Draft Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report

Ended on the 15th January 2010
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15 Landscape

15.1 Introduction

15.1.1 Landscape is more than just a visual backdrop; it is an invaluable natural and socio-economic resource, which allows us to better understand our locality and helps us to define our sense place and who we are. A short but comprehensive description of landscape is:

"an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of action and interaction of natural and/or human factors"

15.1.2 Nationally, the most valued landscapes might be found in the countryside, where semi-natural landscapes result from a long interaction of natural and socio-economic factors. However, landscape is a subjective concept that can be used in different situations and at a range of scales. Some landscapes might be of great local importance, even though they would not even be perceived as a distinct landscape by those without local knowledge. This can include landscapes might be distinctive because of the degree to which they have been modified by humans.

15.1.3 It is important to consider landscape in its own right, but it can be seen that landscape is closely linked to a number of other topics for which we are seeking to develop and test through this SA.

15.2 What’s the policy context?

15.2.1 The UK ratified the European Landscape Convention253 in 2006. The Convention aims to encourage public authorities to adopt policies and measures for protecting, managing and planning landscape throughout Europe. PPS7 emphasises that planning authorities should ensure that the quality and character of the wider countryside is protected and, where possible enhanced. This includes the protection of locally valued areas that are undesignated nationally, which can be protected through specific policies included in LDFs.

15.2.2 The East of England Plan254 contains a policy dedicated to landscape and many provisions for the consideration of landscape within other policies. Policy ENV2: Landscape Conservation emphasises that the highest levels of protection should be afforded to the Region’s nationally designated landscapes, and also states that planning authorities and other agencies are advised to implement this policy by developing area-wide strategies, based on Landscape Character Assessments; and to give priority to those areas subject to most growth and change. Policy ENV2 should be complimented by Policy ENV1: Green Infrastructure.

15.2.3 The Harlow Area Landscape and Environment Study255 was intended to provide a key evidence base for strategic planning, identifying constraints and opportunities for growth in areas in and around Harlow.

15.2.4 The Stort Valley Feasibility Study was commissioned by Harlow District Council to explore the recommendation through the Harlow Area Green Infrastructure Plan to create a new strategic park in the Stort Valley, as an extension to the Lee Valley Regional Park. The proposal would provide a “strategic coordinated approach to the management of ecological, landscape, heritage, access and recreation of the Lea and Stort river corridors, as key components of the green infrastructure network"256.

15.3 What are the key objectives and other decision-making criteria that we need to consider?

15.3.1 Many of the objectives set out in the Integrated Regional Sustainability Framework for the East of England – see Table 2 – are relevant in considering future impacts on Harlow’s town centre. Particularly relevant objectives include:

  • Promote sustainable growth within environmental limits

  • Conserve, restore and enhance the region’s natural and built environment

15.3.2 Harlow also has a number of key priorities for 2009/10 to 2012/13 as outlined in the Council’s Sustainability Strategy and approved in January 2009 by the Environment and Community Committee257. Relevant priorities include:

  • Promoting a clean, green, healthy and safe environment

(1) 15.4 What’s the situation now? (including any existing problems)

15.4.1 The original Harlow Master Plan utilised a ‘landscape-led’ approach for Harlow, which shaped the town’s urban environment and linked strongly to the surrounding countryside. In addition to Green Wedges – linear open spaces – forming the urban structure of the town’s neighbourhoods, and the Green Belt on the periphery of the District (see Figure 18 in chapter 14 Land), the District contains large amounts of designated open space (see Figure 6 chapter 8 Biodiversity and Green Infrastructure). The Town has numerous physical and visual links from the town centre to the surrounding countryside through these Green Wedges, which “encapsulate natural features such as valleys, woods, brooks". The Stort river corridor separates the town from the undulating and rolling landscape to the north, and there is a pronounced north-facing ridge slope to the south of the town which “visually and physically contains the urban area from the open countryside to the south"258.

Figure 20: Landscape constraints in Harlow

Figure 20

15.4.2 Harlow District is located within the National Character Area (NCA) 86: South Suffolk and North Essex Clayland. It lies in the south of this area, close to the border with the Northern Thames Basin NCA 111. NCA 86 is “Broadly flat, chalky, boulder clay plateau dissected by undulating river valley topography, particularly marked in upper valley reaches, which are much smaller in scale"259.

15.4.3 Although a small, predominantly urban District; Harlow contains a number of diverse Landscape Character Areas of different characteristic types and sensitivities, as outlined in Tables 21 and 22. Elevation of the District increases from north to south.

Table 21: Landscape Character Areas of Harlow District260

Description of LCA
Harlow Major Urban Area (18)
Landform - Narrow, flat valley bottom
Landscape pattern - Generally small-scale and often discontinuous
Character of skyline - Varied rural and urban, but generally immediate
Inter-visibility - Limited by vegetation
Rare landscape features - Some nature conservation and historic features
Settlement pattern/communication routes - Intact historic waterway landscape
Sense of enclosure - High
Sense of tranquillity/remoteness - Moderate, often influenced by urban areas
Historic landscape time-depth and stability - Moderate, generally intact historic landscape
Roydon and Nazeing Plateau (17A)
Landform - Sloping valley side
Landscape pattern - Medium scale and irregular
Character of skyline - Generally open and extensive, particularly to north
Inter-visibility - Widely visible
Rare landscape features - Limited
Settlement pattern/communication routes - Nucleated roadside settlement
Sense of enclosure - Generally open outside of urban areas
Sense of tranquillity/remoteness - Limited
Historic landscape time-depth and stability - Some time depth, urban areas dominate
Jack’s Hatch to Church Langley Ridge (20A)
Landform - Gentle ridge
Landscape pattern - Mixed, but generally moderate to large in scale
Character of skyline - Open
Inter-visibility - Visible from local areas, key aspect of the setting of areas 18 and 21
Rare landscape features - Dense concentrations of historic and nature conservation assets
Settlement pattern/communication routes - Limited settlement
Sense of enclosure - Open
Sense of tranquillity/remoteness - Limited
Historic landscape time-depth and stability - Generally good, but limited in places
Jack’s Hatch to Church Langley Ridge (20B)
Landform - Very gentle undulating valley head
Landscape pattern - Generally moderate to large-scale and irregular
Character of skyline - Contained to east by topography; urban to west
Inter-visibility - Limited by topography and urban areas
Rare landscape features - Few historic and nature conservation assets
Settlement pattern/communication routes - Limited settlement
Sense of enclosure - Contained by urban/transport and topography
Sense of tranquillity/remoteness - Very limited
Historic landscape time-depth and stability - Generally limited
Little Hallingbury Ridges and Slopes (15)
Landform - Undulating ridge and slope
Landscape pattern - Open and large scale
Character of skyline - Variable dependent on location
Inter-visibility - Moderate, but mixed with some interconnections
Rare landscape features - Some nature conservation and keynote historic features
Settlement pattern/communication routes - Dispersed historic pattern, generally intact
Sense of enclosure - Variable, reflecting topography
Sense of tranquillity/remoteness - Limited
Historic landscape time-depth and stability - Some notable elements, e.g. hill-fort but generally very limited
River Stort (12)
Landform - Narrow, flat valley bottom
Landscape pattern - Generally small-scale and often discontinuous
Character of skyline - Varied rural and urban, but generally immediate
Inter-visibility - Limited by vegetation
Rare landscape features - Some nature conservation and historic features
Settlement pattern/communication routes - Intact historic waterway landscape
Sense of enclosure - High
Sense of tranquillity/remoteness - Moderate, often influenced by urban areas
Historic landscape time-depth and stability - Moderate, generally intact historic landscape

Table 22: Sensitivity of Harlow District’s Landscape261

LCA Landscape Character Type Sensitivity of LCA

18

Harlow Major Urban Area

Major Urban Areas

Sensitivity to:
Very large-scale urban development - High
Substantial urban developments - High
Small-scale urban developments - Moderate

17A

Roydon and Nazeing Plateau

Plateaus

Sensitivity to:
Very large-scale urban development - High
Substantial urban developments - High
Small-scale urban developments - Low

20A

Jack’s Hatch to Church Langley Ridge

Ridges

Sensitivity to:
Very large-scale urban development - High
Substantial urban developments - High
Small-scale urban developments - Moderate

20B

Jack’s Hatch to Church Langley Ridge

Ridges

Sensitivity to:
Very large-scale urban development - Low
Substantial urban developments - Low
Small-scale urban developments - Low

15

Little Hallingbury Ridges and Slopes

Ridges and Slopes

Sensitivity to:
Very large-scale urban development - Moderate
Substantial urban developments - Moderate
Small-scale urban developments - Low

12

River Stort

Valley Floodplains

Sensitivity to:
Very large-scale urban development - High
Substantial urban developments - High
Small-scale urban developments - Moderate

Are there any evidence gaps?

15.4.4 No existing evidence gaps have been identified.

15.5 What will be the situation without the plan? (the ‘business-as-usual’ option)

15.5.1 Although a small, predominantly urban District; Harlow has a number of LCAs of different types and particular sensitivities. Without the Core Strategy the distribution of development is unlikely to proceed in the most sustainable manner sympathetic to these sensitivities.

(2) 15.6 What issues should be a particular focus for the appraisal?

15.6.1 In light of the information above, key issues to take into account in the appraisal in relation to landscape include:

  • The need to protect the district’s landscape assets from inappropriate development

  • Where develop proceeds, particularly in greenfield areas, there is a need to ensure that landscape assets are protected and integrated to maximise their potential amenity value


253 More information about the European Landscape Convention is available at:
www.coe.int/t/dg4/cultureheritage/Conventions/Landscape/ (accessed 21 July 2009).

254 GOEE (2008) East of England Plan [online] available at:
www.gos.gov.uk/goee/docs/Planning/Regional_Planning/Regional_Spatial_Strategy/EE_Plan1.pdf (accessed 3 September 2009).

255 Chris Blandford Associates (2004) Harlow Area Landscape and Environment Study [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/environment/planning/local_development_framework/harlow_area_landscape_study.aspx (accessed 3 September 2009).

256 The Landscape Partnership (2009) Stort Valley Feasibility Study [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/environment/planning/local_development_framework/stort_valley_feasibility_study.aspx (accessed 3 September 2009).

257 Harlow Council (2009) Harlow Sustainability Strategy [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/corporate_services/policy_and_performance/sustainability_strategy.aspx (accessed 13 August 2009).

258 Chris Blandford Associates on behalf of Harlow Council (2005) Green Infrastructure Plan [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/Default.aspx?page=8615 (accessed 3 September 2009).

259 Natural England (undated) National Character Area 86: South Suffolk and North Essex Clayland [online] available at:
www.naturalengland.org.uk/Images/jca086-southsuffolkandnorthessexclayland_tcm2-21188_tcm6-5398.pdf (accessed 3 September 2009).

260 Source: Chris Blandford Associates (2004) Harlow Area Landscape and Environment Study [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/environment/planning/local_development_framework/harlow_area_landscape_study.aspx (accessed 3 September 2009).

261 Source: Chris Blandford Associates (2004) Harlow Area Landscape and Environment Study [online] available at:
www.harlow.gov.uk/about_the_council/council_services/environment/planning/local_development_framework/harlow_area_landscape_study.aspx (accessed 3 September 2009).

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