Policy GP/LC: Protection and enhancement of landscape character

DRAFT version for various committee meetings.

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What will this policy do?

This policy will set out how development should address landscape character and features in Greater Cambridge. 

Proposed policy direction

The Greater Cambridge Local Plan will require developments to:

  • Respect, retain or enhance local landscape character (as set out in the Greater Cambridge Landscape Character Assessment).
  • Fully consider cumulative effects of development and incremental change on landscape character.
  • Retain and enhance landscape features within new developments.
  • Protect and enhance the setting of Cambridge, including the green corridors extending into the city and along the River Cam corridor, and strengthen or recreate the well-defined and vegetated edge of Cambridge, improve visual amenity and enhance biodiversity.
  • Protect and enhance the setting of the villages in South Cambridgeshire and continue to protect identified Important Countryside Frontages.
  • Protect important green gaps such as between Longstanton and Northstowe.

Why is this policy needed?

The Greater Cambridge landscape is varied with intimate river valleys, open fens, wooded claylands and ridges, and rolling chalk hills.  Built around the banks of the River Cam, Cambridge is a distinctive and iconic historic University city. 

The Local Plan needs to ensure the varied character of different parts of the area is properly considered in planning decisions. Developments should respond to the local landscape character and take opportunities for enhancement.

The new Greater Cambridge Landscape Character Assessment (2021) has looked in detail at the physical and human/cultural influences that have shaped the evolution and character of the landscape today.  It has identified 33 different Landscape Character Areas with a distinct local identity and sense of place.  Detailed information is provided about each, including the condition of the landscape, key sensitivities and guidance on landscape management and integrating development into the landscape.

New development can provide opportunities to enhance the landscape, such as improving the edges of settlements. The edges of Cambridge and the villages are an important area of transition which require sensitive landscaping to protect the setting of the settlements and to provide a well-defined edge which respects townscape and the countryside beyond.

In many South Cambridgeshire villages there are locations where a strong countryside character penetrates into the village, or separates two parts of a village. These Important Countryside Frontages, identified in the South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018, are part of village character, and warrant continued protection.  Other important green gaps in the landscape which should be protected and maintained will be identified in the policy.

What consultation have we done on this issue?

Responses to the First Conversation highlighted we should require developments to be in keeping with the landscape, informed by Landscape Character Assessments. We should include policies which seek to protect sensitive and valued landscapes.

The plan needs to consider the whole landscape associated with historic Cambridge and the River Cam. It should continue to retain significant green corridors through the urban areas and linking to an enhanced countryside beyond. Development proposals should consider their impact on views to and from the Greater Cambridge boundary, and on designated and undesignated heritage assets.

There is also scope to improve the landscape setting of some of the villages.

What alternatives did we consider?

No Policy – Not considered a reasonable alternative as policy guidance is needed to guide how landscape issues are addressed in planning decisions.

Supporting evidence studies and topic papers

  • Greater Cambridge Local Plan: Topic paper 5: Great Places
  • Greater Cambridge Landscape Character Assessment (2021)
  • Greater Cambridge Strategic Heritage Impact Assessment (2021)

Existing policies in adopted 2018 Local Plans

South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018

  • Policy NH/1 Conservation Area and Green Separation at Longstanton
  • Policy NH/2: Protecting and Enhancing Landscape Character
  • Policy NH/13: Important Countryside Frontages

Cambridge Local Plan 2018

  • Policy 8: Setting of the city

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