APPLICATION: Submission of reserved matters of landscaping for the laying out and surfacing of public access network (including footpaths, cycleways, bridleways, fences, gates, bridge way markers and interpretation boards) within Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve pursuant to Outline Planning Permission 02/P/1844/OT2
The following plan is for illustrative purposes only, and cannot be guaranteed to be up to date or to scale.
LOCATION PLAN: (This map is based upon Ordnance Survey material with the permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of the controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office c. Crown copyright. Unauthorised reproduction infringes Crown copyright and may lead to prosecution or civil proceedings. North Somerset Council, LA09063L,2001)
1. 06/P/1635/RM Submission of reserved matters of landscaping for the laying out and surfacing of public access network (including footpaths, cycleways, bridleways, fences, gates, bridge way markers and interpretation boards) within Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve pursuant to Outline Planning Permission 02/P/1844/OT2, at Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve, off Wharf Lane, Sheepway, PORTBURY
The application site falls partly along the eastern boundary of the Ashlands development site, within the existing 'Raised Pastures' of the Nature Reserve, and crosses farmland owned by Bristol Port Company.
Housing development, primary school, open space provision and association infrastructure.
This ‘reserved matters’ application is for the introduction of a public access network around the new Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve that is being implemented as ecological mitigation for the Ashlands housing development approved in 2000. The application site falls partly along the eastern boundary of the Ashlands development site, within the existing 'Raised Pastures' of the nature reserve, and crosses farmland owned by Bristol Port Company. Elements of the network include public footpaths, shared cycle/footways and a segregated bridleway with improvements to the existing network where access to future bird hides is required.
The public access proposals have been devised with the Ashlands design team and Avon Wildlife Trust (as future managers of the nature reserve) using the implementation document complied for the original planning application.
The application details are as follows:
Minimal parking for educational visits to be provided at the nature reserve.
Other car access will be directed via the Port Marine development. There will be a public car park at Lock Control Square within the Ashlands development.
The existing bus stop and lay-by at Sheepway entrance will be upgraded as part of the works to the bridleway entrance. New bus routes have been planned within the Ashlands development.
There are five main entrances to the network:
Point H – North of Ashlands development
Point K – Ecology Park
Point L1 – Sheepway
Point P/F – Wharf Lane
Point X – Timber bridge
Entrance gates have been designed to provide access for all users and to reduce the risk of motorcyclists.
· All kissing gates will have radar locks to permit access for larger wheelchair users.
· Robust metal horse stiles will be installed to provide horse access as well as for occasional bridleway maintenance vehicle gates
· Vehicle gates to permit farm access
· Safety: triangular hazard warning signs to be installed along Sheepway
· Timber bridle gates to be installed for maintenance and education visits within the nature reserve.
· Metal bridle gates are proposed for the entrance and along the bridleway (F-G) across Bristol Port Company land. The route uses existing gates to minimise the loss of hedgerow sections.
· At the timber bridge, a metal kissing gate will be installed to provide access for all whilst at the same time restricting motor cycle access
· “Dogs on Leads” signs to be erected where the network passes through grazing land.
Overall aim is to provide a smooth comfortable surface on the new path network that:
· Meets the needs to most users
· Does not impact on the sensitive ecology and landscape of the nature reserve and wider countryside
· Provides most path gradients to a maximum gradient of 1:20
· Provides similar surfacing to connecting PRoWs ensuring appropriate use of footwear by users
· Helps distinguish between the path hierarchy; either surfacing or widths have been incorporated to differentiate between the different types of path.
This will run through the strategic open space around the boundary of the Ashlands development and links to the proposed segregated bridleway as well as the Dockside and Portbury ditch shared paths. On limited sections, timber edging is proposed to lessen the impact of bound hard surfacing and to provide a softer approach through the boundary open space.
Any landscaping and earthworks in relation to the section H-M-J – I – Q1 and A – A1 – X will be dealt with through separate planning application.
Grass is the most appropriate surface for horses but as the bridleway will be contained by fencing because of cattle management issues, this may become muddy in wet conditions. Therefore a sturdier surface is proposed, grassed so that the bridleway does not look as wide as it is. A segregated 5m bridleway is proposed.
Environment Agency (EA) and Internal Drainage Board (IDB) access J – J1 and D – C
Where the EA/IDB will use the cycle or footway an additional 0.5m wide stone strip will be installed each side of the path to provide a required 4m wide working access.
IDB/EA access/parking arrangements
It is proposed to provide a continuous bitumen surface along the eastern edge of the Ashlands estate and through the Ecology Park to Sheepway. The only modification is on the field adjacent to Sheepway. The horse track width is proposed to be increased to 4m to permit access for the Environment Agency as the Agency do not wish to use the bitumen track to maintain the sea defence bund.
Shared cycle/footway and footpaths
As these paths pass through either structural open space or the Nature Reserve, research suggests the most suitable surfacing setting of these footpaths is a compacted stone to fine dust surface.
Cambers will be to 1:40 and will follow the lie of the land. Drainage will be monitored in the first year and if there are any drainage problems then remedial works will take place in those specific areas.
Timber edging has not been included as this often provides a channel for water and can result in the erosion of the path.
Avon Wildlife Trust, as future managers of the Nature Reserve, has been fully consulted in the design process.
It was agreed with the Council that the network would not be independently lit as it was considered inappropriate and lighting would compromise the aims and objectives of the Nature Reserve. Some of the pedestrian/cycle paths that run through or immediately adjoining the proposed housing estate however will be indirectly illuminated.
A timber bridge with a large kissing gate is proposed. This bridge is accessible to all. Short sections of post and rail fencing will be erected along the top of the moat bank.
Way markers will be installed on either existing timber gateposts or on stand-alone timber posts (approx 750mm high) at appropriate locations around the network. Symbols that illustrate the suitability of the path to wheelchair users will be used where appropriate. Additional way markers may be required once the paths from the housing development have been implemented.
Proposals are to install robust 4-post lecterns (height of lower edge 750mm) for the interpretation boards. These will be placed in viewpoints along the nature reserves. Text for all interpretation and bird identification boards in the hides will take into consideration recommendations by user groups in terms of the user of colour and text, and will include Braille.
Section H – M1 – A – J
Where the network goes along the boundary of the housing development, and through the Ecology Park, the path will be unfenced. To reduce the likelihood of dogs getting onto the reserve, and for health and safety reasons, a post and rail fence will be installed along the top of the Ashlands plateau.
Segregated bridleway I1 – I – Q – P
In order to ensure appropriate management of the Nature Reserve fields through which the bridleway passes stock proof fencing will be erected along its length. This stock fence will not use barbed wire. Where the bridleway crosses open fields, a double gate system is proposed to provide cattle access between the two fields.
Information on the network will be provided at the entrances to inform users of the route and its level of accessibility. Design of these will follow national guidelines. In the future, users will be able to download information on the Nature Reserve, its access and activities from the Avon Wildlife Trusts website.
The main relevant policies are as follows:
Policy NE/4 Local Nature Reserves
Policy NE/6 Habitat creation and enhancement
Policy CON/1 Design of new development
Policy T/4 Strategic cycle routes
Policy R/9 Horse riding, recreational cycling and walking.
Joint Replacement Structure Plan (RSP)
Policy 51 Cycling and walking.
Emerging Development Plan
Draft North Somerset Replacement Local Plan (NSRLP) (proposed to be adopted)
Policy GDP/3: Promoting good design and sustainable construction
Policy ECH/8: Development will be permitted if it will not adversely affect the particular of the landscape
Policy ECH/15 Local Nature Reserves.
Policy RD/4: Green Belt boundary
Policy T/7 Protection, development and improvement of the rights of way network and other forms of public access.
Other Material Policy Guidance
Relevant guidance is contained in the following PPS:
PPS 13 – Transport
Third Parties: 4 letters of objection have been received.
The principal planning points raised are as follows:
Portishead Town Council: No objections to the planning application but would comment that the Town Council would wish to see the retention of the existing coastal path and no loss of public access to the site.
Portbury Parish Council Bridge over moat. Portbury Council believe that English Nature had stipulated that the wharf and the reserve should be protected and that the moat would assist with this. If there is direct access across the moat from the housing development, protection could be compromised.
Highway Agency: No comments offered.
Environment Agency: The Agency has no objections subject to the inclusion of a number of informatives.
Wessex Water: No comments.
English Nature: England Nature has no objection to planning permission being given for the reserved matters.
Health & Safety Executive: No comments
The principal planning issue are (1) surfacing of the routes and (2) highway considerations.
The strategic public access network proposals have been drawn up in respect of the following planning requirements:
Appropriate Assessment October 2001
In the Appropriate Assessment for the housing development the overall vision is to 'provide a safeguarded wildlife refuge which can be managed as a single unit to optimise its nature conservation potential both in terms of providing specific mitigation and also as a major ecological resource within the
Area. The proposal for a wildlife reserve, however, presents an opportunity to safeguard 50 hectares of vulnerable land and to guarantee a green link between the estuary foreshore and the Gordano Valley.'
Part of the intended mitigation in the assessment for the Nature Reserve was to provide a new and enhanced network of routes for public access that will not cause disturbance to the wading bird species. Relevant Replacement Local Plan policies state:
· Policy GDP/3: Promoting good design and sustainable construction – main standards applicable to this scheme:
i. Retention of important features
ii. Design to have regard to the characteristics of the site and its surroundings and to minimise potential adverse impacts within the site.
iii. Provision of convenient safe and attractive access.
· Policy ECH/8: Development will be permitted if it will not adversely affect the particular of the landscape. The application site falls within the Clapton Moor Character Area, the overall strategy is to conserve the rural character of the landscape. One specific guideline is to promote a sensitive rural/urban interface at Portbury.
· Policy RD/4: Green belt boundary: The application site is within the proposed green belt on the proposals plan.
There is some thought that the surfacing specification should be consistent throughout the application area so that there is a continuous tarmac surfaced shared link between Portishead and Sheepway, apart from the bridleway sections.
However, the restricted public access proposals, using compacted stone, around the Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve have been designed to ensure that the principal ecological mitigation objectives are not compromised and that any proposals are sensitive to the rural setting and landscape character around Sheepway.
On plan 9 within the Section 106 Agreement it identifies the Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve as ‘nature reserve and ecologically managed land’ within the open space provision. The principles for this open space are stated under the Record of Appropriate Assessment drawn up by North Somerset Council.
This document notes that the ‘overall vision is to provide a safeguarded wildlife refuge which can be managed as a single unit to optimise its nature conservation potential both in terms of providing specific mitigation and also as a major ecological resource within the area.’
The paths throughout the reserve are part of and connect to the wider public footpath network. The only section that might be considered as a ‘main access route’ is the section H – A – J – Q1 - L1. The applicant has agreed to change the surface of this section to bitumen.
The reasons that bitumen has not been used in the Nature Reserve, however, are as follows:
· Compacted aggregate paths provide a surface that enables ‘access for all’ to the nature reserve as well as providing a surface that is in keeping within a ’countryside’ setting.
· Bitumen is not a typical surface for nature reserve paths within North Somerset and it is unusual for public paths leading from settlements into the countryside to be bitumen. It is important for people to feel that they are in the countryside and ‘urbanising’ routes would remove this experience.
· Bitumen is a less sustainable material.
· On health and safety grounds, cyclists generally will cycle faster on the tarmac and being a quieter surface bitumen can be a problem to pedestrians in shared paths. Bitumen is a less comfortable surface to walk on.
· Bitumen surface can encourage problematic use of small motorbikes etc despite employing barriers.
Under these circumstances the proposed compacted stone surfacing is regarded more appropriate for access routes through the Nature Reserve.
It is important to note that the Nature Reserve has not been implemented as part of the ‘public open space’ allocation for the Ashlands development. There are a number of public open spaces within the housing development and the primary public open space is the proposed Ecology Park.
In considering the need to control access into the Nature Reserve, the applicant has agreed to put in a bitumen path from J – J1 – Q1 – L1 continuing the surface along the eastern edge of the Ashlands estate to the highway edge at Sheepway and retaining the bitumen proposal through the Ecology Park.
The only implication of this modification is on the field adjacent to Sheepway. The horse track width is proposed to be increased to 4m to permit access for the Environment Agency as the Agency do not wish to use the bitumen track to maintain the moat.
The difference in surface materials through the Park (an area of public open space), and the Nature Reserve (controlled access) is reflected in distinct character of the two areas, and not an indication of the inconsistent use of surfacing material.
The top section of Wharf Lane (D – C1) falls within the nature reserve and applicant’s ownership. It was considered appropriate to upgrade this path section to a compacted aggregate surface to permit access from the proposed timber bridge to the hides. This path section will also be used by works vehicles.
Routes outside the application site
The footpath section from C1 – P1 is outside the development and the Nature Reserve. Therefore, the maintenance and any change in the path surface would be the responsibility of North Somerset Council. In this regard, it is proposed to use some of the Section 106 contributions generated from the extra 150 houses on the Ashlands to make improvement to this public footpath. The only works the applicant would be required to do is the making good any damage to the existing surface caused by contractors implementing the nature reserve. The stile at point G may well need to be replacing with a metal bridle gate, however, again, the stile is outside the application site.
Design of the surfacing
The specification of the track surfaces involve the provision of a granular sub-base material of graded compacted stone, a geotexile membrane, a base of crushed aggregate course, and the final surface material of either grass, limestone-wearing stone or tarmacadam. This specification is regarded as an appropriate hard-wearing and low-maintenance surface for the area and for the level of use that this network of paths will receive. The above specification has been used on other sites throughout the District.
The construction of a number of the routes has been designed for use by the Environment Agency and Internal Drainage Board. They requested the stone reinforcement strips alongside any surfaced path. There is no guarantee that the maintenance vehicles will keep to the centre of the path, so the reinforcement strips will help to protect the edge of the routes.
Access on the top of the Bund
Informal pedestrian access is to be made available on top of the Environment Agency Bund (North east side of the Ecology Park). This will afford walkers views of the nature reserve from the edge. The Environment Agency has no objection to this access. Since there is a proposed bitumen pedestrian/cycle path that runs through the Ecology Park parallel to the bund, it is not thought necessary to provide a formal surfaced route on the top of the bund.
Loss of Coastal Link
The approved and signed Section 106 Agreement states that North Somerset council will close the sea wall public footpath. Although there remains some objection to this part of the Agreement, such a debate should not be part of this application. The Council will need to attend to this matter at some time as the stopping up will be subject to a Public Path Order under the Highways Act 1980, and there is no guarantee the outcome or the agreed timescales will be met. Although there is a request that the Section 106 is amended appropriately with regard to the closing of the sea wall public footpath, this is a ‘reserved matters’ application and cannot include any proposal to amend the Section 106 Agreement.
Issue 2: Highway routes
The application is for the network of paths within the Nature Reserve and Ecology Park on the eastern boundary of the Ashlands (Village Quarter) development. In terms of ‘highway’ access it has been agreed that the path closest to the development has a strategic role in that it will offer a route from the coastal area around the development to Sheepway, where there are connections to other traffic free routes to Bristol.
The plans show the strategic route in three parts, H – J, J2 – Q1 and Q1 – L1.
Route H – J.
This agreed route is shown as a 3-metre wide bitumen shared path for pedestrians and cyclists. The link J – J1 might best be of a similar surface although the Environment Agency prefer a non-bitumen surface for maintenance vehicles access to the moat.
Route J2 – Q1.
There is a requirement to provide an adopted highway connection between J1 and J2. The remainder of the path J2 to Q1 passes through the Ecology Park, which is likely to be taken as public open space or taken over by the Nature Reserve. This route, close to the housing development, is to be Bitumen Macadam finished surface. As an extension of the strategic route this surface is acceptable, although it will not be adopted as highway. Lighting is not proposed on this part of the route.
Conclusion and Summary of Reasons for Approval
This ‘reserved matters’ application is for the introduction of a public access network adjoining and around the new Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve that has been formed as ecological mitigation for the Ashlands housing development. The location of routes also provide a safeguarded wildlife refuge which can be managed as a single unit to optimise its nature conservation potential both in terms of providing specific mitigation and also as a major ecological resource within the area.
In considering the need to control access into the Nature Reserve, the applicant has agreed to put in a bitumen path along the eastern edge of the Ashlands estate to Sheepway. The proposal is regarded as consistent with the objectives of the Ashlands Masterplan and policies set out in the Replacement Local Plan.
RECOMMENDATION: APPROVE subject to the following conditions:
1. The development hereby permitted shall be begun before the expiry of three years from the date of this permission.
Reason: In accordance with the provisions of Section 91 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990
2. The Parish Wharf Nature Reserve shall not be open to the public until all interpretation boards, waymarkers, bridges, lighting, fences, paths, gates and car parking have been completed in accordance with the approved plans.
Reason: To ensure the protection and improvement of the Rights of Network and other forms of public access in accordance with Policy T/7 of the North Somerset Replacement Local Plan (as proposed to be adopted).
3. The effectiveness of the drainage arrangements shall be monitored by the Local Planning Authority and the developer at intervals or in weather conditions to be agreed, within one month of the date of this permission. Not later than 12 months following opening of the Parish Wharf Nature Reserve to the public, any agreed improvements to the drainage arrangements shall be implemented in accordance with a specification to be agreed beforehand in writing by the Local Planning Authority.
Reason: To ensure the protection and improvement of the Rights of Network and other forms of public access in accordance with Policy T/7 of the North Somerset Replacement Local Plan (as proposed to be adopted).
1. This development includes highways which will be offered for adoption as public highways. The developer’s attention is drawn to the need for a S 38 agreement under the Highway Act 1980 and that no works of construction of the affected roads should be carried out prior to the agreement being in place. Failure to have the agreement in place prior to the commencement of works may prejudice the adoption or result in additional expense in relation to the confirmation of the construction details of the works.
2. The formation of the lay by on Sheepway may require the relocation of the bus stop. This should be done in conjunction with public transport officers
3. The applicant is advised that details will need to be provided showing which routes are to be dedicated as public rights of way as opposed to public highways.
4. Any proposed works within 8.0m of a tidal defence (the inland flood bank) will require the prior consent of the Agency under the provisions of the Water Resources Act 1991.
5. Works should be appropriately timed and organised to minimise disruption to habitats and wildlife, and avoid disturbance to wintering and breeding birds.
6. There are two old landfill sites within 205 metres of this site:-
Elm Tree Farm – Licence number L/WG/T/52B and at Portishead Power Station, Licence Number L/WG/T/36D.