First Draft Watford Local Plan 2020-2036

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Chapter 8: Conserving and Enhancing the Natural Environment

8. 1. Introduction

8. 1. 1. Green and blue infrastructure makes an important contribution to supporting our environmental and ecological systems. Well managed green and blue infrastructure networks help prevent habitat fragmentation and support the long term health of functioning eco-systems. They can play an important social and economic role in our towns and cities by providing spaces for recreation and amenity use. This improves the perception of the places we live in. Green infrastructure and open spaces are key to creating liveable and healthy communities and providing improvements to public and mental health. Green infrastructure also informs strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change, such as flooding and the overheating of the built up area.

8. 1. 2. Watford has many high quality and high value open spaces, including 12 Green Flag parks, ancient woodland and sites of national significance. Designated green spaces in Watford are shown on the Policies Map.

8. 2. The Green and Blue Infrastructure Network

Why is this policy needed?

8. 2. 1. Green and blue infrastructure refers to multi-functional networks of open spaces, green corridors and water courses. The Grand Union Canal, River Gade and the River Colne all flow through Watford and contribute to the green and blue infrastructure network. Together they perform a variety of functions for the environment and the people who live here. Protecting and enhancing the network is important to connect open spaces, enabling wildlife species to move through the area and to provide recreational routes, including public rights of way for walking and cycling. Well connected green infrastructure networks help to enhance the public realm, improve wayfinding and foster the sense of identity in the area.

8. 2. 2. New development can help deliver enhancements to the green infrastructure network and improve connectivity between green spaces by proactively identifying opportunities in the early stages as proposals are being drafted. New proposals adjacent, or in close proximity to green corridors and watercourses should consider the impact of development on these networks. The potential impact of landscaping, access, excessive lighting, overshadowing and noise should be considered and appropriate mitigation provided to protect the intrinsic quality of the network.

What is the policy intended to do?

8. 2. 3. The policy aims to ensure that development does not impact adversely on the green and blue infrastructure network and that where possible, development helps to enhance its quality and strengthen connections within it.

8. 2. 4. Development will expected to support the aspirations of the Green Infrastructure Plan[26] (2011), the Green Spaces Strategy[27] (2013) and subsequent updates or replacements.

Policy NE8.1 Green and Blue Infrastructure Networks

Applicants must demonstrate how development proposals will conserve, restore or enhance the green and blue infrastructure (as appropriate) and how the site connects with its wider surroundings.

Development should protect the function and amenity of public rights of way. Diversions of public rights of way will only be appropriate where an alternative route of equal or improved character, amenity, safety, directness and convenience is provided.

8. 3. Protecting Open Space

Why is this policy needed?

8. 3. 1. Open space can make an important contribution to the green infrastructure network and offer valuable space for recreational and amenity use. The main types of open space used by the community include parks and gardens, recreation grounds, amenity green space, equipped play space, playing pitches, allotments and church yards. Open spaces should provide for a variety of different uses, functions and activities. The types of open spaces provided and protected through new development should reflect a locally identified need for these uses and activities. This can help to avoid surpluses and deficiencies in different types of open space, to ensure that open spaces are being effectively used.

8. 3. 2. Watford contains many valuable open spaces, however, they are not evenly distributed across the borough. Some communities are deficient in open space and require improved access to these recreational areas, whereas in some neighbourhoods there may be opportunities where alternative open space and ancillary uses could be considered if there is a demonstrated need.

8. 3. 3. The Green Spaces Strategy and Open Space Needs Assessment identified existing open space provision and their catchments, and assessed their overall quality and value. In conjunction with the Green Infrastructure Plan, these documents can be used to identify need and opportunities to improve access to existing open space.

What is the policy intended to do?

8. 3. 4. Everyone living in Watford should have access to high quality open space, sports and recreation facilities. The policy seeks to resist the loss of open space and ancillary facilities. There is recognition that in some areas open spaces may no longer be performing their original function, or are better served by another open space nearby. In these circumstances alternative open space uses could be considered, where this satisfies the criteria set out in policy.

Policy NE8.2 Protecting Open Space

Open space and ancillary facilities used for leisure and recreation will be protected, unless an up to date assessment demonstrates the space is surplus to need. For an open space or an ancillary facility to be considered surplus to requirements, the following must be demonstrated:

  • The area is served by an open space of the same typology; and
  • The open space is not needed for alternative open space uses; or
  • An equivalent facility is to be provided in a more suitable location that meets the needs of the local community.

The absence of identification of an open space on the Policies Map does not imply that development is appropriate.

8. 4. Providing New Open Space

Why is this policy needed?

8. 4. 1. When new development takes place, there may be opportunities to provide more high quality open space. Where this is for communal use, it is important that this should be designed to have a clear recreational or amenity function. The open space provided should be able to support a variety of activities, including providing space for children to play.

8. 4. 2. Consideration should be given to how open space can also support other functions such as sustainable urban drainage systems to mitigate flood risk and habitat migration.

8. 4. 3. New development may provide opportunities to improve access to open space where there are deficiencies. This would improve the quality of life for new and existing residents, while ensuring provision reflects local need. However, open space need varies between neighbourhoods and communities, with some having better access to nearby open space than others. Meeting requirements based on local need should help to address shortfalls and avoid unnecessary duplication of open space.

8. 4. 4. Where a new development site does not lie within the catchment area of an open space typology, the development will be expected to provide a set amount of open space per dwelling. This should be actively maintained by the developer.

8. 4. 5. If providing open space on site is unfeasible, is not of a minimum size of 0.1 hectares, or where a site lies within the catchment area of an open space of low quality or value, a developer contribution will be sought to improve the nearby open space to serve the development.

8. 4. 6. Where developments are required to provide open space on site but this is demonstrated to be impractical or unfeasible, some level of communal open space should still be provided for all future occupants of the properties. This can be provided through innovative design approaches such as providing roof gardens to support amenity use and wildlife.

8. 4. 7. Although a level of open space should be provided on site for all schemes, landscaping is considered to be functional open space. Landscaping should be considered in the context of design and satisfy the guidance set out in the Revised Residential Design Guide (tbc, 2019) and any subsequent updates or replacements.

8. 4. 8. Private amenity space should also be provided to meet the standards set out in the Revised Residential Design Guide (tbc, 2019). However, private amenity space will not be considered a contribution towards the open space requirement.

8. 4. 9. Not all forms of open space provision are likely to be appropriate and would be difficult to provide within the borough, given its constraints. Therefore, it is considered that any open space provided should be reflective of the standards set out by Fields in Trust. The design of new play areas and other formal open space should take account of good practice provided in the Fields in Trust guidance 'Planning and Design for Outdoor Sport and Play'[28] and any subsequent updates or replacement. Appropriate catchment distances, quality and value will be defined with an up to date Open Space Needs Assessment.

What is the policy intended to do?

8. 4. 10. The policy aims to make a distinction between areas that have a deficiency of open space and areas that are well served by existing open space. This is to ensure that development provides the type of open space required to meet a locally identified need.

Policy NE8.3 Providing New Open Space

All proposals for new residential development that are classified as C2, C3 or C4 class uses will be required to provide open space on site. Provision should reflect the type of open space required in the area through accessibility, quality and value, as demonstrated through an up to date open space needs assessment. Where these have been provided, proposals will be supported.

Where it has been demonstrated that traditional open space cannot be provided on site, developments of 10 or more dwellings should use innovative design to support communal amenity use. Over-development of a site that has compromised open space provision and quality design will not be supported. Open space designed as landscaping or that which has no clear function that supports active use by people will not be considered as providing open space on site.

For developments of more 10 or more dwellings where open space is not provided on site, a financial contribution will be required.

8. 5. Biodiversity Net Gain

Why is this policy needed?

8. 5. 1. Despite being a largely urban borough, Watford is rich in biodiversity. Watford contains a number of Local Nature Reserves and Local Wildlife Sites and is home to European Protected Species such as Great Crested Newts and Pipistrelle bats. Other locally important but non-designated wildlife sites also make a significant contribution towards biodiversity in the area.

8. 5. 2. The sustained loss of green infrastructure and the breaking up of its networks can have a damaging effect on ecosystems in Watford. Inappropriate development could threaten the future of different species through habitat fragmentation and the loss of habitats. Given development pressures, it will important to ensure that Watford's biodiversity is protected and enhanced.

What is the policy intended to do?

8. 5. 3. The policy is intended to ensure that major development proposals contribute positively to ecosystems in Watford through the delivery of net gains in biodiversity. Gains in biodiversity refer to improvements in biodiversity through habitat creation or enhancement.

8. 5. 4. The policy aims to encourage the delivery of new wildlife habitats, which can be integrated into the layout and design of sites. Traditionally, this would include habitats incorporated as part of open space, such as water courses, vegetation and planting. However, some contemporary schemes have evolved to include green roofs, living walls and roof and rain gardens, which support biodiversity amongst other benefits. The policy should work in tandem with Policy NE8.3, the Revised Residential Design Guide, and any subsequent updates or replacements, to ensure that net gains for biodiversity are appropriately designed into new development and open spaces.

8. 5. 5. The council will take a hierarchical approach to assessing proposals, as set out in national guidance. Compensatory measures will only be considered when no other measures are demonstrated to be feasible.

Policy NE8.4 Biodiversity Net Gain

Proposals that enhance biodiversity and positively contribute towards the health of the ecological network will be supported. All new proposals should demonstrate how the protection and enhancement of biodiversity has been considered.

Major development should seek to achieve an overall net gain for biodiversity, which can be measured through the use of a recognised biodiversity calculator. The biodiversity calculator should aim to demonstrate an improvement of 10% or more from the existing situation. To avoid potential harm, compensation and mitigation measures must offset any losses to achieve a net gain for biodiversity, following the mitigation hierarchy. Where it is not possible to avoid or mitigate all impacts on site, local compensatory habitat or a development contribution should be achieved as a last resort.

Sites of international, national and local importance will be protected from inappropriate development. Protection will be granted in accordance with their status.

Where there is reason to suspect the presence of a protected species or habitat, applications should be supported by an ecological survey. If present, the proposal must make provision for the needs of the species or habitat affected.

8. 6. Managing Air Quality

Why is this policy needed?

8. 6. 1. A polluted environment can result in a severe cost on public health, the natural environment and economy. Mitigating the impact of development on air quality and minimising exposure to poor air quality across Watford is important. This can help to safeguard residents from the impacts of a polluted environment. There are currently two Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) in Watford, where national objectives for ambient air quality have been exceeded. The predominant pollutants in Watford are those commonly associated with road traffic.

8. 6. 2. The exposure of poor air quality to vulnerable residents, such as children, the elderly, and those with respiratory issues is a particular concern. Sensitive development may include, but is not limited to, schools, residential care homes and health facilities. Air pollution also has potential to have increased impacts on the wider global environment and society with a changing climate.

8. 6. 3. Air quality is often managed through soft measures, such as active modes of travel, urban greening and the use of sustainable construction methods. These measures will be supported as part of the Plan. However, to ensure that national and international objectives for ambient air quality are met, further measures are needed to guide new development.

What is the policy intended to do?

8. 6. 4. Development should encourage new development to achieve overall improvements to air quality and minimise the potential adverse impacts. The policy intends to manage the potential impacts of new development upon air quality by ensuring it is an issued considered early in the design process and when planning applications are determined. Regard should be given to the location of development where users may be more sensitive to poor air quality.

8. 6. 5. Development will be expected to support the aspirations of the Air Quality Action Plan[29] and any subsequent updates and replacements. Regard should also be had to the Ambient Air Quality Directive[30] (2008) and the European Union Limit Values[31] to determine compliance with national and international air quality standards.

Policy NE8.5 Managing Air Quality

Development will be supported where it does not contribute towards air pollution and appropriate mitigation measures are in place to address any potential impact on air quality.

An Air Quality Assessment will be required for all major developments and other forms of development which are considered to be at risk of impacts from significant emissions or pollutants. This includes, but is not limited to, development where the occupiers/users may be sensitive to poor air quality and development in close proximity to an air quality management area.

Where the Air Quality Assessment indicates that a development would cause harm to air quality, planning permission will not be granted unless appropriate mitigation measures are proposed to reduce the impact to acceptable levels.

8. 7. Managing the Impacts of Development

Why is this policy needed?

8. 7. 1. There are other types of pollution in addition to air quality that can have a negative impact on the environment and residential amenity, including light, noise, contamination, odour and vibration. Pollution can be brought about by new development and can have a severe impact on the amenity and function of existing properties and businesses, and the quality of life in an area.

8. 7. 2. The council places responsibility on the applicant, or the party responsible for the development to provide mitigation for any significant adverse impacts that may be generated by the proposed development. This is set out in national policy as the 'agent of change principle' and ensures that new development does not cause existing uses in the vicinity to curtail their activities. Applicants will need to demonstrate how mitigation has been provided for any potential issues related to noise, light pollution, odour, contamination and other negative impacts.

What is the policy intended to do?

8. 7. 3. The council will seek to ensure that quality of life, health, wellbeing and the environment are not adversely affected by harmful pollutants and other negative impacts that could be associated with new development.

8. 7. 4. The relevant national policy and guidance should be referred to for information regarding ambient levels for each individual pollutant.

Policy NE8.6 Managing the Impacts of Development

New development should have regard to the potential impact it may have on the existing land uses affected by the site. This includes the potential impacts related to:

  • Light pollution
  • Noise pollution
  • Contamination
  • Odour
  • Vibration

Where development is considered to be at risk of giving rise to significant pollutants or other negative impacts, appropriate mitigation or remediation will be required. Where adequate mitigation or remediation is not provided, planning permission should be refused.


[26] watford.jdi-consult.net/documents/pdfs5/Green%20Infrastructure%20Plan%20Report%20-%20March%202011.pdf

[27] www.watford.gov.uk/downloads/file/2062/green_spaces_strategy

[28] www.fieldsintrust.org/Upload/file/guidance/Guidance-for-Outdoor-Sport-and-Play-England-Apr18.pdf

[29] watford.jdi-consult.net/documents/pdfs5/Air%20Quality%20Action%20Plan%202011.pdf

[30] eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2008:152:0001:0044:EN:PDF

[31] ec.europa.eu/environment/air/quality/standards.htm

To take part in these consultations, you will first need to register as a user by clicking on the link at the top right of this page. Once you have registered, select a document, then comments can be given by clicking on the pen icon and writing in the form that appears. For further assistance please read our help guide.
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