Village Character

The sense of place held by residents is important to communities. It is not fixed and can change through community activities as well as through changes to the built and natural environment. It is often a contested concept – what is important to residents is often not acknowledged, let alone formally valued, by the planning authorities or by developers. Indeed those groups often have their own sense of the places where they would like to see built development.  Nevertheless, it is acknowledged as an important aspect of the planning process.  For example the current NWLDC Local Plan includes objectives which say:

  • Conserve and enhance the identity, character and diversity and local distinctiveness of the district’s built, natural, cultural, industrial and rural heritage and heritage assets.
  • Conserve and enhance the quality of the district’s landscape character including the National Forest and Charnwood Forest and other valued landscapes.

This page brings together the different documents that describe Appleby and its wider environment, and the community activities and campaigns that have influenced, or been impacted by, them. Some of these have statutory force (recognised by the planning process as relevant to deciding whether to approve or reject), others are more an expression of significant numbers of residents. Making objections to planning applications or suggesting mitigations can usefully draw on both, but statutory documents carry most weight.

Appleby is within the Mease / Sense Lowlands National Character area as defined by Natural England. Their full 2013 description of the area including agricultural use, ecology, settlement patterns and threats and opportunities can be downloaded here.

The document says “The settlement pattern is dominated by villages with low densities of dispersed settlement … The villages are often located on the crests of low ridges, and their church spires form prominent features.  This is especially characteristic around Snarestone, from where it is possible to see seven church spires.  The villages are well connected by small rural roads, often with wide grass verges.  … The area retains a largely remote, rural and tranquil character …”.  

We stressed this formal Natural England landscape description as part of our opposition to the Mercia Park warehousing and distribution site.  Even if, as claimed, the site can be hidden from passers-by this can only be done by changing the landscape characteristics.  This large site also changes the settlement patterns – to say nothing of the impact of traffic increase on tranquillity.  It would appear that our views are widely shared since there was an unprecedented level of objections from the local parish councils.  With greater honesty, if with a similar disregard for landscape, HS2 have accepted that their planned route will have a serious detrimental effect, notwithstanding planned banking and planting. This is because it will change the landscape characteristics significantly.

This sense of a rural village is recognised and celebrated in our Village Design Statement (VDS) where the setting of Appleby within fields and distinct from the main road networks was central as were the remaining green verges.  At one of the early Local Plan processes in which Appleby Environment was involved there was an attempt to have the fields between the village and the main roads defined as of Local Landscape Value.  This was unable to proceed without a professional landscape assessment which was not available at that time.  However VDS Guideline 3 says “Development should respect the boundaries and compact nature of the existing development lines” and Guideline 22 says “The countryside to the West and North in Appleby is particularly important as a buffer zone protecting the village’s rural character … In addition, residents consider this to be an attractive area in its own right …”.  The Village Design Statement can be downloaded here (large file). 

The Village Design Statement is a combination document in statutory terms. It was a community project documenting the features of the village that residents valued and felt made Appleby distinctive.  A fuller description of the process can be found on the VDS page where the full document can be downloaded.  The VDS contains 66 guidelines.  These have more formal status, having been accepted as supplementary planning guidance to run alongside the Local Plan.  As such they carry weight in determining planning applications – and are frequently quoted in objections!

The historic centre of Appleby was designated a Conservation Area in 1995 by the District Council.  This was an initial goal of Ahem (the forerunner to Appleby Environment).  This imposes additional controls over permitted development within the area and seeks to maintain the character of the area. There are also controls over development that would affect views into or out of a Conservation Area. However it was only in 2001 that the District Council carried out a conservation area appraisal and study which details Appleby’s characteristics.  This provides a stronger basis for determining the contribution individual buildings and features make to the character of the Conservation Area.  

The Conservation Area includes many of Appleby’s nearly 30 listed buildings and structures.  A complete list can be downloaded here.  They have additional planning protection, not only in relation to changes to themselves but also to development that would affect their setting.  Most listings are designated as Grade II.  But Appleby also has two Grade II* buildings, the Church and the Moat House. The Sir John Moore School (outside the Conservation Area) is the top category Grade I.  It is not only buildings which are listed.  Appleby’s listed structures include our two telephone kiosks, the retaining walls to the Church and the Almshouses, and the gates, piers and wall to the school.  In addition the site of the Moat House is classified as a scheduled ancient monument.  There are three listed buildings in Appleby Parva.

New housing has been largely outside the Conservation Area.  However we argued that the character of the historic core of the village was in danger of being undermined by being surrounded by new housing. 

The aspect of village character where there has been the greatest conflict between residents and developers has been the significance of green spaces within the built environment.  To residents these spaces, and the footpaths that connect them, are valued characteristics of what makes a village, provide an important setting for historic buildings, and are well used areas for recreation.  VDS guideline 32 captures this and argues that they should be preserved wherever possible.  In contrast developers see green spaces close to built development as potential areas for new build.  There used to be protection of such areas in earlier Local Plans but this has been removed in the current one.  This was one of the areas where we tried to get changes (see Local Plan page). 

The most important green area, in terms of protecting the historic core of the village, is the field behind the Church Hall.  We attempted to get this designated as a ‘village green’ under national legislation.  Details of the campaign can be found here.  While it was unsuccessful the inspector accepted that this field was well used by villagers over more than 20 years, that new footpaths could probably be registered, and the owners had never attempted to prevent access.  The claim only failed because it appeared that walkers primarily used specific routes, rather than using the field as a whole.  For further details see the village green page.