SA of Canalside DPD
3.0 SUSTAINABILITY CONTEXT & BASELINE CHARACTERISATION
Other Plans and Projects
3.1 The SA/SEA and Habitats Regulations include a requirement to consider the implications of other relevant plans and projects. This was undertaken during the SA of the Warwick District Local Plan. The key plans and projects relevant to the Canalside DPD are as follows:
- Stratford-on-Avon District Local Plan
- Solihull District
- Coventry District
- Rugby Borough
- Warwick District Neighbourhood Plans
- Warwick District Green Infrastructure Study (2012)
- Warwickshire, Coventry & Solihull Green Infrastructure Strategy (2014)
- Severn River Basin Management Plan (2016)
- Severn Trent Water Resource Management Plan 2019
- Water Resources Strategy 2015-2020 Canal & River Trust
- The Green Plan Canal & River Trust
- Fisheries & Angling Action Plans
- High Speed 2 HS2
3.2 The baseline characterisation of the Warwick District area was undertaken as part of the SA scoping stage in 2014 and updated as the SA progressed in line with the development of the Local Plan through to adoption in 2017. The key relevant information has been updated further here and the characterisation of the District area with its canals, the canalside land and their communities may be summarised as follows:
3.3 Biodiversity & the Natural Environment: There are no internationally designated sites (SACs, SPAs or Ramsar) within a 15 km radius of the Warwick District area; one SAC (Ensor's Pool, Nuneaton) is within a 20 km radius. Areas of environmental national importance in the District as a whole include 7 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and 15 Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs). There is no nationally designated landscape (AONB) but the landscapes in the District are valued for their scenic qualities, rich wildlife and cultural associations, and are fundamental to the intrinsic character and local distinctiveness of the area. Much of the rural areas through which the canals run is designated as Green Belt and their openness is protected.
3.4 The Leam Valley Local Nature Reserve (LNR) is located north of the Grand Union Canal and to the east of Leamington Spa. The Newbold Combyn Park LNR is to the north of the Grand Union Canal to the east of Leamington Spa and north of Radford Semele. There are various Local Wildlife Sites (LWSs) associated with the two canals and their canalsides including sites at Budbrooke, Hatton, Hockley Heath, Lapworth, Offchurch, Radford Semele, Royal Leamington Spa, and Shrewley. There are rich networks of green infrastructure throughout the District and including the water and canal networks.
3.5 The Historic Environment: The District has a rich historic and cultural heritage and includes 2,145 Listed Buildings; 30 Conservation Areas; and 11 Registered Parks and Gardens. One of the major outcomes of the assessment of the canals in developing the Canalside DPD was the designation of a new Canal Conservation Area in recognition of the special qualities and character of and interest in the canals and their immediate environs. The canal runs through the Conservation Area at Lowsonford and through the Conservation Area at Leamington Spa; the canal runs adjacent to the Conservation Area at Rowington.
3.6 Air Quality & Transport: There are good road and rail links with surrounding major urban areas with railway stations at Warwick, Leamington Spa, Kenilworth, Hatton and Lapworth. However, air quality and traffic congestion, particularly in the main towns, are key issues. Warwick District Council has designated five air quality management areas (AQMAs) due to elevated annual average concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The AQMAs include Warwick Town Centre, Coventry Road (Warwick), Leamington Spa and two AQMAs in Kenilworth. The Council's recent Air Quality SPD (January 2019) guides new development with regard to transport, air quality, energy and green infrastructure.
3.7 Water Quality, Levels & Resources: There is a network of rivers and watercourses running through the District, including the two canals and the Warwickshire River Avon. The river runs north to south through the district and then feeds into the Severn Estuary towards the south-west. The Grand Union Canal runs east-west through the southern part of the district including through the urban areas of Warwick and Leamington Spa. It links to the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal south east of Kingswood. The Stratford upon Avon Canal enters the district south of Lowsonford and runs northwards to become the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. It then runs westwards and leaves the district near Hockley Heath in the north-west; there are feeder lakes at Earlswood at the edge of the district area.
3.8 The networks of watercourses and water bodies are interconnected. Water is abstracted from the canal system for both agriculture and commercial uses. There are issues around the level of topping up and abstraction, since there are more applications for licences to abstract water made year on year for both agricultural and commercial use. The water levels need to be maintained for navigation and to support the multifunctionality of the water including biodiversity/green infrastructure, recreation/leisure & wellbeing, together with its contribution to climate change resilience and role in sustainable water management.
3.9 The local water quality of the canals and River Avon is not precisely known but nationally (Environment Agency, 2018), nitrates are a major issue – mostly water run-off from agricultural land or deposited on land and water from traffic emissions. About 20% of abstractions were considered to be unsustainable in 2017, reducing water levels and damaging wildlife. High winter river flows have increased over the past 30 years, with a subsequent increase in the frequency and magnitude of flooding. There is no clear trend in droughts, but summer river flows and groundwater levels may decrease in the future.
3.10 Water is supplied to the Warwick district by Severn Trent Water Ltd within the Strategic Grid Water Resource Zone (WRZ) that extends from the Peak District to Gloucester and covers most of Worcestershire. The Strategic Grid is made up of 14 major water treatment works (WTWs), five reservoir complexes, three major grid booster pumping stations and a number of strategic pipeline network connections and aqueducts – representing a complex interaction of abstraction, treatment and transfer, and particularly focused on the River Trent catchment system. The WRMP includes the ongoing commitment to restore sustainable abstraction. There appears to be no significant major water proposals that would affect the water systems in the Warwick District area. Severn Trent Water also plans and manages the wastewater treatment and sewerage systems in the Warwick district area.
3.11 Soils/Land Use: The rural parts of the district comprise mostly agricultural land quality Grades 3a & 3b but there are significant areas of the best and most versatile agricultural land at Grade 2 adjacent to the south-west of Whitnash and north of Leamington Spa. The canals run through the important cultural/historic urban areas of Warwick and Leamington Spa; the rest of the routes are through rural areas. The canals were built for transportation but fell out of use with the coming of the railways and then the road network. Some canalside areas had previous industrial uses and may have contaminated land, for example, various factory sites through Leamington Spa; other canalside areas have been used as historic landfills or for sewage treatment works. Some parts of the canals have become a quiet place for wildlife, angling and water-based leisure; others have become overgrown, abandoned and used as rubbish tips.
3.12 Communities, Housing & Employment: Approximately 90% of the District's population live in the four main urban areas (Royal Leamington Spa, Warwick, Kenilworth and Whitnash) with the remaining 10% living in a number of relatively small villages. These main centres contain a wide range of different types of housing but there are some affordability issues. The population has grown from 124,000 in 2000 to around 140,000 in 2017. Compared to other parts of Warwickshire, a higher proportion of the District's population is of working age. The highest rate of projected population growth in the future is expected to be amongst those aged 65 and over – in line with the rest of the UK.
3.13 It is thought that there are only permanent residential moorings at the Saltisford Canal Arm in Warwick with 7 moorings. The canals are widely used for boating holidays and leisure use with the Warwickshire Ring a popular route for the enthusiast. There are major marinas in other parts of Warwickshire but limited boatyards and specialist facilities within the Warwick district area.
3.14 Neighbourhood Plans (NPs) are the local level of plans that sit within the Local Plan and the DPDs; they reflect local community interests. The Budbrooke NP is adopted and the area is located adjacent south of the Grand Union. Other NPs are in preparation, including at Leamington, Radford Semele and Lapworth.
3.15 The District has a strong local economy, with a skilled population and higher than average levels of productivity and earnings compared with regional and national averages. However, the changing needs of business means that some of the District's traditional industrial areas require regeneration, with many of these areas located alongside the Grand Union Canal in Warwick and Royal Leamington Spa. The District's 40km of canal offer particular opportunities for recreation, regeneration and environmental improvement.
Key Sustainability Issues & Opportunities
3.16 The key issues and opportunities for sustainable development and the Canalside DPD may be summarised as follows:
- Degraded environment with dumping of litter/rubbish, vandalism with crime and the perception of crime, and poor visual and aesthetic quality – strong opportunities to regenerate and improve the local environments, including safety and improved access
- Vacant and underused buildings – opportunity to facilitate regeneration and reuse; maintain and repair significant buildings and historic assets
- Accessibility – canals provide important linear routes for walking and cycling for healthier living as well as routes for water-based transport; accessibility could be improved including for a wider cultural diversity
- Flooding and water resources – canals may be subject to flooding; the canals also provide water supplies to industry and agriculture, but levels need to be maintained to support navigation and wildlife. The canals also have a wider role in sustainable water management and climate change resilience.
- Green infrastructure – making linkages to networks and improvements with biodiversity gains for wildlife and people
- Increased boating use
- Pressures for overdevelopment at some sites
- High Speed 2