Northampton Central Area Action Plan 2013

Chapter 4: Sustainable Spatial Strategy

4.1         The concept of sustainable development is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  It relates to a balance between environmental, economic and social issues. Sustainability for Northampton is seen in its widest sense and the CAAP in conjunction with the West Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy has sought to resolve potentially competing outcomes including: air quality and noise; archaeology and cultural heritage; biodiversity, fauna and fl ora; crime and community safety; energy and climatic factors; health and well being; labour market and economy; landscape and townscape; material assets; population; social equality; soil, geology and land use; waste; water; education and training. 

4.2         As highlighted in the introduction, the CAAP is part of a suite of local plan Documents that sit together to make  the Development Plan.  More strategic policies are contained within the West Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy and cover a wide range of sustainable development objectives, including that development reduces the potential and impact for climate change. These policies apply equally in the Central Area, as they do in the rest of Northampton. The CAAP does not seek to duplicate these strategic policies but, where appropriate, it will add more relevant Central Area specific policies.  In seeking to meet its Strategic Objectives: Objective 8: Sustainability this Action Plan has sought to weave sustainable development principles throughout all of the Central Area policies that it contains. This has been assisted by the on-going process of the accompanying Strategic Environmental Assessment / Sustainability Appraisal work and the 23 sustainable appraisal objectives contained within it. A fuller analysis of the extent to which the CAAP does address the issue of sustainable development can be found in the accompanying Sustainability Appraisal.


4.3          Developments with high quality design will help to realise the vision and positively address Northampton Central Area’s sense of identity.  Northampton possesses a rich architectural heritage and numerous heritage assets, key elements of which have been set out in the preceding Chapter 2. ‘Northampton Central Area: Spatial Portrait’.

4.4          In line with national planning policy, the local planning authority has a duty to preserve and enhance the appearance and setting of the Central Area’s heritage assets. The built heritage of the Central Area is a positive attribute that requires enhancement and conservation, and will help to preserve Northampton’s characteristics that contribute towards its sense of place.

4.5          Ensuring that new development is of a high standard of design is vital to creating more sustainable development. Improving the design of new buildings will help to ensure that they are more likely to last for longer periods and require less resource to run day to day. This will save resources in the longer term, contributing to a sense of place and making Northampton’s Central Area a vibrant and prosperous centre.

4.6        The Character Assessment and Tall Buildings Strategy for Northampton’s Central Area 14   gives a more detailed description of the character of the Central Area. It identified ten distinct character areas Appendix A ‘The 10 Central Area Character Areas’. It also identified some overarching design objectives that development should seek to address, which takes account of the character areas. These objectives aim to improve the quality of future developments in relation to how they look, function, sit within and relate to their surroundings. The objectives are contained within Policy 1 ‘Promoting Design Excellence’ and they will apply to all future development within the Central Area.

 4.7         To achieve good design it is vital to consider the context in which development will sit. The design of new development should take into account the character, appearance and architectural merit of existing buildings and spaces. The Central Area should be home to contemporary architecture that will provide the listed buildings of future generations.  Old and new development should successfully sit side-by-side exhibiting a harmonious relationship to collectively reinforce the identity of the area.  A brief description of the ten Character Areas, including their existing character and future design aspirations is set out in Appendix: A. The assessment of future development against the content of the Character Assessment and Tall Buildings Strategy will provide a more robust framework to ensure that development can be designed to complement and enhance the character and setting of the existing built and natural environment.

 4.8          A number of ‘Gateways’ are identified in Figures 6.1 – 6.16 ‘Development Principles.’ The Gateways are important arrival points into the Central Area. Their anticipated role is set out more fully in Appendix: B. ‘Gateways: The Role and Function and Appropriate Design Solutions’. It is intended that there will be visual cues in these areas of their gateway function. This will relate to the need for buildings to suitably address the function of these areas in terms of design and also in the character and appearance of the public realm.







All new development within the Central Area must demonstrate a high design standard and successfully address the following design objectives:

•     Positively contribute to the character of an area with regard to the existing urban grain, scale, massing, materials and architectural style of surrounding buildings, and be consistent with Central Area Character Areas (Appendix A) and Gateways (Appendix B). 

•     Ensure that there is clarity in terms of the relationship between buildings and public spaces in order to create successful development which creates a continuity of frontage and provides defi nition and enclosure to the public realm 

•     Ensure new development contributes to the provision of logical and coherent links to and from destinations in order to improve accessibility and permeability in and around Northampton’s Central Area 

•     Create uncluttered streets lined by active building frontage or public open space, in order to provide

a vibrant and safe street scene for everyone in society, including vulnerable groups 

•     Design for energy and resource effi ciency in new development proposals and where appropriate

recognise the inherent sustainability in the reuse and refurbishment of existing buildings

•     Make effi cient use of land by promoting an appropriate mix of land uses in order to increase the vitality and vibrancy of an area and a wider range of choice for users 

•     Preserve and enhance the character, appearance and setting of the central area’s heritage assets, and in the conservation areas pay suitable regard to the adopted Conservation Area Appraisals and Management Plans 

•     Promote high quality inclusive design in the layout of new developments and individual buildings in terms of function and impact on the character and quality of an area


4.9          If designed and positioned well, tall buildings have the ability to use land in a very effi cient manner, add positively to the skyline and provide key landmarks that enhance local and wider views.  Within Northampton’s Central Area, a tall building is defined as: 

“Any building or structure that breaks the skyline and/ or which is significantly taller than its surrounding built fabric”

 4.10         The Plan does not seek to promote a particular emphasis on tall buildings as a development solution within the Central Area.  However, such opportunities are likely to exist and suitable guidance and a policy framework to address future tall buildings development proposals is provided.

4.11         An understanding of local context  is vital in order to develop successful tall buildings as there are many considerations to take into account such as the impacts on: views, topography, heritage assets, public realm, transport network and the environment. The Character Assessment and Tall Buildings Strategy for Northampton’s Central Area provides a more detailed understanding of this context and in particular the criteria that will be used to assess any proposed tall building developments in the Central Area. 

4.12         The Major Development Sites policies in Chapter 6 set out a broad indication on some sites of the scale, height and massing of buildings which are expected. Notwithstanding this, if it can be demonstrated, within the parameters of this policy, that taller buildings are acceptable on these sites, then each scheme will be considered on its merits.


Development proposals for a tall building, defined as any building or structure that break the skyline and/ or which is significantly taller than its surrounding built fabric, will: 

•     Provide a rationale for and evidence of exceptional design standards employed throughout 

•     Demonstrate and explain how the proposed building responds to and positively addresses the built and natural environment in a local and wider context 

•     Demonstrate the visual impact on views within the Central Area and wider skyline of Northampton 

•     Provide an impact assessment on the local micro climate in relation to issues such as wind diversion and the over-shadowing of neighbouring development



4.13         In addition to buildings and the activities within them, people’s perception of a place is likely to be affected by their experience of the public spaces in between the buildings. This can include the street environment or other areas, such as squares, or open space. High quality, well maintained public realm can add positively to the sense of place through complementing the built heritage, emphasising important places, assisting with way finding and improve the feeling of safety.

4.14         The aim is to create a townscape that will harmonise Northampton’s Central Area, linking it both internally and to the wider area. The expectation is to create more space for pedestrians and provide a network of attractive public spaces in which people feel safe and wish to occupy. In order to achieve this, it is important to improve the appearance and functional quality of the existing public realm to the high standards expected within new developments. It should also be of high quality, to complement Northampton's local distinctiveness and add a new layer of history. This means making new spaces and enhancing existing ones. Areas where new public spaces will be required as part of development proposals are contained in Policy 3 ‘Public Realm’.

4.15         In recognition of the importance of the public realm within the Central Area, Northampton Borough Council, Northamptonshire County Council and West Northamptonshire Development Corporation have worked together to produce a Public Realm Implementation Framework. This covers part of the Central Area and provides a clear and consistent approach to dealing with the public realm which relates to the function of an area with regards to:
• surfacing materials
• lighting
• signs
• street furniture
• trees and planting
• public art

4.16         It has a two layer approach to public realm, based on: characterisation typology, for example, primary retail street, or green corridor; and also a palette of appropriate materials, with the highest quality being in the most important streets. A summary of the public realm typologies and the palette is set out in Appendix: C. ‘Street / Movement Corridor Typologies within the Public Realm Implementation Framework (2007)15’.

4.17         The Council is planning to review and update the Public Realm Implementation Framework and adopt it as a Supplementary Planning Document. The review will take into account its effectiveness so far, the need to extend its area of coverage to be contiguous (adjoining) with the Central Area as defined in this plan and its potential to assist with the greening of the Central Area. Until the review has been completed the approach to the public realm should be consistent with that in the existing Public Realm Implementation Framework.


Within the Central Area changes to the public realm should be consistent with the Public Realm Implementation Framework. 

The following areas will be prioritised as areas requiring major improvements to the existing public realm:

 •     Abington Street

•     The Drapery

•     Market square

•     Grosvenor Centre development site


4.18         Green infrastructure covers all types of green spaces and the linkages between them, as well as the various activities they support and the functions they provide. Green infrastructure assets within the Central Area can be generally categorised under the following headings:
• Green Corridors (rivers, canals, cycle routes, public rights of way and pathways)
• Open Spaces (parks, playing pitches, allotments, local areas of play, neighbourhood areas of play, informal open spaces, nature reserves, and churchyards)
• Urban Green Space (street trees, verges, gardens and green roofs)

4.19         The open and green spaces within the Central Area are identified on the ‘Proposals Map’ and also in Appendix: D ‘Open Spaces within the Central Area: Type and Function’.

4.20         Green infrastructure is particularly important in an urban area. The Central Area Action Plan will seek to create and enhance a multi-functional network of connected open spaces, which will:
• Help mitigate and adapt to climate change
• Enhance and enrich biodiversity habitats
• Integrate sustainable urban drainage
• Provide recreation opportunities and a movement network for pedestrians, cyclists and wildlife
• Create a sense of place
• Improve air quality
• Enhance river and canal corridor management

4.21         The Northampton Landscape Sensitivity and Green Infrastructure Study16 identifies key sub-regional green infrastructure corridors. Within the Central Area this is primarily associated with the River Nene, its Brampton Arm and the Grand Union Canal. The river and canal has the potential to reconnect the Central Area with the wider countryside as part of this green corridor. It has various important functions containing a large proportion of the Central Area’s parks and semi-natural space. The river and canal are generally of low environmental quality, significantly underutilised and much of the adjoining development does not provide clear and defined frontages.

4.22         The opportunity for the development of high quality buildings and green space that enhances the recreational, movement and biodiversity opportunities is addressed in Policies 25-30 which relate to The Waterside. In addition, the Avon/ Nunn Mills/ Ransome Road development offers the opportunity for a substantial green corridor to link Becket’s Park and the River Nene to Delapre Park.

4.23         There are some publicly accessible open spaces in Northampton Central Area that offer important opportunities for recreation, sport and play; as well as delivering benefits for biodiversity. These contribute to the attractiveness of the area as well as enriching the quality of lives of residents and visitors. Currently there is a deficit in the provision of open space for children and young people within the Central Area. The Open Space Audit17 assessed how accessible open space is to residents. It identified that all Central Area residents had acceptable access to open space; however the quality of that space might not be high. There were also significant areas with deficient access to allotments and children’s play.

4.24         Given the dense urban characteristic of the Central Area, the opportunity to create new open spaces will be limited. In terms of open space, with the exception of the Waterside, it is likely that only small areas of amenity green spaces and semi-natural open spaces can be created in association with development. Due to the contaminated land and viability issues, many of the development sites identified in the Action Plan will not be able to provide ‘on-site’ open spaces. In recognition of this, it will be expected that these developments will make contributions to enhance existing open spaces identified on the ‘Proposals Map’.

4.25         Opportunities to provide urban green space will primarily be delivered through the requirements of the Pubic Realm Implementation Framework, the provision of private open space and the use of sustainable urban drainage. This has the potential for a significant ‘greening’ of the Central Area, allowing the green corridors to permeate to a wider area outside the primary focus on the associated Waterside green corridor.


Development within the Central Area must deliver and/or contribute to the provision of green infrastructure by: 

•     Enhancing the setting and function of the green infrastructure identifi ed on the ‘Proposals Map’ and in Appendix: D. ‘Open Spaces within the Central Area: Type and Function’.

 •     Incorporating opportunities to enhance and extend the green corridor within and outside the waterside and linkages between green infrastructure elsewhere.

 •     Introducing features such as green roofs, green walls, trees, soft landscaping, planting, water attenuation measures and other features to mitigate the effects of climate change and enhance biodiversity.

 •     Providing or enhancing green infrastructure off-site, but within the Central Area when the appropriate standard of on site open space provision cannot be made.


4.26         Parts of the Central Area are within the historic flood plain. As a consequence of extensive flooding in Easter 1998, most developed areas now benefit from flood defences that protect to one of the highest standards in the country a 1:200 year level (0.5% annual probability of flooding). Therefore the risk of river flooding behind the defences is small, but nevertheless there is a residual risk.

4.27         In line with national policy, the Council has sought to ensure that wherever possible new development is not located within flood risk areas. Nevertheless, there are exception sites within the defended flood plain that the Council has decided are necessary. These sites are previously developed sites where there are substantial regeneration benefits, which are critical to meeting the Central Area Vision. Within these sites the risk associated with a breach of the flood defences has been modelled. This has helped inform the desirability of developing particular uses behind defences and will ensure that developments provide solutions that do not unduly put people or property at risk.

4.28         In addition to river flooding, there is a potential risk from surface water flooding. This might occur in periods of heavy rainfall if there are: no drains, drains are blocked, or drains cannot cope with the amount of water being produced. The Northampton Strategic Flood Risk Assessment Level 218 identified seven Critical Drainage Areas. The Environment Agency has additional information on areas where there are other drainage problems.

4.29         The West Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy sets out strategic policy on development not increasing the risk of flooding; this builds on national policy and will apply to all sites within the Central Area. It is considered that there are no specific circumstances within the Central Area that will justify an additional policy within this Action Plan. Major development site policies for exception sites contain reference to the need to address the risk of flooding.

4.30         The Water Cycle Study19 identified that the provision of water to properties within the Central Area is unlikely to be a problem. However, there are deficiencies in existing infrastructure to deal with surface water run-off and sewage that will cause problems if not addressed. Most of the Central Area has combined sewers, which in heavy periods of rainfall can overflow into the river. This currently has some adverse environmental impact on water quality. Transporting and treating relatively clean surface water is not sustainable; it is an energy intensive process and will require earlier expansion of the water treatment works. The current infrastructure deficit, if not addressed, could result in potential backing up of the sewerage system and increased pollution of watercourses.

4.31         In order to support the evidence base for the Central Area Action Plan, Northampton Borough Council working closely with the Environment Agency and Anglian Water commissioned a drainage plan to look at more sustainable solutions for managing surface water in the Central Area to maximise capacity of the current drainage network. The study indicates that a number of solutions will be required which reflect the National Sustainable Drainage Standards, or the "train" for managing water. This includes:
• managing the demand for water in new development;
• managing surface water on site, through techniques such as green roofs;
• managing surface water as close to the site as possible; and
• off-site sustainable drainage measures

4.32         Under new National Standards, the criteria above will need to be satisfied before connections can be made to the Surface Water or Combined sewers. Furthermore, under the Floods and Water Management Act (2008), new development may also need to seek approval from the Sustainable Drainage Approval Body (SAB). Prior to the establishment of the SAB, advice should continue to be sought from the Local Planning Authority, the Environment Agency on matters related to surface water and Anglian Water Services for connections to surface water sewers. This also includes matters relating to the long term management and maintenance of potential SUDs schemes within the Central Area.

4.33         There may also be opportunities to increase biodiversity and improve the environment through opening up watercourses within culverts.


Considering the likely impact of new development and of climate change the following central area sites

in areas at risk of fluvial flooding are considered appropriate for development subject to detailed flood risk assessments commensurate with the level of risk posed to the site: 

•     Castle Station

•     Bridge Street

•     The Waterside: Brampton Branch St Peters Way

•     The Waterside: Southbridge West

•     The Waterside: Avon/Nunn Mills/ Ransome Road


A Flood Risk Assessment must also accompany proposals within the central area that may be subject to other sources and forms of flooding or where other bodies have indicated that there may be drainage problems. Flood risk assessments will be in accordance with the requirements of the Level 2 Strategic Flood Risk Assessment for Northampton18 (specifically Table 12-1) and demonstrate that betterment has been sought to reduce the risk of off-site flooding.

Within the Central Area, developments will be expected to implement measures that will ensure that there is no increase in the fl ow of surface water or foul sewage to the combined or foul sewer network through the implementation of:

•     Source control technologies such as green roofs or other forms of sustainable drainage systems (SUDs);

•     Site control; and

•     Water effi ciency and demand management measures. 

Development in the Central Area will be in accordance with the Northampton Drainage Plan Part I. In order to retain the effectiveness of the combined and foul sewer system connection will only be permitted if there are no practicable options for discharge of surface water run off. Appropriate mitigation, compensation and drainage will be agreed with the relevant agency. 

Subject to satisfactory resolution of flood risk, watercourses that exist in a culvert on development sites should be returned to a more natural form.