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Rhondda Cynon Taf Local Development Plan up to 2021 - Adopted March 2011

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Chapter Five - Area Wide Policies


This chapter sets out the detailed Area Wide Policies, which in conjunction with the LDP Core Policies, the LDP strategy specific policies and national planning policies are the basis for the determination of planning applications for the development and use of land and buildings. These policies are an essential element of the Council’s spatial strategy and are intended to ensure that development accords with the visual and spatial objectives of the plan.


Each policy is shown in bold followed by justification and expansion of the preferred policy approach. A more detailed assessment of the impact of various policy approaches is contained in the SA / SEA Environmental Report.

Policy AW 1 – Supply of New Housing

In order to meet the housing land requirement of 14,385 provision will be made for the development of between 14,936-15,386 new dwellings in Rhondda Cynon Taf during the period 2006 – 2021. This will be met by:-

1. The allocations of this plan;
2. The development of sites in Rhondda Cynon Taf where planning permission for housing has been granted since 1st June 2006;
3. The development of unallocated land within the defined settlement boundaries of the Principal Towns, Key Settlements and Smaller Settlements;
4. The provision of affordable housing;
5. The conversion of suitable structures to provide housing; and
6. The development of land at density levels which accord with the requirements of Policies NSA 10 and SSA 11.

Residential development proposals will be expected to contribute to meeting local housing needs. Where a community housing need has been established, the local planning authority will seek the provision of affordable housing in accordance with policies NSA 11 and SSA 12


Population projections indicate that the number of households in South East Wales will increase by 108,900 between 2003 and 2023. In order to accommodate this growth, the LDP will allocate land for between 14,936-15,386 new dwellings to be constructed throughout Rhondda Cynon Taf. In doing so policy AW1 will provide for a supply of a higher number of dwellings than required by policy CS4 in case some of the committed, allocated or other sites do not deliver the anticipated number of dwellings within the plan period. This is a high rate of growth and will result in an increase in the house building rate from 660 to 959 per annum. The construction and distribution of this number of dwellings will assist in halting the process of depopulation and ensure a stable growth in the future population. Statistical analysis and background to the dwelling requirement figure is contained in the Population and Household Projections Study (2006), the Housing Topic Paper (2007) and the Housing Delivery Background Paper (2009).


The Council in partnership with the other 10 authorities in South East Wales has been involved in the process of apportioning housing land requirement for the region. The housing requirement figure in Policy CS 4 accords with the agreed housing apportionment for South East Wales.


The Joint Housing Land Availability Study (April 2007) indicates that Rhondda Cynon Taf had a residential land supply of 2,668 dwellings on large sites (10 dwellings and over) at April 2007, excluding constrained sites. In addition, 391 dwellings had been built on large sites between the LDP base date (June 2006 and April 2007). For small sites, the April 2007 study shows that 74 dwellings were built on small sites between June 2006 and April 2007. This study assumes that dwellings on small sites will be built at a rate of 660 per five years, which equates to a potential contribution of 1,848 dwellings in the 14 years from 2007 to 2021. An estimate has been made of the potential contribution of dwellings from windfall sites, i.e. sites for 10 or more dwellings not identified at April 2007. Based on experience of the 10 years from June 1997 to April 2007, it is assumed that an average of 70 dwellings per annum will be completed on windfall sites, totalling 980 dwellings between 2007 and 2021. Conversion of existing permanent buildings within settlements such as religious, retail and community buildings and permanent buildings in the countryside such as vacant agricultural or industrial buildings are also likely to make a small contribution to overall housing during the plan period.


It must be noted that should planning permission for a site lapse, applications to renew that planning approval will be assessed against the policies in the LDP.


In order to provide sufficient land to accommodate the projected growth, the LDP will therefore provide a policy framework for the construction of new dwellings.

Capacity of large sites available 2007


Dwellings built on large sites 2006-07


Dwellings built on small sites 2006-07


Potential from small sites 2007-21


Potential from windfall sites 2007-21


LDP provision for new housing sites

9,025 - 9,475

Total Dwelling supply 2006-21

14,936 - 15386


Policy AW 2 – Sustainable Locations

In order to ensure that development proposals on non-allocated sites support the objectives of the plan, development proposals will only be supported in sustainable locations. Sustainable locations are defined as sites that:–

1. Are within the defined settlement boundary or in the Northern Strategy Area, accord with Policy NSA 12;
2. Would not unacceptably conflict with surrounding uses;
3. Have good accessibility by a range of sustainable transport options;
4. Have good access to key services and facilities;
5. Do not permit highly vulnerable development and Emergency Services within Zone C2 floodplain. Within Zone C development will be permitted where it can be justified that: -
a) It is necessary to assist the regeneration of a Principal Town or Key Settlement including the key employment objectives, or where development involves a large brownfield site.
b) The potential consequences of a flooding event have been considered and found to be acceptable in accordance with national guidance and meet the definition of previously developed land.
6. Support the roles and functions of the Principal Towns, Key Settlements and Small Settlements;
7. Support the development of the 8 Strategic Sites;
8. Are well related to existing water, sewerage, waste, electrical, gas and telecommunications infrastructure and improvements to such services will be provided where necessary.
9. Where proposals relate to existing buildings in the countryside, accord with AW 9.


The need to ensure more sustainable forms of development, are central to the objectives of the Plan, the Preferred Strategy and the allocated sites.


All development sites must contribute to delivering the objectives of the Plan. Where sites are proposed for development on unallocated sites, it is essential that they meet the same sustainability criteria that were used to assess the allocated sites in the Plan. Development proposals with the potential to affect the Borough’s natural heritage will be considered against AW 8. Proposals affecting green wedges will be considered against NSA 24 and SSA 22 and proposals affecting Special Landscape Areas against NSA 25 and SSA 23 as appropriate.


This policy will ensure that where unallocated sites come forward for development, those considered to be unsustainable locations for new development will be resisted. This policy will also provide flexibility to identify new sites for development, should they be required over the life of the Plan. Applications for Rural Enterprise Dwellings away from established settlements will be considered in accordance with Planning Policy Wales and TAN 6 Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities (July 2010)..


Key services and facilities include schools, local shops and services, GPs, dentists and community facilities.

Policy AW 3 – Exception Sites For Affordable Housing in the Countryside

Development proposals for the provision of affordable housing outside and adjoining the identified settlement boundaries will be permitted where it can be demonstrated that:

1. The proposed development cannot be accommodated within the defined settlement boundaries;
2. The site does not exceed 30 dwellings or 1 hectare;
3. The proposed development is solely for the provision of affordable housing to meet an identified local need;
4. The proposed development is not within a Green Wedge, Special Landscape Area or within, near or adjacent to an internationally, nationally or locally designated nature conservation site.


The aim of this policy is to allow Registered Social Landlords to provide affordable housing in areas where there is an identified local need. The Council’s preference will always be for development to take place within defined settlement boundaries. However, it is recognised that factors such as the availability of land and high land values, may mean that it may not be possible to deliver affordable housing within the defined settlement boundaries.


In permitting the development of affordable housing in these locations, the Council will require Registered Social Landlords to demonstrate why development cannot take place within the defined settlement boundaries and that appropriate mechanisms are in place to ensure the units are secured in perpetuity.


Locally designated nature conservation sites include Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation, Local Nature Reserves and Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves.

Policy AW 4 – Community Infrastructure & Planning Obligations

Planning obligations may be sought where development proposals require the provision of new, improved or rely on existing services, facilities, infrastructure and related works, to make the proposal acceptable in land use planning terms. Contributions may be sought in respect of:

1. Affordable housing;
2. Physical infrastructure works;
3. Open space, sport / play space and access to natural green space;
4. Educational facilities;
5. Recreational and leisure facilities;
6. Management of Strategic Transport Corridors;
7. Public transport facilities and services;
8. Travel plan initiatives;
9. Highway infrastructure works;
10. Walking and cycling schemes;
11. Waste management and recycling;
12. Renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives.
13. Environmental and landscape improvements;
14. Nature conservation;
15. Public Art;
16. Culture and community facilities; and
17. Any other contribution the Council considers appropriate to the development.


Planning obligations will be sought only where they meet the tests set out in Welsh Office Circular 13/97 and Planning Policy Wales.


New development will often require new or rely on existing infrastructure, services and facilities to make proposals acceptable in land use planning terms. By ensuring that the needs of existing and future communities are fully considered, the Council will ensure that sustainable, well-designed places are created that support the needs of the community and promote well-being.


It is an established principle of the planning system that development should fund or contribute to the provision of infrastructure, services and facilities that new development will rely on. Planning obligations are a means by which contributions can be secured to enhance the quality of a development and help limit the negative impact development may have on local facilities, services and features. A planning obligation is a legally binding agreement entered into between a local authority and a developer. It provides a requirement for the developer to provide outlined works or services and to help mitigate any negative impacts that may arise as a consequence of the development.


In April 2010, Central Government introduced the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). The CIL introduces a tariff-based approach to the delivery of infrastructure. Following the adoption of the LDP the Council will give detailed consideration to the appropriateness of preparing a CIL plan.


Details of the types of obligation that may be sought by the Council are detailed in the SPG on Planning Obligations. The SPG sets out the types of contribution that will be sought, the types of development to which they will apply and the trigger points where contributions will be required.


The provision of the key infrastructure identified in Policy CS 8 and the social, economic and environmental infrastructure that will support the development of the 8 Strategic Sites outlined in Policy CS 3 are integral to the implementation of the Core Strategy for the LDP. Planning obligations will be sought to deliver this key infrastructure and support the delivery of the Strategy.


The Council will consider, where appropriate, development areas that may be larger than the application site. This will ensure that where sites are developed on a piecemeal basis, a fair and reasonable level of contribution is secured.


The Council recognises that contributions for the provision of social, economic and environmental infrastructure are essential to the delivery of the LDP core strategy. There will be a presumption that development will not be permitted unless appropriate planning obligations are secured. Requests for contributions will however, be carefully balanced and will only be requested where they are reasonable, realistic and necessary.


Proposals will be considered on a site-by-site basis. Where it is submitted that a requirement to deliver appropriate planning obligations would result in a site being economically unviable, the Council will require verifiable objective evidence of the adverse financial appraisal, taking into account any grant availability. Whilst the planning obligations sought would enhance the quality of development, if the evidence demonstrates conclusively that requiring them would result in a proposal being unviable, the Council may conclude that the benefits of the development outweigh the benefits of seeking to secure a higher quality scheme, in preference to refusing planning permission.


In respect of affordable housing the Council appreciates that in exceptional circumstances where there are significant abnormal costs associated with a development, the provision of affordable housing may make a site unviable for development, particularly if it would reduce the site’s land value to below its value either in its existing use or in an alternative use that could be realistically carried on without a requirement for planning permission. Where site viability is considered to be an issue, developers will be required to provide to the Council details of:
• The acquisition price of the site and the date of that acquisition or date of an option to acquire the site;
• The current existing use value and any alternative use value;
• Projected construction costs
• The date when the housing is expected to be delivered;
• Forecast final sales values per unit; and
• The developer’s reasonable profit requirement.


The Council will then use a Development Appraisal Toolkit to examine the economics of the development and determine the viability of affordable housing provision. Where the developer can demonstrate that the provision of the full affordable housing required would not be viable, consideration should be given first to equivalent off-site provision and only then to the negotiation of reduced provision on- or off-site. However, developers must recognise that the requirement is to provide affordable housing on private market sites. Whilst historic land acquisition costs may influence the owner’s assessment of viability, consideration is also required to current and future land and development values to ensure that the appropriate level of affordable housing is secured at the time that the housing is to be delivered.

Policy AW 5 – New Development

Development proposals will be supported where:-

1. Amenity
a) The scale, form and design of the development would have no unacceptable effect on the character and appearance of the site and the surrounding area;
b) Where appropriate, existing site features of built and natural environment value would be retained;
c) There would be no significant impact upon the amenities of neighbouring occupiers;
d) The development would be compatible with other uses in the locality;
e) The development would include the use of multi-functional buildings where appropriate;
f) The development designs out the opportunity for crime and anti social behaviour.
2. Accessibility
a) The development would be accessible to the local and wider community by a range of sustainable modes of transport;
b) The site layout and mix of uses maximises opportunities to reduce dependence on cars;
c) The development would have safe access to the highway network and would not cause traffic congestion or exacerbate existing traffic congestion;
d) Car parking would be provided in accordance with the Council’s Supplementary Planning Guidance on Access, Parking and Circulation.


In order to assess access and transport issues fully, transport assessments will be required for development proposals on all allocated sites and where the Council considers that proposals are likely to have significant transport implications. Guidance on transport assessments is contained in the SPG on Access, Circulation and Parking.


The LDP will deliver major new development over the life of the plan. In addition to the eight Strategic Sites, the LDP includes proposals for significant new areas of housing, employment and commercial development. It is essential that these new developments create high quality environments, if both our and future generations are to live in communities that are attractive, liveable, inclusive, safe and enjoyable places to live.


In addition to larger areas of planned change, the Council recognises that smaller-scale developments cumulatively and over time, can have a significant impact upon the appearance and quality of our communities. Rhondda Cynon Taf registers approximately 2,200 planning applications per annum. By ensuring that each proposal appropriately and reasonably contributes to creating a high quality environment, the Council will ensure that all proposals contribute to creating quality places.


All new development should be highly accessible. Walking and cycling have an important role to play in the management of movement across the County Borough, particularly reducing the number of short trips taken by car. Developers will be required to ensure that new developments encourage walking and cycling by giving careful consideration to location, design, access arrangements, travel ‘desire lines’ through a development, and integration with existing and potential off-site links. Providing safe and convenient walking and cycling environments will help tackle health problems associated with physical inactivity, and social exclusion factors arising from car dependency, poor access to services and public transport facilities.


Encouraging the multiple uses of buildings will further reduce the need to travel and maximise the locational advantages of existing buildings, which are often at the heart of communities.


The provision for car parking is a major influence on the choice of means of transport and the pattern of development. The Council will seek to restrict developments that generate a high level of trips (e.g. offices, shops and leisure uses) to locations well served by public transport. Moreover, provision for parking will be reduced in line with improvements in public transport accessibility. Further guidance in respect of car parking is contained in Supplementary Planning Guidance on Access, Circulation and Parking.


The Welsh Government promotes the widespread adoption of Travel Plans by businesses, schools, hospitals, tourist attractions, major residential developments and other significant travel-generating uses to help ensure efficient management of the highway network and promote alternative modes of transport. The need for a travel plan will be identified early on as part of the pre-application or scoping discussions with the Local Planning Authority. Detailed guidance in respect of scope and contents of Travel Plans is contained in Supplementary Planning Guidance on Access, Circulation and Parking.


Key national policy and guidance in relation to climate change, flooding and sustainable buildings is contained in Planning Policy Wales, TAN 15: Development and Flood Risk (2004) and TAN 22: Sustainable Buildings (2010).

Policy AW 6 – Design and Placemaking

Development Proposals will be supported where:-
1. They are of a high standard of design, which reinforces attractive qualities and local distinctiveness and improves areas of poor design and layout;
2. They are appropriate to the local context in terms of siting, appearance, scale, height, massing, elevational treatment, materials and detailing;
3. In the case of extensions to buildings, they reflect, complement or enhance the form, siting, materials, details and character of the original building, its curtilage and the wider area;
4. In the case of proposals for new and replacement shop fronts and signage, they make a positive contribution to the streetscene;
5. In the public realm and key locations such as town centres, major routes, junctions and public spaces, the character and quality of the built form is to a high standard of design;
6. They include public art;
7. Landscaping and planting are integral to the scheme and enhance the site and the wider context;
8. They include an integrated mixture of uses appropriate to the scale of the development;
9. They include the efficient use of land, especially higher-density residential development on sites in proximity to local amenities and public transport;
10. Open space is provided in accordance with the Fields in Trust Standards;
11. A high level of connectivity and accessibility to existing centres, by a wide range of modes of sustainable transport;
12. Schemes incorporate a flexibility in design to allow changes in use of buildings and spaces as requirements and circumstances change;
13. The development reflects and enhances the cultural heritage of Rhondda Cynon Taf;
14. The design protects and enhances the landscape and biodiversity;
15. The development promotes energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy; and
16. The design promotes good water management, including rainwater storage, sustainable urban drainage, porous paving etc.

Developers will be required to submit comprehensive masterplans for residential proposals of 50 dwellings and over; for commercial developments of 10,000m2 and over; and for schemes where the Council considers the issue of place making can only be fully considered through the submission of a masterplan. Masterplans must have regard to the need to create high quality, sustainable and locally distinct places.


The Council is committed to raising the standard of design on all new developments across the County Borough. The erosion of local distinctiveness is a widespread concern. Whilst very different traditional characteristics exist between the northern and southern parts of the County Borough, recent developments have often been uniform and lack any acknowledgement of these characteristics. Rhondda Cynon Taf has a strong culture and heritage and it is important that the traditional character of the County Borough is respected and enhanced through design.


‘Placemaking’ is a key element of achieving sustainable development through the creation of well-designed places, which are able to stand the test of time. These areas will have reduced dependence on cars, quality streets and spaces and the right mix of uses to help build strong communities. Rhondda Cynon Taf has an opportunity to ensure that new development achieves social, economic and environmental sustainability and to create places that are socially inclusive.


The creation of walkable neighbourhoods and the nature of the spaces between buildings will be primary considerations. However small, they should be useful, connected, safe and landscape designed. Well-designed site planning forms the foundation for good architecture. The Design and Placemaking policy will complement the positive approach to energy efficiency and conservation measures in both the location and design of new developments.


Open spaces, whether formal sports areas, informal public open spaces or natural green spaces, have been acknowledged as playing a significant role in improving and maintaining peoples physical and mental health and well-being. This is of particular importance in Rhondda Cynon Taf, given the identified health problems across the County. New or improved open spaces and more accessible natural green spaces will serve as valuable recreational assets to local communities and may encourage people from outside the community to visit the area. With regard the provision of formal play space, the Council will require new developments to meet the Fields in Trust standards.


The identified Strategic Sites are a key element of the LDP Strategy and their delivery will have significant benefits to all communities in Rhondda Cynon Taf. To ensure that best use is made of these sites and high quality sustainable development is delivered; the Council has prepared a Concept Statement for each, setting out the key elements of spatial form, required mix of uses and design principles. These Concept Statements will form the starting point for developers in the preparation of the required Masterplans for the sites. Where appropriate development should address the legacy of any former uses including in relation to ground stability.


Residential sites of 50 dwellings and over and commercial proposals of 10,000m2 and over will have the potential for considerable impact at County Borough level. The Council is keen to ensure that best use is made of these sites and a high quality development is achieved. Accordingly, a masterplan led approach to new development will be required for developments of this size.


Detailed guidance in respect of place making, site planning, design and master planning is contained in Supplementary Planning Guide (SPG) on Design and Place Making.


The impact of smaller scale development and its effect on the character and appearance of an area is equally important. Rhondda Cynon Taf registers an average of 1000 householder planning applications every year. In many parts of the area, both the impact of individual alterations to dwellings and the cumulative impact of developments within an area have had a considerable impact upon the character and appearance of communities. This impact is further compounded in parts of the area, where the distinct topography results in even small-scale householder development being highly visible over considerable distances.


The Council recognises the desire of occupants to stay within communities by adapting and upgrading their dwellings as their life style and personal needs change. However the changes must be balanced against the manner in which works to existing properties both individually and collectively, have an effect on the character of an area. It is important in the interests of good design and to safeguard the character of an area, that such extensions are well designed, in relation to the main building and the general street scene. Extensions should be subservient to the original building and where possible significant alterations and extensions should be confined to the rear and side elevations.


Detailed guidance in respect of householder applications is contained in the Design Guide for Householder Development SPG.


The success of Rhondda Cynon Taf’s commercial centres, including those within the Principal towns and Key Settlements, is crucial to the delivery of the objectives of the LDP. Shop fronts and commercial frontages are an essential element of the commercial activity of Rhondda Cynon Taf’s town and local centres and there is constant pressure to update and modify them. If the visual quality of the area’s shopping streets is to be enhanced, well-designed shop fronts built with good quality materials are essential. Design, proportion and scale of the shop front relates to both the building itself and to adjoining buildings. In sensitive locations such as Conservation Areas corporate styles may be unacceptable.


Rhondda Cynon Taf has a strong cultural heritage and the Council is keen to ensure that new developments continue to add to the cultural fabric of the area. In considering proposals for public art as part of development schemes, the Council will seek artist commissions that add cultural value to the architecture, landscape design and sense of place. Public art may be integrated with the built or natural environment of the site. Where the Council has an adopted strategy incorporating public art, it may negotiate contributions to or the provision of, off-site installation of public art in public spaces to support these wider initiatives.


Further guidance in respect of shop fronts and public art is contained in the SPG on Design and Place Making.


The Welsh language is integral to the identity, culture and history of Wales. Whilst Rhondda Cynon Taf does not have a large Welsh speaking population as found in other parts of the Country, the Council is keen to ensure that the spatial planning system protects and enhances Welsh culture and language where possible.


It is considered that there is currently no need for a specific LDP policy for the Welsh language. The aims of protecting and enhancing the culture and heritage of the area can be secured through design and placemaking and other policies in the LDP, such as the Protection and Enhancement of the Built Environment and Community Infrastructure. The Council will also require that development proposals for the 8 Strategic Sites demonstrate how the interests of Welsh culture and where appropriate language has been integrated into proposed schemes.

Policy AW 7 – Protection and Enhancement of the Built Environment

Development proposals which impact upon sites of architectural and / or historical merit and sites of archaeological importance will only be permitted where it can be demonstrated that the proposal would preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the site.

Development proposals which affect areas of public open space, allotments, public rights of way, bridleways and cycle tracks will only be permitted where it can be demonstrated that :-
1. There is a surplus of such facilities in the locality, or;
2. The loss can be replaced with an equivalent or greater provision in the immediate locality; or
3. The development enhances the existing facility.


The historic built environment and the man made features of archaeological, historic or architectural interests are integral to the quality of the County Borough’s environment. They are unique to Rhondda Cynon Taf and trace the development of the area over time. Areas of recognised architectural and / or historical merit or sites of archaeological importance include listed buildings and conservation areas and their settings, registered historic landscapes and historic parks and gardens and their settings; and archaeological remains. The Plan area has 86 scheduled ancient monuments, 366 listed buildings (at the time of the preparation of the LDP), 16 conservation areas, 1 registered historic landscape and 5 registered historic parks and gardens, all of which contribute to the rich and diverse nature of the area. Over the plan period, the Council will, where appropriate, seek to implement enhancement and management schemes to improve the character, quality and appearance of these recognised heritage features.


In addition to these formally recognised buildings and areas, there are individual buildings, groups of buildings and features, which whilst not subject to formal recognition, make an important contribution to the character and appearance of local communities. This policy will be used to ensure that these important features are protected and enhanced.


Public open space includes all land that is available for use by the public for informal and formal recreational and leisure use. Public open space provision in Rhondda Cynon Taf includes a range of urban and country parks, common land, community sport and recreation grounds and facilities and children’s play areas. It is recognised that all these spaces play a key role in Rhondda Cynon Taf, given its largely urban population, providing important facilities, which offer the opportunity to improve the health and well-being of residents. Public open space in Rhondda Cynon Taf lies both within and outside of the settlement boundaries and as such has the potential to come under significant pressure for development. This policy will protect important public open space from unacceptable development and retain it for use by the communities they serve.


The County Borough has approximately 2,000 individual paths with a total length of 743km, of which, 646km are footpaths, 82km are bridleways and 15km are by-ways open to all traffic. There are also 50 km of off-road cycle tracks. The built form of the County Borough means that most people have good access to the rights of way and bridleways network and subsequent open countryside. This ready access helps promote health and well-being in the community, by providing an opportunity for all sectors of the population to access the countryside for recreational purposes. In order to ensure that the good standard of access to the countryside is maintained, the Council will seek improvements to existing public rights of way and cycle tracks where appropriate. These improvements will include the provision of additional routes, improvements for users with disabilities, restoration and maintenance.


The provision of allotment gardens within or adjacent to urban areas is part of the traditional make up of Rhondda Cynon Taf. The Council currently owns and manages 60 allotment sites, with many more sites in private ownership. Allotment space provides many members of the community with an opportunity to take beneficial exercise, in the open air and produce a supply of healthy food. This is particularly important in deprived communities. The location of these sites, within or adjacent to settlement boundaries, means that land is inevitably under pressure for alternative uses. The Council will resist the redevelopment of these sites for alternative uses unless the requirements of the policy are met. Where it is proposed to develop land used as statutory allotments for purposes other than as allotments, the consent of the National Assembly for Wales is required under Section 8 of the Allotments Act 1925.

Policy AW 8 – Protection and Enhancement of the Natural Environment

Rhondda Cynon Taf’s distinctive natural heritage will be preserved and enhanced by protecting it from inappropriate development. Development proposals will only be permitted where:-

1. They would not cause harm to the features of a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) or Regionally Important Geological Site (RIGS) or other locally designated sites, unless it can be demonstrated that:-
a) The proposal is directly necessary for the positive management of the site; or
b) The proposal would not unacceptably impact on the features of the site for which it has been designated; or
c) The development could not reasonably be located elsewhere and the benefits of the proposed development clearly outweigh the nature conservation value of the site.
2. There would be no unacceptable impact upon features of importance to landscape or nature conservation, including ecological networks, the quality of natural resources such as air, water and soil, and the natural drainage of surface water.

All development proposals, including those in built up areas, that may affect protected and priority species will be required to demonstrate what measures are proposed for the protection and management of the species and the mitigation and compensation of potential impacts. Development proposals must be accompanied by appropriate ecological surveys and appraisals, as requested by the Council.
Development proposals that contribute to the management or development of Ecological Networks will be supported.


Rhondda Cynon Taf is an area with a rich and diverse natural environment. There are three Special Areas of Conservation at Blaen Cynon, (part), Cardiff Beechwoods (part) and Coedydd Nedd a Mellte (part) and 14 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (see Appendix 2). In a Wales context, the County Borough is of particular importance with over 20% of the area being classified as Priority Habitat and the extent and diversity of semi-natural habitat, is very high. The Welsh Government is committed to halting biodiversity loss by 2010. The policy aims to protect and enhance the diversity and abundance of these wildlife habitats and the native species that depend on them. Planning proposals that affect internationally and nationally designated sites will be assessed in accordance with National Planning Policy.


For the purpose of the policy, locally designated sites comprise of Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC), Local Nature Reserves and Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves and Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGS).


Where development is permitted, planning conditions and / or obligations will be used to protect or enhance the natural heritage. Where the benefits of development outweigh the conservation interest, mitigation will be required to offset adverse effects (including negative effects on adjacent land). To ensure that there is no reduction in the overall nature conservation value of the area or feature, compensation measures designed to conserve, enhance, manage and, where appropriate, restore locally distinctive natural habitats and species should be provided. Further information on planning obligations and nature conservation is contained in TAN 5 – Nature Conservation and Planning (2009) and the SPG on Nature Conservation.


Locally distinctive landscape features, including trees, woodland, hedgerows, river corridors, ponds, wetlands, stone walls, ffridd and species rich grassland, green lanes, peat bogs, heathland and common land are also important for biodiversity. The Welsh Government has produced a list of habitats and species of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in Wales. 24 priority habitats and a large number of priority species (>114) on this list are known to occur in Rhondda Cynon Taf. These will also be protected in line with this policy.


It is important to maintain and enhance ecological networks of natural and semi-natural habitats that have a high degree of connectivity. Small, isolated populations of species are more vulnerable to extinction than populations that can disperse and interbreed with other populations. The effects of climate change are likely to increase local extinctions among small isolated populations. The Habitat Regulations require planning policies which conserve features of the landscape that are of major importance for wild flora and fauna, including those linear features that are essential for the migration, dispersal and genetic exchange of wild species. Interpretation of this policy should have regard to relevant studies that identify important areas for ecological connectivity. At a regional level (SE Wales), there are two ecological network studies currently underway (2008). Locally, the Cynon Valley River Park strategy has identified important ecological networks as part of a broader study (see NSA 26). The presence of protected species is a material planning consideration and development proposals must be informed by appropriate survey and appraisal.


The Council has prepared Supplementary Planning Guidance on Nature Conservation which includes further information in support of the policy, detailed criteria for site designation and the procedure to be followed in considering planning applications.

Policy AW 9 – Buildings in the Countryside

In the case of the alteration, renovation or conversion of existing buildings outside the defined settlement boundaries for residential, employment, community or tourism uses, development proposals will be supported where:-
1. The existing building is structurally sound or is capable of being made so without substantial major external alteration or reconstruction;
2. In the case of residential use, it can be demonstrated that there are no viable alternative uses to secure the retention of the building and that the building is of architectural and / or historical merit.


Buildings in the countryside are important to the overall landscape character and quality of the County Borough. The Council will support the re-use of buildings where they are structurally sound and the works required to accommodate the new uses, including the effect of any access works on hedges and walls, are in scale with the building and wider landscape. Where the conversion of a building to residential use is proposed, the Council will consider carefully the architectural and / or historic merits of the building. Not all buildings make a positive contribution to the character and quality of the countryside and are not necessarily worthy of retention. All planning applications for the alteration, renovation or conversion of buildings in the countryside must be accompanied by an appropriate ecological survey.


Where significant alteration in the character of the existing building is proposed, or where the buildings are so derelict that substantial or complete rebuilding is required, this will be treated as a new development in the countryside.


The character of new works could be traditional or contemporary provided they are rural in character and compatible with the existing character of the building. When converting rural buildings the presence of bats and owls may be an issue and must be thoroughly investigated. Design revisions may be required as a result of relevant investigations. Appropriate “community uses” include village halls, religious uses and community centres. Retail uses would not be permitted under AW 9.

Policy AW 10 – Environmental Protection and Public Health

Development proposals will not be permitted where they would cause or result in a risk of unacceptable harm to health and / or local amenity because of:-
1. Air pollution;
2. Noise pollution;
3. Light pollution;
4. Contamination;
5. Landfill gas;
6. Land instability;
7. Water pollution;
8. Flooding;
9. Or any other identified risk to the environment, local amenity and public health or safety
Unless it can be demonstrated that measures can be taken to overcome any significant adverse risk to public health, the environment and / or impact upon local amenity.


Pollution may cause significant damage to human health, quality of life and residential amenity, as well as impact upon both the natural and built environment. This policy will ensure that developments that would result in unacceptably high levels of noise, light, water and / or air pollution are located away from residential areas and other sensitive uses. The policy will also ensure that new development is not located in close proximity to existing sources of pollution. Amenity is defined as the pleasant or satisfactory aspects of a location, or features which contribute to its overall character and the enjoyment of residents or visitors.


In November 2007, the Council declared eight Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA), two in the Northern and six in the Southern Strategy Area. The 8 AQMAs are shown on the constraints map and are subject to regular review. Where the Council considers a development may impact upon an existing AQMA or may exacerbate an existing problem, the submission of an assessment setting out the impacts of the development on air quality and outlining appropriate mitigation measures may be required.


The environment includes the water environment. Climate change, increases in population and changes in lifestyle have all had an impact upon the water environment and the pressures upon it. Climate change will affect the amount of rain that falls, it will impact upon river flows, replenishing of groundwater, the quality of water available and incidents of flooding, particularly localised flash flooding. The demands and pressures on water resources will also change. The approach to the protection of the water environment will need to take into account the quality and quantity of the local water resource and how both will impact upon the wider environment. Such impacts are to prevent further deterioration of aquatic ecosystems, associated habitats, fisheries, promoting the sustainable use of water and controlling water abstractions.

Policy AW 11 – Existing Employment and Retail Uses

Development proposals promoting alternative uses for existing employment sites and retail units identified within the defined retail centres, will be permitted where:-

Employment Sites and Retail Units
1. The site is not identified by policies NSA 7, NSA 14, NSA 17, SSA 7, SSA 8, SSA 9, SSA 14 and SSA 15 of this plan; (Allocating policies);
2. The retention of employment sites for employment purposes and retail sites for retail purposes has been fully explored without success by way of marketing for appropriate employment / retail purposes at reasonable market rates for a minimum of 12 months.
3. The redevelopment of derelict, unsightly, underused and vacant land / premises for alternative uses will have significant regeneration benefits;
Retail Units
4. Within the identified primary retail frontages, the proposal accords with policies NSA 19 and SSA 17 of this plan;
Employment Sites
5. In the case of employment sites:
a) A land bank of employment sites suitable to accommodate a range of employment uses across the plan area is maintained; AND
b) The proposed alternative use would not prejudice adjoining employment land; OR
c) The proposed use is for a sui generis use, which exhibits the characteristics of B1, B2, and B8 uses and which could appropriately be accommodated on an employment site; OR
d) The proposed use is a small, ancillary use which falls outside the B-Class uses but which supports the wider function of an employment site without affecting the integrity of the sites.


Whilst recognising that employment sites can be a scarce and valuable resource, it is acknowledged that some existing sites are no longer suited to the needs of the modern economy and may become redundant over the life of the plan. The policy aims to provide flexibility for the appropriate re-use of sites that are no longer required for employment purposes by providing a basis for assessing proposals for other uses on existing land in industrial / business use.


The Council will closely scrutinise the evidence put forward to demonstrate that sites are no longer required for employment purposes and will consider short and medium scale demand. In most cases a 12 month marketing period will satisfy the Council. Where the loss of an employment site is considered to have significant implications for the Council’s land bank, through for example the loss of a major employment site, a longer period of marketing of up to 2 years may be required. Such instances will be limited and developers are advised to contact the Council to discuss the likelihood of an extended marketing period, which will be required for individual sites.


In exceptional circumstances; where the Council considers the regeneration and / or amenity benefits of an alternative use significantly outweigh the retention of the site for employment or retail use, a 12 month marketing exercise may not be required.


The maintenance of a land bank of sites, particularly where growth sectors can be accommodated, is vital to the success of the County Borough’s economic development. In considering alternative uses on employment sites, the Council will ensure that an adequate range of sites – in terms of location, size and potential use – is maintained within the plan area. Small, ancillary uses which fall outside the B-Class uses, which support the wider function of employment sites and do not affect the integrity of these sites, may be permitted. Examples include cafés and crèches. Subject to the waste policies of this plan, employment sites are considered suitable to accommodate waste facilities. Sui generis uses likely to be considered acceptable on appropriate employment sites include such uses as car show rooms, builder’s merchants, haulage yards and cash and carry warehouses.


The Retail Centres and the shops located within them are vital to the communities they serve. They provide convenience shopping in accessible locations and within walking distance of large sections of the community. Without them, people would be required to travel longer distances to buy basic provisions. Those less mobile, due to age, health or lack of access to transport would be significantly disadvantaged. It is therefore vital that these retail centres are protected, their improvement encouraged and the provision of new shops in appropriate locations supported.


It is acknowledged that over the life of the plan, that some retail units within the retail centres will become redundant. Vacant units can have significant impacts on the appearance and amenity of an area and can harm wider regeneration objectives. This policy will ensure that there is flexibility to consider the appropriate re-use of these units, but only after close examination of the evidence put forward to demonstrate that these units are no longer required for retail purposes.

Policy AW 12 – Renewable & Non-Renewable Energy

Development proposals which promote the provision of renewable and non-renewable energy such as schemes for energy from biomass, hydro-electricity, anaerobic digestion, on-shore oil and gas and small / medium sized wind turbines, will be permitted where it can be demonstrated that there is no unacceptable effect upon the interests of soil conservation, agriculture, nature conservation, wildlife, natural and cultural heritage, landscape importance, public health and residential amenity.

Development proposals should be designed to minimise resource use during construction, operation and maintenance.


The provision of electricity from renewable sources, coupled with energy efficiency and conservation measures, are key elements of the UK energy policy and have the potential to make an important contribution to meeting the challenges of climate change. Proposals that encourage the harnessing of renewable energy from a range of sources including biomass, anaerobic digestion, wind farms and small hydro schemes, will be supported. In considering proposals, the need to harness energy from renewable sources will be carefully balanced with the impact on local communities, the landscape and ecological interest.


In determining proposals for the generation of hydro-electricity, the issue of flooding will be an important consideration. With regard to anaerobic digestion, in order to protect residential amenity proposals will only be permitted on industrial estates where the predominant use falls into class B2 of the Town and Country Planning Use Classes Order (1987) or on existing waste disposal sites. Small scale digestors, for example on farms utilising their own waste, may be exempt from this requirement.


In considering small / medium sized wind turbine proposals, it will be necessary to demonstrate that the scheme would not constrain the generating capacity of the refined strategic search area for large scale wind farm developments.


For the purpose of this policy, small wind turbine developments are classed as:-
• Very small low voltage DC wind generators;
• Small wind turbines (under 20 kW), and
• Small clusters (no more than 3) of larger wind turbines (up to 1.5 MW).
• Community based schemes of no more than 5 MW capacity. Proposals for community based wind farms will need to be accompanied by clear evidence of community ownership or community benefit from the scheme.


Medium wind turbines are classed as those with a generating capacity of between 5 and up to 25MW. These developments are often associated with urban / industrial brownfield sites.


In all cases of renewable energy related development, applicants may be required to enter into and implement appropriate land management agreements.


Further advice on renewable energy related development is contained in Supplementary Planning Guidance on Renewable Energy.


Opportunities for extracting Coal Bed Methane exist across Rhondda Cynon Taf. In view of their special characteristics, they will be treated on merits of individual cases and therefore not safeguarded. Unlike other minerals, surface development should not sterilise their future extraction. National Planning Policy in relation to coal bed methane extraction is set out in Minerals Planning Policy Wales.

Policy AW 13 – Large Wind Farm Development

Proposals for wind farm developments of 25MW and over or capable of accommodating 25MW or over will be permitted where it can be demonstrated that the proposal:
1. Is within the boundary of the strategic search area;
2. Is sited on a predominantly flat, extensive area of upland;
3. Is located a minimum of 500 metres away from the nearest residential property unless it can be demonstrated that locating turbines closer to residential properties will have no unacceptable impact on human health;
4. Will not because of its siting, scale or design have an unacceptable effect on the visual quality of the wider landscape;
5. Will minimise any loss of, and where possible enhance public accessibility to the countryside.
6. Will not cause unacceptable impact on, and where appropriate will enhance, sites designated for their international, national or local nature conservation value.
7. Will protect the natural beauty and special qualities of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Where development proposals are acceptable applicants will be required to enter into and implement appropriate land management agreements.


Technical Advice Note (TAN) 8: Renewable Energy (2005) identifies 7 Strategic Search Areas (SSA) in Wales, capable of accommodating large (>25MW) wind power developments. SSA F “Coed Morgannwg” is located within the administrative boundaries of Neath Port Talbot, Bridgend and Rhondda Cynon Taf. TAN 8 identifies an indicative generating capacity for this area of 290MW.


The area of SSA F within Rhondda Cynon Taf is located predominantly in the Northern Strategy Area. SSA F includes large upland areas of the Rhondda Fawr, Rhondda Fach and Cynon Valley.


In accordance with the requirements of TAN 8 the Council, in partnership with the two adjoining authorities in SSA F, undertook a strategic study intended to refine the SSA and to identify the best areas for wind farm development sufficient to meet the TAN 8 target, having regard to landscape, environmental and technical factors. The Council intends to refine the TAN 8 area at a future stage through further technical work.


Land management agreements should include details of access arrangements. They should also include details of the management of land for nature conservation, water and carbon storage.


Although much of the SSA F area is within forestry plantation, the underlying soil frequently contains areas of deep peat. These areas, which are important for nature conservation and water storage, are significant ‘carbon sinks’. The design of windfarms and their associated infrastructure will need to take this into account to ensure that overall the development contributes to reducing and not increasing carbon emissions.


The unrefined SSA F boundaries and further guidance on wind farm developments is contained in Supplementary Planning Guidance on Renewable Energy.


The Council will assess issues of noise from windfarms in accordance with "The Assessment and Rating of Noise from Wind Farms" (ETSU-R-97) report.

Policy AW 14 – Safeguarding of Minerals

The following mineral resources shall be safeguarded from any development which would unnecessarily sterilise them or hinder their extraction.
1. The resources of Sand and Gravel, as listed below and shown on the proposals map, will be safeguarded from development.
a) Llanilid, East of Felindre Road
b) Brynsadler, North of Llanharry Road
c) South of Tylegarw, Pontyclun
d) Ceulan Farm, Miskin
e) Pant Marsh, Talbot Green
f) Llantrisant and Pontyclun golf course
g) Rhiwsaeson Road, Cross Inn
h) Heol y Creigiau, Rhiwsaeson
2. The resources of Sandstone, as shown on the proposals map, will be safeguarded from development.
3. The resources of Limestone, as shown on the proposals map, will be safeguarded from development.
4. The resources of Coal, as shown on the proposals map, will be safeguarded from development. This safeguarding area will exclude internationally and nationally designated nature conservation sites and established settlements of 10 units or more (as identified in Appendix 1F).
5. The Limestone and Sandstone quarries at Forest Wood, Hendy and Craig yr Hesg, will be further safeguarded from development that would adversely affect their operations by 200 metre buffer zones as shown on the proposals maps.
The above safeguarding areas will safeguard the mineral resources up to identified settlement boundaries.


The identification of safeguarding areas for the above minerals in Rhondda Cynon Taf does not carry any presumption that planning permission would be granted for their extraction. Prior-extraction is not always feasible, but with better pre-planning, it should be more generally possible than in the past. Where it can be achieved, it can represent a truly sustainable approach to development, good application of the proximity principle and husbanding of resources.


There are also significant constraints to the extraction of the minerals from within these identified safeguarding areas. These constraints are raised in Policy CS 10 through reference to National and other LDP policy. These include firstly the proximity to residential areas and designated sites of landscape and nature conservation. These designations are identified in the LDP Proposals and Constraints Maps, with other policies within the LDP affecting their extraction. There are also areas within the safeguarding zones that have been previously worked, where the quality and extent of the remaining mineral may not require their safeguarding. Further investigation in these locations would be required.


Strategic work is currently being undertaken to identify the quality of resources of minerals throughout Wales, and in particular Rhondda Cynon Taf, where the current safeguarding zones are considerably widespread. This is in order to consolidate the resources that have the greatest importance for future safeguarding.


Permanent development and land uses that would be considered unsuitable within the safeguarding area would include residential development, hospitals and schools, or where an acceptable standard of amenity should be expected.


The Council recognises the need to consider alternative sources of sand and gravel rather than continuing to rely on marine dredged sources to support future economic development in Wales. These resources are generally located in small pockets across the southern edge of the County Borough.


Pennant sandstone covers approximately 70% of the surface area of Rhondda Cynon Taf. The deposits are generally centrally located running north to south. Previous studies to establish the quality of the deposits and refine the potential safeguarding areas to the most important deposits, have determined that their quality was in the main remarkably uniform.


Deposits of the high purity limestone in Rhondda Cynon Taf are confined to small areas close to the M4, with the slightly broader outcrop of carboniferous limestone cutting through and adjoining it to the south.


The proposals map shows the primary and secondary coal resource areas (as identified by the British Geographical Survey) as one safeguarding zone, as they both benefit from the same safeguarding considerations. The primary resource includes the thicker, closely spaced coals, with the secondary resource area having thinner, more widely spaced coals. These areas are mainly located on the edges of the South Wales Coal Field, in the southern and northern areas of Rhondda Cynon Taf.


A Minerals Background Paper has been prepared for the LDP to outline current and future minerals circumstances in Rhondda Cynon Taf. Further detail on the landbank process, safeguarding intentions and buffer zones, amongst other minerals issues, are set out in this Paper.

Policy AW 15 – Gypsy and Travellers

Proposals for the use of land for the stationing of caravans occupied by Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Show People will be permitted where it can be demonstrated that the proposed development:
1. Cannot be accommodated on the site allocated by policy SSA 26;
2. Is reasonably related to local services;
3. Where possible is located on previously developed land;
4. Includes sufficient space for parking and manoeuvring of all vehicles associated with of all vehicles associated with the occupiers within the site curtilage;
5. Is provided with adequate on-site services for water supply; power; drainage; sewage disposal; and waste disposal facilities;
6. Does not adversely affect surface or ground water resources.


The Draft Gypsy and Travellers Study (2007) indicates that much of the need for additional accommodation is located in the Southern Strategy Area. In order to meet this need Policy SSA 27 of the plan allocates land at Beddau Caravan Park for the development of an 8-pitch Gypsy and Travellers site.


The Council considers that the Beddau Caravan Park site would meet the needs identified in the Draft Gypsies and Travellers Study. However, the Council intends to keep the requirement for the provision of Gypsies and Traveller sites in Rhondda Cynon Taf under review. An assessment of the needs of this group will be looked at in more detail as part of review of the Housing Market Assessment. This criteria-based policy will allow for the provision of needs which cannot reasonably be accommodated at the Beddau Caravan Park site.


The aim of this policy is to allow the development of land for sitting of caravans for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Show People in appropriate locations. In order to safeguard the character and appearance of the area development proposals will need to demonstrate that do not adversely affect the amenity of existing residential areas, the safe operations of the highway network, the provision of car parking and visual amenities.

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