Thanet's New Local Plan - Options consultation

Issue 15 - Which policies do we need to maintain a safe and healthy environment?


Why do we need to address this issue?

There are various issues that may need to be addressed by planning policy in order to protect the environment, including:

  • Pollution,
  • contaminated land,
  • unstable and derelict land,
  • air quality,
  • noise,
  • light pollution, and
  • groundwater quality.

National planning policy requires new development to be appropriate for its location in order to prevent unacceptable risks from pollution and land instability. It highlights the importance of considering the acceptable use of land for any proposed development, rather than the control of processes or emissions as these are subject to approval under pollution control regimes. Planning decisions should ensure that any new development in Air Quality Management Areas is consistent with the Air Quality Action Plan, and that planning policies and decisions limit the impact of light pollution from artificial light on local amenity, dark landscapes and nature conservation.

What evidence we have on this issue

  • Air Quality Action Plan
  • The Council has prepared a Quality Environment Topic Paper

Key Facts and Information

The following key facts are important when consideringwhich policies we need to maintain a safe and healthy environment:

  • There is pollution control legislation to control potentially polluting development. However the risk of pollution is a material consideration in determining planning applications.
  • There are sites in Thanet that have been used for the deposit of refuse or waste so may generate harmful gases.
  • There are some areas in Thanet where ground stability may be an issue, including areas such as the marshes, land overlying the caves at Ramsgate and Margate, and at Dane Valley Road, Margate.
  • Some sites in Thanet are known to be contaminated.
  • Thanet generally has very good air quality; however there are areas at The Square in Birchington and High Street St Lawrence, Ramsgate where air quality is poor due to pollution from road transport. An urban wide Air Quality Management Area has been declared to enable effective management of air quality.
  • There are currently planning policies to control noise generated by development, including aircraft noise.
  • Light pollution is currently controlled using the Institute of Lighting Engineers guidance.
  • Thanet's groundwater is of poor quality and is vulnerable to contamination due to Thanet's thin soils and cracks in the chalk rock, which means pollution would soak through quickly to the groundwater. However the groundwater is used to supply water for drinking water, agriculture, horticulture and industry and also feeds the springs that emerge along the coast near the marshes, so it is important that there is no further contamination to the groundwater.
  • The Thanet Local Plan 2006 included policies addressing all of the above issues.

Considering which policies we need to maintain a safe and healthy environment

Along with the key facts and information above, the following are factors to take into account and to help you consider which policies we need to maintain a safe and healthy environment

Potentially Polluting Development

Although pollution is controlled under separate legislation, it is still considered necessary to weigh up the effects of development that might cause the release of pollutants to water, land or air, or from noise, dust, vibration, light or heat, when deciding whether or not to grant planning permission.

Landfill Sites

There are sites in Thanet that have been used for landfill, or that are close to landfill sites. Sites that have been used for the deposit of refuse or waste may generate explosive or otherwise harmful gasses. Thanet has approximately 26 such sites which are all listed in the National Landfill Atlas (Environment Agency).

A former landfill site will be unlikely to be actively gassing after 40-50 years of its closure. The Council is required to consult the Environment Agency, as Waste Regulation Authority, before granting consent for development within 250m of land which is, or has within 30 years of the relevant application, been used for the deposit of refuse or waste.

Unstable Land

For development on unstable land, it may be necessary for the developer to carry out specialist investigations and assessments to determine the stability of the site proposed for development and identify any remedial measures that will be needed to deal with instability.

Contaminated Land

For development on contaminated land, a site investigation and assessment may be needed to establish the levels of contamination present and identify any remedial measures to clean the site to make it suitable for its proposed end use. This is an issue that could be included in planning policy.

Local Air Quality Monitoring

The Council has an Air Quality Action Plan to address the Urban Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) that was declared in 2011 where air quality fails to meet required standards. The Action Plan considers a broad approach to strategic planning, transport planning, sustainability and climate change.

Planning is an effective tool to improve air quality. It can be used to locate development to reduce emissions overall, and reduce the direct impacts of new development, through policy requirements. 

An AQMA makes consideration of the air quality impacts of a proposed development important. However, there is still a need to regard air quality as a material factor in determining planning applications in any location. This is particularly important where the proposed development is not physically within the AQMA, but could have adverse impacts on air quality within it, or where air quality in that given area is close to exceeding guideline objectives itself.

General Noise Control, Aircraft Noise, Aircraft Noise and Residential Development

The Government's Noise Policy Statement for England stated priority is to:

'Avoid significant adverse impacts on health and quality of life from environmental, neighbour and neighbourhood noise within the context of Government policy on sustainable development'.

The second aim is to mitigate and minimise adverse impacts, and the third is to contribute to the improvement of health and quality of life through effective management control of noise.

Policies could be included in the local plan to reflect these aims in terms of general noise, and also aircraft noise.

Light Pollution

Different forms of light pollution are identified as:

  • Light Spillage - artificial illumination that results in the spillage of light that is likely to cause irritation, annoyance or distress to others
  • Light Trespass - the spilling of light beyond the boundary of the property on which the light source is located
  • Light Glare - the uncomfortable brightness of a light source when viewed against a dark background
  • Sky Glow - the brightening of the night sky above our towns and cities

Due to Thanet's open landscapes and vast skies, poor outdoor lighting could have a substantial adverse effect on the character of the area well beyond the site on which the lighting is located.

Groundwater Protection Zones

Hazards to Thanet's groundwater include:

  • petrol stations,
  • gas works,
  • drainage from roads,
  • drainage from the airport,
  • leakage from sewers,
  • pesticide storage,
  • septic tanks,
  • sheep dips, and
  • farm buildings.

Uses that can cause pollution to the groundwater include:

  • dry cleaners,
  • mechanics,
  • scrap metal,
  • photo processing, and
  • some sustainable drainage systems.

In Thanet there are considerable risks to the groundwater from both urban and rural activities. These risks are intensified by the compact nature of the District.