Statement of Strategy
2.1 This chapter sets out the Council's approach in the preparation of the Local Plan. It begins by describing the setting for the plan area and then goes on to indicate the overall aim and guiding principles which have been adopted to steer the Local Plan process.
2.2 It summarises the context within which the Local Plan has been prepared having regard to the study ‘Chester: The Future of an Historic City’, the County Structure Plan, national and regional planning guidance and other Council strategies including the Community Plan: Chester’s Way Ahead.
2.3 Following this there is a geographic description of the Plan's policies and proposals which are also illustrated in a District diagram. This represents the Council's ‘vision’ for the future of the Chester District.
2.4 The chapter concludes with general policies which will be applied to all development within the plan area in order to guide all forms of development to appropriate locations whilst safeguarding the quality of the existing environment and where appropriate securing its improvement.
The Setting for the Local Plan
2.5 Chester District lies on the western side of Cheshire, abutting the Welsh border. It is surrounded by a number of local authorities in Cheshire, Shropshire and Wales, as shown in Figure 2a.
2.6 The District consists of the urban area of Chester and the surrounding rural area which contains many villages and other small settlements.
2.7 Chester is internationally famous as an historic city. The city centre is designated as a conservation area and contains many buildings of architectural or historic importance (listed buildings). Throughout the District there are 61 conservation areas and over 2,388 listed buildings.
2.8 Chester is also an internationally important tourist city. It is a major shopping centre with a catchment which extends well beyond the Local Plan area. Furthermore the city provides employment in other service sectors, notably finance, local government and church administration.
2.9 There is some employment in Chester in general industries but there are very few manufacturing firms in the plan area, the notable exceptions being part of the Stanlow petro-chemical complex which extends from the Borough of Ellesmere Port and Neston into the north of Chester District in the vicinity of Thornton-le-Moors, and BNFL/URENCO at Capenhurst, also in the north.
2.10 The settlements in the rural area are mainly residential in character and this area is nationally important for its dairy farming.
2.11 The District has good road communications with surrounding areas and is linked to the national motorway system via the M53 and M56. Many ‘A’ Class roads focus on Chester which functions as one of the major gateways into North Wales.
2.12 Rail services passing through or terminating in Chester include routes from London and Birmingham via Crewe; Holyhead via Llandudno and Bangor; Liverpool, Manchester and Shrewsbury.
Figure 2a - The setting for the Local Plan
2.13 The River Dee and the Shropshire Union Canal run through the city centre. The River Dee forms part of the western boundary of the District and the Canal runs diagonally from Beeston/Tiverton in the east to Ellesmere Port in the north. Part of the Llangollen Canal forms the boundary of the plan area in the south at Grindley Brook. These waterways are now only used for recreation purposes.
Overall Aim of the Local Plan
2.14 The overall aim of the Local Plan is to adopt a holistic approach towards improving the quality and vitality of all facets of life in Chester District
The Guiding Principles of the Local Plan
2.15 The guiding principles on which the Local Plan is based stem from the overall aim set out above, other Council strategies and the strategic context for the Local Plan as defined by the study ‘Chester: The Future of an Historic City’ (the Environmental Capacity Study), and the County Structure Plan (Cheshire 2016).
2.16 There are seventeen guiding principles in no order of priority to:
- secure the essential link between the environment and the economy through sustainable development
- create a safe, healthy environment for residents, visitors and people who work in the District
- enhance opportunities for independence for people with disabilities
- secure a healthy, vibrant economy throughout the Plan period
- protect and enhance the architectural and historic character of the District
- maintain the most valued habitats, wildlife species and geological and landscape features at current levels as a minimum and to seek opportunities for habitat enhancement and creation
- enhance rural society and promote the rural economy
- provide a range of dwellings to meet the needs of local people
- provide an efficient transport network throughout the plan area
- promote tourism in the District and to safeguard existing attractions, accommodation and facilities
- provide a wide variety of sporting and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors
- safeguard and develop community facilities
- promote and enhance the enjoyment of the arts and culture and the District's rich heritage
- protect and enhance the vitality and viability of Chester as a sub-regional shopping, commercial and administrative centre
- protect and enhance the vitality and range of facilities in suburban shopping centres
- promote the conservation of energy and other natural resources
- promote the city as a centre of excellence for higher and further education
Objectives of the Local Plan
2.17 Where appropriate, these are set out in the following chapters of the Written Statement.
2.18 The strategic context for the Local Plan comprises of national, regional and strategic planning policy. Other strategies which have informed the preparation of the Plan include ‘Chester: The Future of an Historic City’, the Chester Urban Potential Study, the Council’s Housing Strategy Statement, the Economic Development Strategy and the Local Transport Plan (LTP).
National Planning Guidance
2.19 The Government sets out national planning policy in a series of Planning Policy Guidance Notes (PPGs) and Planning Policy Statements (PPSs). This guidance has informed the development of the Local Plan.
Reginal Planning Guidance
2.20 Regional Planning Guidance for the North West (RPG) (now the Regional Spatial Strategy) provides a framework for local authority land-use plans and local transport plans up to 2021. It contains policies on housing, transport, economic development, environment, minerals and waste.
Cheshire Replacement Structure Plan: Cheshire 2011 and Structure Plan Alteration: Cheshire 2016
2.21 The Local Plan was prepared in the context of the Replacement Structure Plan, Cheshire 2011, which was adopted by the County Council in July 1999. This was replaced by the Structure Plan Alteration, Cheshire 2016, which was adopted in March 2006.
2.22 Sustainability underpinned Cheshire 2011 and is also at the forefront of its replacement, Cheshire 2016. Fundamental to the concept is the conservation of resources for the benefit of future generations. This includes Cheshire's heritage and assets, its air, water, land and mineral resources.
2.23 The Structure Plan Alteration is based on a series of objectives, which are grouped under five national objectives:
1. Maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment
- To support the regeneration of the conurbations in the North West Metropolitan Area.
- To foster the prosperity of Cheshire’s agriculture, industry, commerce and tourism including contributing to the economic regeneration of the North West of England.
- To secure the regeneration of older urban areas, hence relieving pressure on areas of restraint within the County.
2. Social progress which recognises the needs of everyone
- To guide development to locations which are accessible by walking, cycling and public transport, so as to encourage the use of alternatives to the car.
- To enhance economic and social opportunities in Cheshire by providing new homes, including affordable housing, employment, shops, education, recreation and community facilities to meet the needs of Cheshire’s population.
- To ensure that these are in sustainable locations and sustainable forms of development.
- To meet the needs for housing, jobs, and services in villages and rural areas.
3. Effective protection of the environment
- To protect and enhance characteristic habitats, landscape, wildlife, open spaces, and the man-made environment in towns and countryside.
- To ensure that new development does not result in any overall net loss of environmental value to Cheshire’s natural and historic environment.
- To maintain the Green Belt and minimise development on open land outside the Green Belt.
- To reduce the amount and impact of waste disposal and to encourage the recycling and reuse of waste materials.
4. Prudent use of natural resources
- To reduce the rate of consumption of mineral resources and fossil fuels.
- To protect and improve the quality of air, water and land resources.
5. Adapting to climate change
- To minimise greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and the consequences of climate change.
- To further develop renewable energy sources and capacity.
2.24 As far as Chester District is concerned, the Structure Plan Alteration recognises the need to conserve Chester's unique character as an historic city of national and international importance. It therefore contains a special policy which requires that future development, within or on the periphery of the city centre or within the urban area, should be compatible with the conservation and enhancement of the city and its setting. Where appropriate, development should also contribute to the improvement of the city's transport networks. The Structure Plan Alteration also refers to the study ‘Chester: The Future of an Historic City’ and the Plan’s policies respect the conclusions of the study.
2.25 Against this background, development in Chester is limited to that which can be accommodated within the existing Green Belt boundary.
2.26 Chester is identified as a sub-regional shopping centre in the Structure Plan Alteration. In line with Planning Policy Statement 6: Planning for Town Centres, a sequential approach to the selection of sites for retail development is advocated, with priority being given to town centre and edge of centre sites.
2.27 The Transport chapter of the Structure Plan Alteration contains a range of policies for both towns and rural areas which reflect the increased importance attached to more sustainable forms of transport and the need to integrate the improvement and management of the transport network within the Plan's strategy.
2.28 Specific major, strategic transport proposals for Chester District contained in the Structure Plan Alteration include promoting and upgrading various railway lines and the implementation of the Chester Transport Strategy (which includes the Chester Western Relief Road and a new transport interchange at Chester Station).
2.29 The Structure Plan Alteration reaffirms Areas of Special County Value (ASCV's) throughout Cheshire. Within Chester District these include:
- Eaton Estate/Dee Valley
- Part of the Beeston/Peckforton/Bolesworth/Bickerton Hills
- The Wych Brook Valley
- Part of the Delamere/Willington area
2.30 It is the role of the Local Plan to determine the precise boundaries of these areas.
2.31 Only limited development is envisaged in the County's rural areas, primarily in the villages outside the Green Belts and Areas of Special County Value. Encouragement will be given to farm diversification, initiatives to improve shopping provision, and measures to meet rural transport needs.
Chester: The Future of an Historic City
2.32 This study arose from the decision by the Secretary of State for the Environment in connection with proposals for new development around the city set out in Cheshire 2001, the Cheshire Replacement Structure Plan. He recognised the importance of Chester as an historic city and took the view that the city might be reaching its limits of growth. He, therefore, advised that the City and County Councils should address the issues affecting the future of Chester.
2.33 The study was commissioned by the City and County Councils and English Heritage and carried out by consultants. It was the first study of its type to be carried out in Europe.
2.34 One of the main aims of the study was to reach conclusions about the environmental capacity of Chester to accommodate development and activity without having a detrimental impact on the special character of the city, and to suggest how far and in which ways this could be achieved.
2.35 The study identified a number of features which make Chester special:
- the compact nature of the city
- well defined edges to the urban area, especially on the north west and north eastern sides
- environmental features such as the River Dee and the Roodee
- its historic buildings and monuments
- its townscape
- its archaeological features
- the quality and range of its shopping
2.36 The study concluded that there was considerable scope for change and controlled growth in Chester without damaging those things that make the city special. However, there were a number of identified "pressure points" such that any change or growth could not take place without a substantial commitment to other planning, mitigating or management measures. These measures would be major initiatives which would require the radical upgrade of existing infrastructure, the re-use or redevelopment of previously developed and central area sites, and maximise the future use of the existing urban area and further improve the quality of it.
2.37 Having assessed a number of different growth options the consultants took the view that a selective approach to development was required, concentrating on:
- maintaining Chester's sub-regional role as an administrative, business and tourist centre
- attracting specialist, international businesses
- achieving university status
- providing a better range of tourist facilities
- meeting local housing and employment needs
- allowing some shopping out of the city centre, providing this does not undermine the centre's role
- extending the capacity of the city by placing emphasis on renewal sites and diverting some housing and employment needs elsewhere in the sub-region
2.38 Where development takes place it should respect the environmental capacity of the city, as defined by the study. A framework for measuring environmental capacity was put forward, consisting of a series of capacity guidelines against which development strategies could be assessed.
2.39 All development needs should be planned and phased over a very long time period i.e. to 2021 and beyond.
2.40 There was a limited capacity for peripheral development, with the greatest potential being to the south and west of the city.
2.41 Further development must be accompanied by investment in road and public transport measures, and greater integration of land use and transport.
2.42 More specific recommendations were made on:
- the need to take a city-wide view
- pointers for future development strategy
- urban design
- the historic fabric
2.43 The study provided a framework for both the preparation of Cheshire 2011 and the Local Plan.
Chester Urban Potential Study
2.44 In light of the focus on urban renaissance contained in the Urban White Paper, the Urban Task Force Report and Planning Policy Guidance Note 3: Housing, an Urban Potential Study for Chester was undertaken in 2000. This study identified a significant potential for additional residential development on brownfield sites within the existing urban area of Chester, particularly within the inner urban area on the edge of the city centre. The development of such sites can contribute to the regeneration of parts of Chester, without impacting on the greenspaces and countryside setting of the historic city.
2.45 This study informed the allocation of sites for residential and mixed-use areas within the North East Urban Action Area, as detailed in the Urban Renaissance chapter of the Plan.
2.46 This study will be monitored and reviewed during the Plan period as part of the monitoring of the Local Plan as a whole.
Housing Strategy Statement
2.47 The Council has produced a Housing Strategy for the District setting out the priorities for housing over the period 2002-2007. Of particular relevance to the Local Plan is the priority relating to affordable housing. The Housing Strategy and Local Plan policies work together to meet identified housing need. Any update to the strategy is likely to consider wider, sub-regional links.
Economic Development Strategy
2.48 The Council’s Economic Development Strategy aims to achieve a balanced economy throughout the District with varied opportunities for employment and training for all. These objectives have informed the development of the Local Plan strategy.
Local Transport Plan
2.49 The Local Transport Plan for Cheshire was published in March 2006 and contains the County Council’s proposed objectives, strategy and delivery programme for transport in the County for the period 2006-2011. The strategy for Chester includes:
- further expansion of the city’s Park&Ride services
- a new bus exchange as part of the Northgate Development and improved bus stops and interchanges at other key locations within the city centre
- the Chester Rail Gateway project – a major improvement at Chester Railway Station and Station Square
- the introduction of a de-criminalised parking scheme to improve the management of car parking
- further development of local walking and cycling networks
- the creation of an education and health transport partnership to deal with traffic problems at local colleges and hospital sites
The Community Plan: Chester’s Way Ahead
2.50 ‘Chester’s Way Ahead’, the District’s first community plan, was produced in 2001 following extensive consultation with local residents, community groups, businesses and voluntary groups. During the winter of 2004/05 Chester in Partnership reviewed and updated the Plan.
2.51 The new ‘Chester’s Way Ahead’ sets out the priorities for Chester’s residents, what the partnership is doing to address these priorities, where action needs to be targeted and how progress will be measured.
2.52 The overall vision is ‘Chester – A Thriving Community’. It identifies three themes and a number of projects for each theme:
1. A good community to live in
- Homes for Everyone – encouraging public and private sector landowners to make land available at a reasonable cost for affordable housing.
- The Active Citizen – focusing on a series of activities across the District to improve relations between people of different ages.
- Neighbourhood Hubs – within the urban, suburban and rural areas access to a range of services will be improved by concentrating activity within recognised ‘hubs’.
2. A community to value
- Harmony in the Community – aiming to foster a common understanding of differences and increase acceptance of the diversity within our community.
- A Healthy Living Network – seeking to help everyone in the District improve their lifestyles.
- Carbon Neutral District – environmental initiatives taking forward the aspiration to become a carbon neutral district.
3. A good community to invest in
- The Deeside Hub Project – addressing job creation, diversification of the economy, skills and training, recruitment, access and transport which cut across administrative boundaries.
- The Learning District – maximising the economic benefits of the University of Chester and West Cheshire College and improving electronic communication.
- Communicating Opportunities – promoting activities and funding opportunities.
2.53 Many themes included in the community plan coincide with the aims and objectives of the Local Plan. As such, implementation of the policies and proposals contained in the Local Plan will, in many cases, help to deliver the specific targets identified in ‘Chester’s Way Ahead’.
The Geographical Strategy of the Local Plan, Having Regard to Overall Environmental Considerations - The Council's 'Vision'
2.54 The ‘vision’ for Chester District comprises three main threads:
1. Strategic greenspace and environmental framework.
2. Infrastructure and transport.
3. Activities and land use.
2.55 These three threads knit together to form a sustainable development approach to the forward planning of the District aimed at ensuring the continued prosperity of the District while conserving and enhancing what makes it special.
1) Strategic Greenspace and Environmental Framework (See Figures 2b and 2c)
2.56 The greenspace context for the District is very important – the rural area comprising settlements set within countryside is both very attractive and is so reminiscent of rural Cheshire. The countryside setting of Chester and the penetration of the urban area by fingers of countryside are, according to the study ‘Chester: The Future of an Historic City’, one of the key aspects that makes the city special.
2.57 It is intended that the rural character of the District is conserved by:
Figure 2b - District Diagram for the Plan Area showing environmental features, development sites and infrastructure
Figure 2c - District diagram for the urban area showing strategic greenspace
- Retaining predominantly intact the Green Belt surrounding Chester in order to retain its compact nature and its image as an urban area set within open countryside. This strategy will retain the individual character of the villages immediately surrounding the Chester area and stop the potential coalescence of Chester and Ellesmere Port urban areas. Likewise, proposals within the emerging Flintshire Unitary Development Plan, ‘Ensuring a Sustainable Future for Flintshire’, seek to complete the green setting of Chester on its western side, by Green Barrier, to achieve the comprehensive strategy around the edge of the city.
- Protecting the key strategic wildlife corridors through the District. The Nature Conservation Audit of the District identified a number of key routes for the movement of wildlife through the District, most notably the River Dee, the Shropshire Union Canal, the Caldy Valley and Brook, Aldford Brook and Wych Brook. These areas need to be very carefully conserved and their open character carefully managed.
- Protecting the four Areas of Special County Value:
- Eaton Estate/Dee Valley – The area to the south of Chester is dominated by the Grosvenor Estate, its farms and parkland and its ceremonial routes into the city. This is a very special landscape which is also important to the setting of Chester and is part of the city's cultural identity. This should be carefully managed and enhanced and the Council will work closely with the Estate to achieve this.
- Beeston/Peckforton/Bolesworth/Bickerton Hills – The Peckforton Hills dominate the Cheshire countryside and are not only important for their landscape and recreational value but also for their historic villages and castles. The strategy seeks to carefully manage this landscape, its villages and its way of life.
- The Wych Brook Valley – The Wych Valley is located along the boundary of the District to the south of Malpas. The valley is an important nature conservation area containing ancient woodland and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and forms a picturesque, undulating and intricate landform. The area needs careful management of its hedgerows, woodland blocks, wetland habitats and unimproved grassland.
- The Delamere/Willington area – The Willington area is part of the Delamere Forest area of high landscape value. This needs to be very carefully managed and conserved.
2.58 The Chester District Landscape Assessment and Guidelines (1998) identifies thirteen distinct ‘character areas’ within the rural part of the District, and highlights the particular features within the built and natural environment that contribute to that particular character.
2.59 Figure 2c illustrates the strategic Greenspace Framework for the urban area. It consists of important edges to Chester and fingers of countryside which penetrate into and run through the heart of the urban area. These fingers are not only important as wildlife routes but are also an important ingredient into what makes Chester unique and gives it its special character. This key landscape framework will be conserved, enhanced and, where appropriate, managed to the benefit of the city. As part of the Local Plan it is intended that three particularly important steps be taken to complete and strengthen this strategic greenspace framework:
- the creation of a well defined edge to the south of Chester along the proposed Western Relief Road
- the protection and enhancement of the Sealand Meadows as public open space for use by the local people, the population of the city generally and to retain strategic views of the city centre
- the extension of the Caldy Valley Nature Park to the River Dee and to the south of the A55
2.60 Furthermore, it is intended that the main radial road links into Chester be improved by tree or shrub planting and the railway corridors and canal corridor be also enhanced by planting. This will improve the image of the urban area and its sense of place.
2. Infrastructure and Transportation
The District is faced with a range of very different infrastructural issues which the Local Plan must tackle:
- The rural area consists of a scatter of hamlets and villages with a poor public transportation system. This will, for the foreseeable future, be dependent upon the car for internal communication and links to the major settlements of Chester, Wrexham, Whitchurch and Ellesmere Port.
- Many rural villages are affected by inappropriately large vehicles or speeding traffic.
- Chester is an attractive and dynamic urban area and a successful shopping centre and heritage attraction, drawing both visitors and shoppers from a large catchment area, causing congestion in its core, on the radial routes into the city centre and to the successful Sealand Road retail parks. The historic core of the city and the suburbs on the radial roads are under particular pressure from high levels of traffic.
- There are significant parts of the urban area with potential for development and growth without affecting its character or without encroaching into the Green Belt. These are largely brownfield sites which require regeneration. The development of such sites, which are close to existing services and facilities, should help to reduce the need for travel by private car.
- However, a traditional, sub-regional, economic and social interdependence between Ellesmere Port, Wrexham, Deeside and Chester, still leads to a great number of sub-regional trips for work, shopping and housing.
2.62 The vision for the District involves an integrated approach in both the urban and the rural areas, through the development of attractive forms of public transport together with the completion of the Park&Ride system and the integrated city centre parking strategy. In addition it is necessary to improve transport links to major destinations outside the District such as Manchester Airport.
2.63 The car will remain an important form of transport into the future, particularly in rural areas, but also in Chester. The accommodation of the car is essential to ensure the continued vitality of the urban area. The key will be to promote realistic and attractive choices in terms of alternative modes of transport and, as far as possible, allocate land and activity in the Plan to reduce the need to travel. The latter is particularly important and is the main thrust of the development strategy for the District – concentrating the bulk of the development within the urban area itself and concentrating any development in the rural area to meet local needs in large villages and in association with key transportation routes.
2.64 The Local Transport Plan can be found on the County Council website at www.cheshire.gov.uk.
3. Activities and Land Use
2.65 The Greenspace Framework and infrastructure opportunities determine and are determined by the strategic development proposals in the District to 2011 and beyond.
2.66 Using sustainable development principles, it is proposed that much of the District's development requirements will be met in Chester's urban area as the focus of the sub region. This development, however, will be targeted at ensuring the continued prosperity of the place, conserving and enhancing Chester’s qualities as an internationally renowned historic city, reinforcing the city’s cultural identity and enhancing its environment. Development in the rural areas will be targeted at meeting the needs of local people, conserving the countryside and ensuring the continued vitality of rural communities as well as safeguarding agricultural land and supporting the agricultural economy.
i) The Rural Area (See Figure 2b)
2.67 In the rural area development levels will be targeted at meeting any growth required by the local communities only, and ensuring their continued vitality, and not to meet that required by the wider district, which will be met in Chester. This will be achieved by:
- Concentrating development in the larger villages. These villages have existing community facilities to support such development and have the best communications within the rural area. Such larger settlements are best able to absorb limited levels of new development and such development would help maintain the continued existence of such facilities for the areas these villages serve. It must be stressed, however, that such a strategy is aimed at meeting the anticipated level of growth required by the larger settlements and their surrounding communities only, over the Plan period, both in amount and timing. Where appropriate such development will be designated for local occupancy only, as defined in the relevant Local Plan policies. However, it should be noted that for many categories of development such conditions may not be applicable or possible. Development of the villages will reflect a mix – not only housing but also small-scale employment opportunities for these rural communities. The latter will further help support the local community facilities in the villages.
- In the smaller villages development would be limited to infill only.
- Outside the villages, a number of key employment sites are identified at:
- Chester Gates
- Former Ince A and B Power Stations
These sites are aimed at meeting the needs of the whole District.
2.68 The development of smaller sites to meet the employment needs of Chester District's rural community will be encouraged through the re-use of rural buildings and sites. However, these should be focused on locations with easy access to the main road system in order to reduce traffic pressures on smaller rural roads.
ii) The Urban Area (See Figure 2d)
2.69 The focus for development within the District will be in the urban area of Chester. ‘Chester: The Future of an Historic City’ concluded that there was considerable scope for change in the urban area without affecting what makes the place special. The Urban Potential Study identified considerable opportunities for redevelopment of underused and vacant sites within the inner urban area, close to the city centre.
Figure 2d - District diagram for the urban area showing development sites and infrastructure
2.70 The urban strategy for Chester therefore aims to reinforce Chester's special qualities, avoiding development which would erode these special qualities. The key to Chester's future is the careful long-term urban management of its essential resources while:
- meeting the employment and housing needs of its local people
- reinforcing the quality of its shopping, administrative and cultural centre
- promoting the University of Chester
- continuing to be a focus for high quality international business
2.71 The strategy for Chester is focusing on the recycling of its current previously developed land resources whilst avoiding town cramming and the loss of its essential open space.
2.72 Figure 2d illustrates the proposed strategic development areas within Chester. These are regeneration based. This regeneration is focused on:
- the North East Urban Action Area, including Gorse Stacks, Boughton Canal Corridor, the Railway Lands, and the Brook St and City Road corridors
- the canal corridor and waterfront, including Old Port and Tower Wharf
- the Western Relief Road corridor
- the ring road corridor and Northgate
- surplus land on the Countess of Chester Health Park
2.73 Such sites are not only key regeneration sites but are also allocated on proposed key foci of public transport and road links and interchanges between them. The majority of these sites will be developed for a mixture of uses. The development of these sites would not only meet the needs of Chester for new housing, employment and shopping but also serve to rejuvenate whole areas of the city which have declined due, for example, to the construction of the ring road or declining industry – City Road, Brook Street and Gorse Stacks. The redevelopment of these sites would also serve to remove many of Chester's eyesores.
2.74 Area specific development briefs will expand upon Local Plan policies and guide development within the North East Urban Action Area. Development briefs will also be produced for other regeneration sites. Within these areas there will be a strong emphasis on providing high quality mixed-use development, which enhances the quality of the environment whilst increasing vitality and activity.
2.75 A number of development suggestions, however, fall outside this regeneration category:
- Surplus land on the Countess of Chester Health Park – much of the floor space of the northern part of the Countess site is either under-used or vacant. It is proposed to retain this area as Green Belt but to use its footprint area and the site's unique location near the University of Chester and successful hospital with good access to provide a mixed-use employment and residential scheme, whilst retaining the attractive landscape and architectural qualities of the site.
- The Zoo will continue to be encouraged to develop its facilities as an important national resource within its context of Green Belt.
- The University of Chester and West Cheshire College will be encouraged to enhance the city’s role as a centre for higher and further education, vocational training and learning at all levels.
2.76 Retailing in Chester will be concentrated primarily in the city centre in order to ensure the continued vitality of that centre. No allocations for retailing on the urban edge are proposed. Key sites for retail development in Chester will be:
- Commonhall Street
- Adjoining the Neighbourhood Centre in Sealand Road
2.77 The strategy will actively promote tourism and culture in Chester. Tourism is a major employer and its importance to the economy of the area should not be underestimated. However, the strategy for the future will be based upon improving the quality and the spend of tourists in Chester, not simply increasing numbers. The strategic approach will be to manage the tourist – spreading the load from the congested Eastgate and The Groves areas to the more quiet areas of the heritage city – the Castle, the Amphitheatre, the Canal, Tower Wharf, Old Port and the Roodee. Improving tourism facilities and enhancing the public realm will be important. Three main heritage areas will be promoted and developed over the Plan period:
- the southern waterfront – Dee House/Amphitheatre area, The Groves, Grosvenor Park, Handbridge Waterfront and the Castle
- Northgate/Gorse Stacks – New theatre, mixed-use proposals including cultural facilities
- canal corridor from Hoole Lane Bridge to the Old Port
2.78 With the development of the urban regeneration sites, the employment and housing needs of the District can be met for the Plan period 2011.
2.79 The Local Distinctiveness Strategy for Chester identifies the features and characteristics which make the area special and forms a key part of the urban strategy.
2.80 The District diagram consists of three components (Figures 2b, 2c and 2d) and summarises the geographical strategy of the Local Plan.
General Policies Guiding all Development
2.81 Development proposals should be considered against all relevant policies/proposals in the Local Plan. To guide all forms of development to appropriate locations whilst safeguarding the quality of the existing environment and, where appropriate securing its improvement.
Policy GE 1
Development proposals which conform to all relevant policies of the development plan will be permitted, unless there is an unacceptable risk of significant adverse environmental impact.
Development proposals should comply with all relevant development plan policies to ensure that the quality of life for residents of the District and the quality of natural and built environment are safeguarded. There may be instances in which relevant policies have the effect of pulling in different directions. In these cases, the Council will have regard to other material considerations in determining the weight to be afforded to competing policy objectives.
The Council will control development to minimise or eliminate uncertainty regarding its environmental impact.
The Council is committed to improving the independence and quality of life for people with disabilities. To achieve this aim it is vital that provision is made for a good standard of access to all development.
Policy GE 2
Development requiring planning permission will be required to take account of the need to provide suitable access and facilities for people with disabilities.
Section 76 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 requires local planning authorities when granting planning permission to draw the attention of the applicant to Sections 4 and 7 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1990. Therefore, whenever alterations to buildings and their surrounding spaces are proposed, the opportunity should be taken to improve access and facilities for people with disabilities.
In particular where there is evidence of need the Council will seek appropriate provision to be made in respect of:
- public transport facilities
- traffic management schemes
- the number and type of parking spaces
- the design of pedestrian environments
- the design of leisure, recreation and community facilities
- the design of retail and other commercial development
- tourism facilities
- off-street footpaths or rural pathways
In larger residential developments (of 20 or more housing units) the Council will seek to negotiate the provision of wheelchair accessible housing according to local need and site suitability. Such provision will be in addition to any requirement for affordable housing to be provided to meet local housing need and will be secured by the use of planning conditions.
The Council will publish more detailed guidance on matters relating to the provision of suitable access and facilities for people with disabilities. This guidance will indicate the type and level of provision which the Council considers would be appropriate in different types of development. The Council will expect development proposals to comply with this guidance.
In addition to the above, the needs of elderly people and carers with young children should be taken into account in all developments that are open to the public. Facilities such as dedicated baby changing facilities and access improvements may be required.
Impact on Residential Amenity
Policy GE 3
Development will be permitted only if it does not have a significantly detrimental effect on the amenities of people living nearby.
To ensure that all development within the plan area safeguards the quality of life for residents of the District.
When considering the impact of a proposal on neighbouring properties, the Council will have regard to:
- any significant overshadowing or overlooking to habitable rooms
- disturbance resulting from excessive noise or odour
- any other relevant factor which results in a reduction in quality of life
Availability of Utility Services
Policy GE 4
Development proposals will only be permitted if utility services are available or can be provided without placing unacceptable pressure on existing capacity, or causing unacceptable environmental harm.
To ensure that all development within the plan area safeguards the quality of life for residents of the District and the quality of the natural and built environment.
Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) should be included into the design of larger development schemes to reduce the risk of pollution and flooding from run-off.
Protection of Water Resources
Policy GE 5
Proposals for new development will not be permitted unless access to adequate water supply and sewage treatment facilities already exists or can be provided in time to serve the development, without detriment to existing abstractions, water quality, amenity or nature conservation. Development proposals which would have a significant detrimental impact on the capacity, flow or quality of groundwater or surface water systems will not be permitted.
The quality and quantity of water supplies must be protected. Over use of groundwater and surface water supplies can lead to environmental damage.
Development and Flood Risk
2.83 Indicative areas of high and medium probability for flood risk are shown on the Local Plan Proposal Map. These areas are regularly updated by the Environment Agency (EA) and landowners and developers are advised to contact the Agency to check if there have been any changes since the Plan’s publication. (Further information can be found at: www.environment-agency.co.uk).
Policy GE 6
Development (including the raising of land) will be permitted only if it would not result in an unacceptable risk of flooding, either on or off site, nor adversely affect flood management or maintenance schemes.
Development proposals within areas of flood risk are not only at risk of flooding but may also exacerbate existing or create new flooding problems on other land or property through reductions in floodplain storage capacity or by impeding flood flows. Flood alleviation measures can only reduce the risk of flooding, they can never eliminate the risk. For these reasons, development within land liable to flood normally will not be permitted. Where detailed information in respect of flood risk is not available, developers will be required to carry out detailed technical investigations to evaluate the extent of the flood risk and ensure that no unacceptable development, including the raising of land occurs within the flood risk area identified.
When considering proposals for development within areas of flood risk, the Council will operate a risk based, sequential approach as set out in Planning Policy Statement 25: Development and Flood Risk. When deciding applications for development the Council will expect developers to demonstrate that there are no reasonable options available in a lower-risk category of flood zone, consistent with other sustainable development objectives.
In exceptional circumstances where the Council considers the development to be essential for the economic viability of the area and it has been confirmed that there are no other suitable sites capable of providing the necessary stimulus, the development will still only be considered where the developer can conclusively demonstrate that appropriate and environmentally sympathetic flood protection and mitigation measures can be implemented.
The Council will require developers to carry out and provide details of hydraulic investigations, where this is judged necessary, to properly determine the implications of the proposed development, as required by the Environment Agency. Developers should be aware that the responsibility for the carrying out of and costs of any investigation/mitigation works rests with themselves.
The development will not be commenced until any mitigation works required have been implemented to the satisfaction of the Council and a formal agreement regarding the future maintenance of any flood protection/mitigation structures is in place.
In areas such as the Old Port and the Sealand Basin, the cumulative impacts of a number of developments will necessitate a comprehensive approach to flood protection. In such circumstances developers will be expected to make contributions to the implementation of area-wide schemes, commensurate with the scale and location of their own proposals, and in accordance with the requirements of Development Briefs agreed by the City Council and the Environment Agency.
2.84 Local distinctiveness is concerned with what makes a place special. For historic towns and villages it is the key to their attractiveness and an essential component in the economic competitiveness of a place. The Local Distinctiveness Strategy for Chester identifies features which make Chester City special and ways to enhance the character of the place.
2.85 Village Design Statements are produced by local communities to identify the features and characteristics which make their village distinctive, and to provide guidelines for new development. The Council will support the production of Village Plans and Village Design Statements, and will assist in their adoption as Supplementary Planning Documents, where appropriate.
Policy GE 7
Proposals for new development will be permitted only if the proposal makes a contribution to the promotion of local distinctiveness.
A partnership between the City Council and other public and voluntary agencies has been established to address the issue of local distinction particular to Chester and the contribution these issues make to the economic competitiveness of the city. The City Council has produced a Local Distinctiveness Strategy for Chester (LODIS) and will expect new development to make a contribution to local distinctiveness in accordance with this strategy. This should be through high quality design and the use of suitable materials and could include contributions to, for example, public art or lighting.
Public art is a key component of local distinctiveness because it can create vitality and interest in an area and reinforces the individuality and identity of any locality. The Council will seek to secure the provision of public art in development schemes, where appropriate, through voluntary contributions. There are many situations in which public art can be used to enhance the public realm, some of which are identified in area based Development Briefs. Art works must be of a high quality and should be done by artists or crafts people. Further information is provided in Supplementary Planning Guidance: Public Art.
2.86 The following issues arising from this chapter will be monitored during the Plan period. This information will inform the application of policies and will be used to assess their effectiveness:
- number of applications granted planning permission by the Council or allowed on appeal that are advertised as departures from the Plan
- implementation of the LODIS strategy
Environmental Appaisal of Policies and Proposals
2.87 The over-riding policy GE 1 requires that all relevant Local Plan policies, many of which have a positive impact on sustainability issues, are taken into account in determining development proposals. This policy should ensure that any negative impacts are identified.
2.88 Policies GE 4 and GE 5, relating to availability of utility services and water supplies, recognise that new development may increase demand for these facilities, putting pressure on existing supplies. Their purpose is to ensure that these services can be provided without any negative impact on natural resources or existing users.
2.89 Strategy policies aim to ensure that new development can be accommodated without detrimental impact on natural resources. In particular, the policies on flood risk, utility services and water supplies aim to avoid any harm to existing habitats, ground and surface water systems and soil quality.
2.90 Policy GE 7 on local distinctiveness should have a positive impact on the local environment, in particular the built environment in Chester and the villages by requiring that new development contributes to local distinction.
2.91 Policy GE 2 aims to improve quality of life for users of the built environment who have mobility difficulties, and to improve access to the countryside for these groups. The objective of improving access can, however, conflict with the preservation of listed buildings and conservation areas, requiring creative solutions to be found to avoid any negative impacts.
2.92 Policy GE 3 aims to protect the quality of life of existing residents who are affected by development proposals. In many instances, particularly in minor developments, this would be a neutral impact rather than a positive one.
Environmental Impact Significance
2.93 The purpose of the Strategy policies are to ensure that all relevant issues are taken into account in the decision making process, and to ensure that the development can be satisfactorily achieved without harm to the environment and to quality of life. The local distinctiveness policy goes further in that it aims to secure a positive contribution to the local built environment.