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chapter8

peak district landscape
 

Utilities


 

Strategic context

8.1

The only reference to utility services in the Structure Plan is in Policies C17 and T12 which resist new overground pipelines, overhead wires, and major energy related developments. Nevertheless, the core services provided by the private utility and telecommunications companies are essential to modern standards of living and a competitive local economy. They can also have significant landscape impact (for example, a new radio mast or a reservoir).

8.2

The National Park Authority has a statutory duty, in pursuing its main purposes, to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the National Park. Structure Plan policy GS1 states that all development within the National Park will be controlled so that its valued characteristics will be conserved and enhanced and that major development proposals including that for which a national need is identified, will be subject to the most rigorous examination. The National Park Authority's overall objectives for utility services are therefore to facilitate the provision of better services for the benefit of the residents, visitors and the economy of the National Park. However, this should be achieved without compromising the conservation or enjoyment of its natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage.

8.3

Development by utility providers must be considered against policies within the Structure Plan and other conservation policies in this Local Plan. However, operations may occasionally require development in open countryside, contrary to Structure Plan policies. Such cases need to be carefully considered, balancing the need for improved services with the primary purposes of the National Park Authority. In turn, the availability and capacity of existing utility services and the environmental impact caused by new services are important constraints on the location of other development. Provision of expensive new infrastructure for isolated users would be contrary to the principles of sustainable development as promoted in recent Government planning policy guidance.

8.4

The National Park Authority generally enjoys a good working relationship with the utility providers, and this benefits both the National Park and its communities. Many aspects of relatively minor infrastructure and service development constitute "permitted development" under the General Permitted Development Order 1995 and are beyond the control of normal Local Planning Authority operation. Nevertheless, the Environment Act 1995 requires utility providers to have regard to National Park purposes and to give weight to conservation and enhancement. Many utility providers are also obliged, for example by the Water Industry Act 1991, to take measures to protect the environment in the course of their work. The National Park Authority welcomes these obligations and looks forward to a co-operative approach to ensure the best environmental practice for utility company works.

 

Service adequacy

8.5

Most of the National Park has electricity and mains water supplies. However, coverage is not comprehensive. Mains gas supplies and mains sewerage are available in larger settlements but are less widespread in small villages and beyond village limits. Some isolated agricultural buildings have no mains service connections.

8.6

The policies in this Local Plan generally direct development to areas where service provision will not usually be a problem. Sometimes, however, existing service infrastructure may have insufficient capacity to cope with increased demand (sewage or water supply for example). If development is permitted in such a case, the services should be improved beforehand to avoid excessive demands being placed upon them. Development which would require improved services that would damage the valued characteristics of the National Park should be resisted.

8.7

The National Park Authority will consult the utility providers and the Environment Agency on planning applications where service provision is likely to be an issue. Wherever possible, planning controls are used to enable service infrastructure to be improved rather than refuse the development. However, if the required number and type of controls necessary in a given case might be thought unreasonable or likely to impose prohibitive expense, permission may be refused rather than risk adverse effects.



Policy LU1: Development that requires new or upgraded utility service infrastructure

Development requiring new or upgraded service infrastructure will be permitted provided that the new infrastructure:

(i)

does not adversely affect the valued characteristics of the area;

and

(ii)

can be provided before any new land use begins.



New and upgraded service infrastructure

8.8

Regional Policy Guidance Note 8 'Regional Planning Guidance for the East Midlands' provides an overview for the National Park. It notes that the highest priority should be given to the National Park's protection and that development plans should reflect this objective. The National Park Authority should therefore resist proposals for harmful or major service or telecommunications infrastructure where its purpose is primarily to meet demands from outside the National Park. The National Park Authority, however, recognises the strategic importance of the National Park as a water catchment area for the surrounding regions. Occasionally new water services infrastructure development to improve regional supply may be necessary, and acceptable in principle, subject to other policy considerations. New storage reservoirs will not be acceptable.

8.9

Utility infrastructure development which will benefit local communities should be permitted where its impact is acceptable or can be made so by the use of appropriate planning conditions. The National Park Authority will liaise with the utility providers wherever possible in pre-application discussions to try to minimise the possible adverse effects of proposals. Where 'permitted development' by the utility providers poses a real and specific threat to the valued characteristics of the National Park and this cannot be overcome through negotiation, the National Park Authority will consider making an Article 4 direction to bring it within control.



Policy LU2: New and upgraded utility services

(a)

Development of utilities infrastructure will not be permitted unless it is to improve or extend the service to the communities and businesses of the National Park, and can be provided without damage to the valued characteristics of the area or to other established uses. Infrastructure and ancillary works or buildings should be located, designed and landscaped so as to minimise their impact on the built and natural environment, and on any other established activities. New reservoirs will not be permitted.

(b)

Infrastructure services to new development, or improved services to existing users should be placed underground. Where there are exceptional reasons for services to be overhead, they must be routed so as to have the least environmental impact.



Development close to utility installations

8.10

Certain utility installations may be 'bad neighbour' development to other land users because of potential hazards, smell, noise or loss of amenity. High pressure gas mains and sewage treatment works or the presence of overhead power lines are examples. The potential impact of utility company infrastructure on the amenity or safety of new development will be an important consideration when assessing new planning proposals.

8.11

The Health and Safety Executive designates sites and pipelines carrying potential hazards as 'Notifiable Installations'. The National Park Authority consults the Executive about proposals within given distances of these sites. The Executive generally advises against any proposed development within these distances which might increase the risk to more vulnerable members of the community such as the old, infirm or young. Developers considering work within the consultation distance of a Notifiable Installation, are therefore advised to liaise with the Health and Safety Executive at the earliest opportunity.

8.12

Around transmission pipelines, the Executive recommend 'Building Proximity Distances', within which normal domestic occupation should be avoided. British Gas high pressure transmission pipelines within the National Park are listed below with their corresponding Building Proximity Distances (BPD) and Consultation Distances (CD). The location of these pipelines are indicated on the Proposals Map.

 

HSE REFERENCE

PIPELINE

BPD (m)

CD (m)

HC/16/103-1

Scawby/Totley

3.0

6

HC/16/104-1

Warningtongue Lane/Totley

3.0

6

HC/16/105-1

18" Totley/Catshaw

8.5

17

HC/16/105-2

30" Totley/Catshaw

3.0

6

HC/16/107-1

Totley/Collingtree

8.5

17

HC/16/117-1

Beeley Moor/Rowsley

16.4

50

HC/19/111-2

Macclesfield (Paradise Farm)/Buxton

16.77

51

HC/19/114-1

14" Catshaw/Failsworth

15.5

47

HC/19/147-1

Bunsal Cob/Horwich End

16.7

50


8.13

The water companies are concerned about incompatible land use in the vicinity of sewage treatment works. Smells and insects are unavoidable consequences of the treatment process and could result in poor standards of amenity around the installation. The water companies are therefore preparing 'cordons sanitaire' around sewage installations within which they recommend the National Park Authority to prevent development. Cordons sanitaire may vary in size as the capacity of treatment works and plant change. They are not therefore indicated on the Proposals Map. However, they will be used in the Development Control process for consultation purposes.



Policy LU3: Development close to utility installations

Development will not be permitted in the vicinity of sewage treatment works high pressure oil or gas pipelines or other notifiable installations where they would present an unacceptable loss of amenity or risk to those using the development.



Energy generation and storage

8.14

Structure Plan Policy C17 prohibits any major development within the National Park, including energy generation and storage schemes, other than in exceptional circumstances. Small scale energy schemes to meet local needs are allowed for, subject to the impact on the valued characteristics of the area being acceptable.

8.15

Government advises planning authorities to have regard to the role that renewable energy schemes can play in meeting energy demand. Renewable energy is generated by harnessing natural resources such as the wind, water, sun or crops, or from utilising waste as fuel. These resources can normally only be harnessed where they occur. They can help cut greenhouse gas emissions, meet internationally agreed targets on pollution reduction, and secure a diversity in sources of energy. Government has created a favourable financial market for renewable energy which has encouraged growth of the industry.

8.16

However, within designated landscapes such as the National Park, authorities must also have regard to the features which first justified that designation. Accordingly, the National Park Authority fully supports the principles of sustainable development but gives priority to its statutory purpose to conserve and enhance the National Park. Structure Plan Policy C17 therefore allows only for small scale power schemes that are consistent with local needs and where they can be accommodated without damage to the appearance of the area. Windfarms or large individual wind turbines are not acceptable.

8.17

A recent Department of Trade and Industry and European Community sponsored study by the Energy Technology Support Unit ('East Midlands Renewable Energy Planning Study - Peak District National Park Report 1995') has shown that given National Park constraints, the potential total output of energy from renewable resources in the National Park (taking into account existing strategic land use policy) is very small in the regional context. It is reasonable therefore that the desire in principle to develop renewable energy should not override or compromise National Park conservation and enhancement objectives. The National Park should not be seen simply as a potential regional or national renewable energy resource. Insulation of buildings and other measures to reduce consumption may often be more appropriate in the National Park context, achieving reductions in fossil fuel consumption and pollution without landscape harm.

8.18

Renewable energy schemes need, therefore, to be acceptable in the landscape, and of a scale and output consistent with local demand for power. Size, design, siting, noise generation, impact on wildlife and associated landscaping will all be relevant. Windfarms and large individual aerogenerators would clearly be of a scale that would be damaging to the National Park's valued characteristics. Whilst it is not possible to define at what point an individual aerogenerator becomes 'large', freestanding structures of more than a few metres in height or in the open countryside could have a significant and harmful visual impact and are likely to be unacceptable.

8.19

Some small scale, normally supplementary, power generation, may constitute 'permitted development' (for example, a small individual wind turbine sited on a domestic property or farm building). The National Park Authority will liaise with the developer wherever possible to encourage the siting of the equipment so as to minimise its impact on the immediate locality.



Policy LU4: Renewable energy generation

(a)

The development of a renewable energy source will be permitted provided that the development and all ancillary works including transmission lines can be accommodated without harm to the valued characteristics or other established uses of the area;

(b)

Transmission lines should always be placed underground.

(c)

Windfarms will not be permitted.



Telecommunications

8.20

The telecommunications industry (especially satellite television and mobile telephones) is large and rapidly expanding. Cable television networks and the Information Superhighway are likely to grow over the next decade. This creates pressure for relay and booster stations, masts and satellite dishes and the laying of cable networks. Often, technical requirements mean that there is little flexibility in suitable locations for such infrastructure development The nature of the National Park's landscape makes the assimilation of masts and associated equipment very difficult without visual damage.

8.21

Government policy is to facilitate the continued national growth of the industry and states that local planning authorities should not question the need for the service a proposed development is to provide. However, Planning Policy Guidance Note 8 also states that the Government is committed to environmental protection, in particular in designated areas such as National Parks. Particular care is therefore needed if these two national priorities are to be achieved.

8.22

Modern telecommunications networks are useful in reducing the need to travel, by allowing for home working and 'telecottage' type development. They can be a vital aid to business and to emergency services and the management of traffic. Mobile telephones are rapidly becoming an everyday convenience. However, as with other utility company development, the National Park Authority should carefully avoid harmful impacts that this type of development can give rise to. Telecommunications development proposed within the National Park to meet an external national or regional need rather than to improve services within it may well be of a scale which would cause significant and damaging visual harm. The impact of all telecommunications infrastructure including that needed to improve services within the National Park itself should always be minimised (See Policies LU1 and LU2).

8.23

Where a mast or similarly obtrusive structure is proposed and likely to be accepted, the National Park Authority will seek to achieve the least environmentally damaging but operationally acceptable location. It will request that the full range of technical information is supplied by the company regarding the siting, size and design of the equipment proposed to facilitate evaluation of the least obtrusive but technically feasible development. New equipment should always be mounted on an existing structure if technically possible and development should be located at the least obtrusive site. Particular care is needed to avoid damaging the sense of remoteness of the higher hills, moorlands, edges or other prominent and skyline sites. Upland or elevated agricultural buildings, which are not uncommon in the National Park, may provide a suitable alternative to new structures in the landscape. If necessary, the National Park Authority will seek expert advice to help assess and minimise the impact of the design and sitting of telecommunications infrastructure.

8.24

The mobile telephone companies may often be able to locate antennae (or any other transmitting or receiving equipment) on an existing building rather than erect a purpose built mast. The National Park Authority would support such an approach where the antennae can be mounted with minimum visual and architectural impact. Mounting antennae on a listed building will usually be inappropriate (see Policy LC6). Agricultural buildings in remoter areas may provide a suitable alternative to a new mast.

8.25

Some businesses and public services are developing their own telecommunication networks either for operating and monitoring equipment or to improve their communications. It is considered that such systems are desirable to the industry rather than essential and therefore major infrastructure proposals such as masts or buildings should not be allowed to detract from the valued characteristics of the National Park. Shared use of existing infrastructure, or the use of the public networks should be used instead. Exceptions may occur if there are strong public safety implications. Proposals for satellite dishes on dwellings will be assessed against Policy LH4.



Policy LU5: Telecommunications infrastructure

(a)

Telecommunications infrastructure will be permitted provided that:

(i)

the landscape, built heritage or other valued characteristics of the National Park are not harmed;

and

(ii)

it is not feasible to locate the development outside the National Park where it would have less impact;

and

(iii)

the least obtrusive or damaging, technically practicable location, size, design and colouring of the structure and any ancillary equipment, together with appropriate landscaping, can be secured.

(b)

Wherever possible, and where a reduction in the overall impact on the National Park can be achieved, telecommunications equipment should be mounted on existing masts, buildings and structures. Telecommunications equipment that extends above the roofline of a building on which it is mounted will only be allowed where it is the least damaging alternative.

(c)

Substantial new development such as a mast or building for the remote operation and monitoring of equipment or plant not part of the code-system operators network will not be permitted.



Site restoration

8.26

Utility infrastructure often needs to be located in countryside locations where permission for general development would be refused. Similarly, the alteration of a building's character and appearance may be acceptable whilst the equipment is in use, but not otherwise. It is important that if it becomes operationally redundant for a reasonable period of time, the site or building should be returned to its original (or previously agreed) condition. (A similar approach is usually taken with modern agricultural buildings when their agricultural use is no longer required).



Policy LU6: Restoration of utility infrastructure sites

(a)

Where the erection or installation of a building, structure or equipment for utility service provision is acceptable, it will be permitted provided that its removal is guaranteed when it is no longer used to meet an appropriate operational need. Restoration of the site to its original (or previously agreed alternative) condition will be required to be commenced and completed within an agreed period following the end of the operational use for which the development was permitted.

(b)

Provided that its long-term requirement is established, water supply infrastructure that may only come into use in times of drought or high rainfall, will not be subject to this policy.


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