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12 Green Infrastructure


12.1 Liverpool has a significant green infrastructure resource which contributes to the character and environmental quality of the City. Green infrastructure is described in the Liverpool Green Infrastructure Strategy as "the network of natural environmental components and green and blue spaces within and around Liverpool which provide multiple social, economic and environmental benefits".  This network includes land in both public and private ownership, comprising the City's Green Wedges, parks, local wildlife sites, allotments, street trees, hedges, cemeteries and private gardens, and its water spaces, including the River Mersey, the Leeds Liverpool canal, park lakes and water courses.

In 2014, The Mayor of Liverpool tasked the Strategic Green and Open Spaces Review Board, chaired by Simon O’Brien, to look at ways to help Liverpool retain its many and diverse green and open spaces. The interim report was published in late 2015 and further work will be undertaken throughout 2016.

Interim Report Recommendations relevant to the plan-making and development management:

  • Identify two sites of approximately 2 hectares in size one to the north of the city centre and one in the eastern core of Liverpool to create new public woodland
  • Consider the future linkage of the Leeds Liverpool Canal with the major city-scale development at Liverpool Waters.
  • Chair to work with Head of Planning to identify and map a 'Green Corridor' network and flag sites for provision throughout the city.

Green Corridors

The most important proposed new strategy within the Interim Report relates to the identification and extension of a series of corridors for walking, cycling and the linking of wildlife areas. 

The report considers that there is a significant opportunity for the City Council and other agencies, such as Merseytravel or Sustrans, to put in place a coherent plan that creates the initial grid of a citywide green corridor network. This should be explored to ensure that there is adequate provision to protect and encourage the city’s wildlife to populate the incidental habitats in the city.

Each piece of green and open space has a part to play in the proposed ‘Green Corridors’ network of the city and it is the detailed purposing of the patchwork of differing open spaces which will define this work on green corridors and their connectivity.

The Final Report and the Local Plan.

The Final Report of the Strategic Green and Open Spaces Review Board will map the green corridor model on a city-wide scale and identify sites which could provide provision and/or development levies to enable the creation of the connected network.  Planning officers will consider how the Local Plan is best able to respond to the findings and recommendations made by the Board.

Other Evidence Work to be completed

While the work undertaken by the Strategic Green and Open Spaces Review Board will provide an important source of evidence for the preparation of the Local Plan, it does not constitute an open space study undertaken in accordance with the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework and Planning Practice guidance which requires the City Council to undertake a study to identify current provision of open space and assess whether the current level of provision meets current and future needs, taking into account the growth of the City.

The City Council's existing Open Space Study was prepared in 2005, and assessed open space and sports pitch provision in the City. This study is being updated by consultants on behalf of the Council and is expected to be completed in early 2016. It will be supplemented by the Council’s Indoor Facilities Strategy and Playing Pitch Strategy (being jointly prepared with Sport England and the relevant playing pitch sport governing bodies) which will be available later in the spring.  The Playing Pitch Strategy will also be accompanied by a specific action plan which will identify amongst other things the surplus or deficit in the level of playing pitch supply taking into account the need for other playing pitch sports (Rugby League, Rugby Union, Hockey and Cricket) and the transition of pitches between sports as well as the development of a network of artificial grass pitch hub facilities.  Taken together this will complete the assessment of open space, sport and recreation provision and future need.   

The potential consequences of the emerging evidence base studies for the Local Plan include the need for policies to address:

  • The provision of more green space if any deficits in quantity or location are identified
  • The enhancement and improvement of the quality and value of open space if necessary
  • The management of alternative uses for any pitch no longer required for the existing sport and where there is no other deficit in pitch sports provision of any other type
  • Supporting the delivery of the Playing Pitch Strategy Action Plan

This chapter and the draft policies set out in it will therefore be subject to change when the Open Space Study, Playing Pitch Strategy and final stages of the Strategic Green and Open Spaces Review Board's work are completed during 2016. 

Protection of Green Infrastructure

Policy GI 1 – Green Infrastructure

The recreational function, visual amenity, historic and structural quality and value of the City’s green infrastructure resource will be protected and enhanced. Specifically, protection will be afforded to: 

  1. The Green Belt, Green Wedges and the Mersey Estuary SSSI/SPA/Ramsar Site 
  2. The network of City, District, Neighbourhood and Local Parks 
  3. Biodiversity assets, including Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) and Local Nature Reserves (LNR)
  4. Regionally Important Geological/Geomorphological Sites (RIGS)
  5. Locally important open spaces and water courses, including amenity spaces and allotments
  6. Playing fields and pitches
  7. Recreational routes and the Public Rights of Way network

Policy Context and Justification

12.2 The green infrastructure resource  in Liverpool as described in Policy GI 1, is a key asset for the City which can continue to contribute significantly to the delivery of sustainable growth and continuing economic, social and physical regeneration. It will be shown on the Policies Map at the next stage of Local Plan preparation.  An attractive open space network makes a vital contribution to quality of life, providing a number of benefits and functions, such as outdoor recreation, mitigating the effects of climate change, improving physical and mental health, providing habitats for wildlife, creating an attractive environment to support the regeneration of the City and improving the quality of the environment for local communities. It is therefore important to protect and enhance green infrastructure to maximise these key benefits.

12.3 Green infrastructure also has a role to play in addressing some of the impacts of climate change. Vegetation and permeable surfaces capture, store and infiltrate rainwater into the ground for example through the use of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems, thereby reducing both the volume and rate of rainwater run-off and thus the risk of surface water flooding. The opening up of existing culverted watercourses can also make an important contribution to this as well as amenity, biodiversity and other environmental management objectives. Through evaporative cooling, green infrastructure can help to reduce the heat island effect and assist in alleviating air quality issues.

12.4 The Green Belt, networks of biodiversity and green infrastructure and the Mersey Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA) and Ramsar site, form an important part of the City's green infrastructure network. The aim of the Green Belt is to prevent urban sprawl, with the essential characteristics being their openness and permanence.  The Green Belt serves five purposes:

  1. To check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
  2. To prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;
  3. To assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;
  4. To preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and
  5. To assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

12.5 Given the built-up nature of Liverpool, the area of Green Belt in the City is limited. The areas are on the edge of the City at Fazakerley, Croxteth, Netherley/Belle Vale and Speke, and it amounts to around  530ha  of the City’s land area.  Proposals for development within the Green Belt will be assessed against national Green Belt policy as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, or any subsequent replacement. 

12.6 Green Wedges have been a successful policy tool helping to protect key areas of open space for nearly thirty years. Policy GI2 below sets out a detailed criteria-based policy for protecting these areas. It is important to continue to carefully control development in the Green Wedges so as to maintain the physical and visual separation that these strategic open spaces provide between major residential communities.

12.7 The City also has areas of high biodiversity value, including Local Wildlife Sites, Local Nature Reserves, and the Mersey Estuary SSSI, SPA and Ramsar site. The Local Wildlife Sites that were identified in both the Liverpool Space for Nature Study (2006/8) and through the work of the Local Sites Partnership in 2011 are considered to be of the highest ecological value in the context of Liverpool. It will be important to protect these sites from inappropriate development to meet local and national biodiversity priorities and objectives including the North Merseyside Biodiversity Action Plan.  In addition, the Study highlighted areas of the City with limited biodiversity assets and makes recommendations for addressing this. It concluded that Liverpool supports a large amount of open space which could be targeted for enhancement to biodiversity.

12.8 Green infrastructure within the City can be used to avoid negative impacts on internationally protected habitat sites. Enhancements to existing open spaces, together with appropriate access and habitat management, may help to attract recreational users away from sensitive internationally protected habitat sites including those in neighbouring authorities such as the Sefton Coast SAC and the Sefton section of the Ribble and Alt Estuaries SPA. Impact on these sites will also be managed through the City Council working in partnership with neighbouring authorities on appropriate Management Plans.

12.9 The Liverpool Green Infrastructure Strategy (2010)  assessed the green infrastructure resource in the City and developed a number of actions recommended for implementation in different parts of it to address particular green infrastructure needs. The Strategy takes account of previous evidential studies, which include the Liverpool Open Space Study and Liverpool Space for Nature Study. These provide detail on specific components of the green infrastructure resource.

12.10 The City's existing Open Space Study was prepared in 2005, and assessed open space and sports pitch provision in the City. This study is being updated by consultants on behalf of the Council and is expected to be completed in Summer 2016. It will identify current provision of open space, and include an assessment of whether the current level of provision meets current and future needs, taking into account the growth of the City. It will be supplemented by the existing Indoor Facilities Strategy and Playing Pitch Strategy, to complete the assessment of open space, sport and recreation provision and future need. The 2016 study will inform the preparation of policies in the next iteration of the Local Plan.

12.11 The network of parks (some of which are of historic value) have been classified as City, District, Neighbourhood or Small Local Parks, based on their role and function:

  • City Parks - these serve as citywide attractions, providing for both active and passive recreation

  • District Parks - landscape setting with a variety of natural features and a range of facilities and playing fields, children's play and informal recreation pursuits

  • Neighbourhood Parks - Provision for court games, children's play, sitting-out, nature conservation, landscaped environment and playing fields if large enough

  • Small Local Parks - gardens, areas for sitting-out, children's play, and other areas for nature conservation, for example.

12.12 Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, the City Council has a responsibility to maintain the Public Rights of Way network. These are defined as footpaths, bridleways, byways open to all traffic and roads using public paths, with the term usually applied to surfaced paths that are normally used by motor vehicles. A Rights of Way Improvement Plan for Merseyside was published 2008 by Merseytravel and covers the period up to 2018. It has been adopted by each of the Merseyside Districts.


Green Wedges

Policy GI 2 – Green Wedges

  1. There is a strong presumption in favour of protecting land within the Green Wedges from inappropriate development. The City Council will protect and improve the open environment, recreational and ecological quality of the Green Wedges by not permitting development which would affect the predominantly open character and compromise the functions of the Green Wedges.
  1. Development will not be permitted unless it:
    1. Can be shown that it will protect and enhance the functions of the Green Wedge;
    2. Uses materials and built form sympathetic to the character of the area;
    3. Provides and maintains a high level of landscaping;
    4. Retains existing special site features and vegetation where appropriate; and
    5. Is, as a minimum, biodiversity neutral.

Policy Context and Justification

12.13 The City Council has a long established and successful policy for managing new development within two extensive areas of predominantly green and often wooded areas in the City which form significant elements of the City’s overall structure – the Otterspool and Calderstones/Woolton Green Wedges.  They include a combination of green spaces, such as public and private playing fields, public parks and gardens, cemeteries, golf courses, institutional uses set in extensive grounds and allotments.

12.14 The Green Wedges provide a number of important area-wide functions:

  • affording a valuable amenity for a large number of people,
  • providing diverse recreational facilities, including opportunities for more passive leisure pursuits such as walking, nature rambles and school visits,
  • providing a mature ecological environment for animals(58) and plants,
  • containing buildings of historical, architectural and educational interest,
  • providing large areas of open space allowing physical separation between existing built up areas, and
  • giving the appearance of a ‘parkway’ approach to the City along particular transport routes.

12.15 Development will be considered inappropriate where it does not retain or enhance the functions of the Green Wedge. Where it is considered that development is appropriate, it must be of a high quality, using design, scale, massing and materials sympathetic and respectful to its setting. Proposals will be assessed against design standards set out in policies elsewhere in the Local Plan. The fact that land has been allowed to become derelict or is underused will not be regarded as sufficient reason for permitting inappropriate development.

12.16 Certain types of activity may enhance the role of Green Wedges through, for example, the provision of further recreation facilities. The most appropriate means for protecting the fundamental character of Green Wedges however, is through the retention of land in open uses or for recreational activities.

Calderstones/Woolton Green Wedge

12.17 A combination of geology, architecture and landscape structure makes this an area of special value, with the appearance and condition of the landscape being of particular importance. It consists of 300 hectares  of open land within Liverpool’s southern suburbs, and includes three Local Wildlife Sites and one Local Nature Reserve.  A significant area of native broad-leaved woodland planted at Eric Hardy LNR in the early 1980s is now reaching maturity.  As a contribution to the Mersey Forest, the City Council will support the management of existing woodland and increase of woodland cover as appropriate on the parkland and other open space at Calderstones and Allerton.

Otterspool Green Wedge

12.18 The Otterspool Green Wedge contains large areas of public and private open space, including Otterspool Park and the recently restored Liverpool Festival Gardens. The area focuses on the Riverside Walk and for the most part has open views over the River Mersey.  It consists of nearly 200 hectares of land, including two Local Wildlife Sites.

12.19 The Green Wedges contain smaller areas recognised for their important biodiversity value. Any development will only be permitted where direct or indirect impacts are avoided or mitigated. The City Council has to comply with the Biodiversity Duty(59), and development proposals will have to comply with other policies in this Plan.


Protecting Liverpool’s open spaces, and sports and recreation facilities

12.20 Aside from the Green Belt and Green Wedges, the City’s green space resource comprises land used principally for informal or formal recreation such as parks, playing fields, sports grounds, golf courses, allotments, amenity spaces in residential areas, and school sites set in large grounds.  Other important green spaces include church grounds, cemeteries and institutions set in landscaped grounds.

12.21 The public park resource is a great asset to the City, as these sites are the most accessible form of urban green space for the majority of the City’s residents.  They provide an important environmental, recreational, educational and health resource which supports community activities, nature conservation, and sport and tourism.

Policy GI 3 – Open Space, Sport and Recreation Provision

Planning permission will not be granted for development which will result in the loss of open space or sports and recreation provision; unless it can be demonstrated in a statement submitted alongside the application, that the proposed development can be accommodated without material harm to:

  1. The recreational function of the site

  1. The applicant should demonstrate how the proposal will meet local and national planning policy in relation to the provision of open spaces, sports and recreational buildings and land, as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (or any replacement).
  1. Improvements to sports and recreational facilities which would lead to improved access to, or use of such facilities (such as floodlighting or ancillary development), or meet an identified need will be supported provided:
    • Unacceptable impacts on open space, local amenity or biodiversity have been avoided;
    • A need for the development at the scale proposed has been demonstrated; and
    • It is demonstrated how the proposal will contribute to enhancing the role of the open space or facility.
    • Applicants demonstrate compliance with relevant sport specific design guidance.
  2. Proposals for new open space, sports or recreation facilities which meet an identified need will be supported, subject to other policies in the Local Plan.

  3. In the case of open spaces used for educational purposes, the development will be supported where it is specifically required for educational uses, and suitable and convenient alternative recreation provision is available.

  1. The visual amenity provided by the site

The applicant should demonstrate how the proposal will maintain or wherever possible enhance the aesthetic function of an open space, including key vistas, frontages and/or important trees and landscaping features.

  1. The structural role of the site

The applicant should demonstrate that the development will not compromise the ability of the open space to enhance local identity, provide separation between different parts of the City, or provide recognisable features of local importance; or destroy a valuable link between areas of green spaces.

  1. Food growing

Development should not result in the loss of existing allotment sites unless it can be demonstrated the allotments no longer fulfil a local need and there is unlikely to be a future demand, or a suitable replacement can be provided of equal size and quality. If allotment sites are identified to be surplus to requirements and they are located within or adjacent to an area of identified open space need, then where appropriate these should be retained for an open space use.

  1. The Recreational Routes Network

Development proposals which would sever a public right of way or recreational route, which the Council considers should be retained, will only be permitted if the developer can demonstrate that an acceptable and equivalent alternative is provided.  The Council will support and encourage the appropriate creation or improvement of links from new development to existing rights of way, to encourage active and sustainable travel and recreation.

Policy Context and Justification

12.22 A network of attractive open space provides important opportunities for cycling, walking, sport and informal recreation. It makes the built-up areas of the City greener and more attractive, helping to support environmental upgrading and regeneration, and also to improve the City's image. The City Council considers that the protection and enhancement of recreational open space, which includes parks, playing fields and children's play areas, is vital to ensure local communities have access to open spaces for formal and informal recreation which can provide important health benefits.  Informal recreation includes dog walking, walking, jogging, sitting/contemplation etc, and are just as relevant when considering the recreational value of an open space. The City also has a high number of small open spaces which often represent a valuable local amenity which should also be protected and improved.

12.23 The City faces some of the greatest health challenges in the country. It has some of the highest levels of deprivation and lowest levels of life expectancy. It has a high burden of disease and a relatively low take-up of healthy lifestyles. Improving green infrastructure in the City can assist in improving public health. There are five main areas of health benefit that can be achieved through green infrastructure planning, management and delivery. These are increasing physical activity, improving air quality, providing opportunities for growing food locally, improving mental health and social cohesion.  The NPPF places great importance on the protection of open space, sports and recreational facilities in contributing to improved health and wellbeing of local communities.

12.24 An important component of the open space resource is the provision of playing pitches and playing fields for formal recreation. The City Council’s own playing pitch resource comprises the detached playing fields, school playing fields; and pitches located within public parks.  The City has been working towards replacing these pitches with ones in more appropriate locations to allow for easier maintenance and pitches of a higher quality and capacity.

12.25 Open spaces will be  shown on the Policies Map, but is likely to exclude a large number of smaller sites which are still an important local amenity and are therefore also afforded protection under Policy GI3.  The definition of open space is set out in the NPPF glossary. When assessing proposals which would result in the loss of open space, sports and recreation facilities, applicants should demonstrate how the development meets national policy. NPPF (para 74) states that existing open space, sports and recreational buildings and land, including playing fields, should not be built on unless an assessment has been undertaken which has clearly shown the open space, buildings or land to be surplus to requirements; or the loss resulting from the proposed development would be replaced by equivalent or better provision in terms of quantity and quality in a suitable location; or the development is for alternative sports and recreational provision, the needs for which clearly outweigh the loss. This policy requires compliance with NPPF or any replacement.  Account should also be taken of relevant evidence base studies including Liverpool Playing Pitch Strategy, the Open Space Study, Liverpool Physical Activity and Sports Strategy and Liverpool Facilities Strategy.

12.26 There has been a significant increase in the levels of participation in indoor sports over recent years, and there has been a substantial increase in provision especially by the private sector.  The Liverpool Retail and Leisure Study 2016 provides analysis on current and future levels of provision, identifying that current participation levels are above the UK average and there is some theoretical need in the City.  The City Council will seek to direct new indoor sports and leisure facilities to the most appropriate locations, in line with national policy and guidance. 

12.27 Ensuring communities have access to an adequate level of provision of both indoor and outdoor sports and recreation facilities is important in creating sustainable communities. Policy GI 3 will be used to assess development proposals which would lead to the loss of provision of land or buildings used for informal or formal sport and recreation. Informal recreation takes place on most types of open space, and includes walking, jogging, sitting, dog walking, informal football etc, where the space has no formal role for active sport. Formal sports and recreation provision includes playing fields, all weather pitches, athletic tracks, tennis courts and bowling greens, and indoor recreation facilities such as swimming pools, health and fitness suites and leisure centres.  

12.28 Enhancing the value of open space and facilities for sport and recreation purposes may require ancillary development, for example, to provide changing facilities. Any proposal for ancillary development on open space must demonstrate a need for the development, and at the scale proposed, how it will contribute to enhancing the role of the open space or facility in encouraging physical activity, and also demonstrate that impacts on the rest of the open space resulting from built development will be minimised.  Applicants should also demonstrate compliance with relevant sport specific design guidance.

12.29 Open spaces may not always have a recreational value, and may be viewed by some people as nondescript areas but they can still make an important contribution to the local area, especially if surrounded by a high density urban environment. Green spaces can be visually attractive, contribute to townscape value, provide relief from the built up area, or provide buffers or screening of unsightly land uses. Some open spaces contribute to the character of an area, and their structural role in enhancing local identity should not be compromised.

12.30 When assessing proposals for development on open space, the City Council will assess whether there is a deficiency of open space. The Open Space Study (2016) once finalised will inform the identification of any open space deficiency areas in the City.

12.31 Allotments represent one of the most intensive recreational uses of open land in the City. Allotments are an important facility for the community – they provide opportunities for people to grown their own produce, to enjoy a healthier lifestyle and a healthier diet. It also offers the opportunity for community interaction and provides environmental benefits through green space and wildlife habitats. Statutory allotments are protected under the Allotments Act 1925 which prescribes that consent from the Secretary of State must be obtained for disposal of land by a local authority which they have appropriated for the use of allotments, if it is proposed to sell, appropriate or use that land for a use other than allotments. The Open Space Study 2016 will provide evidence in respect of the number and use of Allotments in the City.

12.32 Liverpool's recreational routes network provides an important recreational facility and assists in encouraging people to walk or cycle. NPPF requires planning policies to protect and enhance public rights of way, and states that local authorities should seek opportunities to provide better facilities for users. This policy addresses these issues.

Water Spaces

12.33 Water spaces make an important contribution to the City’s green infrastructure resource. The River Mersey, the Leeds Liverpool Canal and the docks along the Waterfront are the most significant water spaces in the city, but the resource also includes a number of brooks, rivers and park lakes.

Policy GI 4 – Water Spaces

  1. The City Council will support proposals for increasing opportunities to allow for greater access to, interaction with, and recreational use of water spaces in the City, whilst ensuring the spaces and their settings are protected and enhanced.

  2. Proposals for new development adjacent to a water space should demonstrate that account has been taken of its setting and should ensure that:

    1. The design, detailing, materials, scale and massing of the development complements its location;

    2. the site layout takes account of the relationship between the siting of buildings, parking and landscaping areas and the water space, to maximise the benefits of a waterside setting;

    3. public access is maintained or enhanced where possible;

    4. opportunities are taken to create or enhance green infrastructure provision which contributes to enhancing visual amenity, biodiversity, and increased use of water spaces and their environs;

    5. any historical or industrial archaeological features relating to the water space are retained and restored; and

    6. there are no negative consequences for, and where possible the development should enhance, the nature conservation value and water quality of the water space and surrounding environment.

  3. For proposals involving dock spaces, in addition to the criteria set out above, development:

    1. will not be permitted to infill dock water spaces or reduce the depth of dock water spaces to an extent that would limit the range of water vessels that could utilise these dock water spaces;

    2. should avoid dominating the water spaces and maintain their fundamental integrity as open water spaces that provide spacing between dockland buildings;

    3. should demonstrate that there will be no adverse impact on residential amenity or existing businesses; and

    4. should make appropriate provision for the future management and maintenance of public realm, movement routes, dock water spaces and adjacent quaysides.
  4. Proposals in the City Centre should also refer to Policy CC 5.

Policy Context and Justification

12.34 Liverpool’s water spaces reflect the City’s maritime heritage, with the Leeds Liverpool Canal, the River Mersey and the docks along the waterfront playing an important role in its growth and development as a key port. There are also a number of park lakes and smaller rivers and brooks throughout the City.

12.35 The water spaces and their immediate surroundings make an important contribution to the City, for example, in terms of its identity, sense of place, biodiversity resource, and recreation and leisure offer. This network makes an important contribution to Liverpool’s green infrastructure resource; as well as possessing potential economic, social and environmental benefits for local communities and the local economy. Any proposal which may have an adverse impact on biodiversity will be assessed in line with relevant policies in the Local Plan.

12.36 The Leeds Liverpool Canal was constructed as a major industrial transport link across the north of England. There is a relatively short section of the canal within the City boundary, where it passes through the Vauxhall area of North Liverpool providing an attractive setting for the Eldonian Village residential area, before connecting into the dock system at Stanley Dock. However, after a £22m project commissioned by the Canal and River Trust (then British Waterways), the canal has been extended by 1.4 miles to connect it from here to the south docks in the City Centre via the Central Docks (the Liverpool Waters site), Pier Head, and into Canning Dock.  This award winning project has created a new vibrant tourist destination for the City Centre. The City Centre Strategic Regeneration Framework seeks to build on the strengths of the waterfront to provide a focus for new world class visitor destinations.

12.37 Liverpool has the largest and most complete system of historic docks anywhere in the world. Part 3 of the policy seeks to ensure that development proposals will not have a negative impact on the dock spaces. It is important that proposals involving the spaces do not undermine their fundamental openness, the contribution they make to the character, distinctiveness and Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site and do not have an adverse impact on residents and the operation of existing businesses.

Biodiversity and Geodiversity

Policy GI 5 - Protection of Biodiversity and Geodiversity

  1. Development which may result in a likely significant effect on an internationally important site must be accompanied by sufficient evidence to enable the Council to make a Habitats Regulations Assessment. Adverse effects should be avoided and/or mitigated to ensure that the integrity of internationally important sites is protected. Development which may adversely affect the integrity of internationally important sites will only be permitted where there are no alternative solutions and there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest and suitable compensatory provision is secured. This also applies to sites and habitats outside the designated boundaries that support species listed as being important in the designations of the internationally important sites.
  1. Development which may affect other designated sites of nature or geological conservation importance, Priority Habitats, legally protected species and / or Priority Species will be assessed as follows:
    • Development which may cause significant harm will only be permitted for:
      • National sites (Mersey Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)): where there are no alternatives and  where the reasons for and the benefits of development clearly outweigh the impact on the nature conservation value of the site and its broader contribution to the national network;
      • Local Sites (Local Nature Reserves (LNRs), Local Wildlife Site (LWS) and Regionally Important Geological/Geomorphological Sites (RIGS)): where the reasons for and the benefits of development clearly outweigh the impact on the nature conservation value of the site and its broader contribution to the Liverpool City Region (LCR )Ecological Network; and
      • Priority Habitats: where the reasons for and the benefits of development on balance clearly outweigh the impact on the nature conservation value of the habitat and its broader contribution to the LCR Ecological Network.
  2. Where it has been demonstrated that significant harm cannot be avoided, appropriate mitigation, replacement or other compensatory provision may be required, to accord with the hierarchy of sites. The location of appropriate mitigation, replacement or other compensatory measures will be targeted, using a sequential approach as follows:
    • On site;
    • Immediate locality and / or within the Core Biodiversity Area;
    • LCR Nature Improvement Area within the City; and lastly
    • LCR Nature Improvement Area outside the City.
  3. Where significant harm resulting from development cannot be avoided, adequately mitigated or, as a last resort, compensated, then planning permission will be refused.
  4. Development proposals which affect sites of nature conservation importance, priority habitats, legally protected species or priority species must be supported by an Ecological Appraisal and include details of avoidance, mitigation and /or compensation where appropriate.
  5. The policy applies where development proposals in Liverpool may directly or indirectly affect sites with known conservation value in a neighbouring authority area.
  6. This policy will apply to other sites recognised during the Plan period as being of nature conservation importance, including land provided as compensation.

Policy Context and Justification


12.38 The Council, together with other public bodies (such as the Environment Agency), has a duty under section 40 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC) Act 2006 to conserve biodiversity when carrying out its normal functions.  The policy approach is consistent with national policy in reflecting the hierarchy of sites in the City. In Liverpool the hierarchy is as follows:

  1. Sites of international nature importance;
  2. Sites of national nature importance;
  3. Sites of local nature and geological importance;
  4. Priority habitats and species, and legally protected species.

12.39 The Core Biodiversity Area comprises designated nature and geological sites and Priority Habitats, linking networks and opportunities for further habitat creation or enhancement. It should also be remembered that some brownfield sites can have ecological value and can act as important linkages in the green infrastructure network.

12.40 The Mersey Estuary is designated a Ramsar Site and a Special Protection Area at European level, and a Site of Special Scientific Interest at national level.  Sites of local nature and geological importance in Liverpool are Local Wildlife Sites (LWSs), Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) and Regionally Important Geological/Geomorphological Sites (RIGS).  Local Wildlife Sites are considered to be of the highest ecological value in Liverpool, and are protected from development which would have a direct or indirect effect on the site's nature conservation value, unless the benefits to the community arising from any proposed development outweigh the need to protect the nature conservation value of the site. Local Nature Reserves are  sites of local special natural interest and where possible community and educational value. They must be managed to ensure their value is protected and enhanced. In Liverpool, RIGS include geological features such as outcrops or cuttings which will usually be robust enough to allow for the potential to integrate development and conservation.  All sites in the hierarchy are set out in Schedule 12.1.

12.41 Priority Habitats and Species are ‘habitats and species of principal importance’ for the conservation of biodiversity in England. They are identified as being the most threatened and in need of conservation action.  Priority Habitats sit outside the designated site hierarchy and may be of national (e.g. Ancient woodlands) or, sometimes, local importance. Legally protected species are those which have specific protection under legislation (e.g. badgers, bats). The ‘biodiversity duty’ includes Priority Habitats and Species.

12.42 The Liverpool City Region Nature Improvement Area (LCR NIA) is an integrated and prioritised framework for targeting opportunities for habitat creation and enhancement in the areas where the greatest gains are likely to be achieved. This may include biodiversity offsetting, mitigation, compensation or changes in land management. Thus the LCR NIA offers solutions which enables sustainable growth and housing needs to be met without compromising Liverpool’s or the City Region’s natural assets. There are seventeen Nature Improvement Area Focus Areas which together make up the LCR Nature Improvement Area.

12.43 For each level of the hierarchy, where there may be potential adverse effects for internationally important nature sites, or significant harm for other sites and Priority Habitats; the policy sets out the relative weight which will be given to the reasons for, and the benefits of development; and the impact on the nature conservation value of the site and its broader contribution to the LCR Ecological Network. In such cases, the policy also sets out the approach to appropriate mitigation, replacement or other compensatory provision. An Ecological Appraisal, which should be carried out by a suitably competent ecologist, must support planning applications which affect sites of nature importance and / or Priority Habitats and Species.

12.44 For development proposals that are likely to result in an increase of more than 1% of the Critical Load in nitrogen inputs into the Sefton Coast Special Area of Conservation (SAC)  there should also be a suitable ecological appraisal to accompany the planning application. Such proposals are likely to include those which could increase traffic flows on roads within 200m of the SAC by over 1,000 vehicle movements per day or 200 heavy duty vehicle movements per day (in terms of annual average daily traffic flows). This might include housing developments of 200 or more homes, office developments of 7,000 m2 or more, industrial estates of 15,000 m2 or more, warehousing of 35,000 m2 or more, hotels with 300 or more bedrooms and leisure facilities or exhibition centres of 9,000 m2 or more.  

12.45 Development proposals and the decision making process on planning applications should also take into consideration the fact that some habitats, such as ancient woodland and veteran trees, are irreplaceable because of their age and complexity and cannot be recreated once they are lost.

Mitigation and compensation

12.46 Policy GI5 sets out the approach to mitigation, and as a last resort, compensation. Here, compensation means compensatory provision, and may include financial compensation, where appropriate. It is crucial to the priority of no net loss that appropriate mitigation or, as a last resort, compensatory provision is made. It is important that the location of appropriate mitigation, replacement or other compensatory provision follows the sequential approach set out in the policy. This seeks to target such measures as close as possible to the development site. In some instances the immediate locality of the site may include nearby sites in neighbouring districts.

12.47 To comply with the Habitats Regulations 2010 (as amended), compensatory provision for internationally important sites must be made prior to the development commencing. For other sites or species, mitigation /compensation can be delivered as part of the development (during the development process). This compensation may be provided by the applicant directly, or through an organisation which is a land manager locally.

Policy GI 6 - Liverpool City Region Nature Improvement Area

Development within the Nature Improvement Area will be permitted where it:

  1. Enables the functioning of the Nature Improvement Area;
  2. Contributes to the opportunities for habitat creation/or habitat management as set out in the NIA Focus Profiles; and
  3. Is consistent with other policies in the Plan.

Policy Context and Justification

12.48 Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) have been proposed by Government as the principal mechanism for delivering wildlife restoration and management. They are intended to achieve significant enhancements to ecological networks by improving existing wildlife sites, building ecological connections and restoring ecological processes. Delivering at a landscape-scale, these areas should connect with their local economies and communities.

12.49 There are 17 NIA Focus Areas across the City Region, and when taken together they combine to form the LCR NIA. Three NIA Focus Areas partly fall into the City boundary:

  1. River Alt and M57 Corridor
  2. Netherley Brook and Ditton Brook Corridor
  3. Mersey Estuary

12.50 Each NIA Focus Area has been mapped and is also supported by a detailed NIA Focus Area profile which can be used to inform and guide use of the development management policies as well as the activities of other landowners, managers and other interests. Both the NIA Focus Area maps and profiles will be included within the Ecological Network evidence base (60). The NIA boundary will be kept up-to-date as part of the Local Plan evidence. This will enable future opportunities to be taken account of. Future reviews of the LCR Ecological Network will be in accordance with an agreed monitoring process.


Green Infrastructure and New Development

Policy GI 7 – New Planting and Design

1. All new development should make an appropriate contribution to the enhancement of the City’s green infrastructure resource.  As a minimum, proper provision should be made on site for the planting and successful growth of new trees and landscaping, including any replacement planting provided as compensation for loss due to development. In particular, it should be demonstrated that:

  1. New planting is sustainable for the long-term, fit for purpose, and species selection for planting schemes have had regard to international, national, sub-regional and local biodiversity initiatives. Plant selection must provide a high quality landscape and make a positive contribution to the landscape character of the site and surrounding area.

  2. Consideration has been given to any locational challenges, such as those presented in the City Centre or more heavily urbanised parts of the City. It will be expected that on sites with limited space for planting, alternative planting surfaces and innovative green infrastructure solutions such as green roofs and walls have been considered. Planting should where possible consist of more than just Sedum species.

  3. The use of larger size imported nursery stock in planting schemes has been avoided wherever possible to minimise the risk of importing plant pest and diseases into the country from the continent. Wherever possible stock should be supplied bare root and be sourced from within the UK.

  4. Selection of vigorous coniferous species are discouraged unless planted as a deliberate screen, for example to screen unsightly buildings; and planting schemes must not consist of entire blocks of shrub mass unless sufficient justification for this is provided.

  5. Plant selection and design of the planted area has wherever possible contributed to rainwater management of the site by minimising surface run off and maximising surface infiltration.

Policy Context and Justification

12.51 Trees and woodlands are integral in creating places with a sense of character and local distinctiveness as well as providing wider benefits for a variety of functions including biodiversity, mitigating against climate change, and increasing ecological networks.

12.52 Trees and woodlands are an integral component of green infrastructure forming part of the network of natural habitats and improving the visual appearance of urban areas and providing opportunities for the positive use of the green infrastructure for climate change, recreation, education, health, biodiversity and regeneration.  Trees can help alleviate flooding and improve water quality when planted in the right locations. Interception by trees in urban areas can be critical in reducing the pressure on the drainage system and lowering the risk of surface water flooding. Trees are an important part of our environment and their successful retention in new developments is for the benefit of the whole community. The successful retention of healthy trees and planting of new trees as part of a new development can have numerous benefits.

12.53 Some of the benefits trees and good quality landscaping can help deliver include:

  • Help to create a more positive image of an area and so help to encourage economic, regeneration and inward investment;
  • Soften and screen buildings;
  • Enhance property prices
  • Provide a vital role in biodiversity and the urban ecosystem by helping to support a great variety of wildlife;
  • Produce oxygen and help to lock up carbon emissions that contribute to global warming;
  • Help to stabilise ground, and absorb water, control run-off and so help reduce flood risk;
  • Reduce noise by acting as a sound barrier;
  • Help to filter out pollution;
  • Provide shade; and
  • Help to improve mental well being and reduce the stress of urban living.

12.54 To ensure that new development both integrates with and enhances its surroundings, it is essential that the design of the spaces around buildings is given equal consideration to the design of the buildings themselves. To be successful, the detailed design of hard and soft landscaping needs thorough consideration as part of the overall design of the development.  A well designed landscape is an integral part of successful developments of all types, whether individual dwellings, large residential schemes, or retail/commercial sites. Careful landscaping can reduce the impact of new development and screen parking areas. The landscape setting of a building can help to improve the character of the area to the benefit of both its users and local residents or visitors.


Policy GI 8 – Management of Existing Site Vegetation

1. Where there are trees present on site, or where the development is sited within 3m of the outer extent of the canopy spread of any tree, a tree survey, Arboricultural Impact Assessment (AIA) and Arboricultural Method Statement (AMS) must be submitted alongside the planning application. The work must be carried out in line with the latest BS5837 Trees in relation to design, demolition and construction - Recommendations.

2.  In order to protect and integrate existing trees and landscape features within new development, developers must demonstrate in documents submitted alongside the application that:

  1. The tree constraints highlighted by the survey have informed the site layout design to ensure that development is suitably integrated with trees and that potential conflicts are avoided.

  2. Site layouts of the proposed development show adequate spacing between existing retained trees, taking into account the current and future spatial requirement of the tree both above and underground.

  3. Any tree that is removed as part of an agreed development scheme is replaced by at least two new trees. If replacement tree planting cannot be reasonably be located on site, then the City Council will seek funding from the developer for off-site planting in the locality.

  4. The proposal meets the City Council's requirements for the provision of new trees. The Council will seek provision for the planting and successful growth of new trees, normally on the basis of at least two trees per dwelling in residential developments, and one tree per car space in other forms of development.

  5. For residential proposals, site layouts show the location of existing trees within the garden area, specifically indicating the proportion of the garden area under the canopy of an existing tree. It will not normally be acceptable for the canopy of an existing tree to cover more than 50% of the garden area.

  6. For residential proposals, trees identified as being veterans are not situated within single garden areas but should be situated in communal areas. In the event where this is not possible, full justification must be provided as to why this cannot be achieved and mitigating measures to ensure the successful retention of the veteran must be proposed for consideration.

  7. Consideration is given to protecting areas of post development planting on development sites from compaction or contamination which will inhibit the success and rapid establishment of future planting. Where space constraints do not allow this to occur then a restoration method must be proposed.

Policy Context and Justification

12.55 On development sites, there will be a presumption in favour of retaining existing trees, even where such trees are not subject to a preservation order or within a Conservation Area. Existing trees provide an immediate landscaped setting for new development and help to integrate new development into the surrounding environment. A developer needs to consult an independent arboriculturist at the outset, to produce a full survey identifying any valuable trees on the site. This should be submitted as an integral part of the planning application showing the location of the trees and the proposed development. It is essential that due care is taken to protect trees during construction and to provide adequate management and aftercare during the landscape establishment period after completion of construction.

12.56 Vegetation and permeable surfaces capture, store and infiltrate water into the ground, and reduce both the volume and rate of rainwater run-off and the risk of surface water flooding, for example through the use of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS). These can provide alternatives to the use of heavily engineered schemes which can look unattractive and be difficult to maintain to a satisfactory level. Developing SUDS schemes using green infrastructure should be considered wherever possible.

12.57 In addition to assisting the City adapt to climate change, for example by reducing run-off, consideration should be given to how the landscaping of a development will be affected by climate change. Species selection should take into account the long-term sustainability of the landscaping scheme, ensuring it is fit for purpose, a stable plant community and not liable to collapse. 

12.58 Landscaping schemes should take advantage of opportunities for nature conservation through the creation of new habitats. Native plants and new habitats may be of particular value in wildlife corridors where links between existing habitats can be reinforced. However, the idea that non native species are unsuitable for encouraging biodiversity and habitat creation is not always the case, and species selection should be based upon those which are aesthetically pleasing and those which maximise taxonomic complexity wherever possible.  Planting schemes should not be dominated by a single or a few species, and new planting must be sustainable to manage by ensuring that the planting is fit for purpose and that it is a stable plant community not liable to collapse.


Policy GI 9 – Green Infrastructure Enhancement

1. Development proposals should be designed to / will be expected to incorporate new and/or enhanced green infrastructure or green spaces of an appropriate type, standard, size and which reflect the needs of the area.  These may include:

  • Integrating or enhancing biodiversity features
  • Improving the recreational function of open spaces, particularly where it would assist in minimising recreational pressures on internationally designated sites both within and beyond the City boundary.
  • Providing or enhancing green infrastructure at key gateways to, and along, key corridors in the City
  • Maintaining access to, and where required addressing deficiencies in, accessible open space
  • Development of small scale green infrastructure projects which meet identified needs of the area. This could include food growing, small community gardens or public art projects.
  • Contributing to effective water management through the use of permeable surfaces and/or Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems, and where possible and appropriate to do, the opening of culverted watercourses.
  • Improving or creating access to the Public Rights of Way network or other green routes, such as the Liverpool Loop Line or the Leeds Liverpool Canal,  to encourage active and sustainable travel and recreation

2. Where on-site provision has been demonstrated not to be possible, or the council is satisfied that on-site provision is not beneficial or appropriate, financial contributions through an appropriate legal agreement will be sought towards the creation of new provision, or to enhance and improve existing provision off-site, to meet the needs of the community, necessitated by the development.

Policy Context and Justification

12.59 The quality of the City's green infrastructure is a particular issue, including its recreational function, visual amenity, and the green infrastructure functions and benefits provided. Post-war housing clearances and industrial restructuring have left a legacy of large tracts of poor quality open space. Quality is not consistent across the City and there is significant potential for the improvement of open spaces. High quality design and management of open space, including along key routes into the City, can help create or define local character and deliver significant benefits for local communities, ensuring that areas are attractive, welcoming, safe and manageable. Therefore a key priority of the Local Plan is to seek improvements to quality. Improvements may include simple upgrading, high quality landscaping along key routes and at key gateways into the City, or a more comprehensive approach which may include re-focusing the role of all or part of the open space in order to better meet local needs.

12.60 The Council will encourage opportunities for habitat enhancement within development proposals. These opportunities range, for example, from larger scale habitat creation within larger sites (such as wetland habitat linked to surface water management (SuDS) or flood risk storage areas) to smaller sites (such as ‘bat boxes’, bulb planting), and can be integrated with wider green infrastructure provision. Additionally, there may be opportunities for the Council, together with its partners, to enhance Liverpool’s natural assets, and with it, the green infrastructure network. The Council will also encourage other opportunities arising from development to enhance appropriate areas, and it is anticipated that funding would come from a variety of sources.

12.61 The City’s green infrastructure resource can be utilised to link spaces and places with each other. A network of green routes can encourage active travel – on foot or by bike, to places of employment, local shops, or schools for example, or simply for enjoyment; having positive health and economic benefits. Green infrastructure corridors can also provide important connections for wildlife, allowing animals and birds to move between areas in the City.

12.62 The City Council’s own maintenance and management programme will assist in improving quality. Contributions arising from development (whether through a planning obligation or through other means such as a community infrastructure levy) will also be a key tool for delivering quality improvements. The level of contributions will vary according to the scale and type of development proposed, with the policy requiring major development proposals to demonstrate how it will contribute to the objectives of the Green Infrastructure Strategy. This Strategy, together with the Habitats Study and Open Space Study, will inform the priorities for developer contributions in different parts of the City.

12.63 Linking routes in Liverpool with long distance trails will provide increased opportunities for walking and cycling. The England Coastal Path is being completed in sections, and when complete it will be a new national trail around England’s coast and will be one of the longest coastal walking routes in the world. Section 61 – Cleveleys to Pier Head and Section 62 – Birkenhead to the Welsh Border, have an estimated start date of 2016-17.

12.64 The Trans Pennine Trail and the Mersey Way, along with the Leeds Liverpool Canal are key recreational routes and a valuable asset for Liverpool’s residents. They open up areas of the City, enable people without a car to gain access to the countryside, and provide easily accessible informal recreational paths. The long distance paths also help improve the network of pedestrian and cycle routes, having important implications for health and wellbeing, the quality of the environment, as well as attracting visitors.

12.65 There are other footpaths throughout the City, for example at Croxteth Country Park and adjacent areas in the Green Belt, where there are several miles of footpaths and tracks providing opportunities for an interesting variety of walks. The Council supports improvements and extensions to the network to maximise its potential. Improvements could be made including signage and maintenance of routes to ensure accessibility for all.

12.66 Development on or adjacent to public rights of way/recreational routes may, in appropriate cases, present opportunities to complete long distance footpaths in the City. Encouragement will be given to incorporation rather than diversion of Rights of Way and other recreational routes, into development. However, practical issues such and health and safety must be taken into account when determining precise routes. Therefore, where the retention of the existing alignment is not feasible, an alternative route should be sought by developers.

Schedule 12.1 Nature Sites and Geological Sites

Sites of International Nature Importance

  1. Mersey Estuary Ramsar
  2. Mersey Estuary Special Protection Area (SPA)

Sites of National Nature Importance

  1. Mersey Estuary Site of Special Scientific Importance (SSSI)

Sites of Local Nature Importance – Local Wildlife Sites and Local Nature Reserves

  1. Allerton Cemetery**
  2. Allerton Green Wedge**
  3. Banks Road
  4. Black Wood
  5. Calderstones Park
  6. Childwall Woods and Fields*
  7. Cressington Heath
  8. Eric Hardy LNR and Clarke Gardens
  9. Everton Park Nature Garden**
  10. Fazakerley Woods and Fields*
  11. Festival Gardens
  12. Knowsley Brook
  13. Lee Park Golf Course and adjacent sites**
  14. Leeds-Liverpool Canal
  15. Liverpool Loop Line
  16. Melrose Cutting
  17. Mersey Estuary SPA, SSSI and Coastal Reserve
  18. Mill Wood and Alder Wood*
  19. Netherley Woods and Brook
  20. Otterspool Gorge
  21. Otterspool Park
  22. Princes Park**
  23. River Alt and adjacent sites through Croxteth
  24. River Alt and adjacent sites through Gilmoss
  25. Sefton Park
  26. South Liverpool Nursery
  27. Speke Hall and Coastal Set Aside
  28. Stanley Sidings
  29. Woolton Manor, Woolton Woods and Camp Hill**

* also designated Local Nature Reserves

** potential Local Wildlife Sites for future designation

Regionally Important Geological/Geomorphological Sites

  1. Deer Park, Sefton Park                                                                                  Erratic
  2. St George’s Hill, Netherfield Road South, Everton                                        Disused Quarry
  3. Everton Park (North), Netherfield Road South, Everton                                Outcrop
  4. St Anne Street Underpass, St Anne Street                                                    Outcrop
  5. Woolton Quarry, Woolton                                                                               Disused Quarry
  6. Everton Gaol, Netherfield Road South, Everton                                            Outcrop
  7. Whitley Gardens (South), Shaw Street                                                          Outcrop
  8. Olive Mount Railway Cutting, Broadgreen                                                     Railway Cutting
  9. Whitley Gardens (North), Shaw Street                                                           Outcrop
  10. Everton Park (South), Netherfield Road South, Everton                                Outcrop
  11. Rice Lane Flyover, Rice Lane, Walton                                                           Outcrop
  12. College Street North, Shaw Street                                                                 Road Cutting
  13. Lime Street Railway Cutting                                                                           Railway Cutting
  14. St James Cemetery, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral                                        Disused Quarry
  15. Everton Quarry, Mark Street, Everton                                                            Disused Quarry
  16. Netherfield Road South, Everton                                                                    Outcrop
  17. Notre Dame High School, Everton Valley                                                       Outcrop
  18. Childwall Wood                                                                                               Outcrop
  19. Wapping Railway Cutting, Chatsworth Street, Edge Hill                                Railway Cutting
  20. Wavertree Library, Picton Road                                                                     Erratic
  21. Fazakerley Brook                                                                                            Stream Section
  22. Queens Walk, Anglican Cathedral                                                                  Outcrop
  23. Riverside Drive, Dingle                                                                                    Outcrop
  24. Reynolds Park, Woolton Hill Road                                                                  Disused Quarry
  25. Speke Shore                                                                                                   Cliffs
  26. Herculaneum Bridge Public House                                                                 Sandstone Outcrop
  27. Metropolitan Catholic Cathedral                                                                      Excavation

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