The terra firma Consultancy Ltd firm was commissioned by Kidmore End Parish Council at the request of the Neighbourhood Development Plan Steering Group to undertake a landscape sensitivity study of part of the parish.
The complete report can be downloaded here, but for ease, we are publishing the Executive Summary below, with a view of disseminating the findings in a quicker manner.
For any comments, please contact the Neighbourhood Development Plan Steering Group via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Parish of Kidmore End, and the Neighbourhood Plan Designated Area which covers most of the Parish, is largely protected by its inclusion within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Beauty, an area which is of the highest value and subject to the greatest levels of protection (NPPF). However the land in the south of the Parish, which extends up to the well-defined and long established boundary with Reading Borough, at the residential suburb of Emmer Green, lies outside of the national designation of the AONB.
The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group considers that this land is of a high quality in its own right and indistinguishable from the AONB. The proximity of the urban settlement at Reading in itself is not a reason to regard the land of less value as it is not uncommon for designated and valued landscapes to butt up to urban areas (or indeed to include them as at North Wessex Downs AONB), especially as only small parts of the edge of the residential suburbs of Emmer Green are visible from this land.
The Steering Group therefore appointed landscape consultants, the terra firma Consultancy Ltd, to undertake a full landscape sensitivity assessment of the land, known as the Study Area. The terra firma Consultancy Ltd has a long track record in undertaking this type of work to a tried a tested methodology for a number of local planning authorities including SODC. We therefore have full confidence in their assessment and conclusions as set out the following Report.
The need to undertake a professional and detailed landscape sensitivity assessment is all the greater as this part of the Parish is under considerable pressure for future development. Sites for development (housing) have been put forward through SODC’s call for strategic sites as set out in the SHELAA and HELAA and through the Neighbourhood Plan Call for Sites 2018. Speculative development sites also continue to be promoted in the area.
The Study concludes that the Study Area has a high landscape sensitivity which is defined as: The landscape is of higher sensitivity and of higher value and therefore could not accommodate areas of new development without a significant and adverse impact on the landscape character and visual amenity. Only a very small scale development may be possible, such as on any small areas of brownfield land, providing it retains the important landscape features and their landscape setting of the area and has regard to the setting and form of existing settlement and the character and the sensitivity of adjacent landscape character areas.
The Study sets out in detail those landscape features and the distinctive landscape character that should be protected from development. Overall it comes to some important conclusions on the land within the Parish outside of the Chilterns AONB:
- The landscape of the whole of the area is contiguous with the character of the Chilterns AONB within the Chilterns Plateau with Woodlands and contains many of the special qualities of the AONB: Much of the Study Area is indistinguishable from the landscape of the Chilterns AONB nearby to the north, sharing many landscape characteristics including topographical, vegetation cover, historic landscape pattern, perceptual and experiential qualities and some visual links with the designated landscape;
- The land forms an important part of both the landscape and visual setting to the Chilterns AONB with strong landscape links. Intervisibility between the land and the AONB is more limited, due to the typical AONB features of undulating topography and layers of vegetation cover in woodlands and mature field and road boundaries but the land is clearly part of the visual setting to the AONB;
- The land has been demonstrated to have significant landscape features that raise it well above ‘ordinary’ landscapes and to justifiably regard this landscape as a valued landscape.We therefore urge Natural England to consider the Study Area for inclusion within any revised boundary to the Chilterns AONB. This process will take some time and therefore the Study Area should be protected through its status as the setting of the Chilterns AONB. SODC has long sought to include this land within the AONB and in the past included it within the local landscape designation as an Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV). For landscapes outside of the statutory designations, the revised NPPF requires that the landscape should be identified as having an ‘identified quality’ in the development plan (NPPF para 170 a)). The land outside of the AONB within the Parish has been identified as a valued landscape to be included as such in the emerging Neighbourhood Plan in accordance with revised NPPF para 170 a).
The Steering Group also considers that the Study demonstrates that there is a case for particular protection of the following individual aspects of the Study Area:
- The open countryside gaps between the following:a. Tokers Green and Emmer Green
b. Tokers Green and Chalkhouse Green
c. Tokers Green and Caversham
d. Chalkhouse Green and Emmer Green
- The landscape setting of the Listed buildings
- The individual historic landscape features including the former drove road alignment, the sunken tree and hedge lined lanes and paths, Ancient semi-natural woodland and Ancient enclosures
- The mature native woodland and tree cover
- The hedgerows bounding the roads, footpaths and fields
- The well-vegetated settings to the housing plots in the two small hamlets and around the individual farmsteads
- The narrow windy lanes with their enclosed rural character
- Sunken lanes along the road network and public rights of way
- The Conservation Target Area, local wildlife sites, BAP Priority Sites and surviving valued habitats such as chalk grassland
- The landscape pattern of pasture and grassland landscape
- The undeveloped and rural well treed character of the area’s recreational areas at the Reading Golf Course and Abbey Rugby Grounds
- The complex open dry valleys and undeveloped plateau