South Gloucestershire New Local Plan Phase 1 Responses

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Response #952984

Response #952984
From Vistry Group
Agent Sarah Fordham - Rapleys
Date Started: 06 May 2021 16:34. Last modified: 06 May 2021 16:34
Status Complete
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Information on the Local Plan

 

To view the Phase 1 Issues and Approaches document including the sections referred to in this questionnaire, please visit www.southglos.gov.uk/LocalPlan2020.

1: Understanding who is responding

Please help us understand the type of groups and people that are responding and engaging with the preparation of our new Local Plan, by choosing which one of the following stakeholder groups you best represent.

You must choose one option to be able to submit your response.

You must provide an answer to this question.

Business or Company
If other, please state:
«No response»

2: Issues

We have set out 55 issues which our Local Plan will need to consider.

The 55 issues are set out in this section of our document.  

Do you agree that these are the right issues for our plan to consider?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't know

3: Issues

Would you like to comment on any of the issues or add new issues? Please note the name of the issue in your comments, or tell us what additional issues you think our plan should consider.

Please refer to enclosed representations.

Section 3: Key Issues:

We have set out 55 issues which our Local Plan will need to consider. Do you agree that these are the right issues for our Plan to consider? Would you like to comment on any of the issues or add new issues?

The Consultation Document sets out a large number of ‘issues’ under nine ‘themes’ which the new Local Plan will consider in planning for growth, development and change in the District. These issues are wide ranging and all encompassing – indeed, a large proportion of the issues set out are not only of relevance to the District but also to the sub-region and the nation more generally. The challenge for the Local Plan in the context of the Plan-making regime that pertains in the West of England will be to distil these themes into succinct and workable policies that give practical effect to the strategic policies that will be contained within the Mayoral Spatial Development Strategy, which will be the strategic arm of the development plan in South Gloucestershire.

In this regard the Council identifies a series of potential ‘priorities’ under Section 4 of the Consultation Document to inform plan preparation. Vistry’s comments on the key issues and themes are, therefore, set out below under the response to the questions contained in Section 4.

4: Priorities

Do you agree with the potential priorities?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't know

5: Priorities

Do you have any comments on the potential priorities?

Please refer to enclosed representations.

Section 4: Potential Priorities:

Do you agree with the potential priorities?

Do you have any comments on the potential priorities?

The potential priorities identify more concisely the key issues influencing Plan-making. However, the Spatial Strategy for the District must be based on that which is defined by the emerging WECA SDS. For the reasons set out above (Section 1) it is crucial that the SGLP strategic priorities align with the SDS to address the key cross boundary themes and issues identified. Any deviation from SDS would undermine the combined objectives of the WECA Authorities and strategic function of the SDS.

The Consultation Document implies that the potential priorities will inform the choices and options for making decisions on the location of new homes, jobs, facilities, and services. However, as set out above, the SDS will identify the broad locations for strategic growth within the sub-region, and it is to this strategy that the Local Plan should adhere, principally. The SDS for the WECA area will be illustrated on the key diagram[3] and the Local Plans will need to follow this lead.

[3] A requirement under Schedule 5(1) of The Combined Authorities (Spatial Development Strategy) Regulations 2018 (as amended).

It is understood that the current intention is for site allocations to be made within the constituent Local Plans, rather than by the SDS. However, this approach may limit the potential for effective strategic planning to take place across the region in circumstances where future sustainable growth locations cross district boundaries. As a consequence of amendments to the 2018 Regulations the SDS is able to include Inset Diagrams that allocate sites for development, and in the course of preparing the strategy it may be determined that this role should be taken on by the SDS in the interests of promoting truly sustainable forms of development in the WECA area. The Local Plan should avoid at this early stage pre-determining decisions relating to the location of homes, jobs etc that should be guided by the Spatial Strategy for the sub-region, in accordance with the strategic priorities set by the SDS. The role of the potential priorities listed in the Consultation Document should, therefore, be clarified in the context of the SDS. It is important that this is undertaken clearly at an early stage to establish the foundation for preparation of the SGLP, including the accompanying Sustainability Appraisal. The experience of the JSP process made clear to all parties involved that a bottom-up definition of a Spatial Strategy dictated by political agendas operating within individual areas will not succeed and will be unable to withstand scrutiny through examination. The Plan-making Authorities within WECA must be careful to avoid repeating these mistakes.

A critical and overarching priority for the sub-region (and the District) is to ensure there is a sufficient supply of homes to support an expanding and changing population, and to support economic recovery. While the Housing Requirement for the District is a matter that is rightly being addressed by the SDS, Plan preparation and policy formulation at all levels must be built upon a clear understanding that housing supply within the sub-region is falling significantly short of demonstrable need. As identified by the Consultation Document, addressing the affordability of housing is a significant challenge that the development plan must address; there is an acute need for affordable housing within all of the WECA Authority areas - house price and rental cost inflation have outstripped increases in incomes, hindering access to the housing market. Many people in the District and sub-region are unable to rent or buy homes on the open market and there is an insufficient supply of affordable housing to meet demand. People are, therefore, being deprived of the right to live comfortably in accommodation that is appropriate to meet their needs.

Under the Government’s revised standard methodology calculation (December 2020) the housing need figure for the combined WECA area has increased dramatically: Bristol City is now subject to a 35% cities and urban centres uplift, which increases the LHN figure from 2,368 dwellings per annum (dpa) to 3,196dpa, and raises the WECA area figure from 4,428 dpa to 5,256dpa. If North Somerset is added in as a Duty to Co-Operate partner, the annual figure increases to 6,621dpa. The PPG is also clear that the standard method for calculating local housing need identifies a minimum annual housing need figure. It does not produce a housing requirement. Councils can (and should) exceed the minimum figures to deliver a marked improvement in the availability and variety of new homes at a price that is affordable to those who live and work in the area.

The JSP process estimated that Bristol City would be capable of accommodating only around 1,700 dpa, meaning that against current assessments of LHN a residual figure of circa 1,500 dpa will need to be accommodated within the adjoining Local Authority areas. While Bristol’s capacity will be reassessed via the SDS there is no basis on which to anticipate that the residual figure will be substantially less. South Gloucestershire will, therefore, have an important role to play in accommodating the unmet needs of Bristol.

For this reason, it is more important than ever that the WECA Authorities (and Duty to Co-Operate partners) are aligned in identifying combined priorities for the sub-region and produce a comprehensive joint strategy that underpins strategic policies, including the amount, distribution and location of development.

With regard to Climate Change, Vistry recognises the challenge that faces existing and future generations and understands the imperative to deliver solutions that safeguard the environment. It is noted that the Council and WECA have set an ambitious target to be ‘Carbon neutral’ by 2030, while the UK as a whole is on the path to net zero by 2050[4]. The sub-regional target requires a step change in the way that people live and work – it is about changing both existing and future habits, which will require a holistic strategy at the sub-regional level to succeed. As reflected in Section 2 of the Consultation Document, the development plan (the SDS and the Local Plan) must grapple with numerous (sometimes conflicting) issues and priorities that need to be balanced in order to achieve a sustainable outcome. The challenge is to ensure that agendas are aligned in a positive and realistic way through the formulation of policies that reflect the overarching vision for the sub-region and the District, and which can deliver sustainable growth in a manner that is viable, effective and responsive to needs.

[4] UK’s Nationally Determined Contribution, 12 December 2020.

Vistry’s comments on the Council’s draft emerging policies are set out in response to the relevant questions below.

6: Strategy- Where will development go

Do you agree with the five building blocks (Urban Areas, Urban Extensions, Market Towns, Rural Villages, New Settlements)?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't Know

7: Strategy- Where will development go

Do you have any comments on the five building blocks (Urban Areas, Urban Extensions, Market Towns, Rural Villages, New Settlements)?

Please refer to enclosed representations.

8: Strategy- Where will development go

Do you agree with the initial guiding principles?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't Know

9: Strategy- Where will development go

Do you think we have missed any key, initial guiding principles?

Please refer to enclosed representations.

Section 5: Where will new development go?

Do you agree with the five building blocks (Urban Areas, Urban Extensions, Market Towns, Rural Villages, New Settlements)?

The starting point for determining the location of strategic growth in the District should be the SDS. If the SDS is to be successful in delivering an overarching strategy and framework for the sub-region, which is necessary in the interests of achieving significant growth in a sustainable way, decisions regarding the location of development should be made on a collaborative sub-regional basis. It should not be the case that the SDS simply identifies a housing and job requirement for each constituent Authority (as implied by the Consultation Document) with locational factors deferred to lower tier Plans. Further comments in this regard are detailed below in response to the ‘initial guiding principles.’

Do you have any comments on the five building blocks (Urban Areas, Urban Extensions, Market Towns, Rural Villages, New Settlements)?

The building blocks should not be considered in isolation – to achieve a sustainable growth strategy the West of England Authorities should be exploring all reasonable options equally and with an open mind. The likelihood is that a combination of the building blocks will be necessary to achieve a constant supply of homes and jobs across the Plan period to achieve the strategic objectives. It is important that any future locational growth strategy facilitates a wide range of opportunities to help balance the need to deliver homes in the short, medium, and long term.

The provisions set out under Chapter 11 of the NPPF do not ‘require’ Brownfield land to be considered ahead of other spatial options. It is appropriate, under the terms of the NPPF, to explore a strategy that makes ‘an effective use of land’ in accordance with paragraph 117 but this is not equivalent to a Brownfield first approach. Indeed, such a strategy has potential to undermine other sustainability objectives, including those relating to the availability of employment land and other uses that are fundamental to achieve a balanced urban community. There are also viability considerations and infrastructure capacity matters that require assessment before undue reliance is placed on urban living as a significant component of any housing supply strategy. An over-reliance on this source of supply could also have negative impacts on, for example, the delivery of affordable housing and health and wellbeing priorities (such as access to appropriate outdoor amenity space). The COVID-19 pandemic has already heightened the importance of access to private and public amenity space in the interests of physical and mental health.

With regard to building block 3, in the context of South Gloucestershire the Market Towns should perform an important role in the delivery of both strategic and non-strategic growth during the next Plan period. In the case of Thornbury, the town is well established with a good range of existing services and facilities within the town centre and across the wider urban area. It also has an established transport network (walking, cycling, Public Transport) that is capable of being significantly improved and enhanced through investment.

The Consultation Document raises questions about the impacts of recent ‘speculative’ developments on the market towns, using the term pejoratively to suggest that such developments are harmful and exploitative. It is essential to acknowledge that such developments have arisen only as a consequence of the failed strategy that the Council sought to deploy through previous iterations of the Local Plan. Taking Thornbury as an example, the growth around the town has occurred simply because the Council’s planning strategy articulated through the development plan has chronically failed to achieve a five-year housing land supply. The over-reliance on a handful of large sites that were not deliverable in the timeframes suggested by the Plan created the need for alternative development proposals to come forward to address the shortfalls created by the deficiencies within the Plan. These locations have demonstrated an ability to deliver homes without delay, responding positively to market demand in situations where other ‘planned’ locations in the District have failed to achieve the outcomes forecast by the Council.

The formulation of a new Local Plan is the opportunity to devise a strategy that can use previous experience to deliver a balanced, effective, and sustainable growth platform from which the wider objectives can be achieved. To ensure that the Plan is able to guarantee continuous housing supply, sensitively planned development in the Market Towns should be a key component of a Spatial Strategy that can be delivered efficiently and effectively in Plan-making terms.

The Market towns will continue to adapt as increases in the local population enhance the sense of community and local economy. There is an opportunity as part of the emerging Plan to invest in locations such as Thornbury through the implementation of a co-ordinated growth strategy that in turn brings further investment in infrastructure (including Schools, Public Transport, and health care). The quantum of development directed to Thornbury should be commensurate with the level of investment required to viably and successfully deliver new and improved infrastructure that will significantly benefit both existing and future residents.

With reference to Building Blocks 2 and 5, experience suggests that delays can occur in delivering large scale ambitious schemes, including standalone new settlements and significant urban extensions. This is recognised in Issue 32 where the Council acknowledges the housing trajectory in both the adopted Core Strategy and predecessor Local Plan have been consistently overoptimistic about the rate of housing delivery, leading to shortfalls in five-year housing land supply. Existing allocations in the Northern and Eastern Fringes have long lead in periods and have been slow in delivering the homes expected by the Core Strategy. As noted in issue 33 the delivery and build out, particularly of large-scale sites with significant amounts of infrastructure, and/or multiple land ownerships, has taken longer than planned, meaning that the Spatial Strategy of the Plan has failed to achieve the intended outcomes.

Housing delivery in the District has fallen consistently short of the Core Strategy housing target and continues to do so. In headline terms this has become less of an issue for the Council because the Plan is now more than five years old as a consequence of which the Council’s five-year housing land supply requirement is generated using the local housing need figure derived from the standard methodology (SM). The application of the SM allows the Authority to set-aside all past shortfalls that have accumulated annually against the Core Strategy requirement, meaning that past under-performance is not considered directly, as would be the case with an up-to-date Local Plan housing requirement. On the face of it the Council is able to claim that housing land supply is adequate, while continuing to under-perform against its own Core Strategy housing requirement. The Plan-making process must address this anomaly.

Large scale new settlements and urban extensions by their very nature require upfront infrastructure before dwellings can be delivered on site, which has a direct impact on housing delivery in the short and medium terms. While new settlements and urban extensions could form a component of the Spatial Strategy in the latter part of the Plan period and beyond (consistent with the draft revised NPPF paragraph 22), it is equally important that any strategy does not rely entirely on new homes from these sources. To achieve the strategic objectives for the area it is essential that a broad range of sites is available to deliver consistently across the Plan-period. Opportunities to deliver short term housing that can also facilitate notable improvements in infrastructure for communities in market towns, and in turn rural hinterlands, should also be explored fully. At this stage in the Plan-making process it is critical that the Councils do not disregard the opportunities presented via the expansion of existing market towns such as Thornbury that contain a good range of existing facilities and services and are capable of accommodating further growth alongside enhancements to existing infrastructure.

Do you agree with the initial guiding principles? Do you think we have missed any key, initial guiding principles?

As set out above, the principles guiding the distribution and location of development should be determined by WECA on a sub-regional basis. It is not appropriate for each Authority to establish a Spatial Strategy specific to each District independently of the SDS process. Wider sub-regional sustainability objectives, including housing need, economic recovery, infrastructure delivery, and the environment, are all matters that will directly inform the locational strategy – as set out within the Statement of Common Ground for Strategic Planning (September 2020) these are cross boundary issues that require joined up thinking and collaboration if the SDS is to succeed in delivering a spatial development strategy for the sub-region. Such an approach would then enable the constituent Authorities to deliver a joined up and holistic approach via the preparation of the Local Plans.

The guiding principles listed in the Consultation Document may form a component of the sub-regional strategy, but it is inappropriate to pre-determine these at the local level in advance of a draft SDS and associated evidence base (including the Sustainability Appraisal) being prepared.

10: Urban Lifestyles

Do you agree with our Urban Lifestyles approach to investigate further change and growth in our urban areas?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't know

11: Urban Lifestyles

Do you have any comments on the Urban Lifestyle approach to investigate further growth and change in our urban areas?

Please refer to enclosed representations.

Section 6: Urban Lifestyles:

Do you have any comments on the Urban Lifestyle approach to investigate further growth and change in our urban areas?

Vistry’s comments on the principle of urban living as a building block are set out above under Section 5. Delivery of increased densification in the urban areas, while reasonable in principle, is complex and multi-faceted. Reliance on urban living as a significant component of the growth strategy cannot be supported until such time that evidence confirms that this approach is effective and deliverable. There are numerous factors that will influence the deliverability of the Council’s suggested approaches to achieve increased density in the urban areas, which should be tested robustly through evidence, notably viability. In accordance with the NPPF, all policies should be underpinned by relevant and up to date evidence, which should be adequate, proportionate and focussed tightly on supporting and justifying the policies concerned (para 31). For example, under Lifestyle Theme (4) if the Council is seeking to apply Nationally Described Space Standards (NDSS) to new build dwellings, then this should be in accordance with the NPPF (para 127f & Footnote 46). Footnote 46 states that “policies may also make use of the NDSS where the need for an internal space standard can be justified.” The PPG[5] states that “where a need for internal space standards is identified, the Authority should provide justification for requiring internal space policies. Authorities should take account of the following areas need, viability and timing.”

[5] ID: 56-020-20150327.

Focusing on the delivery of apartments as an ‘easy fix’ to achieve higher densities could unduly skew the distribution and mix of housing that is available. Changing lifestyle habits and demand profiles emerging in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic are also likely to mean that more people will be seeking a home with a greater degree of flexibility and adaptability (for example to be able to work from home), and with access to private outdoor space (not just balconies).

The Consultation Document cites walking distances of between 800 metres and 1km (a 10-minute walk) as appropriate when assessing accessibility to existing shops and services, as determinants of ‘Urban Lifestyles.’ Recognition should, however, be given to the increasing role of cycling and in particular e-bikes and e-scooters. Active travel is becoming increasingly prevalent and should, therefore, be factored into the locational strategy. The availability of Public Transport links to the town centres, particularly those that are capable of being enhanced through investment, should also be a key consideration.

12: Urban Lifestyles

Do you agree with the areas where the Urban Lifestyles approach should be investigated?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't know

13: Urban Lifestyles

Do you have any comments on individual locations we have set out, or other locations which should be investigated for an urban lifestyles approach for further growth and change in our urban areas?

Please refer to enclosed representations.

Do you agree the areas where the Urban Lifestyles approach should be investigated?

Do you have any comments on individual locations we have set out, or other locations which should be investigated for an urban lifestyles approach for further growth and change in our urban areas?

Thornbury:

Commentary relating to Thornbury is limited compared to other locations examined through the consultation, and the Council should ensure there is no pre-determination in selecting suitable locations for growth. The material appears to be informed in large part by the draft Thornbury Neighbourhood Plan (TNP), which has been prepared to be in general conformity with the current Development Plan, which has no regard to emerging strategic factors. To use the TNP as a template to determine the future development of Thornbury would be entirely inappropriate when the objective of the current Plan-making exercise is to determine a comprehensive Spatial Strategy aligned with an emerging Mayoral SDS that will prevail until 2040. The TNP should be led by the strategic component of the development plan, it should not be used to pre-determine future Plan-making. For the reasons already set out above, Vistry Homes agrees that the Plan-making Authorities should fully explore the potential of Thornbury to meet a share of the overall housing need – Thornbury is an appropriate location to accommodate a proportion of the strategic growth required in the sub-region This could include densification within the existing built up area as appropriate, but opportunities are likely to be limited by the existing built envelope – any urban living strategy should not compromise the availability of employment land within the town.

Given the compact nature of the town, development on the edges of Thornbury could also include an element of increased density as appropriate to local character to help provide a greater variety and mix of homes, including smaller homes for those wishing to access the housing market for the first time or those looking to downsize. With reference to the TNP objectives, it will be important for any future growth strategy to respond positively to the community’s wishes to address the high cost of housing and the limited availability of rental properties. The growth strategy for Thornbury may have regard to the principles set out within the TNP, where they reflect growth themes aligned with the emerging SDS. This may include policies that: actively support local people in accessing housing within the town; deliver a greater variety in housing type; deliver more affordable homes; deliver more accessible homes; and provide housing designed specifically to meet the needs of older people and younger people trying to access the housing market. While there may be scope to partially address some of these objectives through increased ‘urban living’ and densification, it is equally important to recognise that spatial and geographical containment of the town will not offer meaningful solutions to the challenges set out.

14: Creating Sustainable Rural Villages and Settlements

Do you agree with our proposed approach to the national policy issues highlighted,  like flood risk, the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Green Belt, and other planning considerations and issues?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't know

15: Creating Sustainable Rural Villages and Settlements

Do you have any comments on our proposed approach to investigate an appropriate level of growth in our rural villages and settlements?

Please refer to enclosed representations.

Section 7: Creating Sustainable Rural Villages and Settlements:

Do you have any comments on our proposed approach to investigate an appropriate level of growth in our rural villages and settlements?

It is noted that Thornbury is listed in Section 7 as a ‘Rural Village and Settlement’ and is identified on p.121 as a ‘market town that is being investigated for small/medium scale growth’ (alongside Yate and Chipping Sodbury). It should be recognised, however, that the role of the market towns differs markedly from the District’s villages and hamlets – Thornbury, for example, is recognised as a town that serves a function in supporting the population of surrounding rural areas through the availability of services and facilities within the town centre with Public Transport links to major employment areas (Aztec West), retail (Cribbs Causeway) and urban conurbations (Bristol City). Thornbury should not, therefore, be assessed on a ‘level playing field’ alongside the District’s villages and hamlets as it clearly has a much greater role to play in the settlement hierarchy. Growth at Thornbury should not be limited to ‘small/medium scale growth’ - a greater level of growth should be directed to the Thornbury so that it can continue to thrive and serve the rural hinterlands.

It is agreed that the Council should be exploring growth options on the edge of the Market Towns. Land around the Northern and Eastern edges of Thornbury is not constrained by the setting of the town’s Conservation Area and lies outside of the Green Belt. The evidence prepared by the Council confirms that Thornbury can offer sustainable access to a range of services and facilities, and due to the relatively large number and range of key services and facilities available within Thornbury, it acts as a destination for accessing town centre retail, GP and health facilities, and Library services that are lacking in surrounding villages and settlements in South Gloucestershire. This is consistent with earlier evidence base documents which conclude that Thornbury is the most sustainable non-Green Belt settlement in the District. The town’s Northern and Eastern edges were identified within the Joint Spatial Plan as appropriate locations for strategic growth. These principles remain unchanged, notwithstanding withdrawal of the JSP from Examination in early 2020. This is reiterated further by virtue of the Council continuing to favourably consider major housing developments on the edge of Thornbury (most recently Application ref. P19/8659/O). When determining the Appeal for land South of Gloucester Road Inspector Baird confirmed that the scheme would provide residents with a comprehensive range of appropriate and realistic travel options to access key services and facilities by sustainable transport modes, including reasonable and acceptable walking/cycling routes. He confirmed that the proposal would not be car dependent or encourage unsustainable travel behaviour.

In determining an appropriate level of growth, the Consultation Document refers to ‘key considerations’ on p.12. It is agreed that sustainability factors (such as accessibility) and environmental considerations (such as flood risk, AONB and Biodiversity designations) should influence the level of growth at a particular settlement – this will form part of the assessment undertaken as part of the Sustainability Appraisal to ensure that the optimum strategy is chosen having regard to reasonable alternative. With regard to the first two ‘key considerations,’ it is unclear why the size of the existing settlement or the level of planned and speculative growth would be determining factors. While the size of the settlement is likely to come hand in hand with the availability of services and facilities, settlement size and existing commitments should not be a constraint on future expansion, provided sustainability objectives can be met and population increases can be supported by provision of enhanced infrastructure.

16: Creating Sustainable Rural Villages and Settlements

Are there any other planning issues you think we should consider?

Please refer to enclosed representations.

Are there any other planning issues you think we should consider?

When determining the level of growth to be directed to a settlement it is important that consideration is given to the funding and delivery of enhanced infrastructure required to support both the existing and increasing population. The quantum of development should be commensurate with the level of investment required to viably and successfully deliver new and improved infrastructure that will significantly benefit both existing and future residents.

17: Policies

Do you agree with the range and scope of policies we are proposing to include in our new Local Plan?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't Know

18: Policies

Do you have any comments on the range and scope of policies we are proposing?

Please refer to enclosed representations.

Section 8: Planning Policies:

Do you agree with the range and scope of policies we are proposing to include in our new Local Plan?

Do you have any comments on the range and scope of policies we are proposing?

The starting point for determining the scope and content of the SGLP should be the NPPF. Paragraphs 15 and 16 of the NPPF set out what a Plan should do. Notably, Plans should:

• Achieve sustainable development;

• Be aspirational but deliverable;

• Be shaped by early, proportionate and effective engagement;

• Contain policies that are clearly written and unambiguous, so it is evident how a decision maker should react to development proposals;

• Be accessible; and

• Serve a clear purpose, avoiding unnecessary duplication of policies that apply to a particular area (including policies in the NPPF where relevant).

In respect of the final point, it is worth noting that the direction of travel under the Government’s proposed planning reforms[6] is that the NPPF will become the primary source of policies for development management.

[6] Planning for the Future (August 2020).

19: Appendix 2: Draft policies: Climate Change and Mitigation

Do you agree with our proposed policy approach?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't Know

20: Appendix 2: Draft policies: Climate Change and Mitigation

Do you think there are any other issues we should consider in this policy?

Please refer to enclosed representations.

Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation:

The wording set out in Draft Policy ‘Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation’ refers to a requirement for development proposals to demonstrate ‘radical reductions in Greenhouse Gas emissions and generate renewable and/or low Carbon energy proportionate to their scale and type.’ It is not clear from the policy wording or supporting text what is required of the developer to achieve ‘radical’ reductions, or whether this policy is seeking to step away from the requirements set out in the Future Homes Standard (see further comments below under ‘Energy Management in New Development’). For the reasons described above, the scope of the policy should be defined clearly so there is no ambiguity regarding how a decision maker should respond to development proposals.

The supporting text infers that a ‘Technical Guidance document’ will be prepared to accompany the Local Plan to set out how the policy requirements of the Climate Change Policy can be achieved, but this should be made available for scrutiny as part of any policy formulation to ensure that viability and deliverability considerations can be properly scrutinized and assessed.

21: Appendix 2: Draft policies: Energy Management in New Development

Do you agree with our proposed policy approach?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't Know

22: Appendix 2: Draft policies: Energy Management in New Development

Do you think there are any other issues we should consider in this policy?

Please refer to enclosed representations.

Energy Management in New Development:

The Government’s Future Homes Standard will set the benchmark for environmental standards for all new housing, including a commitment to removing traditional Fossil Fuel heating systems, from 2025. The Government published its response to the Future Homes Standard (FHS) 2019 consultation in January 2021. As set out within the response, from 2025 the FHS will deliver homes that are ‘Zero Carbon ready.’ The Government intends to implement the FHS in 2025: a full technical specification for the FHS has been accelerated and will be consulted on in 2023, followed by the introduction of the necessary legislation in 2024.

Ahead of the implementation of the FHS in 2025, the Government is introducing an interim uplift to Part L of the Building Regulations, which will include provisions for low Carbon heating systems and heat pumps as primary heating technology in new homes. The interim uplift is proposed to take place in 2021 and will encourage homes that are future proofed for the longer term. These homes will be expected to produce 31% less CO2 emissions compared to current standards.

The Government’s FHS response (January 2021) states that the Planning and Energy Act 2008 will not be amended in the short-term – the new planning reforms will instead clarify the longer-term role of Local Planning Authorities in determining local energy efficiency standards. The NPPF (Paragraph 150) does however make clear that any local requirements for the sustainability of buildings should reflect the Government’s policy for national technical standards. The PPG clarifies that, when setting any local requirement for a building’s sustainability, LPAs should do so in a way consistent with the Government’s zero Carbon buildings policy and adopted nationally described standards. Local requirements should form part of a Local Plan following engagement with appropriate partners and will need to be based on robust and credible evidence, paying careful attention to viability.

The FHS is the direction of travel for nationally set technical standards. The Government recognises that the FHS will be challenging to deliver in practice and it is for this reason that interim measures are proposed to ensure that all parts of industry are ready to meet the Future Homes Standard from 2025. The Government’s response states:

“As well as delivering high Carbon savings without relying on additional Carbon offsetting measures, the Option 2 specification achieves a balance between making progress towards the Future Homes Standard while providing industry with the time it needs to develop the supply chains and skills that will be necessary to deliver the Future Homes Standard and accounting for market factors.”

“The 2021 uplift will ensure the delivery of high-quality homes that are in line with our broader housing commitments and encourage homes that are future-proofed for the longer-term. We need as many homes as possible to be built with low Carbon heating going forwards and the feedback we received from developers based on our consultation proposals indicated that many will start to do so under Option 2, therefore increasing the capacity of supply chains and readying installer skills for the introduction of the Future Homes Standard.”

The Government is therefore clear that the FHS transitional arrangements are needed to support the successful delivery of the FHS in 2025, enabling the market and supply chain to adapt, and taking into consideration market factors.

The draft wording under the Policy seeks to achieve either Net zero Carbon (100% reduction in Carbon emissions) from regulated energy use (Option 1); or Net zero Carbon (100% reduction in Carbon emissions) from regulated and unregulated energy use (Option 2). The suggested policy wording seeks to minimise end user energy requirements over and above those required by Building Regulations (at the time of full planning or Reserved Matters approval) through energy efficiency measures by at least 10% or achieve any higher standard that is required under national planning policy – this is not consistent with the approach advocated by the NPPF or the intention of Government through the implementation of the FHS. The policy should be re-worded so that expectations are consistent with the nationally set standards.

The draft policy seeks to introduce a requirement for the use of renewable energy on residential sites and to achieve an overall on-site reduction of Carbon Dioxide emissions from regulated energy use of at least 50%, unless the development includes flats where a 35% reduction is acceptable (for that part of the site only). Not all sites are suitable for renewable energy generation and it should be recognised that additional measures introduced over and above nationally set targets will have a direct bearing on scheme viability and deliverability. The PPG is clear that a viability assessment should be used to ensure that policies are realistic, and that the total cumulative cost of all relevant policies will not undermine deliverability of the Plan. It is the responsibility of Plan makers in collaboration with the local community, developers, and other stakeholders, to create realistic, deliverable policies. Drafting of Plan policies should be iterative and informed by engagement with developers, landowners, and infrastructure and affordable housing providers.

With reference to the proposed ‘off-setting’ contribution, it is not clear how contributions would be spent to achieve net zero in operation. If off-site solutions are proposed by the Council as a solution, against which contributions would be sought, details should be clearly detailed and consulted upon in advance.

It should also be recognised that the Government’s FHS response (January 2021) makes clear that the new planning reforms will clarify the longer-term role of Local Planning Authorities in determining local energy efficiency standards. Planning reforms emerging from the Government’s ‘Planning for the Future’ White Paper (2020) are expected to be implemented before the end of this Parliament. The reasonable expectation, therefore, is that the policy provisions being consulted upon as part of the SGLP will remain up to date for a period of no more than one year (assuming the SGLP is adopted in 2023).

23: Appendix 2: Draft policies: Renewable and Low Carbon Energy System

Do you agree with our proposed policy approach?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't Know

24: Appendix 2: Draft policies: Renewable and Low Carbon Energy System

Do you think there are any other issues we should consider in this policy?

Please refer to enclosed representations.

25: Appendix 2: Draft policies: Creating well-designed places

Do you agree with our proposed policy approach?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't Know

26: Appendix 2: Draft policies: Creating well-designed places

Do you think there are any other issues we should consider in this policy?

Please refer to enclosed representations.

Creating well-designed places:

The draft wording of the Policy ‘Creating well-designed places’ sets out a long list of design requirements to be imposed on all new development proposals. Clearer and more concise policy wording, supported by an explanation in the supporting text, would assist the decision maker (and Applicants) in determining how to assess whether development proposals meet the policy objectives. The policy wording should avoid duplication, including repetition of policies and guidance set by the NPPF and PPG. The NPPF is clear that Plans should set out a clear design vision and expectations, so that Applicants have as much certainty as possible about what is likely to be acceptable.

In this regard it is worth noting that the Government is currently consulting on proposed changes to the NPPF (2021) and National Model Design Code. This consultation is published off the back of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission “Living with Beauty” report and National Design Guide published in 2020. The draft revised NPPF indicates that, ‘to provide maximum clarity about design expectations at an early stage, all Local Planning Authorities should prepare design guides or codes consistent with the principles set out in the National Design Guide and National Model Design Code and which reflect local character and design preferences. These provide a local framework for creating beautiful and distinctive places with a consistent and high-quality standard of design. Their level of detail and degree of prescription should be tailored to the circumstances and scale of change in each place and should allow a suitable degree of variety where this would be justified.’

The direction of travel, therefore, is for design expectations to be set out in locally produced Design Codes. The role and scope of local design codes/guides and masterplans should be clearly articulated within the SGLP to provide certainty to developers and promoters.

With regard to Biodiversity Net Gain requirements, the policy approach should reflect the Government’s Draft Environment Bill, which will contain mandatory net gain requirements for new developments. The potential significant additional costs for Biodiversity net gain should be fully accounted for in the Council’s viability assessment at the Plan-making stage. It is also inevitable that some development sites will not be able to provide net gain on-site owing to site specific circumstances and constraints. The Council should, therefore, be proactively seeking solutions to help enable developments to meet BNG targets, including off-site solutions where necessary. In this regard there is an opportunity for publicly owned land to be utilised to facilitate Biodiversity net gain in a manner that is well controlled and maintained to secure net gain in perpetuity.

27: Appendix 2: Draft policies: Parking Requirements

Do you agree with our proposed policy approach?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't Know

28: Appendix 2: Draft policies: Parking Requirements

Do you think there are any other issues we should consider in this policy?

Please refer to enclosed representations.

Parking Requirements, including Electric Vehicles:

Consultation on Electric Vehicle Charging in Residential & Non-Residential Buildings was completed by the Department for Transport for Transport (DfT) in October 2019. This consultation sets out the Government's preferred option to introduce a new requirement for Electric Vehicle Charging Points under Schedule 1 to the Building Regulations 2010. The expectation, therefore, is that any emerging Local Plan policy relating to the installation of electric vehicle charging points (EVCP) will be superseded in due course by the Building Regulations following the Government’s consideration of the consultation responses.

In this regard there is recognition that the introduction of EVCP requirements can impact the viability and deliverability of development proposals: the cost of installing the charge point infrastructure will vary considerably based on site-specific conditions in relation to the local grid and should be factored into the viability assessment at the Plan-making stage.

29: Appendix 2: Draft policies: NSIPs and Related Development

Do you agree with our proposed policy approach?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't Know

30: Appendix 2: Draft policies: NSIPs and Related Development

Do you think there are any other issues we should consider in this policy?

No comment.

31: Appendix 2: Draft policies: Nuclear New Build

Do you agree with our proposed policy approach?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't Know

32: Appendix 2: Draft policies: Nuclear New Build

Do you think there are any other issues we should consider in this policy?

No comment.

33: Appendix 2: Draft policies: Oldbury A Station - Decommissioning

Do you agree with our proposed policy approach?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't Know

34: Appendix 2: Draft policies: Oldbury A Station - Decommissioning

Do you think there are any other issues we should consider in this policy?

No comment.

35: Appendix 2: Draft policies: Radioactive Waste

Do you agree with our proposed policy approach?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don't Know

36: Appendix 2: Draft policies: Radioactive Waste

Do you think there are any other issues we should consider in this policy?

No comment.

Q37

Phase 1 General or Other Comments

Section 1: What must the Local Plan 2020 do?

Before embarking on the preparation of the SGLP the Council must first have a clear understanding of what the Local Plan should achieve. Section 1 of the Consultation Document advises that The Local Plan 2020 will cover a 15-year period and establish a new growth strategy for the delivery of homes, jobs, and infrastructure. While this is the role of a single tier Local Plan, the circumstances influencing the scope and content of the Local Plan in South Gloucestershire are different because the Local Authority falls within the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) area. Strategic planning policies governing the strategy for growth in the period to 2040 will be contained within the Mayor’s Spatial Development Strategy (SDS), which will, when adopted, form the upper tier of the Development Plan guiding development across the Combined Authority area. The starting point for the SGLP is, therefore, the SDS.

The NPPF provides guidance and sets out the scope of strategic and non-strategic policies forming part of a Development Plan. With regard to strategic policies, Paragraph 17 of the NPPF confirms that the development plan must include strategic policies to address each Local Planning Authority’s priorities for the development and use of land in its area - these strategic policies can be produced in different ways, depending on the issues and opportunities facing each area. They can be contained in:

a) Joint or individual Local Plans, produced by Authorities working together or independently (and which may also contain non-strategic policies); and/or

b) A spatial development strategy produced by an elected Mayor or Combined Authority, where Plan-making powers have been conferred.

The latter is the case in South Gloucestershire.

The West of England Combined Authority Order 2017 requires WECA to prepare and publish a SDS for the area and authorises a number of functions relating to the preparation and publication of a SDS that should be followed[1]. The scope and content of the SDS is prescribed by The Combined Authorities (Spatial Development Strategy) Regulations 2018 (as amended) (SDS Regulations) - the legislation requires the SDS to include the Mayor’s general policies in respect of the development and use of land in the relevant area, and statements dealing with general spatial development aspects of the Mayor’s other policies and proposals. The SDS deals only with matters which are of strategic importance and must include reasoned justification and a key diagram. It may also contain inset diagrams to a larger scale illustrating the Mayor’s general policies affecting specific parts of the area covered by the SDS. The SDS may also include diagrams in addition to the key diagram and the inset diagram, which identify strategic allocations; such diagrams may be on a map base albeit it is understood that WECA is proceeding at this stage on the basis that SDS will not make site allocations.

[1] In accordance with the Greater London Authority Act 1999.

As the strategic tier of the Development Plan, it is the role of the SDS to set the strategic policies for the area which, in accordance with paragraph 20 of the NPPF, should contain the overall strategy for the pattern, scale and quality of development, and make sufficient provision for:

a) Housing (including affordable housing), employment, retail, leisure and other commercial development;

b) Infrastructure for transport, telecommunications, security, waste management, water supply, wastewater, flood risk and coastal change management, and the provision of minerals and energy (including heat);

c) Community facilities (such as health, education and cultural infrastructure); and

d) Conservation and enhancement of the natural, built and historic environment, including landscapes and green infrastructure, and planning measures to address Climate Change mitigation and adaptation.

The role of the SGLP is to set out the more detailed non-strategic policies for specific areas, neighbourhoods and types of development. In accordance with paragraph 28 of the NPPF, this can include allocating sites, the provision of infrastructure and community facilities at a local level, establishing design principles, conserving, and enhancing the natural and historic environment, and setting out other development management policies. While the SGLP may also include policies that are strategic in nature, these must be in entirely in conformity with the SDS, which serves as the upper tier in the Development Plan. Any tension between the SDS and SGLP will fundamentally undermine the purpose of the SDS, which is to set the overarching strategy for growth across the sub-region in a co-ordinated and holistic way.

According to the ‘West of England Joint working on Strategic Planning Memorandum of Understanding’ (June 2020) the SDS will set out the shared strategic priorities. Key cross boundary strategic themes that will shape the SDS are summarised within the outline Statement of Common Ground (SOCG) (September 2020) signed by the WECA Authorities and North Somerset informing the SDS preparation, which include (but are not limited to): Carbon emissions and air quality; Health inequality; Housing; Employment; Green Belt; Development Quality and Transport; and Green Infrastructure. Evidence base documents relating to these matters have been commissioned by WECA and will inform the preparation of the SDS but are not yet available to view in full.

The SGLP Phase 1 Consultation Document refers to numerous matters and issues that should properly be addressed at the strategic level via the SDS, not in isolation as part of the preparation of the SGLP. If the SDS is to succeed in supporting economic recovery and delivering a co-ordinated and sustainable response to the substantial housing need in the sub-region it is crucial that issues of a strategic nature are dealt with by WECA, and are supported by the necessary evidence base that informs the overarching growth strategy. It is paramount that the SGLP strategic priorities align with the SDS to address the key cross boundary themes and issues identified. Any deviation from SDS would undermine the combined objectives of the WECA Authorities and strategic function of the SDS.

It is not appropriate for each constituent Authority to establish its own independent Spatial Strategy in isolation of the SDS process – in this regard the West of England Authorities must learn from the mistakes highlighted during the preparation of the Joint Spatial Plan, notably the need for the spatial and locational strategy to be approached holistically having regard to all reasonable alternatives. This is even more pertinent in the West of England where Green Belt release in the sub-region is inevitably to be considered as a component of the growth strategy. Given the nature of the sub-region and the significant housing overspill that will arise from Bristol City there is a need to assess options in a joined-up manner.

With regard to the Plan period referenced in the Consultation Document, it is concerning that the Council intends to plan for the minimum 15-year period required by the NPPF with an identified Plan period of 2023 - 2038. This period does not align with the SDS, which will have a 20-year life span. There is a fundamental disconnect between the SDS and SGLP which should be rectified now to ensure that the two Plans align to deliver the strategic objectives for the sub-region (see further comments under Section 4). It should also be noted that draft proposed changes to the NPPF (2021)[2] state that ‘where larger scale development such as new settlements form part of the strategy for the area, policies should be set within a vision that looks further ahead (at least 30 years), to take into account the likely timescale for delivery.’

[2] National Planning Policy Framework and National Model Design Code: consultation proposals January 2021.

Q38

Consultation ‘Other’ comments (Call for Sites, WECA and SDS, Evidence base, other strategies, planning applications)

«No response»

Q39

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