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NC10  The Protection of Sites of Importance for Earth Science  Policy

The Local Planning Authority will safeguard sites of local importance for earth science not protected under other statutory designations where they represent significant exposures of Wirral's underlying geology, good examples of geological formations or geomorphological processes, and especially where they possess special value for education.

The Local Planning Authority will only permit proposals affecting sites of local importance for earth science where:

(i) the nature, scale, density and design of the proposal is compatible with retaining the earth science interest of the site;

(ii) the proposal provides an opportunity to enhance the earth science interest of the site; and

(iii) the proposal is compatible with public access to the site for educational purposes.

Proposals which would damage or obscure a site of local importance for earth science or which would preclude continued public access to such a site will be refused.

Reasoned justification :

13.35 Policy NCO1 provides for the protection of sites which can be demonstrated to have special local value for earth science conservation. Policy NC10, therefore, identifies the type of site the Local Planning Authority will protect and sets out the criteria that will be applied to proposals which may damage or obscure them.

13.36 The significance of Wirral's exposed geology and geomorphology is unusual with respect to the surrounding area. This is because of the range of features available for study and the extent to which they have been retained without harm. Sites of importance do not, therefore, only include hard outcrops of rock exposed along Wirral's distinctive sandstone ridges, but also good examples of faults and other sedimentary features, glacial deposits, soft eroding coastal cliffs and other natural erosion features, as well as man made exposures in quarries and cuttings.

13.37 Development activity is not always incompatible with the conservation of important earth science features. Rock faces and outcrops, for example, can often be preserved within the design and layout of a proposal. Some development proposals can even enhance the scientific value of a site by exposing a new rock face or by bringing previously hidden features to view. However, in all cases it will be important that the features of greatest significance continue to be made accessible for the educational or research purposes which underlie the formal designation of many earth science sites. Policy NC10, therefore, normally permits development subject to these issues being satisfactorily resolved.

13.38 Where "improvements" to earth science sites are proposed, the Local Planning Authority will need to be satisfied that the action required would be genuinely appropriate in terms of the scientific characteristics of the site and will normally require this to be verified by a competent, independent authority on geology and the RIGs group before planning approval is considered. The Local Planning Authority may also seek legal agreement to provide for the appropriate recording of the site to take place as development progresses. This will especially be the case for proposals involving major excavations, where features of importance for earth science would be uncovered for a short period, only to be obscured once more through subsequent earth movement, tipping or other approved programmes of restoration.

13.39 The objective of Policy NC10 is to ensure that earth science features of special local importance are adequately protected from unnecessary loss or harm so that their enduring value for education, research and more general public enjoyment can be conserved or enhanced. Policy NC10, therefore, indicates that proposals which are not compatible with this approach will normally be refused.