Bedford Borough Local Plan 2040 Plan for Submission

Ended on the 29 July 2022
If you are having trouble using the system, please try our help guide.

6.0 Development management policies

6.1 This section contains new or replacement development management policies. Policies that are replaced are listed in Appendix 1.

Housing

6.2 The Council's Local Housing Needs Assessment (LHNA) Addendum (April 2022) establishes the standard method housing requirement for housing in Bedford for the period 2020–2040 to be 27,100. This includes a need for affordable housing of 6881 dwellings over the same period equivalent to an average of 344 dwellings per year.

6.3 Affordable housing as defined by the NPPF 2021 comprises housing for sale or rent, for those whose needs are not met by the market (including housing that provides a subsidised route to home ownership and / or is for essential local workers) which accords with the NPPF definitions of affordable housing for rent, starter homes, discounted market sales housing and other affordable routes to home ownership.

6.4 First Homes are now the Government's preferred discounted market tenure and the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) advises that they should account for at least 25% of all affordable homes delivered by developers through section 106 planning obligations and that policies for First Homes should reflect this requirement.

6.5 First Homes are defined in the PPG as discounted market sale units which must be discounted by a minimum 30% against the market value, are sold to persons meeting specific eligibility criteria, are restricted on their title to ensure the discount is passed on and must be sold after discount at a price no higher than £250,000.

6.6 In the context of this national definition Local Authorities may set an appropriate discount against market value in their area and may set local eligibility criteria. The PPG also makes provision for the development of First Homes exception sites (on land which is not already allocated for housing). See Policy DM4 below.

Local eligibility criteria

6.7 In order to ensure that local people are given priority in accessing First Homes in the borough the following eligibility criteria will be applied:

  • At least one of the purchasers of the property should, immediately prior to agreeing terms to purchase, either
    1. Have lived in Bedford borough for at least three of the last five years or
    2. Have a close relative (mother, father, adult children, sister, brother, grandparents, grandchildren or corresponding step relations) who has lived in Bedford borough for at least three years or
    3. Be employed full or part time (at least 16 hours per week on average) at a place of work in Bedford borough for at least the last twelve weeks or
    4. Be a member of the Armed Forces, a spouse or civil partner of a deceased member of the armed forces (if their death was wholly or partly caused by their service) or a veteran within 5 years of leaving the armed forces or
    5. Be a key worker who works in health, education, the police or Local Government.

First Homes discount

6.8 The LHNA analyses income levels in relation to housing costs. On the assumption that all those who can afford social rent without housing benefit could afford shared ownership or First Homes at a 30% discount and that 35% of household income is assigned to housing costs there is a need for 83.3% of the affordable housing provided to be affordable rent, 6.4% to be provided as shared ownership and 10.3% as First Homes.

6.9 The LHNA addendum demonstrates that in order to meet the requirement for 25% of the homes to be First Homes it will be necessary for 30% of homes to be affordable housing; with 75% as affordable rent and 25% as First Homes at a 50% discount.

6.10 The Council has undertaken a plan-wide viability study to test the ability of a range of housing scheme types likely to come forward in the borough to deliver affordable housing. The study found that with an affordable housing tenure split of 75% affordable rent and 25% First Homes at a 50% discount, 30% affordable housing remains a reasonable target.

6.11 In cases where the affordable housing quantum proposed is less than 30% or a tenure split is proposed which provides less than 75% of the affordable housing as affordable rented accommodation the Council will expect the application to be accompanied by a viability appraisal which evidences this to the Council's satisfaction. The verification of viability appraisals will be undertaken by the Council at the applicant's cost. Where affordable housing provision is approved at a level below the policy requirement, it will be subject to a review mechanism.

6.12 The maximum affordable rent that can be charged is 80% of the market rent. Many households who require affordable housing can only afford a rent at this level with assistance from housing benefit. The Council does not propose a general reduction on this percentage and benefit regulations change from time to time, but consideration will be given to the access to benefit that will be available at the time that an application is considered.

6.13 On the basis of the Government's preference for First Homes and the findings of the Council's LHNA as explained in paragraph 6.9 above, shared ownership will not form part of the preferred tenure mix for section 106 sites. Shared ownership may however come forward in other contexts and should be offered on the basis of a range of initial share purchases from 10% - 80%.

6.14 Affordable housing will be required on sites of ten or more dwellings, or 0.5 hectares or more. In all cases, in determining whether the threshold has been met, the Council will take account of the net number of additional dwellings which are to be built.

6.15 Where a commuted sum is deemed to be acceptable, more information is given in Appendix 4.

Policy DM1(S) Affordable housing

Sites of 10 or more residential units or 0.5 hectares or more will provide 30% affordable housing with 75% of the dwellings as social or affordable rented properties and the remainder (25%) as First Homes at a 50% discount.

Affordable rents will be 80% of open market rents but a lower percentage should be set where this would preclude access to housing benefit.

Where shared ownership is offered it will be on the basis of a range of initial share purchases from 10 - 80%.

The size mix of the affordable dwellings should reflect the type and size mix of the market dwellings within the proposed scheme and take account of the needs set out in the Council's current Local Housing Needs Assessment and other current sources of housing needs information.

Where on grounds of viability the total number of affordable dwellings or the affordable housing tenure split is proposed to be other than that outlined above the application should be accompanied by a viability assessment justifying the quantum and mix of affordable housing. Where affordable housing provision is approved at level below the policy requirement it will be subject to a review mechanism (Policy DM2).

On sites providing a mix of affordable and market homes the Council will expect the affordable housing to be integrated within the market housing and affordable housing clusters should not exceed 15 dwellings and should not be readily distinguishable from market housing.

The policy will apply where a planning application could have been submitted for a larger site within the above policy threshold.

Other than in exceptional circumstances, affordable housing provision should be made on site rather than through the payment of commuted sums in lieu of provision.

Affordable Housing Review mechanisms.

6.16 The Council wants to ensure that development is policy compliant and maximises public benefits in line with the policies of the development plan. This includes the provision of affordable housing in line with Policy DM1(S).

6.17 The NPPF indicates that it is the responsibility of the applicant to demonstrate whether particular circumstances justify the need for a viability assessment at application stage in order to deviate from policy requirements. Where there is clear viability evidence to do so, Policy DM1(S) allows the Council to consider granting permission for schemes which provide less than 30% affordable housing.

6.18 Where this is the case, national planning guidance recognises the potential for changes in viability post permission being granted and allows for the review of scheme viability to ensure that divergence from policy compliance is minimised over time. This means that improvements in scheme viability between the point at which the original viability appraisal was undertaken and viability established at a later date(s) can result in an enhanced affordable housing contribution compared to that which was considered viable at the point that permission was granted.

6.19 Guidance indicates that plans should set out circumstances where review mechanisms may be appropriate, as well as clear processes and terms of engagement regarding how and when viability will be reassessed.

6.20 To ensure that affordable housing contributions are maximised over time, the Council will require a viability review, secured through a S106 agreement, in all cases where reduced affordable housing provisions have been agreed on viability grounds (Policy DM2).

6.21 The Council will generally seek a mid-stage viability review because at this point, actual costs and sales values are likely to be quantifiable and a revised assessment can confidently be made.

6.22 However, it may be that there is justification for the review taking place at a different point. For example, where the site is large-scale, it involves phased development and delivery will occur across different stages in an economic cycle, it may be appropriate to require more than one viability review. Where this this is the case the approach will be individually negotiated and detailed in the legal agreement.

6.23 Where the review(s) evidence that additional affordable housing is viable, the Council's preference is for this to be provided on site. Where this is considered inappropriate the Council will expect the payment of an affordable housing commuted sum in lieu.

6.24 At the point of review, applicants will be required to submit an updated viability assessment consistent with the format submitted at planning application stage, along with any supplementary information / evidence that the Council requires. The Council's costs associated with commissioning independent assessment of these reviews will be met by the applicant. The approach should be agreed with the Council prior to submission of an updated viability assessment.

6.25 The implementation of a viability review cannot result in the scheme providing a reduced level of planning obligations from that of the originally permitted scheme. It is a means to ensure full, or fuller, policy compliance over time, optimising the benefits from contributions to affordable housing.

6.26 Viability appraisals will be made publically available.

Policy DM2 Review Mechanisms

To ensure that affordable housing delivery is maximised as a result of any future improvement in viability, the Council will require schemes that have been viability tested and which have resulted in an affordable housing contribution below policy compliant levels, to be subject to viability review(s).

Detailed requirements will be set out in a S106 agreement and will depend on the size, nature and complexity of the scheme. Save exceptionally, viability reviews will be undertaken where 50 % of the open market dwellings have been sold or after five years of the date of the independent viability assessment upon which the original reduced affordable housing requirement was based, whichever is the sooner. For schemes with more than one phase or developer, more than one review may be required.

The Council will require any additional affordable housing provision required as a result of the viability review to be provided on-site in accordance with the provisions of the S106 agreement unless it can be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Council as part of the review that this is not achievable.

Housing mix

6.27 The growth in the number of older persons' households is a key feature in the population and household change which is expected to occur in the period to 2040. During the Local Plan period almost two fifths (39 %) of the overall population growth implied by the Standard Method is projected to be aged 65, almost a quarter of which are projected to be over 75. This is particularly important when establishing the types of housing required and the need for housing specifically for older people.

6.28 The LHNA Addendum found that, considering the increase in households from 2020 to 2040, half of this household growth is likely to have household representatives aged 65 or over. Over two thirds (68%) of this group (34% of the overall household growth) are likely to have household representatives of 75 or over. Given this context, the maximum need of around 12,600 dwellings for adapted housing in the plan period supports the need for at least 47% of all dwellings to meet Category 2 requirements, providing that this does not compromise viability.

6.29 Around 1-in-30 households in England (3.3%) have at least one wheelchair user, although the rate is notably higher for households living in affordable housing (7.1%). The rates are also higher for older households and, given that the number of older person households is likely to increase over the period to 2040, the proportion of households needing wheelchair housing in future is also likely to be higher.

6.30 The LHNA Addendum found that the amount of wheelchair adapted housing likely to be needed in Bedford Borough is likely to increase by approximately 1,190 over the period, equivalent to around 4.4% of the overall Local Housing Need. This comprises around 760 market dwellings (4.0% of the market Local Housing Need) and around 390 affordable dwellings (6.0% of the affordable Local Housing Need). The evidence therefore supports the need for 4% of market and 6% of affordable housing to meet Category 3 requirements.

6.31 This approach is consistent with the NPPG advice at Paragraph 9[16] which states that planning policies for housing can set out the proportion of new dwellings which will be delivered to the various M4 standards. Part M of the Building Regulations sets a distinction between wheelchair accessible (a home readily useable by a wheelchair user at the point of completion) and wheelchair adaptable (a home that can be easily adapted to meet the needs of a household including wheelchair users) dwellings. Wheelchair accessible homes will only be required where the Council is responsible for nominating a person to live in the dwelling.

6.32 Around 35% of the growth in households during the Plan period comprises households aged 75 or over. It is likely that many of these households would also be identified as needing specialist housing for older persons. The analysis of the needs of older people identified a need for almost 5,000 specialist older person housing units for households aged 75 or over, whilst the analysis of disability and mobility housing needs identifies an increase in need of around 720 wheelchair adapted dwellings for households in the same age group.

6.33 Whilst not all households aged 75 or over needing wheelchair adapted housing will live in specialist older person housing, at any point in time it is likely that up to a third of those living in specialist housing may need wheelchair adapted homes. However, it is important to recognise that as individual household circumstances change, it is likely that some households will start using a wheelchair whilst living in specialist housing if their health deteriorates. On this basis, a higher proportion of specialist older person housing units will need to be wheelchair adapted. The evidence in the LHNA supports the need for a target for all specialist housing for older people to meet Category 3 requirements.

Policy DM3(S) Housing mix

New housing developments will be expected to provide a mix of dwelling size and type to meet the identified needs of the community including families with children, older people, people wishing to build their own homes and people with disabilities and special needs in accordance with the Council’s current Local Housing Needs  Assessment and other current assessments of housing need including the Older Person’s Accommodation Strategy, the Learning Disabilities Accommodation Strategy, the Mental Health Accommodation Strategy (or their successor Strategies) and evidence in respect of the needs of other specialist groups. 

All developments of 500 dwellings or more in suitable locations, will be required to include self-contained housing designed to meet the needs of older persons, and / or supported living accommodation in accordance with the Council’s most up to date statement of need on older person’s accommodation. 

All developments of 100 dwellings or more in suitable locations, will be required to include specialist housing designed to meet the needs of those with a learning disability or mental health need in accordance with the Council’s most up to date statement of need

  1. On sites of 3 or more dwellings 47% of all new residential development should meet Category 2 (Accessible and Adaptable dwellings) of approved Document M; Volume 1, and on sites of 20 or more dwellings a minimum of 4% of all market housing and 6% of affordable housing should meet Category 3 requirements,
  2. All specialist housing for older people should meet Category 3 requirements, 

Affordable housing will be sought from all C3 development including and where a site provides a mix of C2 development and C3 dwellings, from the C3 element of the development.

First Homes Exception Sites

6.34 First Homes Exception Sites are a potential option for developers wishing to build affordable homes on sites beyond the borough's existing built up areas where certain planning constraints may make approval of an open market housing scheme less likely. However, they should not be viewed as an alternative to rural exception housing defined in the Local Plan 2030 Policy 67 which provides for the delivery of housing to meet specific local needs in the rural area. Sites should be adjacent to and proportionate in size to the settlement to which they relate. Proportionality will be assessed in relation to the scale of the proposal and its impact on the character of the settlement.

6.35 To ensure applicants take account of Policy DM4 (ii), where it is proposed that a scheme requires market housing to be included to make an exception site viable, submission of a development appraisal will be required to demonstrate that this is the case.

6.36 External consultants will be appointed at the applicant's cost to provide an independent assessment of the scheme's viability.

6.37 Policy DM4 (iii) is in line with PPG, which allows the proportion of affordable housing on a First Homes exception site to be altered to include small quantities of other affordable housing products. The evidence that applicants will be required to provide will need to be in the form of a Local Housing Needs Assessment, local authority Housing Register, or other sufficiently robust local evidence.

Policy DM4 First Homes Exception Policy

  1. Residential development proposals on qualifying small sites comprising primarily First Homes will be permitted where:
    • the site is adjacent to an existing settlement and the scale of the scheme is appropriate to the structure form and character of the size of the settlement; and
    • the development contributes positively to the character of the settlement, maintains landscape character, does not lead to coalescence with other settlements and protects and where appropriate enhances the historic environment.
  1. The minimum number of market homes required to make delivery of a First Homes Exception Site viable without grant funding will be permitted where:
    • an applicant demonstrates that the scheme would be unviable without the inclusion of market housing;
    • inclusion of market housing does not inflate the threshold land value; and
    • any market housing is suitably integrated into the First Homes development.
  1. Small quantities of other forms of affordable housing may also be permitted on a First Homes exception site where the applicant demonstrates evidence of significant local need for that type of housing.

Self-build and Custom Housebuilding

6.38 The Self-build & Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 introduced the concept of an individual's Right to Build a home and the requirement on Local Authorities to keep a register of both individuals and associations who are seeking to do so. It has since been amended by the Housing and Planning Act 2016.

6.39 Further regulations[17] require Local Authorities to grant sufficient planning permissions for self-build and custom housebuilding plots to meet annual register-evidenced demand.

6.40 Councils are required to have regard to the register when carrying out their functions relating to planning, housing, the disposal of the authority's land and regeneration.

6.41 Self-build and custom housebuilding is defined in the Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 as:

the building or completion by-

  1. individuals,
  2. associations of individuals, or
  3. persons working with or for individuals or associations of individuals, of houses to be occupied as homes by those individuals.

6.42 Self-build is where individuals, or associations of individuals, including those in community-led projects, are directly responsible for the design and construction of their own homes. These may be traditional DIY self-build homes where the eventual occupiers carry out all or much of the project management, construction and finish; or, increasingly, where a self-builder commissions all or much of the work, employing others to carry out the actual build for them.

6.43 Custom build homes are where developers, builders or industry specialist 'home-builders' work with individuals or associations to deliver finished or shell homes to a pre-agreed bespoke design standards and quality of finish. The developer may provide a plot, manage the construction and arrange the finance for the new home as a package. Whilst this is therefore more of a hands-off approach for the final occupier, the homes will still be tailored from initial inception to match an individual's requirements, within certain agreed parameters.

6.44 Whether self or custom-build, the instigators, funders or commissioners of the work must be the occupiers of the dwelling.

6.45 The Council's Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Register is divided into two parts:

  • Part 1 – requires evidence from the individual or association to demonstrate a defined local connection to the area. Registrants on part 1 will be given first refusal on self-build plots that become available in the borough either through the application of Policy DM5 (below) or as a result of the Council disposing of its own land (where it is suitable for and is being disposed of for self- build).
  • Part 2 – Other individuals or associations that have an interest in self-build plots in the borough but who do not have the required local connection to the area. Any plots that are available but are not taken up by anyone on part 1 of the register will then be offered to those on part 2 before being more widely marketed.

6.46 Neighbourhood Plans may also allocate sites for self-build and / or custom housebuilding plots and where this is so, developers will be required to have regard to relevant policies and marketing requirements.

6.47 The Council has a duty to provide serviced plots to meet the demand on Part 1 of its Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Register but will take into account the demand shown by both parts of the register in considering planning applications. To help to do this, the Council will require qualifying developments to make available serviced plots specifically to provide self-build and custom housebuilding opportunities. The number of serviced plots to be made available will be determined by the capacity of the site.

6.48 The policy sets out marketing requirements for advertising the availability of self-build and custom housebuilding plots. These broad requirements differ depending on the number of dwellings proposed for a site. On sites of 49 dwellings or fewer, the timetable for marketing plots will generally be shorter. This is due to the fact that smaller sites will build out faster, meaning there is a greater possibility that lengthier marketing would delay the delivery of dwellings.

6.49 Whilst the nature of some proposals, for example high density sites of predominantly apartments or conversions of existing buildings, might mean individual self-build plots may not be available or practical, such dwellings do provide opportunities for custom build. The Council therefore expects that all qualifying sites will meet the requirements of Policy DM5.

6.50 As an example, a planning application submitted for 80 dwellings would be required to provide 30% affordable housing, which means that 24 of the plots on the site would be affordable housing. 56 plots would therefore be for private dwellings and subject to providing self-build plots. Using the scale set in the policy below, a site providing 56 private dwellings would be required to provide five self-build / custom housebuilding plots.

Policy DM5 Self-build and custom housebuilding

  1. The Council will require applications for new housing development to include plots for self-build and custom house builders in accordance with the following, based on the overall number of net-additional dwellings proposed:
    • 1-4 dwellings = no requirement
    • 5-9 dwellings = 1 plot
    • 10-29 dwellings = 2 plots
    • 30-49 dwellings = 3 plots
    • 50-69 dwellings = 5 plots
    • 70-89 dwellings = 6 plots
    • 90-100 dwellings = 7 plots
    • 100+ dwellings = by negotiation
  1. Self-build and custom housebuilding plot sizes should take account of register evidenced demand;
  2. All plots must be serviced with suitable connections to utilities such as water and drainage, electricity, gas and broadband;
  3. Prior to commencement of development, developers will be required to agree a marketing plan with the Local Planning Authority that complies with the following:
    • Self-build and Custom Housebuilding plots will be offered at an open value established by a RICS valuer,
    • Where an expression of interest in a plot has been rejected by the developer, evidence must be provided to the Local Planning Authority, upon request, as to why it was not suitable.

    For sites of 50 or more dwellings:

    • Plots will be marketed solely to individuals and associations on Part 1 of the Council's Register in the first instance for an initial period of two months (minimum) from the commencement of the site being marketed. Following the initial marketing period, the offer of any unreserved plots will be extended to those on Part 2 of the Council's Register and any new registrants to Part 1 having joined during the initial period. If the developer can provide evidence to the satisfaction of the Council that suitable purchasers from the Register have not been forthcoming within 6 months (minimum) of commencement of marketing the plots, they may be offered for unrestricted market sale to self-build and custom homebuilders including industry sector specialist companies,
    • Any plots not reserved within a further 6 months (minimum) will be released from this specific policy requirement, following a total of 12 months of marketing.

    For sites of 49 or fewer dwellings:

    • Plots will be marketed solely to individuals and associations on Part 1 of the Council's Register in the first instance for an initial period of 1 month (minimum) from the commencement of marketing,
    • Following the initial marketing period, the offer of any unreserved plots will be extended to those on Part 2 of the Council's Register and any new registrants to Part 1 having joined during the initial period. If suitable purchasers from the Register demonstrably have not been forthcoming within 3 months (minimum) of commencement of marketing the plots, they may be offered for unrestricted market sale to self-build and custom homebuilders including industry sector specialist companies,
    • Any plots not reserved within a further 3 months (minimum) will be released from this specific policy requirement, following a total of 6 months of marketing.
  1. To ensure timely delivery of plots, the S106 agreement will contain triggers that link the marketing of self-build and custom housebuilding plots to the occupation of specified percentages of open market housing;
  2. Developments required by virtue of this policy to provide self-build and custom housebuilding plots will, in addition and as a priority, be expected to deliver affordable housing across the whole development site in accordance with the Council's adopted policy (Policy DM1) by way of on-site provision or in exceptional circumstances by payment of commuted sums for off-site delivery, where appropriate. The Council will not normally expect self-build serviced plots to be included as part of the site affordable housing proportion unless this has been agreed in writing within the Heads of Terms of the proposed S106 agreement;
  3. Where a development is phased, the siting and provision of self-build and custom housebuilding plots will be set out in a phasing plan;
  4. The number of self and custom build plots to be provided will be based on the capacity of the site net of any affordable housing requirement. Development that constitutes 100% affordable housing will be exempt from providing self-build and custom housebuilding plots.

Quality of development and space standards

6.51 The quality of buildings and places, and how they integrate with the natural environment, have been shown to affect how people interact with them. Good quality development can create environments which promote wellbeing and happiness, as well as provide functional, well-built places.

6.52 The Bedford Borough Local Plan 2030 has a set of design policies requiring that development proposals fully consider design issues. The following documents are also available and give guidance on different aspects of design:

  • Sustainable Drainage System SPD 2018
  • Parking Standards for Sustainable Communities SPD 2014
  • Open Space SPD 2013
  • Shopfronts and Advertisements in Conservation Areas SPD 2005
  • Achieving Quality in Residential Layouts SPG 1997
  • Residential Extensions, New Dwellings and Small Infill Developments SPG 2000
  • Houses in Multiple Occupation SPD 2020

Current National Guidance

6.53 Chapter 12 of the NPPF, "Achieving well-designed places", supports good design and the creation of high quality places. It encourages plans to set out a clear vision and expectations on design quality in the local area.

Nationally Described Space Standards

6.54 The government has set out appropriate nationally described space standards for new developments. These space standards are predicated on the number of bedrooms and the number of people each new dwelling is intended to cater for.

6.55 For example, a single bedroom, one-storey dwelling for one person should be a minimum of 37m2; and a single bedroom, one-storey dwelling for two people should be a minimum of 50m2.

6.56 These standards have recently become mandatory for all new dwellings developed under permitted development rights[18]. This is in recognition of the fact that many have fallen below these standards in the past and created inappropriately sized homes. To be consistent with this approach the Council will expect all new dwellings (including newly formed dwellings through conversion) to conform with nationally described space standards.

6.57 Further information can be found at: Nationally_Described_Space_Standard____Final_Web_version.pdf. Separate Regulations apply to sleeping accommodation floor areas in licenced HMOs.[19]

Policy DM6 Residential space standards

The Council will require all new dwellings to conform to nationally described space standards as a minimum.

Natural environment

6.58 Royal Assent for the Environment Bill was granted on 9 November 2021, with the Statutory Instruments setting out the environmental targets to be laid before parliament in 2022. The biodiversity net gain requirements are not likely to take effect until 2023, two years after Royal Assent. For the Local Plan 2040 this means that we will need to monitor progress and may need to amend policies during the plan's examination.

6.59 Due to the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Union, there is now no relevance to previous references to European designated sites or Natura 2000 sites. To assist with the interpretation of current local plan policies, any references to Natura 2000 sites should now be read as referring to 'the new national site network'.

What is biodiversity net gain?

6.60 The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Biodiversity Metric was first introduced in 2012 and the third version was published in July 2021. The metric is a calculator that is used to measure the biodiversity losses and gains that will result from development. It is designed as a template to which applicants can input their baseline and development information, and it will then produce a figure for net biodiversity gain. The Environment Act 2021 requires a minimum of 10% biodiversity net gain, however it has not become law at this stage.

What is Natural Capital?

6.61 Natural Capital is defined in the government's 25 Year Environment Plan as "the sum of our ecosystems, species, freshwater, land, soils, minerals, our air and our seas. These are all elements of nature that either directly or indirectly bring value to people and the country at large. They do this in many ways but chiefly by providing us with food, clean air and water, wildlife, energy, wood, recreation and protection from hazards". The 25-Year Environment Plan introduced the concept of embedding an 'environmental net gain' principle for development, and the concept of expanding net gain approaches used for biodiversity to include wider natural capital benefits.

Environmental net gain

6.62 In line with the NPPF, biodiversity net gain was a concept first introduced in planning policy in Bedford in the Local Plan 2030. However, since the plan was adopted, the environmental agenda has moved on and it is now suggested we should go further than biodiversity net gain and adopt an environmental net gain approach in planning and development. The Local Plan 2040 provides an opportunity to update our policy. Environmental net gain is defined as:

Environmental net gain = biodiversity net gain + natural capital gain

6.63 HM Treasury's Green Book further describes ecosystem services as: "Stocks of natural capital provide flows of environmental or 'ecosystem' services over time. These services, often in combination with other forms of capital (human, produced and social) produce a wide range of benefits. These include use values that involve interaction with the resource and which can have a market value (food, timber, water) or non-market value (such as recreation, landscape amenity and health and wellbeing). They also include non-use values, such as the value people place on the existence of particular habitats or species."

Natural Capital Infographic explained in paragraph 6.63

Source: Bedfordshire Natural Capital Assessment, Natural Capital Solutions

6.64 Environmental net gain builds upon the biodiversity net gain principle, but goes further to include a focus on natural capital assets and the associated benefits such as flood protection, improved water and air quality that can be achieved from developments.

6.65 The Council has been working with DEFRA as part of the Ox-Cam Arc Local Natural Capital Plan project which looked at how a natural capital approach can be implemented and incorporated into planning policy across the Arc; the documents are available to view on the website – https://www.oxcamlncp.org/. The Ecosystem Services Baseline and Comparison report was completed in March 2021. The information that has been mapped is at a strategic scale across the Arc area. A Natural Capital Accounting Tool has also been produced.

6.66 In order to obtain information at a more local level, The Bedfordshire Local Nature Partnership has commissioned natural capital and ecosystem services opportunity mapping for Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Luton Borough Councils. This work will also inform Local Nature Recovery Strategies which are a requirement of the Environment Act. Further detail is set out in the evidence base document, 'Bedford Borough Natural Capital Assessment Report'. We have incorporated consideration of the combined opportunities into our site assessment methodology.

6.67 Other work by the Arc Environment Working Group has led to the production of Arc-wide environment principles which in due course will lead to the development of an Arc Environment Strategy. The draft principles, support the concept of net environmental gain and commit partners to working with government to develop a net environment gain metric for use within the Arc. The aim is to put in place technical groups to assess net gain propositions on behalf of Local Planning Authorities and provide planning committees with independent advice.

Policy DM7 Environmental Net Gain

Proposals for major development should provide an environmental net gain (in accordance with government policy), securing a minimum of 10% biodiversity net gain, through the following:

  1. Enhancement of the existing features of the site, particularly where these deliver significant levels of ecosystem services; or
  2. The creation of additional habitats on the site; or
  3. Where it is not possible to deliver net gain solely on-site, there will be a requirement to enhance or create off site habitats.

Where possible and appropriate, linkages should be created with existing habitats and ecological networks with adjoining features.

Planning applications should demonstrate how net biodiversity and net environmental gain will be achieved through the production of a supporting statement that considers the contribution the proposal could make to the borough's natural capital.

Major development is defined as residential sites of 10 or more units; or on a site where the number of units is unknown, a site area of 0.5 hectare or greater. For non-residential uses, sites where the floorspace to be created is 1,000 square metres or greater or the site area is 1 hectare or greater.

New employment development in the countryside

6.68 Policy 75 of Local Plan 2030 encouraged new employment development that needs to be in the countryside in order to support the rural economy. Although the policy has only recently been adopted, the opportunity has been taken to review the policy to provide greater clarity around the intentions of the policy and make it more effective in its implementation.

Policy DM8 New employment development in the countryside

New office, industrial, warehousing and sui-generis business uses such as builders' yards will be supported in the countryside in the following circumstances:

  1. Where it is within an existing employment area; or
  2. Where it reuses land last used for office, industrial, warehousing or sui generis uses or reuses existing buildings; or
  3. Where it enables the expansion of an established business within its existing operational site; or
  4. Where it enables the development and diversification of agricultural and other land- based rural businesses; or
  5. Where it enables the limited enlargement of an existing employment area.

In all instances applicants will be required to demonstrate all of the following:

  1. If a new building is proposed, there are no existing buildings that could be used for the proposed use;
  2. Open storage is ancillary to employment buildings and is located in well-contained and screened areas of the site with an appropriate height restriction;
  3. The proposal would not generate traffic movement and volume that would lead to unacceptable environmental impacts or detriment to highway safety objectives;
  4. The proposal would not have a significant adverse effect on the established character of the area and the local amenities and adjoining land uses and accords with Policy 41S;
  5. There would be no adverse impact on biodiversity including national site network (formerly Natura 2000) sites in accordance with Policy 42S.

Horse and Equestrian Activities

6.69 Keeping and riding horses can help provide new opportunities for employment in rural areas. However, high standards of design and construction for the necessary buildings are required to ensure there is no adverse impact on the countryside. A high standard of maintenance is also essential to prevent a harmful impact on the environment.

Policy DM9 Horse and Equestrian development / activities

Proposals for horse related non-residential development will be permitted provided that the proposal would:

  1. not have an adverse impact on the character and appearance of the countryside; and
  2. not be detrimental to the amenity of neighbouring properties; and
  3. ensure a safe and acceptable form of access; and
  4. be of a high standard of design and construction (including details of stabling, tack rooms, feed rooms, fencing, manure storage and disposal); and
  5. not have an adverse impact on biodiversity including national site network (formerly Natura 2000) sites in accordance with Policy 42S.

Non-designated heritage assets

6.70 Non-designated heritage assets are buildings, monuments, sites, places, areas or landscapes identified as having a degree of heritage significance meriting consideration in planning decisions, but which do not meet the criteria for designated heritage assets. These places derive significance through their archaeological, historic, architectural and artistic interest. They also often make an important contribution to local distinctiveness.

Policy DM10 Non designated heritage assets

Non-designated heritage assets will be identified through the plan making process, through the planning decision-making process, through conservation area appraisals and reviews, through reviews of the data held in the Bedford Borough Historic Environment Record, or in conjunction with the Bedford Borough Council Historic Environment Team.

Once identified, non-designated heritage assets will have their status recorded on the Bedford Borough Historic Environment Record and given material weight in the planning process in accordance with Policy 41S and NPPF paragraph 203. In each instance, the Council will identify non-designated heritage assets based on sound evidence, with assets expected to meet two or more of the selection criteria within Appendix 5 unless comprising archaeological remains where they will be required to meet only the Archaeological Interest criterion.

The selection criteria will also be used to identify non-designated heritage assets for inclusion on a Local List for Bedford borough.

Outdoor sports space

6.71 The Council commissioned a Playing Pitch and Outdoor Sport Strategy to assess the existing provision of, and future demand for, outdoor sports facilities. The document was prepared by consultants in accordance with Sport England guidance and an Action Plan was produced to help inform and guide future outdoor sports development in the borough. The outputs from the strategy feed into the Sport England Playing Pitch Calculator which should be used to determine the amount of space required for future pitch sports in association with new development and, where provision on site is not possible or preferred, monetary contributions for the provision or enhancement of facilities off-site.

6.72 The Playing Pitch and Outdoor Sport Strategy looked at the following sports:

  • Cricket
  • Football
  • Rugby union
  • Rugby league
  • Hockey
  • Bowls
  • Tennis
  • Netball
  • Athletics
  • Multi use games areas (MUGA)
  • Informal sports facilities such as outdoor gyms, trim trails

6.73 The Sport England Playing Pitch Calculator covers football, rugby union, rugby league, hockey and cricket. Tennis and outdoor lawn bowls are not included; the priority is to improve existing tennis and bowls facilities in the borough to increase usage.

6.74 As a result of this work, there is a need to partially update existing Policy AD28 (Provision of Open Space in New Developments). Standards relating to outdoor sports space are replaced by the following policy. Other open space standards in Policy AD28 have been reviewed and do not need to change.

Policy DM11 Outdoor sports space in association with development

All new residential development which results in additional dwellings will be required to contribute to additional outdoor sports provision either through the enhancement of existing facilities or provision of new facilities. The Council will have regard to the Sport England Playing Pitch Calculator, the Bedford Playing Pitch Strategy (as amended) and the Council's priorities for sports and leisure, to determine the amount of open space and type of contribution in association with new development.

Where new pitches are provided on-site, the developer will be required to deliver the pitches and the Council's preference is for the ownership of those facilities to be transferred to Bedford Borough Council or a Parish or Town Council.

Where a monetary contribution is sought, this will be collected through a Section106 agreement.

Tall buildings

6.75 When planning tall buildings, it is important to understand the nature of the areas around them, and the impact they would have on heritage assets and historic character of places: the very things that make places distinctive and that people cherish. Tall buildings will generally be located in the town centre. Tall buildings can make a positive contribution to the skyline but in some cases they can also have a lasting adverse impact due to an unsuitable location, poor design, construction or management. Defining what a tall building is depends on the context in which it would be located, and is a building which 'breaks the skyline' and is significantly taller than the prevailing heights of buildings in the area. The Council will prepare an SPD to assist with the application of this policy.

Policy DM12 Tall buildings

Tall buildings will be located in the urban area. Tall buildings should:

  1. Achieve high architectural quality and innovative design (which includes sustainable design and construction practices); and
  2. Achieve a good relationship to other buildings and structures, the street network / development at street level, public and private open spaces (particularly at street level), and / or other townscape elements and characteristics; and which has ground floor activities; and
  3. Provide a positive contribution to the skyline, when perceived from all angles during both the day and night, ensuring that important local views and vistas are protected; and
  4. Where residential uses are proposed, include high quality and useable private and communal amenity space and ensure an innovative approach to the provision of open space; and
  5. Not adversely impact on sensitive locations such as: heritage assets (both designated and non-designated), local views, or other areas which have been designated as inappropriate for tall buildings; and
  6. Not adversely impact on; the microclimate of the surrounding area, including the proposal site and public spaces, or the biodiversity of open spaces, including watercourses and waterbodies and their hydrology, as well as their settings and views to and from them; and
  7. Provide positive social and economic benefits and contribute to socially balanced and inclusive communities; and
  8. Comply with aviation and navigation operational requirements and not interfere, to an unacceptable degree, with telecommunication, television and radio transmission networks.

[16] ID: 63-009-20190626 updated on 26 June 2019

[17] Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Regulations 2016 and the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding (Time for Compliance and fees) Regulations 2016

If you are having trouble using the system, please try our help guide.
back to top back to top