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A Sense of Tranquillity, a Strong Feeling of Remoteness and Dark Night Skies - Consultation

Fryup Dale by Ebor ImagesFryup Dale by Ebor Images

Please give us your views…

All the national parks in England, Wales and Scotland share an aim or purpose to promote understanding and enjoyment of the 'special qualities' of their area. Twenty eight special qualities of the North York Moors have been identified, and are set out in our Management Plan. Three of these special qualities are:

  • Tranquillity
  • Dark Skies at Night
  • A Strong Feeling of Remoteness

We are now preparing a new Local Plan for the North York Moors which will be the document we use to help decide applications for planning permission in the future.  We asked people what they value about the National Park through public consultation in September 2016. Protecting the beauty and tranquillity of the countryside and its dark night skies were all mentioned as important for the new Local Plan.

Since then we've been giving some thought as to how our future planning policies can best protect and enhance these three special qualities. Between 7 December 2017 to 26 January 2018 we asked for views on a possible approach to protecting these special qualities. The topic paper and summary of responses to it are  available here:

View the Sense of Tranquillity, Strong Feeling of Remoteness and Dark Night Skies Topic Paper.

View a Summary of Responses to the Sense of Tranquillity, Strong Feeling of Remoteness and Dark Night Skies Topic Paper.

A sense of tranquillity

Tranquillity can be defined as a state of peace and calm which is influenced by what people see and experience around them. Tranquil places may be remote areas where the natural or semi-natural environment is experienced without the intrusion of human structures or activity but villages and groups of buildings can also be tranquil, especially where the built environment is pleasing and the pace of activity is calm. Tranquil places usually include natural elements such as trees, grass or water. They are likely to be quiet places with little traffic where there is an opportunity to sit and be still. Such places foster a sense of belonging and being connected to nature and history. They are important to people’s wellbeing and many consider them to have a spiritual quality.

Tranquillity is included as one of the special qualities of the North York Moors in our Management Plan (updated 2016). We therefore felt it important to develop policy to protect and enhance this asset in the new local plan.

National level work on tranquillity was by consultants for the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England in 2006. Maps showing relative tranquillity across England can be seen here, and a map showing the area around the North York Moors National Park is here. Further examples of other approaches are set out in the topic paper.

For Tranquillity, our current thinking is that we should introduce a criteria based policy that would apply throughout the National Park.

We concluded that as the CPRE work shows that 90% of the National Park is ‘relatively tranquil’ when compared to the rest of England a Park-wide approach to protecting tranquillity is needed. A tranquillity policy would state that all development proposals would be assessed in relation to their impact on tranquillity and the criteria to be considered would be listed, for instance, visual intrusion, noise, activity levels, traffic generation. There would be additional explanation in the supporting text on how different locations are more or less sensitive to harmful impacts on tranquillity. The Authority would consider potential harm or benefits to tranquillity as part of its assessment of all development proposals. This conclusion was reached as it recognises that almost all of the National Park is tranquil in comparison with areas beyond its boundary.

Possible alternative approaches are:

  • Keep the existing approach as contained in Core Strategy Policy A of the Development Plan and do not introduce a specific tranquillity policy
  • Introduce a spatial tranquillity policy based on zones identified within an updated Tranquillity Map of the National Park, setting out a different approach to development in different zones
  • Adopting a combined approach using a criteria based policy that would give additional protection to remote areas (see next section).

The advantages and disadvantages of the alternative approaches can be seen here.

A strong feeling of remoteness

One of the elements of tranquillity we identified was that of remoteness. Remoteness can be defined as the state of being located far away from everyone or everything else and can be objectively measured as distance away from places where people live and work.

Remote areasA strong feeling of remoteness is a  special quality of the North York Moors in its own right and we consider it to be especially important in this National Park as it is one of the few areas in England that contain large tracts of open moorland and forests and a patchwork of very small and dispersed settlements. Remote undeveloped areas of open moorland and woodland across the North York Moors are among the most tranquil places in the National Park and, without the intrusion of man-made structures, they have a quality of ‘wildness’ which is rarely found elsewhere. These remote locations foster a sense of being close to nature and getting away from the stresses of modern life and are a finite resource which, once lost, cannot be regained.

For Remote Areas, our current thinking is that we should introduce a policy that development will only be permitted in 'remote areas' where it is essential for environmental conservation or land management purposes and where appropriate mitigation measures have been taken to minimise any harmful impact on tranquillity.

Our preferred definition for mapping remote areas is places at least 1km away from the nearest postal address point or A or B class road. These are areas of open moor, woodland and other landscape types, mostly in the central part of the National Park, where by definition there are no villages or scattered farmsteads. The advantage of this definition is that a restrictive approach to development that would protect the area could be consistently applied within it. Legitimate development proposals that may be needed to sustain existing families and small farm businesses would not be affected.

A map showing areas defined as remote using this methodology can be seen here. Using this definition, the remote area covers 290 kms2 or 20% of the National Park.

This table shows how different types of development would be treated in principle (unless any specific material planning considerations of each case outweighed the policy position) within and outside remote areas.

Other options we considered were:

  • Include remote farmsteads within remote areas. This would be on the grounds that our 'current thinking' option would miss out some dale head areas, which still have a strong sense of remoteness. A definition which includes remote farmsteads would address this and a map showing areas defined as remote using this methodology can be seen here. Using this definition, the remote area covers 982 kms2 or 68% of the National Park. 
  • Use graduated shading to represent remoteness. A map would show greater and lesser degrees of remoteness across the whole of the National Park. With this option the policy wording would be more general, saying that all development proposals would be considered in relation to their impact on the character of remote areas, taking into account the scale, nature and location of the proposal. A map showing areas defined as remote using this methodology can be seen here.

The advantages and disadvantages of the alternative approaches can be seen here.

Dark Night Skies

Ralph Cross Dark Skies by Steve BellDark skies at night have long been recognised as a special and important feature of the North York Moors and are a resource that is becoming increasingly rare throughout the country. The ability to experience dark skies is enhanced by the open nature of the moorland skyline, the presence of several large forest plantations within the National Park and the dark expanse of the North Sea to the east. As well as being an intrinsic part of the quality of the National Park landscape, dark skies at night are important for wildlife species such as bats, moths and nightjar and help maintain biodiversity within the National Park. They are also important for recreation – there is a growing interest in star gazing which in turn has benefits for local communities and the local tourism economy. There are now three ‘Dark Sky Discovery’ sites in the National Park at Sutton Bank, Dalby Forest and the Moors National Park Centre at Danby and a festival and other activies are held throughout the year..

Work carried out in 2016 (the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England’s ‘Night Blight’ Mapping) revealed that the North York Moors was one of the areas in the country that was most free of light pollution. This map shows the level of light pollution and dark skies over the North York Moors National Park compared to surrounding areas.

We therefore think it is appropriate that planning policy does all it can to protect this asset, as planning is a key area which can influence the quality of night skies. It can do this primarily by refusing development in inappropriate locations and by controlling the amount and type of external lighting on new developments.

For Dark Night Skies, our current thinking is that we should introduce a policy that requires applicants to demonstrate that all proposed new external lighting is essential and meets the Institute of Lighting Professionals Guidelines for outdoor lighting in Environmental Zone E1. New external lighting would not be permitted in remote areas.

Milky Way and Perseid Meteor shower at Sutton Bank (C) Russ Norman PhotographyThe policy would state that all development proposals would be expected to minimise light spillage through good design and lighting management. No external lighting would be permitted in remote areas. In open countryside locations applicants would need to demonstrate that new external lighting is required for safety or security reasons. In village locations, applicants would need to demonstrate that it is required for safety, security or community reasons. The policy would also require all lighting installations to meet the Institute of Lighting Professionals guidelines (or any subsequent National Park lighting management plan) for outdoor lighting in natural, intrinsically dark environments including National Parks (Environmental Zone 1).  

Other options we considered were:

  • Keep the existing approach as contained in Core Strategy Core Policy A of the Development Plan and do not introduce a specific dark night skies policy.
  • Introduce a non-spatial policy which would permit external lighting in all locations where required for safety, security or community reasons provided it meets the ILP Guidelines for Environmental Zone E1.

The advantages and disadvantages of the alternative approaches can be seen here.

Next Steps

Please submit any comments you have to us by the 26th January 2018 by emailing us at policy@northyorkmoors.org.uk

Alternatively you can write to us at:

Comments and responses can also be sent to:

The Planning Policy Team
The Old Vicarage
Bondgate
Helmsley
York
YO62 5BP.

We are hoping to produce a ‘Preferred Options’ version of the new Local Plan for consultation in the spring of next year, which is likely to include draft policies on tranquillity, remote areas and dark night skies. If you would like to be kept in touch about the new Local Plan please complete the Mailing List Form if you are not already being notified or email us at policy@northyorkmoors.org.uk

Thank you for your time.