Sustainable Development

3.1 The overall aim of the Plan is to secure sustainable development in the district, in order to improve quality of life. Therefore, the Council expects that all development should be consistent with the principles of sustainable development. This accords with government guidance in PPG1 and with the aims and objectives of the Structure Plan, set out in its Policy 1.

3.2 The overall strategy of the Plan translates the key objectives of sustainable development as put forward in Government policy into a series of objectives, which reflect the circumstances of Welwyn Hatfield. In turn the policies in the Plan seek to implement these sustainability objectives. In the first instance therefore, development must be consistent with the objectives and policies of the Plan.

3.3 In order to achieve sustainable development, it is necessary that we are able to assess, as openly and objectively as possible, the sustainability of individual development proposals. The 'precautionary principle', which is one of the main principles underlying decision making on sustainable development, suggests that we have a duty to assess the costs and benefits of a proposal, in an open and transparent way, so that we have a clear understanding of its potential risks and sustainability benefits before making a decision on it. This does not mean that we should only permit development if we are sure that harm will not arise nor that we should refuse permission if there is a limited amount of information about its impact. The planning system only allows development to be refused if it would cause 'demonstrable harm'. It is not always possible to have absolute certainty about the longer term impact of development and requiring that level of certainty would severely hinder progress towards improvements in quality of life. Furthermore, most development has both costs and benefits. However, the precautionary principle does mean considering all potential costs and benefits, having the best possible information available on these on which to make a decision and making the basis for that decision transparent.

3.4 To this end, the Council has devised a 'Sustainability Checklist' containing a number of detailed criteria against which all development will be assessed. This is set out in the Supplementary Design Guidance. The checklist provides a guide to enable assessment in a rigorous and transparent way as to whether a development satisfies the sustainability objectives and policies of the Plan. Further guidance regarding the checklist will be provided in conjunction with the Hertfordshire Sustainable Development Design Guide which is currently being developed by the County Council.

3.5 Not all of the criteria apply to all scales of development, but in general, the larger the development the greater the number of criteria which will need to be satisfied. Six categories of development are identified:

  1. Large scale - more than 5 houses or 235 sq. metres of commercial floorspace.

  2. Small scale - 5 houses or less and 235 sq. metres of commercial floorspace or less.

  3. Householder developments.

  4. Changes of use of land, buildings and conversions.

  5. Non building development - such as car parking, landscaping or engineering operations.

  6. Advertisements and telecommunications.

3.6 The criteria applying to each scale are identified in the Supplementary Design Guidance. Householder developments, which comprise the majority of planning applications in the district, have a more limited range of criteria, which are listed in a separate 'Householder Checklist' at the end of the Supplementary Design Guidance.

3.7 Some of the criteria relate to aspects of a development which may be covered by other legislation, such as the Building Regulations, or controlled by other statutory agencies, such as pollution and the Environment Agency. However, all of the criteria measure the contribution that a development will make to the future sustainability of the district and should therefore be considered at the planning application stage, both by the applicant and by the Council.

3.8 Applicants will be expected to submit a statement with their planning application, showing how their proposal addresses the criteria in the checklist. An application would be considered valid without the submission of a sustainability statement, but proposals must still however, be consistent with Sustainable Development principles which the checklist illustrates. Failure to supply such a statement could delay consideration of the proposed development. The checklist does not include design criteria, which are set out in the Design chapter and the Supplementary Design Guidance and will need to be addressed separately by applicants through an urban design statement as required in Policy D11.

Policy SD1 - Sustainable Development

Development proposals will be permitted where it can be demonstrated that the principles of sustainable development are satisfied and that they accord with the objectives and policies of this plan. To assist the Council in determining this, applicants will be expected to submit a statement with their planning application demonstrating how their proposals address the sustainability criteria in the checklist contained in the Supplementary Design Guidance.

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