmentally friendly, which would help with mitigating air quality.
The Planning Policy Team Leader said this was an area which the Council needed to look at, and environmental standard of the buildings was an important aspect of this.
Councillor Mills suggested the team look into a Level 4 standard and above.
The Chairman said it was important to consider the future.