Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Local Development Framework Landscape Character Assessment and Capacity Study March 2009 Non Technical Summary Landscape Section Environmental Advice Team Transport and Environment East Sussex County Council St Anne’s Crescent Lewes East Sussex BN7 1UE Introduction 1. The Landscape Group of East Sussex County Council was commissioned by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in July 2008 to carry out a landscape assessment and capacity study of appropriate parts of the Borough to inform future policy as part of the Local Development Framework. 2. The aims and objectives of the study were to define the relative capacity of the landscape to accommodate new housing and/or business development around existing settlements within the Borough to be incorporated within the Local Development Framework documents. 3. The study area took into account the approach taken within the Core Strategy: Preferred Options Report and assessed land outside the Limits to Built Development for 1km around Royal Tunbridge Wells and Paddock Wood and 0.5km around Cranbrook and Hawkhurst. The study area around Royal Tunbridge Wells additionally included land within Wealden District. Methodology 4. The study has been carried out in accordance with best practice and the latest published guidance on this issue and has received the support of Natural England, the statutory consultee on such matters 5. To complete the study, field surveys were carried out to identify the landscape character sub-areas, within the already-established Tunbridge Wells Borough Character Areas, defined within the Tunbridge Wells Borough Landscape Character Assessment Supplementary Planning Guidance (2002). The field work was recorded using field survey sheets, describing the individual character areas, supported by a representative photograph of the character area. 6. The outcome is an analysis of defined sub-divisions of the Local Character Areas identified in the Borough Landscape Character Area Assessment (2002). This analysis compares the relative quality, value and sensitivity of the character areas and considers management issues and the potential for mitigation if development were to take place within these areas. The analysis, using the definitions below, results in a clear steer on the relative capacity for defined areas around each settlement assessed in the study. Landscape Quality is based on judgments about the physical state of the landscape from visual, functional and ecological perspectives. It also reflects the state of repair of individual features and elements, which make up the character in any one place. Landscape Value The relative value or importance attached to a landscape, which is of national or local significance , because of its quality, including perceptual aspects such as scenic beauty, tranquility or wildness, cultural associations or other conservation issues. Landscape Sensitivity is the inherent sensitivity of the landscape resource, which includes the sensitivity of both its character as a whole and the individual elements contributing to the character. Sensitivity also includes the visual sensitivity of the landscape in terms of views, types of viewers and the scope to mitigate visual impact. Landscape Mitigation is the potential of each character area to accommodate the required landscape mitigation for development. The potential to mitigate change in a particular landscape will depend on the factors, which determine the character of the landscape. The Full Landscape Character Assessment and Capacity Study 7. The completed study comprises: Volume 1 – Text Introduction Methodology General Character Context Assessment of Capacity Analysis Conclusions Appendix 1 Character Assessment Sheets (site survey sheets) Volume 2 Tables Table 1 – Landscape Quality evaluation criteria Table 2 – Landscape value Criteria Table 3 – Landscape Character Sensitivity to Change Evaluation Criteria Table 4 – Visual Sensitivity Table 5 – Character Area Landscape Capacity Evaluation Tunbridge Wells Table 6 – Character Area Landscape Capacity Evaluation Paddock Wood Table 7 – Character Area Landscape Capacity Evaluation Cranbrook Table 8 – Character Area Landscape Capacity Evaluation Hawkhurst Maps Map 1 – Landscape Designations Map 2 – Borough Landscape Character Areas Map 3 and 4 – Tunbridge wells and Borough Map showing inset sheets for figures Figures Tunbridge Wells (figures 1-7) Paddock Wood (figure 8) Cranbrook (figure 9) Hawkhurst (figure 10) Assessing Landscape Capacity 8. Landscape capacity is the indicative ability of the landscape to accommodate different amounts of change or development of a specific type, in the case of this study, housing or business. 9. Landscape capacity is a combination of Landscape Character Sensitivity + Visual Sensitivity + Landscape Value and is expressed as High, Medium, Low or No capacity. 10. The capacity evaluation for each Character Area, does not assume that this is the capacity across the entire Character Area. The capacity is therefore explained further in a comments column on the Character Area Landscape Capacity Evaluation tables, which provides clarification on the capacity and the constraints within the individual character areas identified. Conclusions 11. The following summaries for each settlement assessed through the study provide some general comments, which give further direction to identifying the areas of greatest potential capacity for development in landscape terms. Tunbridge Wells 12. The town of Tunbridge Wells is surrounded by high quality and nationally and locally designated landscapes. There are no areas identified around the fringes of Tunbridge Wells, which would have a high capacity for development. 13. There are areas identified, which have moderate capacity for potential development. These are frequently areas where the urban edge is not well defined and the interface between town and countryside could be improved. There may be opportunities to encourage high quality new development in a landscape setting to strengthen the landscape character of these areas. 14. The areas with moderate capacity to accommodate change, include: • Limited pockets to the north east of Southborough, avoiding the steep open slopes • Areas close to the western boundaries of the town in the vicinity of St John’s and Rusthall • To the north east of the town in the Knights Park and Sandown areas • Areas to the south east of the town where there are more discrete areas close to the urban edges in the Hawkenbury and Tuttys Farm areas Paddock Wood The town of Paddock Wood has grown around the railway. Most of the residential and town centre uses, including retail development, have spread to the south of the railway. To the north of the railway there is a concentration of industrial estates and large warehouse buildings. . The flat, open character of the town and the surrounding landscape would make it sensitive to the potential impacts of uncontrolled expanding development. 15. To the north of the town, the hard urban edges of the industrial estates intrude into the agricultural landscape. There could be scope to soften these edges with sensitively designed development in a new landscape structure ; from this point of view some areas with high or moderate capacity have been identified. This is notwithstanding the fact that the presence of the Medway flood plain would be a major constraint to development north and west of the town. The small-scale rural character of much of the surrounding countryside would be sensitive to major change. Where development may be considered to be acceptable in landscape terms this would only be acceptable close to the existing urban edges and where the urban edge could be redefined. The Medway flood plain would be a major constraint to development north and west of the town. Cranbrook 16. The context of the historic town of Cranbrook is in a distinctive rural setting, which requires protection against inappropriate development. Any proposed development would need to retain the tight-knit character of the existing town. There are limited areas where proposed development could be accommodated without detracting from this rural setting: these are the more enclosed locations where existing uses have intruded into the countryside. There are areas where new developments may provide opportunities to strengthen local landscape character and redefine the urban edges. The area to the east of Brick Kiln Farm would have a moderate capacity, but in a defined area close to the existing town centre. 17. Other areas with moderate capacity include the area east of Mill House, between the sewage works and Bakers Cross and also to the north west of Angley Road around Home Farm and the rugby club, where there are currently existing educational and recreational facilities. Hawkhurst 18. The town of Hawkhurst is located on a broad, high plateau on the main ridgeline between the Rother Valley and the Hexden Channel. The town has a high-quality built environment and vernacular heritage. The edges of the town are well contained in the rural setting, with little evidence of suburban sprawl. A characteristic of settlement in this area is of ribbon development spreading out along the ridgetop roads and small historic settlements scattered along them. Any significant expansion of these scattered settlements would detract from the historic character. The visual containment of the built up areas around the settlement would make the edges of the town sensitive to further expansion into the rural areas. As with Cranbrook, there are areas where new developments may provide opportunities to strengthen local landscape character and redefine the urban edges. These would need to be designed within a substantial planted landscape framework. 19. The areas identified as having moderate capacity are limited areas to the north and north west of Hawkhurst, but avoiding the more open slopes. Additionally there are areas to the east of the town, again avoiding the open slopes. There are areas with low capacity identified in the area to the south of Copthall Avenue where development could redefine the built up edge, similarly in very small pockets to the west of Highgate Hill. However, the need to protect the individual identity of settlements at Philpotts Cross, Lightfoot Green and Slipmill would restrict the capacity of this area to support development. Summary 20. This landscape capacity study gives direction for possible future expansion around the main settlements in Tunbridge Wells Borough. It gives a steer from a landscape perspective for the allocation of areas for housing and business development. The findings of the capacity analysis need to be considered in conjunction with other detailed studies in order to determine the overall potential of the areas to support development. These would need to include, amongst others, biodiversity, archaeology, hydrology, transport and access to existing facilities or infrastructure. More detailed landscape analysis would be required for each area, which is identified as having some capacity. This would help to determine the boundaries of any future development and the landscape infrastructure required to integrate and mitigate the possible development proposals into the existing landscape character.