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The special and unique qualities of the natural environment of the Plan Area will be protected and enhanced through a strategic approach which takes account of the hierarchy of legal status and natural infrastructure functions of different sites.
1. Sites of European and national significance for biodiversity and conservation will be afforded the highest level of protection. Development affecting such sites will only be permitted where:
i. A suitable and less harmful alternative location, design or form of development cannot be achieved.
ii. The benefits substantially outweigh the impacts on the features of interest.
iii. The impacts can be fully mitigated and/or compensated.
2. The South Devon and the Tamar Valley Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the adjacent Dartmoor National Park, are given the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty. Great weight will therefore be given to conserving the landscape and scenic beauty of these designations and their settings. Major development in these areas will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances, and where it is in the public interest.
3. The distinctive landscapes of the Undeveloped Coast will be protected and enhanced, particularly within the South Devon Heritage Coast, with support for improvements to public access to and enjoyment of the coast. Additionally, great weight will be given to the need to safeguard the landscape setting of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site, and to supporting innovative and sustainable solutions within the North Devon Biosphere Transition Zone in accordance with the Biosphere Strategy for Sustainable Development.
4. Greenspace and geodiversity sites of regional and local importance will be identified to ensure a functional green network is achieved that meets the needs of communities and wildlife. These include:
i. Strategic Landscape Areas (Plymouth Policy Area) - providing a strong landscape context for Plymouth.
ii. Strategic Greenspaces (Plymouth Policy Area) - large scale sites to be proactively enhanced to provide a focus for people's interaction with nature.
iii. Local Green Spaces (Plymouth Policy Area) - providing multiple benefits to communities and wildlife.
iv. Local Nature Reserves - designated for their benefits for wildlife and providing communities with access to nature.
v. County Wildlife Sites and County Geological Sites - designated for their high wildlife and geodiversity value and other priority habitats.
vi. The ecological networks that connect these sites including areas identified for habitat restoration and creation.
5. The need to improve links to and along regional and national walking and cycling routes, including the South West Coast Path national trail and the National Cycle Network will be a weighty consideration in planning and development in the Plan Area.
6. Public rights of way and bridleways will be protected and the network extended as an essential element of the enjoyment of the natural environment.