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Chartered Landscape Architects | Urban Designers

LANDSCAPE SENSITIVITY STUDY: LAND NORTH OF STEVENAGE


LANDSCAPE SENSITIVITY STUDY: LAND NORTH OF STEVENAGE

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INTRODUCTION

Proposed team

1.1 North Herts District Council is aware that both Liz Lake and Michelle Bolger of LiZLaKe, Landscape Architects and Urban Designers have extensive experience in Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment of proposed development and have frequently represented developers and local authorities at Inquiry. However, we have not had the opportunity to work on Landscape Sensitivity studies and would like to expand our project work in this area. We have therefore asked Chartered Landscape Architect, Matthew Bright to join us in this submission. Matthew has extensive experience in this area of work and we believe that with our project management we will be able to respond to the brief positively and effectively. Study appreciation

1.2 We recognise the need to accommodate a substantial amount of growth around Stevenage up to 2021, as required by the Regional Plan. It is therefore very important to identify those sites that can best accommodate development, minimising any potential for unacceptable adverse landscape and visual effects. We also appreciate the need to ensure that planned changes retain and where possible strengthen overall regional character and local distinctiveness. A landscape sensitivity study should consider not only the relative degree to which landscape characteristics may be affected by development but also provide pointers to opportunities for enhancement. 1.3 As the study will be one of the background papers for the preferred options in the Stevenage North Herts Action Plan (SNAP) it is critical that it provides a sound evidence base, capable of being defended at Examination in Public. In this regard we consider it is important that the assessment is succinct, transparent and easily understood. 1.4 From our review of your brief and initial discussion with you our understanding of the main requirements for the study are: •

Provision of a Landscape Sensitivity assessment of sites in an identified study area lying to the north of the SNAP area - as well as considering how sites in this study area might be affected by any option to extend development northwards of the existing SNAP area, it will also allow any potential wider landscape and visual effects from development solely within the SNAP area to be identified.

Review of sensitivity assessments for 15% of sites within the SNAP - testing the validity of previous judgements made about landscape sensitivity associated with a sample of sites (presumably with a focus on the sensitivity of those sites which for a range of other planning reasons may be thought to be suitable for development).

Completion of a sensitivity assessment for two sites within the SNAP area.

Discussion and further work (if required) on landscape capacity levels – this would


identify the capacity to accommodate different amounts of development, with a further option to assess capacity at a more detailed level e.g. dwelling numbers at a specified density for any selected sites (as may be identified by yourselves) taking into account likely mitigation measures. Team Experience

1.5 We have the following key capabilities within the LiZLaKe team relevant to this study: •

Extensive experience of preparing landscape and visual appraisals for sites, landscape character assessments at the local level, (including for the urban fringe) landscape sensitivity and capacity studies, and landscape and visual impact assessments (for EIA). Our experience of landscape and urban design guidelines and strategies is also relevant.

Availability of in-house GIS expertise.

Good local knowledge and understanding of the landscape around Stevenage. Matthew Bright was formerly the Landscape Architect for NHDC and since going into private practice prepared a strategic level study on behalf of Stevenage BC and NHDC assessing landscape sensitivity and capacity around the entire urban fringe of Stevenage which was used in evidence at the Regional Plan EIP.

Liz Lake, Michele Bolger and Matthew Bright all have inquiry experience and should the study be the subject of Examination in Public will be able to provide the necessary evidence to support the council.

1.6 As a team we will be able to offer: •

A responsive approach, especially given our close proximity to North Herts.

A high degree of commitment and enthusiasm for the study.

Collaborative approach to ensure the study outcomes meets your needs.


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METHODOLOGY

Approach

2.1 Our overall approach will be in accordance with the following key guidance documents: •

Landscape Character Assessment. Guidance for England and Scotland – Countryside Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage 2002.

•

Landscape and Visual Assessment Guidelines. Landscape Institute and IEEMA 2006.

2.2 Our approach is also strongly informed by Topic Paper 6: Techniques and Criteria for judging capacity and sensitivity - Countryside Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage 2004. It should be emphasized however that this was a discussion paper, setting out a range of possible approaches to the assessment of landscape sensitivity and capacity, and is currently the subject of review to produce a revised Topic Paper in the light of experience and best practice. 2.3 The Topic Paper discusses the concept of overall (inherent) landscape sensitivity to change, irrespective of the type of development under consideration. However it also discusses a second approach, assessing sensitivity towards a given pressure that both LiZLaKe and Matthew Bright consider more appropriate to adopt. An emerging methodology for assessing strategic sensitivity to residential development across the East of England Region was presented by Kate Ahearn of LUC during the recent consultation by Landscape East on the draft regional Landscape Character Assessment this indicates that there is a general movement away from the concept of inherent sensitivity. This was also apparent at a recent Landscape Character network workshop (in October) at which the Topic Paper and recent examples of sensitivity and capacity studies were discussed. 2.4 We understand that the results of the previous studies were based on inherent sensitivity studies followed by a capacity study. At the time of the study this was a legitimate approach but now that an alternative preferred methodology seems to be evolving and may be in place when the Examination in Public takes place we believe the next sensitivity study should be for a specific type of development. 2.5 We anticipate for this study this will be primarily sensitivity to residential development. Being specific about the development type provides the opportunity for considering how a landscape will respond to change or how the character will be altered by the introduction of new elements. We believe judgements made on this basis are more likely to be supportable, with less potential for dispute. 2.6 We will therefore adopt the following definition:

Landscape Sensitivity is the degree to which the landscape is susceptible to changes arising from a specified development type.

Judgements about landscape sensitivity will be made taking into account the combination of:


Landscape Character Sensitivity (physical and perceptual characteristics, landscape value. (e.g. landscape designations, local views on landscape value, special cultural/ historic associations, tranquillity)

Visual Sensitivity. (visibility)

and the interaction of these factors with the characteristics of the development type.

Landscape Capacity is defined as the relative ability of the landscape to accommodate different amounts (extent, area and scale) of a specific development type without unacceptable adverse impacts. Evaluating the capacity of sites to accommodate development is the second part of the study. We have our own definitions for evaluating capacity and if it is agreed that an additional capacity assessment is undertaken we suggest these definitions could be developed in discussion with you.

Review of the North Herts Study

2.7 From an initial review of the methodology used in the North Herts Edge of Settlement Study 2006 we would agree in broad terms with most of the sensitivity and capacity factors considered. However, we would have some concerns about the study’s robustness in relation to the following: •

The assessment of inherent landscape sensitivity irrespective of the change or development type. (See issues raised above)

The reliance on quantitative scoring alone which may not reflect that a particular landscape, visual or value factor may be of overriding importance in any one area.

Lack of supporting text to explain how the judgements were made.

2.8 We would suggest much of the information collected is very useful and could be integrated to fit with a more robust methodology but with more transparency of judgements necessary we are happy to discuss this further with you. Our own detailed methodology takes into consideration the majority of the key factors used in your methodology. Proposed Study Methodology

2.9 Our proposed methodology is described below. We are very happy to work closely with yourselves at the outset of the project to refine this as necessary to ensure it meets your specific needs. Start-up meeting

2.10 We recommend a key part of the start up meeting should be to spend time with you to identify the sample sites within the SNAP area for assessment purposes, to gain an understanding of the emerging preferred SNAP options, to agree development types to be assessed and any assumptions about their characteristics and to discuss your likely requirements for any capacity work.


Review of background information

2.11 A review of existing background information will be undertaken which will include all the relevant studies identified in the brief. Landscape Characterisation

2.12 In this desk based stage we will analyse and combine the different layers of GIS data e.g. OS mapping, historic landscape character, habitat, Hertfordshire Landscape Character Areas and also review aerial photos to identify within the defined north of SNAP study distinctive landscape zones of a consistent character at a 1:10,000 scale (sub-divisions of the Hertfordshire landscape character areas) which will provide an appropriate context for site level landscape sensitivity analysis and if required capacity analysis. Field Survey

2.13 We will carry out a detailed field survey recording on a structured field survey form (to be agreed with you) key landscape features and elements and their aesthetic and perceptual qualities, landscape condition, contribution to settlement setting and visual sensitivity. We will ensure consistency in the judgements of field surveyors following the good practice set out in the landscape character assessment guidance. Landscape Analysis

2.14 Using the results of the above stages we will prepare analysis plans which identify key landscape features/characteristics e.g. ridgelines, valley side slopes, pattern of woodland, areas of landscape contributing to settlement setting, character of the settlement edge etc to provide additional context and understanding for the site scale assessment. Landscape Sensitivity and Capacity Assessment Framework

2.15 This stage will analyse the field survey and other background information to make reasoned judgements about the relative landscape sensitivity of sites to the specified development types. 2.16 The key factors that we propose to consider as relevant to the study area are as follows:

Landscape Character Sensitivity

2.17

Natural character- landform, extent of semi-natural vegetation, hedgerow and tree cover. Perceptual character – enclosure and context. (what exists around the study area) Cultural character- historic character, land use, field pattern, settlement pattern. Landscape condition- intactness and impact of intrusive elements in the landscape.

Visual sensitivity

2.18 Assessment of the degree of intervisibility - the degree to which development within the area would be visible to surrounding areas, taking account of landform and vegetation cover/density, and visual receptors (public and private). We would agree with you appropriate assumptions about the height of development.


Scope for Mitigation

2.19 Assessment of the potential for appropriate landscape and visual mitigation. Landscape Value

2.20 Local landscape designations, tranquillity, scenic beauty, cultural associations, and contribution to distinctive settlement setting and settlement separation. 2.21 For each site to be considered we will assess the potential impact of development on each of the individual factors, building up a clear profile using the assessment scale below. We will establish a full set of clear assessment criteria as part of this e.g. for landform we will assess the potential impact of housing development on distinctive landform and shape. 2.22 We will assess the degree of landscape sensitivity following a five point scale which is well defined and easy to follow:

Low sensitivity - characteristics of the landscape are robust and are able to absorb development of this type without significant adverse character change. Built development relates to landscape character.

Low-medium sensitivity - characteristics of the landscape are resilient to change and are able to absorb development of this type in many situations without significant adverse character change. Many aspects of built development relate to landscape character.

Medium sensitivity - characteristics of landscape are susceptible to change but with some ability to absorb development of this type in many situations without significant adverse character change. Some aspects of built development relate to landscape character.

Medium-high sensitivity - characteristics of the landscape are vulnerable to change and development of this type can be absorbed only in limited situations without significant adverse change. Few aspects of built development relate to landscape character.

High sensitivity - characteristics of the landscape are very vulnerable to change and are unable to absorb development of this type without significant adverse character change. Built development conflicts directly with the landscape character.

2.23 The spread and balance of each of the individual sensitivity factors will then be reviewed to arrive at an overview assessment of sensitivity for each site, e.g. if most of the sensitivity factors are assessed as high with only a small number low and medium - low then the overall sensitivity judgement is likely to be high. However, adjustment may be necessary if one particular factor is of overriding importance in that area. We would generally advise against a quantitative scoring approach to establishment of the overall levels of sensitivity and capacity. (See above comments in respect of your methodology) 2.24 A clear concise narrative will accompany the sensitivity and capacity assessment for each site with those factors that were most important in establishing the sensitivity and


capacity conclusions clearly identified This will allow users of the study to understand the rationale behind each assessment and the potential impacts of development. It can also help to guide policy decisions to be responsive to the locally distinctive characteristics, sensitivities and opportunities in the area. 2.25 At this stage we would have reviewed 15% of the previous study, completed the two incomplete sites and looked at the additional area. We should be able to confirm the validity of the previous study findings or have good reasons for revising it and have a robust basis for the next stage. We would also have identified individual sites with potential as development sites. Assessment of Developable Area

2.26 At this point in the study we would meet to discuss the potential sites for development. Once the number of sites to be assessed is agreed we would agree a separate fixed fee for this aspect of the work. 2.27 Drawing on the sensitivity assessment we would make a judgement on the capacity of a site to accommodate residential (or other) development. These are the LiZLaKe practice definitions for assessing capacity and we would expect to refine them with you as appropriate for specific development typologies:

Low capacity- thresholds for change are very low and the area is unable to accommodate development of this type and scale without significant adverse effects on landscape character/value.

Low-medium capacity- thresholds for significant change are low and development of this type and scale can only be accommodated in limited situations.

Medium capacity – thresholds for change are intermediate with some ability to accommodate development of this type and scale in some parts.

High-medium capacity – thresholds for significant change are high and the area is able to accommodate a large proportion of development of this type and scale.

High capacity- thresholds for significant change are very high and the area can be developed without significant adverse effects on landscape character/value.

2.28 We have a great deal of experience in assessing potential sites for our residential development clients and in helping them with site planning and landscape infrastructure proposals. If there is a need to identify actual amounts of development for selected sites (e.g. those with high, high-medium capacity) then we could estimate potential dwelling numbers based upon appropriate assumptions (to be agreed with yourselves) about land allocation for infrastructure and open space and appropriate development density.


3

OUTPUTS

3.1 Key outputs from the study will be: •

Identification and mapping of character zones/sub-areas for the north of SNAP study area and a descriptive analysis of their key landscape features and characteristics.

Detailed Landscape Sensitivity profiles and if required outline Capacity profiles for the sites north of the SNAP area and the 15% of sites within the SNAP area, as well as for the two sites not previously completed, accompanied by a clear concise narrative.

Provision of colour shaded plans showing the relative levels of sensitivity.

Assessment (if required) of the amount of development that could be accommodated for selected sites taking account of green infrastructure.


4

PROGRAMME

4.1 We have set out a proposed programme below based upon your timescale for the study, including allowance for a start -up meeting, one meeting on capacity work and one to discuss the draft final document in advance of a council meeting on the 26th January. Our anticipated programme for the stages we have identified in our methodology is as follows: •

Stage 1: 23rd – 28th November. Start up Meeting no. 1. Handover of relevant background information and of available GIS data. Review of background information.

Stage 2: 30th November – 4th December. Landscape characterisation of zones, preparation of landscape analysis plans and finalise sites for assessment.

Stage 3: 7th December – 17th December. Field Survey.

• Stage 4: 20th December – 6th January. Landscape Sensitivity Analysis. • Stage 5: 9th January – 20th January. Meeting no. 2 to discuss capacity work. Capacity Analysis. Report writing. • Stage 6 Meeting no. 3 to discuss draft report prior to council meeting on 26th January. Draft Final Report Submission 29th January. Final Report provisionally mid February. (To be agreed)


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CURRICULUM VITAES

Personnel

It is proposed that the following personnel would work on this project. Please refer to individual CV’s that follow.

LiZLaKe Landscape Architects | Urban Designers

Dr Liz Lake, Director and Chartered Landscape Architect, will be responsible for running the project.

Michelle Bolger, Senior Associate and Chartered Landscape Architect, will be an advisor on the project.

Ben Spurden, Landscape Architect, will be responsible for producing the digital plans, photographic and GIS images and 3D graphics.

Rachel Louwinger, Document Controller, will be responsible for the management and distribution of project documentation.

Sub-consultant

Matthew P J Bright, Chartered Landscape Architect Specialisation, Landscape Design and Environmental Planning, will be responsible for the field work, client contact and report writing.


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PROPOSED FEES AND EXPENSES

6.1 Our proposed fixed fee for work in 3.3(a) and 3.3(b) of the brief is £12,450. Expenses are estimated and will be charged at cost up to £1,550 vat will be added to both fees and expenses. TOTAL: £14,000. 6.2 The daily rate for further work on Item 3.3(c) of the brief for Matthew Bright, Liz Lake or Michelle Bolger is £375/day. 6.3 An estimate of 5 days work to establish capacity for all sites (e.g. north of SNAP sites, 15% of SNAP sites and 2 sites not previously completed) is dependent on the number of sites selected. This would provide a capacity level according to the five point scale set out in our methodology and associated commentary. If the option to calculate the developable area for selected sites is required we suggest half a day per site.


Consultants Contact Details Dr Liz Lake LiZLaKe Western House Chapel Hill Stansted Essex CM24 8AG T: E:

01279 647044 liz.lake@lizlake.com

Matthew Bright 1Yew Cottages High Street Nutley East Sussex TN22 3NF T: E:

01825 712862 bright279@btinternet.com

Names and Contact information of Referees LiZLaKe Referee Colin Darby Planning Manager M: E: T: A:

07841565527 cdarby@stmodwen.co.uk 20 7788 3700 5th Floor, 180 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QZ

Matthew Bright Referee Richard Javes Planning Policy Manager T: A:

01438 242242 Stevenage Borough Council, Danestrete, Stevenage, Herts SG1 1HN

(Matthew Bright carried out the Stevenage landscape sensitivity and capacity study)


LiZLaKe Company Policies and Financial Reports

Insurance: Professional Indemnity Insurance Public Liability Insurance

Audited Accounts: Year ending 30 September 2008 Year ending 30 September 2007 Year ending 30 September 2006

LiZLaKe Health and Safety Policy Risk Assessment for Procedure


Chartered Landscape Architects | Urban Designers

LiZLaKe Chartered Landscape Architects | Urban Designers Western House | Chapel Hill | Stansted Mountfitchet | Essex | CM24 8AG t +44 (0)1279 647044 f +44 (0)1279 813566 e office@lizlake.com www.lizlake.com

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