Natural features and resources

Goal: Working with and enhancing the natural features and resources of the site

   p8. The landscape and settlement character of South and Vale are varied and get their identity from natural settings and historical development. New development should respect and respond to this unique landscape character including its setting and views, share common characteristics with its locality and reinforce local identity, as well as providing well-designed landscapes.

   p9. The contextual analysis, including the constraints and opportunities plans, should be used to inform the layout of the site to ensure it works with and enhances the natural features and resources of the site.

  p10. The site layout should respect its physical features and those of its adjacent land including its landscape character, topography, orientation, landform, geology, drainage patterns, field patterns/boundaries and vegetation cover. You should use these resources positively in association with the physical features to benefit the intended users of your development and ensure that it does not have a negative impact on neighbouring land uses.

  p11. If a site is to be developed for renewable energy generation, the site contours and the extent of levelling and regrading works required to facilitate the development should be considered. This should be discussed as part of any pre-application and detailed within any planning application, based on topographical survey plans. Wherever possible such developments should utilise previously developed land, brownfield land, contaminated land, industrial land or agricultural land preferably of classification 3b, 4 or 5. When development is proposed on agricultural land it is desirable for the applicant to propose a project end date to demonstrate the temporary nature of the project.

  p12. Technical studies will show you whether there are any physical features that need protecting- this should include views, water features, existing vegetation, biodiversity or ecological value, heritage assets and setting. This technical information is needed to inform your design and support your application.

  p13. The site layout should include features that contribute to the green infrastructure, which can include existing features such as vegetation, water courses, areas of natural habitat and proposed features such as public open spaces, community orchards, structural planting, and Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS). Improving access to meaningful green spaces as well as their scale and quality is important for health and wellbeing.


Inform your design:

Provide technical studies including (but not limited to) surveys on trees, habitats, species, biodiversity metric assessment, landscape character and visual assessment/appraisal, historic appraisals, etc.

Communicate your design:

Prepare a Landscape Strategy that sets out the development’s landscape including details on how the existing landscape and biodiversity features will be retained and incorporated into the site layout and the intended function and management of proposed features (e.g. how high are the hedges allowed to grow?);

Demonstrate how the features of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS), e.g. retaining ponds and swales will be integrated into the development’s landscape.

Support your design:

National Landscape Character Area profiles (Natural England, 2014)

An approach to Landscape Character Assessment (Natural England, 2014)

Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (Landscape Institute, 3rd ed. 2013)

Historic Landscape Character (Oxfordshire County Council, 2016)

South Oxfordshire District Council Landscape Character Assessment (2017)

Vale of White Horse District Council Landscape Character Assessment (2017)

South Oxfordshire & Vale of White Horse District Councils Green Infrastructure Strategy (2017)

Planning guidance for the development of large scale ground mounted solar PV systems (bre 2013)

Chilterns AONB Management Plan (2019-2024)

North Wessex Downs Management Plan (2019-2024)

The SuDS Manual (CIRIA, 2015)

North Wessex Downs Dark Skies


Tree planting in public square (Abingdon)
Tree lined streets and formal planting (Milton Park)
Clusters of trees planted in public open space (Tadpole Garden Village)
High value trees incorporated into open space (Aston Rowant)

Ensure the scheme:

    1. retains and strengthens the site’s landscape features; using the physical features of the site and results of technical studies positively and imaginatively in its design:
      • A Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment or Landscape and Visual Appraisal is undertaken, appropriate to the scale and the sensitivity of the site as set out in Guidelines for Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (GLVIA);

      • Reference should be made to any relevant national, county, district, and neighbourhood Landscape Character Assessments and how the site conforms to or differs from these. The particular character of the site and immediate surroundings should be recorded to pick up other characteristics that may be important in considering the effects and the design of the proposal;

      • The Landscape and Visual Assessment work should be used to inform the design of the development, so that possible effects are identified at the outset and design responses have been implemented as an integral part of a scheme, such as modifications to siting, access, layout, buildings, structures, ground modelling and planting;

      • The North Wessex Downs and the Chilterns Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) cover large areas of land within the districts. Their Management Plans and associated documents should be applied to any proposals within the AONB or their setting.

    2. retains and creates views in and out of the site to prominent landscape features and landmarks;
    3. is designed to maximise the benefits of natural resources (utilising landform, orientation, geology, and natural drainage patterns) and does not negatively impact on the benefits enjoyed by neighbouring properties and spaces;
    4. implements SuDs (Sustainable Drainage Systems) as an integral part of the development’s open space network. SuDs should be designed into the development from the outset with features such as: wetlands, basins, ponds, scrapes, swales, retention planters (rainwater gardens), combined with good landscaping to make a positive contribution to the biodiversity, character and appearance of a development;**
    5. creatively integrates and enhances historic landscapes (such as agricultural patterns or historic battlefields) and the survival of archaeological remains and features (refer to Historic England scheduling selection guide);
    6. has a joined-up network of open spaces which form an integral part of the development and are located where existing and new residents can access them easily, not just located on the edge of the development (or where there is left over space) and must be useable;**
    7. provides a variety of natural and designed landscapes for everyone, that is accessible, with different functions to suit a diverse range of needs;**
    8. does not use landscape as a barrier between new and existing development and is therefore integrated into the settlement (unless there is strong justification to create a landscape buffer, for instance to reduce the impact of road/rail noise, to retain gaps between settlements or link open spaces);
    9. identifies noise, smells, air quality and contaminated land sources (e.g. sewage treatment works, railway line, a ring road, etc.) to inform the orientation and location of a development and responds to it positively. If land is not suitable for development due to amenity issues, play space and most public open space should not be located in these areas.

Note: All design principles are applicable to all scales of development unless otherwise specified; *minor applications, **major applications