Dark skies

By Emma Marrington 28th May 2020

Hundreds of you took the time to look to the skies in February 2020 and count the visible stars within Orion. We analysed the findings – and here’s what we’ve discovered…

We believe that a velvety dark sky littered with twinkling stars is one of the most magical sights that our countryside can offer. We campaign to keep those skies as dark as possible – and our annual Star Count helps us to track how much light is bleeding out from developments and limiting what stars we can see. So did 2020 bring darker skies with more stars to see – or has light pollution worsened since last year?

What we found: good news and bad

A brilliant 2,400 of you took part, raising your eyes to the skies and counting how many stars you could see within the constellation of Orion. And now, the results of this year’s citizen science survey are in (explore the full map of results here).

The findings show that 61% of people are in areas with severe light pollution – meaning that they could count fewer than ten stars. The bad news is that this is a rise in the number of people experiencing severe light pollution since our 2019 count, when 57% of people taking part fell into that category.

At the other end of the spectrum, though, we also saw a rise in the number of people reporting to us that they could count more than 30 stars within Orion – 3% of people told us this, up 1% from last year.

Heavenly awe

We’re pleased with that small increase in the number of people who fall into the category of having ’truly dark skies’, but we’d like even more of us to have this experience. Marvelling at a starry sky can be so moving, as our chief executive, Crispin Truman, said: ‘Gazing up at the heavens can inspire and help lift our spirits, especially when many of us are forced to do so from within our homes at the moment.’

And Bob Mizon from the British Astronomical Association’s Commission for Dark Skies (CfDS), with whom we partnered for Star Count, agreed. ‘It’s wonderful to hear about families having fun doing the Star Count. Children should be able to see the Milky Way, their own galaxy, by looking up at the sky as well as by seeing pictures on their screens!’.’Gazing up at the heavens can inspire and help lift our spirits…’Crispin Truman

Many of our citizen scientists also completed a survey for us and answered the question: ‘do you think every child should be able to experience the wonder of a star-filled night sky?’ – and the answers suggest that we want everyone to enjoy dark skies. A huge 96% of people told us that they agreed with this. So what next?

Action for councils

We believe that councils have powers that can help give people a better view of the night sky, and our participants agreed, with 82% saying they’d like their local council to do more around light pollution. Crispin said:

‘We’d like to see councils adopting better policies in local plans to tackle light pollution and protect and enhance our darkest skies, where people can still experience the wonder of a star-filled night sky. There are straightforward steps councils can take, in consultation with local people, that don’t just reduce light pollution but save energy and money too.’

Why not explore the map showing the results and see what the light pollution levels are like in your area? And if you like looking to the skies, then we have more ideas for places to find dark nights and stargazing tips on our website here.

By Emma Marrington15th January 2019

CPRE has been a leading national voice in championing dark skies for many years. Here’s why we believe it matters so much.

Artificial light doesn’t respect boundaries. It can spread for miles, bleeding out from built-up areas and into the skies over our countryside. This is why we care about this issue; inky, star-strewn skies are one of the things that make our countryside so special, and we’re working to make sure that we can all experience truly dark night skies.

On carbon and conservation

CPRE makes sure that everything we do is informed by the climate emergency, which gives us another reason to take a look at the light emitted by our roads and buildings. The most recent figures suggested that lighting could account for as much as 30% of some councils’ carbon emissions. The more this can be reduced, the better for the environment. Happily, we have a great track record in our work campaigning for dark skies. Since the 1990s we’ve campaigned for policies to reduce light pollution, partnering with others such as the British Astronomical Association, and in 2012 a national planning policy to control lighting was introduced as a result. It confirmed all the reasons we know dark skies are important, including limiting impacts on ‘intrinsically dark landscapes and nature conservation’. This point about nature is, we think, an essential one. For example, research has suggested that moths, which play an important role in pollinating flowers during their nocturnal activity and have declined in abundance by 40%, might have been disrupted by light pollution – but that this can be alleviated by the use of lower energy lighting or part-time night lighting.

Gathering data

We’re making sure we gather lots of facts and figures so that we can keep making a case for the value of starlit skies. We’ve surveyed 83 councils across England to learn more about their approaches to ensuring dark skies and gave recommendations about how they can do even more.

We’ve also made maps showing areas where the darkest and brightest skies are – why not explore them now on our Night Blight website? We’ve made these freely available and searchable so you can check out your local area and explore the places where you’ll have the best chance of star spotting. And each year we run a Star Count – our citizen science project to see how many stars people can see in the Orion constellation. The 2019 results showed that just 2% of our stargazers reported seeing what’s classed as ‘truly dark skies’ – a drop by half in the number seeing as many stars five years before.

Twinkle twinkle – forever

CPRE believes that the remarkable tranquillity that comes with clear, velvety skies speckled with stars is something really special, and we want to make sure that everyone can experience this. Lighting is of course needed, and we’re advocating for it to be thoughtfully used in the right places and when it’s called for. Our research helps to guide these decisions, and we’re proud of that. We’ll keep moving our vision of deep, dark skies forward, to give us all the best chance of having our breath taken away by a view of the Milky Way, Mars or Orion. And in the meantime? You can find us with our eyes to the heavens.

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How many homes?

Research published by the CPRE

This independent paper provides a summary of the number of new homes needed to meet current and future housing need for England.

HERE IS THE FULL REPORT

The Government currently has a policy objective to increase housing delivery in England to 300,000 homes annually on average by the mid -2020s. This follows from the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs report “Building more homes” (July 2016) which took evidence from a range of interested parties, and concluded that the Government’s target of one million new homes by 2020 is not based on a robust analysis. To address the housing crisis at least 300,000 new homes are needed annually for the foreseeable future.

Despite concluding that the Government’s previous target of one million new homes by 2020 not being based on a robust analysis, the Select Committee report did not itself set out an evidence base for the target of “300,000 new homes”, noting that “witnesses variously estimated that between 200,000 and 300,000 homes are required today”.

The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts report “Planning and the  broken housing market” (June 2019) recognised that “meeting the target of 300,000 new homes a year will need a significant step-up in the level of house building” and that the Government “simply does not have the mechanisms in place to achieve the 300,000 targets … compounded by lack of detailed rationale as to why the target was chosen in the first place”.

The Public Accounts Committee report continued: “to make this even more concerning, the target does not align with the Department’s new method for calculating the need for new homes which shows that just 265,000 new homes a year are needed”. Furthermore, following updates to the official household projections for England, the Government has recognised that “lower projections of household growth result in the national minimum annual housing need calculated using the standard method falling significantly; from approximately 269,000 homes prior to the publication of the updated household projections, to approximately 213,000 based on the updated data.

SUMMARY OF KEY POINTS

  • The Government has committed to a target of delivering 300,000 new homes a  year in England
  • There is a lock of detailed rationale as to why the target was chosen
  • Witnesses to the Economic Affairs Select Committee variously estimated that between 200,000 and 265,000 homes were required, based on information available in 2016
  • The target does not align with the Government’s new method for calculating housing need – this gives o figure of 265,000 new homes per annum
  • Updated household projections from ONS identify lower levels of household growth, which would reduce housing need to around 213,000 new homes a year using the Government’s calculation
  • Meeting this target will need a significant step-up in the level of house building

HERE IS THE FULL REPORT

Opinion Research Services (ORS) is a social research consultancy that has built up extensive experience of assessing housing need over many years. Our approach is evidence-based, and our assessments have routinely provided a sound basis for Planning policy.

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This Web site is for those who love the South Hams “The jewel in the crown of Devon” and who wish to protect and enhance the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Action today!

YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE TODAY. Sign the CPRE petition now – Don’t let the government deregulate the planning system and silence the South Hams community. HAVE YOUR SAY – BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE

SIGN THE PETITION HERE

CPRE the countryside charity

Don’t let the government deregulate planning

17,907 people have taken action so far. Help us reach 25,000.

The government has devised some new plans that could pose a huge risk to the countryside and the communities living and working within it. 

Ministers want to take decision-making powers away from communities and local councils, handing it over to housing developers and central powers in Westminster.   

Under these new proposals, our ability to shape the future of where we live – a right communities have had for 70 years – could be lost with the stroke of a pen.  

We must resist this, but we don’t have long.  

SIGN THE PETITION HERE

We have to stand firmly against these proposals before they are taken any further. Sign our petition to call on government to drop them and invest in a planning system that: 

  • Puts people and communities first 
  • Provides access to countryside for all 
  • Delivers affordable homes for those in need 
  • Enables the building of zero-carbon homes as soon as possible 
  • Empowers councils and gives local people a voice 

We need to shift the scales in favour of communities, not developers, and if enough of us stand together, we can make a real difference. With just a few clicks, you can be part of that. 

To the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick

Drop the government’s plans to deregulate planning – give communities the power to shape their future.  

SIGN THE PETITION HERE

Thank you.

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This Web site is for those who love the South Hams “The jewel in the crown of Devon” and who wish to protect and enhance the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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Changes to the current planning system

Frogmore

Consultation on changes to planning policy and regulations

Introduction

1. Since 2010 the Government has introduced planning reforms to improve the current system. In 2010 only 17% of local authorities had local plans in place and now 91% of local authorities have plans. Over 2,700 groups have started the neighbourhood planning process since 2012.

Over 1.5 million new homes have been delivered since 2010, including over 241,000 last year alone–that’s the highest level for over 30 years. And planning permissions for new homes have more than doubled since 2010. But this isn’t enough – they want to deliver the housing people need because happier, more rooted communities bring our country together.

2. Planning for the Future sets out plans to undertake a fundamental reform of the planning system and explains that this would be accompanied by shorter-term measures. This consultation sets out proposals for measures to improve the effectiveness of the current system. The four main proposals are:

•changes to the standard method for assessing local housing need, which as well as being a proposal to change guidance in the short term has relevance to proposals for land supply reforms set out in Planning for the Future;

•securing of First Homes, sold at a discount to market price for first time buyers, including key workers, through developer contributions in the short term until the transition to a new system;

•temporarily lifting the small sites threshold below which developers do not need to contribute to affordable housing, to up to 40 or 50 units to support SME builders as the economy recovers from the impact of Covid-19;

•extending the current Permission in Principle to major development so landowners and developers now have a fast route to secure the principle of development for housing on sites without having to work up detailed plans first.

See Planning for the Future:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/planning-for-the-future

The standard method for assessing housing numbers in strategic plans

3. This consultation is seeking views on changes to planning practice guidance on the standard method for assessing local housing need (“the standard method”). The standard method provides the starting point for planning for housing and does not establish the housing requirement.

4. The standard method was first implemented in 2018 through the revised National Planning Policy Framework2to make assessing the minimum number of homes needed in an area easier, cheaper and more transparent. In February 2019, following the technical consultation on updates to national planning policy and guidance, a short-term change was made to the standard method. At the same time, a commitment was made to review the formula to balance the need for clarity, simplicity and transparency for local communities with the Government’s aspirations for the housing market.

5. This part of the consultation is about the standard method for assessing local housing need. There are wider policy proposals for introducing a standard method for setting binding housing requirements, set out in the separate consultation Planning for the Future. It is the Government’s intention that the method set out in this document would form part of the process for setting any binding housing requirement. However, this consultation does not set out how this binding requirement would be calculated, which will be determined following the Planning for the Future consultation. Instead, it proposes a revised standard method for calculating local housing need which will be used as the basis for plans created prior to any changes outlined in Planning for the Future being introduced.

Boosting Supply

6.This consultation should be read in the context of the wider government reforms Planning for the Future in relation to the planning system and in particular the reforms to ensure sufficient land is released for homes. As this sets out, the Government’s aspirations is to create a housing market that is capable of delivering 300,000 homes annually and one million homes over this Parliament. Adopted local plans, where they are in place, provide for 187,000 homes per year across England –not just significantly below their ambition for 300,000 new homes annually, but also lower than the number of homes delivered last year 241,000).

For the full consultation paper click here

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This Web site is for those who love the South Hams “The jewel in the crown of Devon” and who wish to protect and enhance the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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SD AONB Partnership

South Devon AONB Partnership Committee Meeting

Date: Friday 18th September 2020
Location: Remote video meeting via Microsoft Teams
Time: 10am – 11:30am
Draft Agenda

  1. Introductions & apologies for absence
  2. Declarations of Interests
  3. Minutes of the last Partnership Committee meeting (13th March 2020) for approval & any matters arising
  4. AONB Management
    a) COVID-19 related matters and AONB management
    b) Climate and Biodiversity Emergency – the emerging Interim Devon Carbon Plan and matters for consideration *
  5. AONB Partnership matters
    a) Round-table partner updates
  6. National matters
    a) England planning system reform: Changes to the current planning system (consultation ends 1st October 2020); Planning for the Future White Paper (consultation ends 29th October 2020); and changes to Permitted Development rights *
  7. AONB Partnership matters (continued)
    a) AONB Partnership Public Open Forum – review of timing and format
    b) Glover Review – diversity and AONB governance
  8. For Information
    a) Current and recent key planning applications
    b) Planning update covering the last six months
    c) AONB Staff Unit Activity Report these matters are intended to form the primary agenda items
    Please note: As this is a video conference based meeting, the usual Partnership Committee meeting format has been modified slightly to facilitate more discussion and to be shorter in duration.

GLOVER REVIEW PROPOSALS AND THE SOUTH DEVON AONB – Meeting June 2019 

Because of the importance of the Glover Review we make no apology for posting an extract from the June AONB Partnership Meeting Minutes – published this month.   

https://www.southdevonaonb.org.uk/about-the-aonb/looking-after-the-aonb/south-devon-aonb-partnership/partnership-committee-members

The AONB Manager briefed Members of the Partnership on the Landscapes Review final report. The meeting Papers contained the full list of the proposals as a matrix that included the AONB Manager’s assessment of whether the proposal: 

• is already being delivered or planned to be delivered 

• could be actioned without significant extra resources 

• significant funding or capacity would be required 

• requires legislation 

The AONB Manager has added the current relative priority for South Devon AONB (High/Medium/Low) to the matrix. 

Key points: 

4a.1 The list of proposals has not been costed however some may be achievable with a Partnership decision for a change of direction. Other proposals will rely on finance and legislative changes. 

4a.2 Defra are preparing information in support of the Government response to the Landscapes Review. An announcement is anticipated to be made early 2020. 

4a.3 Members are encouraged to consider the South Devon AONB Partnership response. In particular to look at the list of proposals list, identifying those that could be prioritised to be taken forward straight away. The delivery plan for next financial year is currently being developed and there is some flexibility to incorporate Partnership priorities where additional funding and resource are not required. 

ACTION 1 (ALL): The AONB Manager requests that Members send comments on the proposals to him. Feedback will be collated and used to commence preparing a Partnership Committee response. 

4a.4 The AONB Manager invited Members to look at the areas of work where action could be taken now. 

ACTION 2 (ALL): The AONB Chair invited Members to inform the AONB Manager of any projects that 

support any of the Glover Review Proposals. 

4a.5 The Vice-chair informed Members that Plymouth University provided some evidence to the Glover Review in terms of indicators. They now have some funding to work locally with Natural England and Defra on identifying some of those indicators and their use to measure issues and improvements. Will work with National Parks and AONBs to understand the issues and will be working closely with South 

Devon AONB unit. 

4a.6 The representative for tourism highlighted the key role public transport has in sustainable tourism as well as the importance of having information available to educate visitors and influence behaviour. The 

Tourism representative also raised the possibility of obtaining contributions from tourism businesses in the South Devon AONB. The key will be to request donations in support of defined projects to conserve and improve the area, rather than contributions to the AONB generally. 

It was then: 

RESOLVED: 

i. The AONB Manager invited Members to contact him, or another member of the staff unit, to 

aid their understanding of the Proposals how these may relate to their own area of interest; as 

well as to explore opportunities such as those outlined by the Tourism representative. 

ii. The AONB Response to the Glover Review Proposals will be on the agenda for the next 

Partnership Committee meeting to be held on Friday 13 March 2020. 

THE FULL MINUTES ARE AVAILABLE HERE 

Sign of the times – The ‘rules’ of engagement in a remote video meeting via Microsoft Teams

Partnership Committee members are encouraged to join the meeting promptly. It is suggested to join at least ten minutes before the scheduled start time to resolve any issues with joining and to avoid disrupting the meeting.

The Chair will remind all participants of the importance of

–              Muting microphones when not speaking – it stops everyone hearing what is happening in the background which with larger groups will be problematic.

–              Remaining focussed on the topic being considered

–              Not repeating points that have already been made

–              Keeping points short

–              Avoiding interruption / cutting across

–              Waiting until the Chair calls on you to speak

–              Being clear on proposals being put forward

The Chair will also inform Members:

–              To remember that notetaking is more problematic as it is harder than normal to identify who is speaking / what is being said, so please speak clearly and at a reasonable pace.

–              That the notetaker may need to interrupt to get clarity on what is being said for the record.

Procedure

  • At the start of the meeting, the Chair will carry out a roll call of Partnership Committee members. Unmute microphone (and switch video on if necessary) before confirming you are present.
  • Any Committee member returning after a disconnection is asked not to interrupt to announce their return.
  • For each item the Chair will invite the relevant lead to introduce the matter / report.
  • The Chair will invite any questions and/or debate at the appropriate time.
    • If you wish to speak please indicate this by clicking on the “raise your hand icon” at any time.
    • If you wish to participate by typing a comment, please use the “chat” facility at any time.
    • The meeting notetaker will lower the “raised hand icon” once the Chair has invited you to speak.
    • If your point has been covered and you no longer need to speak, please lower your “raised hand icon”.
    • If your point has been covered and your comment no longer needs to be addressed, please indicate this via the “chat” facility.
    • If your question or comment is referencing a report or item contained in the meeting papers, mention the page number and item reference so all Committee members have a clear understanding of what is being discussed.

Documents

  • The agenda and meeting papers will continue to be published on the South Devon AONB website and will also be circulated by email to Partnership committee members. Printed copies will not be routinely circulated. As the AONB staff unit are working from home, Partnership Committee members requiring printed papers are asked to provide at least one weeks notice in advance of the meeting.
  • The South Devon AONB website will show the meeting is being held via remote video conference.

Dealing with technical difficulties

  • In the event the quality of the meeting deteriorates, the Chair may request all participants switch video off in addition to muting when not speaking.
  • In the event the Chair, the AONB Manager or notetaker identifies a failure of the remote meeting, the Chair will declare an adjournment while the fault is addressed.
  • If it is not possible to address the fault and the meeting becomes inquorate, the meeting will be abandoned until such time as it can be reconvened.
  • If the meeting is quorate, the Chair will decide if this meeting should continue, depending on the difficulties being experienced, or whether it should be adjourned until a later time or date.
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Algorithm at the centre of planning reforms!

Steven Swinford, Deputy Political Editor

Thursday August 27 2020, 12.01am, The Times

Ministers are reviewing an algorithm at the centre of planning reforms after a backlash from Tory MPs.

Under the changes to planning laws, local discretion over the rate of housebuilding will be removed and central government will “distribute” an annual target, at present 337,000 a year, between local councils that will be required to designate enough land to meet the target.

Analysis by Lichfields, a planning consultancy, has suggested that outside London much of the new housing will be concentrated in Conservative local authority areas in the suburbs and the shires, rather than in town centres.

The Spectator reported that the algorithm, which is under consultation, was likely to be changed. “At the top of the housing ministry there is an acceptance that a more refined formula is needed,” it said.

However, the government is retaining its central objective of building more homes in areas with the worst affordability. “It is delusional to think that the housing problem can be solved by developments in ‘Labour cities’ while leaving ‘Tory shires’ untouched,” the magazine said.

This means that there will be a significant rise in the number of homes in relatively affluent, predominantly Tory-controlled areas such as the shires.

The reforms have been met with opposition on all sides of the party. In London, Tory MPs are concerned that they will have to accept a huge increase in new homes in their constituencies, leading to concerns about quality.

Elsewhere Tory MPs argue that more homes need to be built in city and town centres, on brownfield sites rather than on greenfield sites.

This week Neil O’Brien, the Tory MP for Harborough, Leicestershire, raised concerns that under the government’s plans fewer houses would be built in many city centres, putting more pressure on suburbs and the countryside.

“Lots of our large cities have brownfield land and capacity to take more housing and it seems strange when planning to ‘level up’ to be levelling down their housing targets to rates even lower than they have been delivering,” he told The Times.

“It would be quite difficult to explain to Conservative voters why they should take more housing in their areas to allow large Labour-run cities nearby to continue to stagnate rather than regenerate.”

According to Lichfields, new housing will be built predominantly in London and the southeast. The number built in London would nearly treble, to 93,532, and in the southeast would increase by 57 per cent to 61,000.

The increase in the East of England would be 52 per cent, the East Midlands 33 per cent, the West Midlands 25 per cent and the South West 41 per cent. The North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber would all have lower overall numbers of homes built than the present three-year average.

There are significant disparities within regions under the model. In Leicester new homes would fall by 32 per cent, compared with a rise of 70 per cent across the rest of Leicestershire. In Nottingham housebuilding would fall by 30 per cent, but for the rest of Nottinghamshire it would rise by 73 per cent. In Liverpool new homes would fall by 59 per cent.

Mr Johnson has promised to rejuvenate the economy with a “build, build, build” strategy. Councils are to be given up to three and half years to designate areas for growth, renewal or protection. Once agreed, however, local politicians will have little or no say over specific applications that fit the rules.

Ministers have insisted that local residents will be consulted about how land is designated. They are braced, however, for opposition from councils, especially Tory-controlled local authorities. Requirements for developers to provide affordable housing are to be relaxed.

Mr Johnson and his senior adviser Dominic Cummings have long railed against the planning system, which they argue puts Britain at a disadvantage against international competitors.

A spokesman for the ministry of housing said: “The Planning for the Future White Paper sets out longer term reforms which will bring forward a simpler, more transparent planning system with a much greater emphasis on good quality design and environmental standards.

“In addition, the consultation on changes to the current planning system sets out the elements we want to balance when determining local housing need, including meeting our target of delivering 300,000 homes, tackling affordability challenges in the places people most want to live and renewing and levelling up our towns and cities.”

Steven Swinford, Deputy Political Editor

Thursday August 27 2020, 12.01am, The Times

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Ilton – a Fair Copse

Ilton Copse

There was almost unanimous community opposition to the proposal to build a barn at the head of the iconic and unspoiled Blanksmill Creek, in the heart of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). We are delighted that the contentious Application has been withdrawn.

But there is a sting in the ‘tail’. The Applicant is now seeking planning permission for ‘general purpose agricultural building’ a short distance away from the creek, but again, in a highly visible location next to Ilton Copse (potentially Ancient Woodland), much of which was recently felled by the Applicant. The SHDC Planning Officer Amanda Burden is currently considering the application, which can be see on the Council’s Planning File here

A Highly Protected area

Surprisingly, it seemed the Applicant was not fully aware that development is either prohibited or very highly restricted in the nationally protected landscape areas surrounding the proposed site.

Kate Tobin, Local Partnership Advisor at the Forestry Commission, South West Area Team has written to Bryony Hanlon, detailing the views of the Commission. Kate has also outlined the legislation and Government Guidance that protects our woodlands.

For all those wishing to help look after the landscape in the South Hams (and especially the South Devon AONB), the letter is both informative and a very helpful reference summary of Government policy on ancient woodland and of the Importance and Designation of Ancient and Native Woodland.

southwest.fce@forestry.commission.gov.uk

31 July 202Dear Ms Hanlon,

Planning Application for Agricultural Building, Land at SX 726 406 (near Ilton Copse)

Thank you for seeking the Forestry Commission’s advice about the impacts that this application may have on adjacent woodland. Although the adjacent woodland is not currently designated as ancient woodland, it seems possible that it may be, given its shape and its presence on historic maps. Therefore, we are giving our comments in the context of standing advice on ancient woodland published jointly by the Forestry Commission and Natural England.

As a non-statutory consultee, the Forestry Commission is pleased to provide you with the attached information that may be helpful when you consider the application:

• Details of Government Policy relating to ancient woodland

• Information on the importance and designation of ancient woodland

Ancient woodlands are irreplaceable. They have great value because they have a long history of woodland cover, with many features remaining undisturbed. This applies equally to Ancient Semi Natural Woodland (ASNW) and Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS).

It is Government policy to refuse development that will result in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats including ancient woodland, unless “there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists” (National Planning Policy Framework paragraph 175).

We also particularly refer you to further technical information set out in Natural England and Forestry Commission’s Standing Advice on Ancient Woodland – plus supporting Assessment Guide and Case Decisions.

As a Non-Ministerial Government Department, we provide no opinion supporting or objecting to an application. Rather we comment on the potential impact that the proposed development would have on the woodland.

The following comments are based upon information available to us

through a site visit undertaken by a staff member, a desk study of the case, including the Ancient Woodland Inventory (maintained by Natural England), which can be viewed on the MAGIC Map Browser, and our general local knowledge of the area.

Comments specific to this application.

An alleged illegal felling report for the woodland adjacent to the proposed agricultural building was received at the end of March and our staff visited some weeks later, due to lockdown restrictions.

Felling and digging work had occurred in the woodland. Due to the size of the trees felled and lack of evidence on site, the volume felled was judged to be on the margin of licensable volumes.

We understand that the owner has confirmed their intention to allow the trees and vegetation to grow back and, notwithstanding the disturbance to soils, our staff have seen the evidence that regrowth is occurring. Therefore, we do not currently anticipate taking this any further using our powers under the Forestry Act.

The owner and agent have been made aware of the need to apply for a licence for any more felling work in the copse over the thresholds set out in the felling regulations.

Questions remain around the purpose and permissions relating to the digging and levelling within the woodland but, these activities are not covered by the Forestry Act so our staff have referred this question back to the Local Planning Authority.

We note that the new application states:

“The proposed site benefits from an existing hedgerow boundary to the east and west and an existing copse to the south, which will be retained and enhanced. The north, east and west sides will be bordered with a Devon hedge bank and standard trees which will provide additional landscaping to the site as well as creating a definitive boundary for the new yard. It is also proposed to plant woodland on the east and west sides of the new site which will link the existing copse/woodland and provide additional screening to the site.”

We welcome new planting to expand the woodland and the restoration and replanting of the hedgebank nearby. Expanding the woodland and linking it to other hedges and small woods in the area would be beneficial for wildlife. However, we remain concerned about the digging and groundworks that have taken place within the woodland.

We can see that there is potential for this woodland to be ancient due to its shape and historic maps recording its presence; the ground flora is disturbed so less indicative. This woodland may be identified during the national review of the Ancient Woodland Inventory which is currently taking place and therefore it is possible that it will be added to the register in the future. To determine the woodland’s status, we would recommend that the local planning authority seeks the advice of Natural England and/or the Devon Biodiversity Records Centre, who are overseeing a pilot project to map ancient woodlands in Devon missed off the current inventory.

We hope these comments are helpful to you. If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Kate Tobin

Local Partnership Advisor Forestry Commission, South West Area Team

Ilton Copse – Image South Hams Society

A summary of Government policy on ancient woodland

Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (published October 2006).

Section 40 – “Every public authority must, in exercising its functions, have regard, so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions, to the purpose of conserving biodiversity”.

National Planning Policy Framework (published July 2018).

Paragraph 175 – “development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists”.

National Planning Practice Guidance – Natural Environment Guidance.

(published March 2014)

This Guidance supports the implementation and interpretation of the National Planning Policy Framework. This section outlines the Forestry Commission’s role as a non-statutory consultee on “development proposals that contain or are likely to affect Ancient Semi-Natural woodlands or Plantations on Ancient Woodlands Sites (PAWS) (as defined and recorded in Natural England’s Ancient Woodland Inventory), including proposals where any part of the development site is within 500 metres of an ancient semi-natural woodland or ancient replanted woodland, and where the development would involve erecting new buildings, or extending the footprint of existing buildings” It also notes that ancient woodland is an irreplaceable habitat, and that, in planning decisions, Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) should be treated equally in terms of the protection afforded to ancient woodland in the National Planning Policy Framework. It highlights the Ancient Woodland Inventory as a way to find out if a woodland is ancient.

The UK Forestry Standard (4th edition published August 2017).

Page 23: “Areas of woodland are material considerations in the planning process and may be protected in local authority Area Plans. These plans pay particular attention to woods listed on the Ancient Woodland Inventory and areas identified as Sites of Local Nature Conservation Importance SLNCIs)”.

Keepers of Time – A Statement of Policy for England’s Ancient and NativeWoodland (published June 2005).

Page 10 “The existing area of ancient woodland should be maintained and there should be a net increase in the area of native woodland”.

Natural Environment White Paper “The Natural Choice” (published June 2011)

Paragraph 2.53 – This has a “renewed commitment to conserving and restoring ancient woodlands”.

Paragraph 2.56 – “The Government is committed to providing appropriate protection to ancient woodlands and to more restoration of plantations on ancient woodland sites”.

Standing Advice for Ancient Woodland and Veteran Trees (first published

October 2014, revised November 2018)

This advice, issued jointly by Natural England and the Forestry Commission, is a material consideration for planning decisions across England. It explains the definition of ancient woodland, its importance, ways to identify it and the policies that are relevant to it. The Standing Advice refers to an Assessment Guide. This guide sets out a series of questions to help planners assess the impact of the proposed development on the ancient woodland.

Biodiversity 2020: a strategy for England’s wildlife and ecosystem services

(published August 2011).

Paragraph 2.16 – Further commitments to protect ancient woodland and to continue restoration of Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS).

Importance and Designation of Ancient and Naive Woodland

Ancient Semi Natural Woodland (ASNW)

Woodland composed of mainly native trees and shrubs derived from natural seedfall or coppice rather than from planting, and known to be continuously present on the site since at least AD 1600. Ancient Woodland sites are shown on Natural England’s Inventory of Ancient Woodland.

Plantations on Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS)

Woodlands derived from past planting, but on sites known to be continuously wooded in one form or another since at least AD 1600. They can be replanted with conifer and broadleaved trees and can retain ancient woodland features, such as undisturbed soil, ground flora and fungi. Very old PAWS composed of native species can have characteristics of ASNW. Ancient Woodland sites (including PAWS) are on Natural England’s Inventory of Ancient Woodland.

Other Semi-Natural Woodland (OSNW)

Woodland which has arisen since AD 1600, is derived from natural seedfall planting and consists of at least 80% locally native trees and shrubs (i.e., species historically found in England that would arise naturally on the site). Sometimes known as ‘recent semi-natural woodland’.

Other woodlands may have developed considerable ecological value, especially if they have been established on cultivated land or been present for many decades.

Information Tools – The Ancient Woodland Inventory

This is described as provisional because new information may become available that shows that woods not on the inventory are likely to be ancient or, occasionally, vice versa. In addition, ancient woods less than two hectares or open woodland such as ancient wood-pasture sites were generally, not included on the inventories. For more technical detail see Natural England’s Ancient Woodland Inventory. Inspection may determine that other areas qualify.

As an example of further information becoming available, Wealden District Council, in partnership with the Forestry Commission, Countryside Agency, the Woodland Trust and the High Weald AONB revised the inventory in their district, including areas under 2ha. Some other local authorities have taken this approach.

Further Guidance

Felling Licences – Under the Forestry Act (1967) a Felling Licence is required for felling more than 5 cubic metres per calendar quarter. Failure to obtain a licence may lead to prosecution and the issue of a restocking notice.

Environmental Impact Assessment – Under the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999, as amended, deforestation which is likely to have a significant impact on the environment may also require formal consent from the Forestry Commission.

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FRIENDS OF SOUTH HAMS

This Web site is for those who love the South Hams “The jewel in the crown of Devon” and who wish to protect and enhance the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Devon Biodiversity Record Centre

Green Minds – DWT/Plymouth City Council

Following on from several recent community based green space initiatives by the city council and DWT, this European funded project will be working within a new, wider partnership. It aims to breathe new life into a number of community spaces, ranging from traditional parks to strategic green corridors, increasing peoples enjoyment, and understanding of the nature benefits good management with local input can bring.  DBRC will be monitoring sites, alongside citizen science elements developed with local residents.  Training and mentoring will enable interested individuals and groups to be supported in learning about species and habitats, and how they can be protected and have increased resilience into the future.

Tamara Landscape Partnership project

As one of the founding partners, DBRC is currently supporting the Tamar AONB hosted project team, and other partners to complete a stage 1 development phase.  This is funded through NHLF and offers the partnership the opportunity to work up a much larger bid, by creating evidence, and community consultation to shape it.  Whilst highly competitive, these funding sources are critical to allow larger, longer-term projects such as landscape partnerships to exist.  Critically this fund actively promotes an inclusive approach, and we are therefore able to focus on important farming and land management challenges, alongside flooding, access, enjoyment of the landscape, its increased resilience, and nature, alongside the historic environment, local businesses and traditional micro initiatives such as Tamar Grow Local, which seek to create jobs and investment in the Tamar Valley by harnessing just one of the valleys long-established, but often undervalued strengths.

Ancient Woodland Inventory Review

As part of a national initiative driven by The Woodland Trust and Natural England, DBRC has formed a large county partnership to fund this review in Devon.  The existing inventory managed by NE is over 30years old and has limitations associated with hand mapping pre GIS, and current technology.  The historical threshold of including sites over 2ha is also becoming more of an issue in relation to modern planning and conservation needs.  Devon is a historic landscape which has seen many areas of woodland fragmented by development, and changes in land use/land management, and there is poor representation on the inventory of the county’s many smaller but highly important sites – leaving them potentially vulnerable to threats in coming years.  Using the latest datasets and technology, alongside robust historical evidence, over the next three years DBRC will review many thousands of aerial photo images, maps and text from archives, to complete this project.  There will be opportunities for volunteers to assist in some elements, and as ancient woodland has deep connections with ancient folklore and the historical environment, this project may appeal to a wider audience. For example, place names can be associated with landscape features such as historical woods and treescapes.  Communities where these woods and the special quality they can bring are valued, will be able to help ground-truth the new map being developed and ensure sites are correctly represented on it. This will increase the ability of the AWI to protect this natural and irreplaceable asset for future generations. 

Twitchen Wood
Connecting the culm Project – Blackdown Hills AONB

Over the next three years, DBRC is leading on the biodiversity monitoring elements of this project, ensuring that the direction of travel post-intervention on target sites can be measured.  The project aims to work with communities and stakeholders within the catchment to identify and define a range of nature-based solutions which can increase the flood resilience of those areas. Protecting housing and infrastructure as well as people, as we move forward in an uncertain climate change scenario.  The catchment rolls downhill from the mire habitats at the top of the Blackdown Hills, through mid-Devon and into the National Trust Killerton Estate, where flat grassland rich agricultural land prevails.  DBRC will train and support volunteers involved in surveying these habitats, and a range of indicator species which provide intel on their condition and functionality.  We will measure carbon capture through an international citizen science project, feeding into a wider global project, and support partners in designing a legacy which includes upskilling those communities, making them more able to participate in future schemes.

Devon Nature Recovery Networks

DBRC are currently leading the technical development of an NRN for Devon, alongside its host DWT and major partners including DCC, EA, and a range of other stakeholders.  Since their inclusion within the DEFRA 25 year plan, NRNs have been the subject of much debate.  In counties where Ecological Network mapping has already taken place, they may be a lower priority, but in the absence of an existing model here, we have decided to pilot an initial approach.  This will be the first attempt nationally to translate thinking into a physical mapping tool, and we are currently testing an approach within the Tamara Landscape Partnership project which importantly also has cross border elements, which will add value.  As we are in the early stages of this pilot, we expect to add to this page early in the spring…………..

Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve vegetation mapping

In 2019 DBRC were commissioned by Teignbridge District Council to undertake a vegetation survey and rare plant species monitoring work which manages part of this internationally important wildlife site. The sand spit is subject to a unique set of pressures arising from the combination of natural coastal processes and high visitor numbers. In 2017, under the Dawlish Warren Beach Management Scheme (DWBMS) much of the hard engineering was removed from the sand dune system and a ‘beach recharge’ undertaken in order to allow parts of the site to function in a more naturally dynamic way. This survey will address the need to gain a better understanding about changes in distribution of important species and habitats on site. Some such changes are part and parcel of a dynamic dune system and others – both positive and negative – are the result of impacts from recreational use. There are rare species present at Dawlish Warren which depend upon a certain level of trampling to maintain the right habitat conditions and others that are sensitive to the impacts of erosion and nutrient enrichment. This survey will act as a baseline following the DWBMS and identify human impacts on habitats and key botanical species.

Dawlish Warren NNR
Links

Contacts

Address: Devon Biodiversity Records Centre,
Unit 2, Aldens Business Court,
7a Chudleigh Road,
Alphington,
Exeter, EX2 8TS

DBRC is hosted by Devon Wildlife Trust registered charity NO.213224

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FRIENDS OF SOUTH HAMS

This Web site is for those who love the South Hams “The jewel in the crown of Devon” and who wish to protect and enhance the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

United we stand

The CPRE are joined by Friends of the Earth, RSPB, Rivers Trust and many more in urging the Prime Minister for ‘locally accountable, democratic’ planning.

As the environment secretary George Eustice makes a speech about changes to the ‘environmental impact assessment system’, the part of the planning process that assesses the risks to nature and wildlife, we’ve added our voice to 17 conservation charities’ in calling for a halt to planning deregulation.

In a speech announcing changes to this element of the current system today, Eustice said:

‘Nature rightly deserves protection, so if we are to protect species and habitats and also deliver biodiversity net gain, we need to properly understand the science to inform crucial decisions.

‘We should ask ourselves, for example, whether the current environmental impact assessment processes are as effective or efficient as they could be.’’This has never been more important.’Crispin Truman, CPRE chief executive

Our chief executive Crispin Truman explains the importance of environmental impact assessments:

‘[They’re] the foundations for… protecting not only vulnerable wildlife and nature but landscapes, our built heritage and our health. Critically, they’re the means of scrutinising the potential air quality impact of proposed developments. They give planners the evidence to refuse schemes that would make air quality problems worse. This has never been more important.’

Planning for good planning

Crispin also stresses the risks of poorly-planned and built housing (an area that we at CPRE work on), giving the examples of ill-considered schemes with limited access to clean transport options.

‘Access to green space and low carbon travel like walking and cycling are a mere afterthought. Any new environmental impact assessment process must be stronger, not weaker, than what we already have.’’Any new environmental impact assessment process must be stronger, not weaker, than what we already have.’Crispin Truman, CPRE chief executive

Crispin’s words are echoed in the letter signed by, amongst others, the chief executives of the Wildlife Trust, Earthwatch Europe and the Woodland Trust, and the senior planner at Friends of the Earth. The letter expresses charities’ ‘rising concern’ about the government’s intentions to ‘rip up the red tape’ of the planning system. Emphasising the opportunity as the nation begins to recover, including economically, from coronavirus, we urge the government not to take a wrong turn in this ‘fork in the road’.

‘Investing in locally accountable and democratic planning will deliver the homes and liveable places communities will feel proud to call home. Further deregulation of planning will only result in the exact opposite of ‘building back better’.’

We love our green spaces

The letter also notes how at odds such moves are with the public enthusiasm and support for green spaces following lockdown. A CPRE survey showed that two-thirds of us want our local green places enhanced following the pandemic, having connected more with them when travel was limited.’Further deregulation of planning will only result in the exact opposite of ‘building back better’.’Letter signed by eighteen conservation charities

‘Further deregulation of the planning system would erode the foundations of any green and just recovery long before the first brick is laid. Nowhere else in the world is such a deregulatory race to the bottom being considered.

‘This surge of appreciation for quality local green spaces is just one indicator of the increased appetite for action to tackle the housing, climate and nature crises head on. As a broad coalition of environment, housing, heritage and planning organisations, we call on you to support a robust, locally-led and democratic planning system with people and nature at its heart.’

Urging the right path

We at CPRE and our colleagues in the sector will be continuing to challenge the government’s intentions to loosen planning regulations, emphasising the need for communities to have the power to guide what planning decisions are made in their local areas. Good planning choices, including excellent housing design, improve life for us all – not least at a time when action to mitigate against the climate emergency is critical. New buildings can aid this, with wildlife-friendly green spaces, better insulation and access to low-carbon transport. Planning choices must support this progress.

Want to do your bit? We’ll keep calling for the best planning systems for people and their communities. Join us as a member to help us keep campaigning and sign up to our newsletter to be kept informed about our progress.

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Blanksmill Creek

The Application to build at Blanksmill Creek ‘withdrawn’ – But….

There was almost unanimous community opposition to the proposal to build a barn at the head of the iconic and unspoiled Blanksmill Creek, in the heart of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). I am delighted that the contentious Application has been withdrawn.

But there is a sting in the ‘tail’. The Applicant is now seeking planning permission for ‘general purpose agricultural building’ a short distance away from the creek, but again, in a highly visible location next to Ilton Copse (potentially Ancient Woodland), much of which was recently felled* by the Applicant. The SHDC Planning Officer Amanda Burden is currently considering the application, which can be see on the Council’s Planning File here

A Highly Protected area

Surprisingly, it seemed the Applicant was not fully aware that development is either prohibited or very highly restricted in the nationally protected landscape areas surrounding the proposed Blanksmill Creek site.

South Devon AONB harmed

Almost all consultees and interested third parties believed the development represented an unwelcome intrusion into an undeveloped open field countryside location within the South Devon AONB and the Undeveloped Coast. It would have introduced a built form within a highly protected, sensitive rural and estuary location, which would have caused harm to the sensitive land and waterscape of the unspoiled and very tranquil creek.

Would not ‘Protect and Enhance’

The development would have failed to conserve and enhance the natural beauty and special qualities of the South Devon AONB and would have conflicted with the aims and objectives of Local Planning Policies DEV23 (Landscape character), DEV24 (Undeveloped coast and Heritage Coast) and DEV25 (Nationally protected landscapes) of the adopted Joint Local Plan (JLP) and would have been contrary to the guidance contained within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) including, but not limited to, paragraphs 170 and 172. The proposed site is adjacent to the Salcombe and Kingsbridge Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest.

‘Contradictions!’

The independent Agricultural Need Assessment undertaken for the SHDC supports the need for storage for the holding. But it also noted that there is a ‘slight contradiction’ in what the Applicant claims the land is to be used for.

The Assessor also stated that he would prefer an ‘open-sided’ building, but left all the “other consultees” to comment on the visual impact of the building on the landscape!

Hiding the Harm

Belatedly, and following substantive planning objections from the SHS the AONB Unit, the Parish Council and many in the local community, the Applicant recognised the restrictions to development at this sensitive and protected water side location. The Applicants proposed additional screening measures in an effort to hide, or mitigate, the visual harms the proposed development would have undoubtedly caused. They also had already acknowledged that “built forms seldom have positive effects” on the existing open landscape.

Hiding the harm causes harm!

There comes a point where the measures proposed to hide the harms caused by development , to the protected land and waterscape , itself becomes so intrusive that it completely changes the nature of the area, and therefore undermines the very landscape designations that led to their protected status in the first place.

Planting schemes can change the Designated Landscape

During the Lyte Lane West Charleton Planning Appeal, that Applicants had argued that the visual harm that would have been caused to the AONB by a proposed development, to the farmland and highly protected countryside, could be reduced by sympathetic design, and that planting schemes would ‘improve’ the landscape. The South Hams Society and District Council disputed those claims, the Planning Inspector supported their views and the Appeal was refused. AP1128/W/18/3208541P/K– Land to East of Lyte Lane, West Charleton, Kingsbridge, TQ7 2BP

Here is the Lyte Lane Letter of Representation drafted by Ian Bryan and sent to the Planning Appeal Inspector:

Here is the Letter of Representation about the Blanksmill Planning Application, drafted by Ian Bryan for the South Hams Society, which was sent to the SHDC.

Here is the South Hams District Council’s (SHDC) Planning File:   http://apps.southhams.gov.uk/PlanningSearchMVC/Home/Details/193911

* Below are comments made by the Forestry Commission representative (Fri, 31 Jul 2020) about the felling of most of Ilton Copse:

Ilton Copse: Our staff visited the site a few weeks after the first report, due to lockdown restrictions. Felling and digging work had occurred in the woodland. Due to the size of the trees felled and lack of evidence on site, the amount felled was judged to be on the margin of licensable volumes. We understand that the owner has confirmed their intention to allow the trees and vegetation to grow back and, notwithstanding the disturbance to soils, our staff have seen the evidence that regrowth is occurring. Therefore we do not currently anticipate taking this any further using our powers under the Forestry Act. The owner and agent have been made aware of the need to apply for a licence for any more felling work in the copse over the thresholds set out in the felling regulations.

Questions remain around the purpose and permissions relating to the digging and levelling within the woodland but these activities are not covered by the Forestry Act so our staff have referred this question back to the Local Planning Authority.  

We have looked at the new planning application which has been submitted by the landowner. This application states:  

“The proposed site benefits from an existing hedgerow boundary to the east and west and an existing copse to the south, which will be retained and enhanced. The north, east and west sides will be bordered with a Devon hedgebank and standard trees which will provide additional landscaping to the site as well as creating a definitive boundary for the new yard. It is also proposed to plant woodland on the east and west sides of the new site which will link the existing copse/woodland and provide additional screening to the site,”  

We are intending to comment on this application to ensure that the local planning authority has a record of our actions and observations in relation to this woodland when they make their decision.

“We can see that there is potential for this woodland to be ancient due to its shape and historic maps recording its presence; the ground flora is disturbed so less indicative. This woodland may be identified during the national review of the Ancient Woodland Inventory which is taking place currently and therefore it is possible that it will be added to the register in the future. Our response to the planning application will therefore draw attention to the Forestry Commission’s and Natural England’s joint standing advice on ancient woodland.”

Friends of South Hams now await the SHDC decision. We will keep you informed about what is happening.

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