Homes England Planning Application: Topic to consider – Sustainability

One of the key “buzzwords” these days is “Sustainability”, but what does that mean in relation to the proposed development? Section 2 of the National Planning Policy Framework 2019 is very clear; it defines sustainable development as fulfilling objectives that include:

ensuring that sufficient land of the right types is available in the right places and at the right time to support growth, innovation and improved productivity” and “making effective use of land, helping to improve biodiversity, using natural resources prudently, minimising waste and pollution, and mitigating and adapting to climate change, including moving to a low carbon economy”.

In January 2018, the Government produced ‘A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment’. This includes:

  • Using and managing land sustainably;
  • Recovering nature and enhancing the beauty of landscapes; and
  • Protecting and improving the global environment.

The proposed development is a long way from achieving these objectives, and the requirement for the right land of the right type in the right place is key.

Is this the right land of the right type? Perhaps if there was not an active airfield and explosives testing facility there. Is it in the right place? A development in Woodstock was recently rejected by a Planning Inspector because, despite existing bus services and the A44, it is too far away from Oxford to make travelling into the city by means other than the private car sufficiently attractive. Walking would be out of the question, and cycling would only be a reasonable proposition for those who are particularly keen. Woodstock is 9.3 miles from Oxford City Centre; Chalgrove is over 12 miles.

At the Examination in Public, SODC admitted that this site is not designed for Oxford’s unmet housing need (which it used to be!), but for the “District in general”. Why then are the sustainable transport options primarily to Oxford and back? Where are the cycle routes? The only ones referenced are proposed recreational cycle routes that do not actually exist.

As far as biodiversity is concerned, the predicted biodiversity loss from the Biodiversity Impact Calculations Report prepared for SODC is between 51% and 91%. Homes England claim a 10% biodiversity increase, but they have not completed any of the recommended surveys for the area they intend to develop, so who do you believe? SODCs own policy ENV3 states clearly that as a minimum there should be no net loss of biodiversity, but they do have an option to simply let the loss happen, and take money in compensation – this compensation could range from £1.7m to £15.7m, but the biodiversity loss would be permanent in Chalgrove.

Minimising pollution is also a requirement, but as this will be primarily a car-based settlement, air and light pollution will be significantly increased, and the proposals for wastewater are inadequate.

Finally, climate change and low carbon – a car-based settlement will address neither of these things, and 3000 houses in the middle of the district with the B480 running straight through the middle is a recipe for congestion and huge increases in carbon emissions from the traffic stuck there. The houses will be designed and built to meet the design standards in force at the time; 25% reduction currently, 50% reduction from 2026, and 100% from 2030. Therefore, anything built before 2030 will add to carbon emissions as part of their running costs and the targets are only for the emissions from living in the houses.  Every single house creates 50 tonnes of Carbon during the build process: 3000 houses = 150,000 tonnes of CO2, and that does not include all the other buildings that are planned.