What will this policy do?
This policy will control development of land that is capable of becoming an important carbon sink.
Proposed policy direction
Support the creation of land and habitats that play a role as carbon sinks and protect existing carbon sinks from development in particular undisturbed or undrained peat.
Promote approaches that minimise soil disturbance, compaction and disposal during construction projects.
Why is this policy needed?
Land plays a significant role in climate objectives, acting as both a source of greenhouse gas emissions and a carbon sink. Peatlands in particular are an important store of carbon, while other habitats such as woodlands and grasslands also have a role to play, as indicated in latest research by Natural England. In South Cambridgeshire, peatland is located in the very north of the district, as identified on the Natural England peatland status maps. Alongside many other negative impacts, loss and degradation of natural habitats results in the direct loss of carbon stored within them. Our evidence, alongside the work of the Committee on Climate Change shows that even after all ambitious carbon reduction actions are taken, there will still be a proportion of ‘residual’ or unavoidable carbon emissions from the economy as a whole. Land based carbon sequestration, alongside technological means for removing carbon from the atmosphere, will have a role to play.
While the role of planning in supporting the development of land for carbon sequestration is limited, planning policies already exist to protect nature sites, which almost without exception will act as a carbon sink, and further policies exist to require new development to provide new open space and deliver biodiversity net gain. Promotion of nature based solutions, where natural systems are protected, restored and managed can assist with the protection of carbon sinks while at the same time providing benefits for biodiversity and health and wellbeing.
What consultation have we done on this issue?
You raised a number of issues related to climate change and land uses, some of which we have addressed under other policy themes.
Protect agricultural land, consider food security and protect peat soils
Protect woodlands and increase tree planting, including fruit trees, and hedge planting.
Provide more guidance on biodiversity and planting.
Support rewilding, wetlands and carbon sinks. Create new habitats.
Set biodiversity targets and monitor these.
Support the Cambridge Canopy Project.
Protect and provide gardens and allotments.
What alternatives did we consider?
No policy, leave the protection and enhancement of carbon sinks to existing policy related to sites of nature conservation importance - This is not the preferred approach as not all sites of importance for their role as carbon sinks will be covered by designations to protect their nature conservation importance, so this approach could still lead to the loss of areas of land that act as carbon sinks.
Supporting evidence studies and topic papers
Greater Cambridge Local Plan: Topic paper 2: Climate Change
Greater Cambridge Net Zero Carbon Study (2021)
Greater Cambridge Green Infrastructure Opportunity Mapping Final Report (2021)
Existing policies in adopted 2018 Local Plans
South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018
Policy NH/3: Protecting agricultural land
Cambridge Local Plan 2018
No current policy
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