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Local Planning Guidance Notes No 7 - Landscape and Development

This is one of a series of local planning guidance notes amplifying development plan proposals in a clear and concise format with the objective of improving design standards. In assessing planning applications both the design of buildings and their external environment and landscape are taken into account, and on many developments, the requirement to provide a landscape scheme to the Council's approval and to subsequently implement and maintain the scheme is a condition of planning permission. The note will form a material consideration in the determination of all relevant planning applications.

It is intended that this general guidance will clarify landscape information requirements and help applicants to have a better understanding of landscape issues. As these guidelines cannot cover all situations, applicants and agents are encouraged to discuss proposals with the landscape officer prior to the formal submission of an application. Information sheets are also available on a range of landscape topics. For larger or more complex sites, applicants are advised to employ a professionally qualified landscape specialist from the outset.

General considerations

Careful and early consideration of design issues, and the provision of adequate landscape information, as described in this leaflet, can help to avoid costly delays at a later stage. In assessing the landscape implications of planning applications the site context, proposed layout, future uses and maintenance all need to be taken into account.

There is a diverse landscape character and settlement pattern within the County Borough, with rural landscapes of particularly high quality or special historic landscape interest designated as Special Landscape Areas in Wrexham's Unitary Development Plan. In these areas it is especially important for any development to fit in with its surroundings. Planning officers can advise applicants on appropriate and acceptable solutions for any rural or urban situation before an application is submitted.

Outline application

Landscape issues must be regarded as an integral part of the development process, with consideration given to the form and use of all spaces from the earliest stage. The factors listed below should be considered at any early stage by the applicant, so that information which would be helpful in assessing whether the proposal is acceptable in principle can be identified, as well as those matters of detail which can be reserved' for a further planning application:

Some types of development would benefit from a Design Statement, while a detailed landscape and visual assessment may be needed for particularly prominent development proposals. Major proposals may be subject to formal Environmental impact Assessment (EIA) procedures. Planning officers can advise on when these are needed, and at what stage.

Detailed application / Reserved matters / Landscape conditions attached to planning approval

Information provided should include where appropriate:

Design Statements

A Design Statement for more complex sites, should include a site analysis, set out the design principles, justify the design solution, and show how it responds to the wider context as well as the characteristics of the site. The format and level of detail required will depend on the scale and likely impact of the development, but written material would not normally exceed two sides of A4. Plans and diagrams can be included where helpful. Preparation of a Design Statement may help to reduce delays in processing applications.

Site Survey

A detailed survey should be carried out before the design of any building or landscape is begun, noting:

Hard landscape

This includes all hard surfaces to be retained or formed within the site including paved areas, car park surfaces, steps, walls, fences, roads, paths, seating, lighting and other features. There is a wide variety of natural and manufactured materials available and advice can be provided on which are most appropriate for the purpose intended, and in character with the local landscape. As a general rule, simple design using a limited range of good quality and robust materials looks better and works better. Re-use or retention of existing original materials is encouraged, such as railings and brick or stone which contribute to local rural or urban landscape character.

Hard landscape design should always take the needs of the disabled into account, as well as security and safety for all users.

Soft landscape

This refers to all vegetation which is to be retained or planted within the site including areas of grass, as well as to watercourses, ditches, ponds and wetlands. Some areas of existing soft landscape may be of nature conservation interest and some may contain protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Advice is available from the Council's Ecologist if required.

Certain plants will be more suited to the physical conditions of the site and to the local landscape character than others. As a general rule, locally native species are preferable for countryside boundaries and for large scale planting. It is also recommended that large tree species which will make a long-term contribution to the rural or urban landscape are included in landscape schemes, where space permits. Advice on existing trees and on new tree planting can be provided by the Council's Tree Officer or Landscape Officer.

Landscape plans

Drawings showing landscape, whether existing or proposed, should be clearly legible whether drawn by hand or with the use of computers. Information can be separated onto different sheets if necessary for clarity. For sites which include changes of level, cross sections are useful, and for some schemes illustrations may also be helpful. The scale of the drawings should be adequate for the purpose e.g. I:100 or 1:50 for detailed landscape schemes. A north point and key to any symbols used on the drawings should be included.

Implementation of approved landscape schemes

Where a landscape condition has been imposed it will usually require a scheme to be approved before any work commences. If work is started before agreement the planning permission may be invalidated. The condition will state either that the scheme should normally be completed within six months of first use of the development, or by the end of the first planting season (November to March) following first use. Works on site must comply with the approved plans, and approval must be obtained first if amendments are proposed.

It is essential that protection is provided to any existing landscape features to be retained before any other work begins on site, and that this protection is maintained throughout the construction period.

To ensure that the approved scheme is implemented satisfactorily the developer is advised, particularly on larger sites, to select a reputable landscape contractor and to retain the services of a landscape architect or employ a competent person to supervise work on site. In order to show how the scheme is to be achieved detailed working drawings (not necessarily part of the planning application) may be needed.

Landscape works should not be treated as an afterthought with inadequate time or resources allowed. It is advised that a cost estimate or tender price is obtained in advance for the approved scheme as it is essential that sufficient funds are set aside. While costs may often be a small proportion of total development costs, the overall success of a scheme can be reliant on the landscape setting. In some cases enforcement action may need to be taken if planning conditions have not been met.

Maintenance of approved landscape schemes

Developers must also give consideration to the future uses of the site and the maintenance implications of their proposals. Provision may need to be made for the following: mowing regimes; hedge cutting, woodland and scrub management; watering; pruning; mulching; cleaning of surfaces; litter removal; repairs. If the Council is to adopt any land a commuted sum will be required to assist in future maintenance and management.

Planning conditions require that an approved landscape scheme is maintained for a minimum period of 5 years with replacement of plants which fail to survive. It is recommended that a maintenance plan or schedule is prepared.

General landscape design advice

General design principles, including landscape design, will be covered in a forthcoming Local Planning Guidance note on Design. Detailed landscape design topics such as planting, fencing will be covered by separate information sheets.

Landscape design does not have to be conventional to be acceptable, and developers are welcome to discuss non-standard design solutions before submitting an application.

Sustainable landscapes

The Council welcomes landscape design which incorporates principles of sustainability such as an ecological concept of landscape, use of local materials, low energy consumption for construction and maintenance, composting, local recycling of water through surfaces which increase the permeability of the ground, and good pedestrian links/cycle facilities to reduce car use.

Adopted November 2003