Policy RUR 5: Best and most versatile agricultural land
- Outside of sites specifically allocated for development in the development plan, proposals should avoid the loss of best and most versatile agricultural land.
- Where proposals involve the loss of best and most versatile agricultural land to development, the council may require detailed field assessments in accordance with technical advice or information from Natural England, and it must be demonstrated that:
- the benefits of development clearly outweigh the impacts of the loss of the economic and other benefits of the land; and
- every effort has been made to mitigate the overall impact of the development on best and most versatile agricultural land.
- Schemes that make provision for opportunities to improve the quality or quantity of best and most versatile agricultural land will be supported subject to other policies in the development plan.
6.19 Best and most versatile agricultural land is land in grades 1, 2 and 3a of the agricultural land classification as set out in the NPPF. LPS Policy SD 1 ‘Sustainable development in Cheshire East’ requires development to protect the best and most versatile agricultural land where possible, whilst the NPPF requires consideration of the economic and other benefits of the best and most versatile agricultural land.
6.20 Cheshire East is a food-producing area with a significant agricultural economy. It also faces significant development pressures and the protection of best and most versatile agricultural land is of particular importance in the borough.
6.21 Once best and most versatile agricultural land is used for built development, it is difficult to mitigate for its loss. However, other forms of mitigation or improvement may be possible through the planning system, including:
- careful site layout and design;
- reducing flood risk, pollution and soil erosion;
- soil management measures to increase water uptake and reduce erosion; maintaining and improving field drainage; and strategic placement of buffer strips and hedgerows; and
- protecting best and most versatile agricultural land for environmental mitigation.
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