Ian Phillips CMLI MRTPI, LI Advisory Council member and member of South Downs National Park Authority, urges landscape professionals to respond to a new local plan for the South Downs

View from Beachy Head. © LUC. From South Downs National Park: View Characterisation and Analysis (winner: 2016 LI Award for Strategic Artas-ua.info Planning)

The South Downs National Park Authority has published its pre-submission local plan for consultation prior to formal submission to the Planning Inspectorate.

This new plan places landscape at the heart of planning policy in an area where considerable development activity will take place. As such, responses to the consultation from landscape practitioners would be both useful and welcomed.

The plan breaks new ground in a number of ways of particular relevance to LI Members. First and foremost, it is a landscape-led plan that will set standards at a sub-regional scale, in recognition of the National Park’s statutory purposes and their application across much of East and West Sussex and Hampshire. It emphasises the importance of ecosystem services and the role that good design and the promotion of a green infrastructure network can play in delivering these through the planning system.

The South Downs National Park is distinct from other UK national parks in its lowland setting with diverse land uses and its inclusion of towns and villages with a significant resident population. It is also highly accessible to large population centres such as Greater London and the south coast, and is surrounded by areas where significant developmental growth is anticipated. Unusually for a national park, the policies in the plan will therefore be applied in urban areas, for major developments and for significant infrastructure proposals as well as within more conventional rural settings.

After adoption, the plan will establish policy standards that will be applied to new development at all scales within the Park’s boundaries. It is seeking high-quality design to be realised through an understanding and application of good landscape principles in concept, implementation and ongoing management.

This plan places landscape and associated issues at the front of the planning system within the Park and, as such, may provide a model for other authorities’ local plan policies to follow, both within and outside designated areas. It is essential reading for any members who may be involved in projects within or affecting the Park. It is also an important new reference for any practitioners who may have an interest in landscape policy issues anywhere.

Consultation responses  no later than 21 November 2017.

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