Congresbury Neighbourhood Development Plan

4.4 Environment and Heritage

4.4.1 Heritage - Background

The village grew around the Church and the historic core of the village is based around the churchyard, Broad Street, High Street and Mill Lane.  This area was designated as a Conservation Area in 1990.

St Andrews Church

View of St Andrew’s Church and churchyard

Congresbury has many listed assets which include St Andrew’s Church, the Refectory, the Court House, the Old Rectory, the Birches and the Ship and Castle public house, as well as a number of important archaeological sites which provide evidence for the historic development of the village.  The village (market) cross at the junction of Broad Street and High Street is a village landmark and is a designated Scheduled Monument.  The full list of the listed buildings is contained in Appendix L.

Policy EH1 – Enhance the Conservation Area and Protect the Village Cross

Listed and other locally important buildings and structures and archaeological sites will be protected and where possible enhanced to maintain the local distinctiveness of the area.  A Conservation Area Character Appraisal must be completed and a management plan made available.  Congresbury Conservation Group will be actively involved in the completion of the appraisal and management plan.  Any funding from future North Somerset Community Infrastructure Levy and other sources will be sought for implementing the findings of the Management Plan including:

A) Enforcement of a local signage policy. Businesses situated in the Conservation Area must comply with the local signage policy which aims to reverse perceived negative impact on the area and preserve and enhance the special character of the area.  The following principles must be applied:

  1. Modern shiny finishes such as acrylic and applied vinyl are not appropriate. Timber and metal are the most appropriate material to use.
  2. Garish and fluorescent colours are very unlikely to be approved, as they too are inappropriate with the existing signage of adjacent buildings. Although we recognise that many companies have specific corporate colours, if these are considered inappropriate for the area, it may be necessary to tone down the colour.  Heritage colours are favoured.
  3. Lettering and symbols should be sign written directly on to the sign in paint and should not use applied vinyl lettering.
  4. Individual timber or metal lettering is often appropriate.
  5. Signage on the upper floors of buildings and the internal illumination of signs are not acceptable.
  6. Free standing ‘A’ boards can cause obstruction to pedestrians and other road users and therefore are not permitted except where permission has been granted for a temporary event.

B) A scheme to prevent further damage to the 15th century village cross from passing traffic on the B3133.

Map 6   Congresbury Conservation Area

Congresbury Conservation Area

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Justification for Policy EH1

There has been considerable development in the Conservation Area which appears to have no cohesion and there is little knowledge or appreciation of the area from local residents or businesses.  An assessment is required to ensure that the Conservation Area is preserved and any development is considered to be an enhancement and is completed in a controlled and considered way.

A Management Plan will ensure that the heritage in Congresbury is conserved for both the present and future generations to experience and enjoy.  It will mean that the Parish Council, owners of listed buildings, residents in the conservation area as well as village residents are better informed about their local heritage.  A Maintenance Plan will enable informed decisions to be made.  This plan led approach will ensure that the Conservation Area is enhanced in a more uniform way. An Article 4 Direction is desired but this would be under the control of North Somerset Council.

Congresbury has an attractive conservation area, with its distinctive character and history.  Unfortunately, the character and quality of the traditional shopping street has gradually been eroded by poor, careless and unsympathetic alterations to shop fronts.  Widespread use of relatively cheap materials and standardised shop front designs has led to a loss of local distinctiveness.  Inappropriate shop fronts and large attention grabbing signs dominate the street scene, and have a negative impact on historically important buildings, as well as the whole shopping street.  The Parish Council is committed to reversing this trend and ensuring that alterations to shop fronts are well designed, and contribute positively to the surrounding area.  This will not only help businesses, but will also improve the streetscape for all the people that use it.

Congresbury Village Cross has always been at the centre of village life with photographic evidence showing it as the focus of the weekly market and the meeting place of the local hunt.  It is a rare example of a 15th century village cross still in its original setting and in a good state of preservation.  The Cross, which is designated as a listed building and a scheduled monument, is the property of the Parish Council which is legally obliged to both maintain and preserve the monument.  CS5 has the policy aim of safeguarding the special architectural and historic interests of North Somerset from development.  The Cross is adjacent to the B3133 and is in danger of being severely damaged by passing vehicles.  A scheme to prevent this is essential if we want to preserve this important structure.

4.4.2 Environment - Background

Congresbury lies in the North Somerset levels and Moors, an area known locally as the Northmarsh.  It is a unique region of countryside north of the Mendip Hills which forms part of the wider Somerset Levels and Moors, being predominately low lying marsh and moorland.  Congresbury itself nestles on the edge of the levels with the nearby wooded hills providing good vantage points.  Congresbury Moor has six fields – 10 Acre, New Croft, Meaker, Phippen, Norton and Footmead, which are now part of Biddle Street Site of Special Scientific Interest which was designated by English Nature in 1994.  There is a richness of wildlife in this area, including aquatic life in the rhynes and it is also home to nationally rare beetles and snails.  Eels, amphibians and fish feed on the wealth of invertebrates, which are in turn prey for wildfowl and the frequently seen heron.  The remaining areas of the village are also important and rich in wildlife and need to be protected.  Birdlife is varied and plentiful; barn owls breed on Congresbury Moor.

King’s Wood and Urchin Wood SSSI in the north east, designated in 1992, have ancient woodland of mixed deciduous trees and is a nationally important bat habitat.  There are hibernating populations and maternity colonies of at least four different species, including the rare and endangered Greater Horseshoe Bat.

Congresbury as a settlement is split by the Congresbury Yeo, which used to be tidal as far as the village.  The River Yeo and the Strawberry Line, as well as having recreational value, are green corridors and so important for wildlife.

Cadbury Hill is a small hill, mostly in the parish of Congresbury, overlooking the village of Yatton in North Somerset.  On its summit stands an Iron Age hill fort, which is a Scheduled Monument.  Cadbury Hill is managed jointly by Congresbury and Yatton Parish Councils.  Also recorded on Cadbury Hill are Neolithic flints.

The remaining areas of the village are also important and rich in wildlife and need to be protected.  The southern half, around Brinsea, has remnant orchards and ancient species rich hedgerows.

Policy EH2 – Area of Separation

An Area of Separation has been designated to the south of the village as shown on map 7 below.  This area is required to remain open in aspect in order to protect the character and identity of the landscape between Congresbury and Churchill & Langford.  Any development that threatens the open and rural aspect of this land will not be permitted.

Map 7   Proposed Area of Separation

Congresbury Map 7

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Justification for Policy EH2

CS19 defines a strategic gap between Congresbury and Yatton to help retain the separate identity, character and/or landscape setting of settlements and distinct parts of settlements.  The countryside to the south of the village along Brinsea Road (B3133) has been at risk from developers wishing to build large housing estates on agricultural land.  The historic ridge of Silver Street and Venus Street forms the natural boundary of the settlement.  To the south and west of this ridge is open countryside of the Levels, characterised by, often irregularly shaped, low lying pasture defined by historic ditches, hedges and mature trees.  The North Somerset Council Landscape Sensitivity Assessment March 2018 concluded that ‘land to the south of Congresbury slopes to the east and there is a strong and vegetated urban edge.  Development to the south of the village would affect the settlement form. Owing to the above, this land is of high sensitivity’.  The report states that within the context of the study, high sensitivity land can be attributed to the following ‘This land has low capacity for housing development.  If this land was developed for housing it could result in substantial harm to the landscape’.

The B3133 continues along Stock lane to the village of Langford, there is very little development along this road apart from occasional farms before getting to the University of Bristol Veterinary School.  Recent planning permission has been granted for 141 dwelling on a site opposite the veterinary School off Pudding Pie Lane.

The West of England Joint Spatial Plan for additional housing requirements of up to 30,000 homes for the West of England region.  The proposal for a large scale ‘garden village’ developments around Churchill/Langford which would dramatically impact on Congresbury.  Therefore it is vitally important that an area of separation is enforced to ensure that the character, landscape and village community is maintained.

Policy EH3 – Local Green Space

Preserve the local distinctive landscape by applying for local green spaces for the following areas:

  1. The Gang Wall ancient sea defence and path
  2. King George V
  3. Broadstones

millenium green           

Congresbury Millennium Green

Map 8   Existing and Proposed Local Green Space

Congresbury Map 8

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Justification for Policy EH3

Congresbury currently has the Millennium Green and paddock, a recreation area adjoining King George V Jubilee playing field and the land at St Andrew’s Church allocated as local green space in the Site Allocations Plan (April 2018).

‘Millennium Green is outlined in Schedule 3 of the Site Allocations Plan 2018 as comprising; attractive grass spaces either side of the river.  Larger northern area has some mature trees on boundary and includes public footpaths and play area.  Used for informal recreation.  Southern area includes community orchard.  HER shows archaeological site: site of tannery east of the Ship and Castle, C18.’

The recreation area adjoining King George V Jubilee playing field is outlined in Schedule 3 of the Site Allocations Plan 2018 as comprising: ‘Grass recreation area with play equipment’.

‘Land at St Andrew’s Church, Congresbury outlined in Schedule 3 of the Site Allocations Plan 2018 as comprising; Attractive grass area with trees, and the adjoining historic church yard, adjacent to and important to the setting of the grade 1 listed church.  While cemeteries are not normally appropriate for LGS designation, the historic importance of the site, with listed walls and monuments, together with its importance to the setting of the church, is considered to warrant an exception.  Boundary amendment proposed to exclude church building itself.’

However, these are not the only areas that we believe need to be protected and provided with Local Green Space status.  In accordance with guidance on Local Green Space is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) at paragraphs 77.

“The Local Green Space designation will not be appropriate for most green areas or open space.  The designation should only be used:

  • where the green space is in reasonably close proximity to the community it serves
  • where the green area is demonstrably special to a local community and holds a particular local significance, for example because of its beauty, historic importance, recreational value (including as a playing field), tranquillity or richness of its wildlife and
  • where the green area concerned is local in character and is not an extensive tract of land”

Both Broadstones and King George V Playing Field are important as recreational areas and fit the designation characteristics.  King George V Playing Field is supported by Fields in Trust and Broadstones, used as football pitches, is owned by the Parish Council.

The Gang Wall is a medieval drainage bank and associated ditches, constructed before 1382 to separate the drainage areas of Yatton Moor to its west, and Congresbury Moor to its east.  The monument is virtually complete and is extremely unusual for such a bank in having no road along its surface.  Associated with it is Rennie's siphon, a structure designed by Sir John Rennie, to take the New Rhyne, new drainage works for Congresbury Moor, under the Yeo to an outfall downriver in Wick St Lawrence, during works of 1819-1827.  The association of the two is unique and therefore should be protected as special to the community.

Policy EH4 – Landscape and Wildlife Preservation Measures

  1. Development proposals should seek to maintain and enhance the connectivity of all green corridors and not result in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including local wildlife sites, aged or veteran trees and hedges. Planning applications for new dwellings must clearly demonstrate how they have incorporated appropriate measures to ensure the connectivity of any green corridor and the freedom of movement for species on or through the site.
  2. Development proposals must adopt a ‘dark skies’ policy in relation to light pollution, particularly regarding its effect on nocturnal wildlife such as bats, hedgehogs, moths and frogs. This should include low level shielded lighting in wildlife corridors, and lighting curfews in industrial/commercial areas.
  3. The provision of associated natural landscaping; using only native species of trees and other plants, incorporation of hedgerows, wetland areas and the retention and encouragement of wildlife should be incorporated wherever feasible.
  4. Buffer zones to Sites of Special Scientific Interest, local nature reserves and local wildlife sites, especially the Strawberry Line, to be maintained.
  5. Development proposals should take into consideration and provide where appropriate mitigating measures against the harmful impact of noise pollution on animal life.

Justification for Policy EH4

The North Somerset and Mendip Bats SAC is designated under the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC, which is transposed into UK law under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) (‘Habitat Regulations”).  This means that the populations of bats supported by this site are of international importance and therefore afforded high levels of protection, placing significant legal duties on decision-makers to prevent damage to bat roosts, feeding areas and the routes used by bats to travel between these locations.  Any development must take into consideration the North Somerset and Mendip Bats Special Area of Conservation (SAC) Guidance: Supplementary Planning Document ( Adopted Jan 2018) to conserve and protect the vital habitats.

Artificial light offers valuable benefits to society.  It is an essential aid to safety and facilitates a thriving night-time economy.  However, if used incorrectly, artificial light can contribute to a range of problems, with the potential to become light pollution.  Artificial light can not only be a source of annoyance to people, it can be harmful to wildlife, waste energy and detract from the enjoyment of the night sky.  Any development must strive to protect wildlife and respect the rural environment with lighting that includes low level shielded lighting in wildlife corridors, and lighting curfews in industrial/commercial areas.

Policy EH5 – Renewable Energy

Through the Neighbourhood Plan the Parish Council wishes to encourage community led renewable energy schemes, and will support community based groups working with local energy users in seeking funding to establish the technical, financial and legal feasibility of appropriate schemes within the parish.

Proposals for community owned or led renewable energy schemes (including micro-hydro, photovoltaic or bio-mass projects) will be supported subject to the following criteria for the proposed development:

  • The siting and scale is appropriate to its setting and position in the wider landscape; and
  • It does not give rise to unacceptable landscape or visual impact, either in isolation or cumulatively with other development; and
  • It does not create an unacceptable impact on the amenities of local residents; and
  • It does not have an unacceptable impact on a feature of natural or biodiversity importance.

 Justification for Policy EH5

Congresbury lies within an area offering good potential for renewable energy including: bio-mass, hydro, solar and wind power.  A bio-mass scheme is already operating within Congresbury and housing associations and private residential dwellings are fitting their properties with domestic photo-voltaic panels.  The parish has three solar farms that are operating within the area of the Neighbourhood Plan.  They cover an area of over 40 hectares of agricultural land and supply enough electricity to meet the needs of approximately 1,000 homes, thus bringing the village close to self-sufficiency in terms of renewable energy.  Support for further large schemes must be balanced against the cumulative impact on local amenity and landscape.

There is a wish to consider other sources of renewable energy.  In particular, community led renewable energy projects are encouraged, which would benefit the whole community and act as a focal point for other low carbon and energy saving initiatives within the community.

The government is committed to reducing CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 and the NPPF states that local planning authorities “should recognise the responsibility on all communities to contribute to energy generation from renewable sources…  They should support community led initiatives for renewable and low carbon initiatives.”

According to government statistics, around 11% of households in England are “fuel poor”.  Rural communities are subject to higher incidences of fuel poverty due to more homes being hard to heat and off the gas grid.  Community energy projects provide one way of helping to address these issues: they can reduce CO2 whilst generating revenue to utilise for local benefit, for example to fund advice services for those in fuel poverty (Source: Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics Report, 2018 (2016 data) England.  Statistical Release: National Statistics  Such development would normally be conceived and/or promoted within the community within which the development will be undertaken and provide long term and inclusive socio-economic and/or environmental benefits which are accessible to all members of the community.  Developments which are ‘led by’ or ‘meet the needs’ of local communities are defined by the outcomes achieved for the community, rather than number of people who support or oppose the scheme, and it should be recognised that 100% endorsement within the locality is unlikely.