AWT response to the draft LUP

The Alderney Wildlife Trust's response to the States of Alderney's draft Land Use Plan public consultation. We are encouraged that the LUP refers to various aspects of biodiversity and sustainability but have identified a number of points of concern.

Dear Mr M Hurley,
Please find enclosed the Alderney Wildlife Trust’s (hereinafter called the ‘Trust’) response to the States of Alderney’s (SoA) 2017 draft Land Use Plan (hereinafter called the ‘LUP') public consultation on the LUP. We would be grateful if you would consider the points raised and we would request permission to attend the public sessions and present the issues directly.
The Trust is encouraged that the LUP refers to and supports:
- Biodiversity of the island’s habitats and species
- Sustainability
- Climate change
- Efficient use of land
- Controlling invasive species
- Promoting trees
- Enhance the management of solid waste, recycling and land contamination
- Reducing flood risk
However, the Trust has identified a number of points of clear concern with the LUP consultation process and the LUP documents. Please find these below


Consultation Response

1. Consultation process issues
The Trust registers the following issues on the LUP consultation process, including:

  •  The public consultation period is too short to review the LUP accurately, given the length and number of documents associated with the LUP.
  • The public consultation period has been undertaken across the summer period (in particular conflicting with the island’s notable festival, Alderney Week).

Please note that best practice as described by IEEMA and other bodies for the undertaking of a consultation of this scale suggests that a period of consultation of no less than 3 months, which should where possible avoid key holiday periods or events, to enable respondents the opportunity to review and prepare their submissions fully. The Trust is aware that SoA, via ARUP, has criticised at least one potential developer on Alderney for not considering these issues just last year and we would ask that the review consider the limitations this shortcutting is placing upon interested parties wishing to participate in the process.

Action – To extend the consultation period to better enable the community to consider and respond to this vitally important and detailed document. The Trust is very aware that it and other NGOs on Alderney, primarily supported by volunteers, lack the resources or the expertise to carry out a complete assessment of the entire documentation presented for this consultation within the timeframe allowed given the impact of the summer season.
 


2. General LUP issues
Again the Trust would like to congratulate both the SoA and their contractors ARUP for their detailed and layered approach in this next 5 year LUP. However, this approach is very detailed and requires not only a detailed knowledge of the LUP itself but also planning practices as a whole in order to properly understand and respond to the policy. Therefore the Trust feels it must register the following concerns with the LUP in general, specifically:

  •   The Trust questions the SoA’s ability, and that of other potentially involved parties, such as the Trust and Alderney Society, to deliver on all the aspects of LUP (i.e. EIA, Major Projects deliverables), especially given the size of the planning office and the general resources available on island for those responding to planning applications. The Trust feels the LUP is an ‘aspirational document’ which, though it does outline an architecture for delivery, may simply not be practical within the Alderney context and therefore may not meet the actual, realistic needs of planning on the island.
  • The Trust questions the hierarchy, selection process and decision making related to areas with multiple zoned uses within the designated area, particularly in the case of recreation and areas zoned for ecological protection (e.g. the Longis Bay area given both protection and recreation zoning). The Trust is concerned that there will be a significant level of personal interpretation required of the SoA planning staff and States Members when considering the inter-relationship of these policies in regards development applications. Given the very ‘local’ nature of politics and planning on the island this level of interpretation may lead to conflict and potential future challenges which could be avoided by a more prescriptive approach.
  • The Trust feels that there needs to be clarity on the provision of a rolling agreement to accept new important habitats and species (if identified via new surveys and research) into the LUP, to keep the list up-to-date (LUP; Chapter 5, p22, paragraph 5.48). Given the limited resources and timeframe, as well as the lack of legislative framework, the Trust is aware that the lists of habitats and species provided to the LUP process is still far from complete and will continue to grow and be updated regularly.

Action – The Trust requests that the Inspector consider the capacity for delivery of the proposed plan, and where it appears that either the complexity of its structure or the potential lack of resources may inhibit its delivery, request the SoA to refine the LUP itself or guarantee to support the LUP with the appropriate resources and training (e.g. EIA workshops) during its lifespan.
Further the Trust recommends that other appropriate stakeholders (i.e. the Trust and Alderney Society) also benefit from training, in order to assist the planning office and LUP where required.
The Trust requests that the roles of NGOs and other recognized participants in the LUP be formalised, especially in relation to their involvement during potential decision making regarding development proposals within areas with dual zoning

 


3. LUP documents
The Trust registers the following issues on the LUP documents, including:

  • The LUP documents are easy to read and informative, yet extremely long. Certain sections/topics may not be required where the likelihood of practical delivery seems very low, e.g. paragraphs relating to promoting children’s play. The importance of the LUP may have been lost to the reader as a result.
  • The Trust understands the difficulties created by the wording of the Building Development Control (Alderney) Law, 2002 (as amended) in that it rigidly restricts development from the designated area in such a way changes require the use of article 12 of the law and in most cases require an LUP review. However, the aforementioned law was created to continue the traditional protection of the land outside of the town of St. Anne and the Harbour which due to more than 1,000 years of historic protection as agricultural and commons space has created the modern landscape and biodiverse environment Alderney prides itself in today. In 2002 the Trust hosted a University College London M.Sc. Course which carried out a street survey to establish the island’s perception of the importance of its countryside and greenbelt. This study showed that the vast majority of islanders not only felt the designated area’s existence was important, but that the majority also thought that the island’s ‘greenbelt had existed for more than’ 70 years, dating back to the 1930’s or before.
    Though there are controls proposed within policy S7 such as the use of EIA, in essence this policy proposes to remove the traditional protection for the designated area for any project which meets a poorly defined set of criteria, which will be judged by a limited number of politicians involved in the B&DCC.
    Whilst the proposal does enable the B&DCC to review the proposal independently, those members will have been asked to vote on this issue, prior to reviewing it as the planning authority, which introduce the potential of bias which would seem hard for any party to ignore.
    Further the Trust notes that the emphasis of this policy is focused on what the politicians representing the SoA, at the time of a specific project’s application for planning permission, interpret as meeting the criteria of ‘strategic and economic benefit’. This policy fails to directly reference the island’s long term sustainability, therefore raising significant questions as to how the policy fits within the aims of the LUP as a whole. It would seem to us that this policy potentially overrides other aspects of the LUP and therefore distorts the plan as a whole, biasing it towards ‘Major Projects’.
    The Trust would ask the Inspector to consider this section of the LUP to be perhaps the biggest single proposed change in planning policy on the island in 40 years and would ask that it be exposed to the highest level of scrutiny.
  • Regarding Green Infrastructures, the Trust feels that the text supporting this policy is weak and needs further development for the sake of clarity. Further this policy needs to be expanded to other areas on Alderney besides the Central Building Area, interlinking the designated and non-designated areas. Without this interconnection, or at least the acknowledgement of how the described Green Infrastructure relates to the other areas designated as of natural history and conservation importance, the policy is significantly weakened. Specifically key areas, particularly Barrackmasters Lane, could be included in this listing (based on the LUP definition of Green Infrastructure), which interact with both designated and non-designated areas.
  • Clonque Bay should be included as a beach as listed in the Designated Area: Recreation and Open Space Zone (LUP; 4.13 Designated Area: Recreation and Open Space Zone). It is used for walking and other recreational use, such as rock-pooling etc.
  • Regarding the Public Utilities section (LUP; 4.14 Designated Area: Utilities Zone), there is little reference to Public Utilities requiring EIA for certain projects, despite stating that development proposals must preserve the special character, do not adversely impact an area etc. More detail is required regarding Public Utilities and EIA may be required in this section (with reference to the EIA document).
  • Further terminology is required in the Biodiversity section and Glossary, primarily explaining wording such as ‘significant residual impact’ and ‘ecological receptor’.
  • Further information (or example of) regarding a ‘Code of Construction Practice’ within the Environment and Amenity section (LUP; 6.3 Environment and Amenity).
  • The Major Projects document is extremely difficult to read and understand. In particular, Table 2 requires examples and reviewing.

Action – The Trust would ask that the Inspector seek clarification from the SoA in regards the points listed above, and request amendments to the LUP, to help clarify and strengthen it as a working document.

 

4. Call for Sites Assessment
The Trust would like to submit the following responses to the Call for Sites (CfS) process undertaken as part of the LUP. Specifically:

  • PA/087 & 088 – Regarding the use of Mannez Quarry for a potential transformer station and the trench line of a potential interconnector: The Trust recognises the arguments made within the assessment; however, given the content of the draft LUP it would ask that the specific requirement for EIA be recognised in the CfS to ensure this newly described process is properly recognised as part of the planning process.
  • PA/089 – Regarding the recognition and potential extension of the Longis Nature Reserve: whilst the Trust is pleased to see that this proposal has been accepted in principle with mitigation, it would challenge the decision to only partially accept that the ‘proposal accords with the Natural Environment Strategy’. Whilst it may be true that specific species and habitats of concern have not been identified within the marine area to the south of the site, given the presence within the adjacent waters of Longis Bay the Trust would argue that the ‘precautionary principle’ be applied, i.e. that the assumption that species of conservation concern, such as eel grass, may well be present despite the lack of evidence and that should a development proposal be forthcoming the work necessary to allow for an application should disprove this assumption. Given the high level of significance given to the protection of the natural environment in the LUP and the very limited nature of the island’s natural resource in terms of area, the Trust would ask that the Inspector consider the importance of establishing the precautionary principle in regards to all key species and habitats, for any larger project.
  • PA/094 – regarding Bats: whilst the Trust can understand the reasoning offered for refusing the request to consider bat presence as a limiting factor in regards development, it is important to note that Alderney is perhaps the only jurisdiction within geographic Europe that affords no form of protection for bat species. Whilst the data is not present to enable the Trust to specify more than a few regular roosting sites (e.g.. Nunnery, White House, Essex Castle, St. Anne’s Church, Essex Tunnels), the presence of bats is well document on the island as a whole, with 2 newly identified species in 2016 alone. Further the designation of specific bat roosts is not easy since apart from hibernatory roosts, bats are mobile by nature and will often use several roosting sites even during the breeding season.
    The Trust would therefore ask the inspector to ensure that the precautionary principle of protection for bats as a whole be considered, so that where bat presence can be shown in regards a specific application there is a structure by which the B&DCC can consider the need to protect a roosting site as part of the standard planning process. This would then enable the Trust to continue to grow information in regards this most important of mammal groups on behalf of the SoA so that appropriate consideration may be given in regards any application.
  • AP/095 & 096 – regarding protection of woodland and freshwater sites: the Trust understands the evidence based principle used within the LUP draft; however it would ask that the Inspector consider the very limited resource of both fresh water bodies and woodland habitat on Alderney. Resources necessary to fully assess all habitats and resources to help establish exactly what aspects of these two most important habitats need full protection simply do not exist on Alderney; however, should the precautionary principle of protection until assessment has been undertaken were made, the SoA could potentially avoid the loss of a key environmental resource without ever being aware of its presence.
    N.b. It is important to note that one of Alderney’s 30+ distinct NVC classed habitats is just a few dozen square metres in area and in regards woodland there are extremely small numbers of native trees present on the island as a whole.

5. Conclusion
Once again the Trust would like to confirm its support and praise for the LUP process as a whole. The work of the planning office and Arup in preparing this is to be commended.

However, at this time the Trust has real concerns that too much is being attempted too quickly and that unless the LUP document is simplified and clarified wherever possible it may not prove workable in the long term. Further the Trust would urge the SoA to make a clear commitment to the resources available to support the Planning Office in the delivery of this 5 year policy prior to the LUP review so that the Inspector can consider the viability of the document in light of these resources.

The team at the Trust remain happy to support the LUP process and this review. Please do not hesitate to contact the Trust if you have any comments or seek clarification.


Yours sincerely

Ian Carter
President of Alderney Wildlife Trust

Note: The Trust’s response is the result of much consultation with the Alderney Society. The Trust supports the Alderney Society’s position in relation to this review and recognises that many of the points covered in this letter may echo those expressed by the Society.
 

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