South Gloucestershire New Local Plan Phase 1 Responses

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Response #953004

Response #953004
From Simon Steele-Perkins - Waddeto…
Agent John Baker - Point Consultancy…
Date Started: 06 May 2021 17:21. Last modified: 06 May 2021 17:42
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.

Developer, land agent or site promoter
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.

No wish to add other issues.

Rather vague and open question, not least because the issues are not separate but need to be considered and addressed collectively – the role of spatial planning!

Comments on those issues considered relevant to our interests appear in the commentary document which precedes our response to the questionnaire.

3.1.1 We have commented above on the need for a strategic approach to the strategic issue of the Green Belt in the West of England. Here we comment on some aspects of what is said in the Council’s Phase 1 Consultation about the role of the Green Belt, and how the designated areas and the application of the policy will be dealt with in making the Plan. We are concerned that some statements do not fully and properly represent the combination of law and policy on these matters, and could set in place from hereon amongst the wider community a misunderstanding of how the presence of Green Belt will influence the form and content of the Local Plan. These misinterpretations – in our view – could be harmful to future planning for the area and for the interests of Waddeton Park Ltd.

3.1.2 At section 24, p 36, the consultation document introduces the role of Green Belt and how the Local Plan has to consider the future application of this policy. The document fairly and correctly notes that Green Belt is not designated because of an area’s landscape quality, and is also clear that the Local Plan is the opportunity to consider whether changes to the Green Belt should be made.

3.1.3 Whilst many of the issues are covered and well set out, what is not said (or indeed referred to anywhere in the document) is that the statutory objective that Plan-makers are to adhere to is to promote sustainable development (section 39(2) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004). Green Belt policy has to be applied in the context of this overriding statutory objective – something made all the more pertinent by the Climate Change emergency noted by the Council at page 24 and something it is rightly proud to announce that it has signed up to. This is particularly so in the preparation of the Local Plan where the opportunity can be taken with the Spatial Strategy and development locations that have to be identified to contribute to a lower Carbon future.

3.1.4 The reference to Green Belt policy in the NPPF 2019, (the Framework), is not precisely cited in the consultation document and what is said might invite readers to believe that the preparation of a Local Plan should follow a sequential approach to the identification of development land, particularly for residential purposes, with land outside of the Green Belt always used before land designated as Green Belt and where a change in the designation would be required. The is not the stated policy from the Framework and whilst some Local Plan Inspectors seem to have rather unfortunately acted as though such a policy exists, others have more accurately stated the implications of what is said in law and policy.

3.1.5 A good example from this latter point of view is that of the Inspector examining the Lichfield Local Plan whose report in 2015 contains the passage[1]:

‘…. when reviewing Green Belt boundaries account should be taken of the need to promote sustainable patterns of development or, to put it another way, that the revised boundaries should be consistent with the Local Plan strategy for meeting the requirements for sustainable development” (para. 191).

‘I can find no justification in the Framework, in Planning Guidance .… for the proposition that Green Belt land should be released only as a last resort. This would be to accept that sustainability is the servant of Green Belt designation – which it is not. On the contrary … the duty in determining Green Belt boundaries is to take account of the need to promote sustainable patterns of development’ (para. 200).

[1] Lichfield District Local Plan: Strategy – Inspector’s Report 16 January 2015.

3.1.6 Inspectors follow national planning policy through a rigorous internal checking process, and this finding by a Planning Inspector was not challenged in the Courts. Nor has national policy changed significantly in this respect since this Inspector deliberated on the issue.

3.1.7 It is to be noted however, that the Government’s consultation of 30 January 2021 on very limited (so far) changes to the Framework proposes a change to para.11a (in the section on Plan-making under the main heading of ‘the presumption in favour of sustainable development’) to include the new wording:

‘All Plans should promote a sustainable pattern of development that seeks to: meet the development needs of their area; align growth and infrastructure; improve the environment; mitigate Climate Change (including by making effective use of land in urban areas) and adapt to its effects.’

3.1.8 Whilst the Government carefully avoids facing up to the obvious conflicts between modern law and policy on sustainable development and the evidence-free and archaic policy on Green Belt, this statement making sustainable development a clear and specific requirement feels like a significant shift on the policy spectrum away from Green Belt policy having the unassailable grip on spatial planning that it has held in some parts of the country to date.

3.1.9 The Council could not if it wished present its own policy on choosing locations for development as one of always using anywhere outside the Green Belt before sites currently within the Green Belt, as this would not conform with national planning policy.

3.1.10 Once land that can be satisfactorily developed within the larger settlements has been identified, the Council’s responsibility is to examine all other land to meet the need whether Green Belt or not, informed by a properly undertaken and comprehensive Green Belt assessment, carried out by looking at (and only at) the necessity of land being designated as Green Belt in order to achieve the stated purposes of including land in the Green Belt. The significance of land on the overall integrity of the Green Belt is then to be considered in deference to the overall objective of seeking to promote more sustainable development.

3.1.11 In an attempt to protect the Green Belt previously, the Council has promoted major development at the larger settlements in the District that are not in the Green Belt. This choice – which it may be inclined towards again – defies any logic. If contemplating the growth of Bristol in the direction of these settlements the Council might cite the Green Belt purpose of preventing the merging of settlements, yet growth in the opposite direction would have the same effect. Given that the Green Belt was designated many Decades ago, somewhat arbitrarily and randomly, such a position would surely be indefensible.

3.1.12 The Framework requires that ‘exceptional circumstances’ should be demonstrated to exist before a Local Plan makes changes to the Green Belt. In this case exceptional circumstances do exist. The previous Local Plan prepared by the Council made changes to the Green Belt in the presence of exceptional circumstances, and if they existed then they must be there now. The new Local Plan cannot go back to a position before the last Local Plan. There is now a greater housing need and there are less development opportunities that do not involve Green Belt – in the re-use of land and buildings within existing settlements for instance.

3.1.13 The consultation document cites the Framework’s use of the word ‘sprawl.’ This is a rather archaic derogatory term, dating from a time before proper evidence based positively-prepared development plans. Given the use of the term it surely falls to the Council to explain why urban extensions identified through a proper process in the preparation of its Local Plan, by itself as a responsible and competent Local Planning Authority, and subject to appropriate process and performance specification policies, are ‘urban sprawl’ in an area previously and randomly designated as Green Belt, but not ‘urban sprawl’ if in an area that is merely ‘greenfield,’ on the edge of other largish settlements that the Council might consider for growth perhaps. Whether planned development is ‘sprawl’ is a matter the courts have considered and the Council’s position should reflect case law on the matter in an up-to-date and positively-prepared Plan.

3.1.14 In moving forward from the consultation, the Council should be clear that:

• Greenfield land does not have automatic precedent over Green Belt land in seeking development locations once land beyond existing settlement boundaries is being considered, and the overarching objective is to promote sustainable patterns of development.

• An assessment of the Green Belt needs to be undertaken properly and comprehensively, and given that it is a strategic issue, preferably as a joint exercise between the West of England Authorities.

• The use of the archaic and derogatory word ‘sprawl’ that came into use a Century ago, probably to appease people with a deep dislike of urban areas in principle, has no place in a modern evidence-based positively-prepared Local Plan, and particularly one promoting ‘urban lifestyles’ as a means of contributing to more sustainable development.

• There is a requirement in the Framework for ‘safeguarded land’ to be identified if there is any expectation that the Green Belt boundary would have to be changed at the end of the Plan period, and this issue has to be addressed in the Local Plan as the Local Planning Authority cannot pick and choose which parts of national Green Belt policy it seeks to abide by.

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?

Priorities is an odd term as it implies a ‘pecking order,’ but as presented (and rightly) there is no apparent hierarchical approach. The ‘priorities’ appear to cover everything in any case, and it is not clear that there is any real difference between these and the previously stated ‘issues.’

There does however seem to be the opportunity for a shorter, differently structured, and perhaps more accessible and more easily responded-to consultation.

Because of our particular interests we note the ‘priority’ relating to Green Belt, which is presented at 5(4) under ‘Planning for urban and rural areas,’ when it is probably a matter in itself given the enormous weight the Council has previously given Green Belt in its spatial planning work.

The priority is qualified as ‘If the Bristol Green Belt is reviewed….,’ which is a little disingenuous when the Council knows that the Green Belt has to be reviewed and will almost certainly be changed as a consequence – as it certainly should be. This should be made clear.

The reference to recreational value is misleading too, as whilst the recreational value of much open land should be increased where (critically) there can be public access, there is no actual relationship between recreational use and value and the designation of land as Green Belt.

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)?

They are as useful a way of structuring a discussion about the possible ways of meeting the development needs as any, provided as seems clear enough in the consultation, they are not to be regarded as alternatives when some permutation of development in each of the location types will almost certainly be required.

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?

The guiding principles could hardly be otherwise as these are all reflections of national planning policy.

We support these provided they are used in determining the location and form of development, but not in seeking to reduce the amount of provision below what the demographic and economic evidence shows is needed for the future communities of the District as part of a wider and connected functional area.

We are a little wary of the sequential approach to flood risk as this suggests that there are some circumstances in which the increased risk of flooding arising from development would be put aside. This is dubious in terms of public health and safety and seems to be at odds with all of the Council’s sound words on adaptation to the consequences of Climate Change.

6.1.1 As well as making provision for all of the identified housing needs to be met, the Local Plan must ensure that a supply of housing flows steadily throughout the Plan period, and that there is always a five-year supply of genuinely deliverable housing sites. Whilst the consultation envisages very large sites being a necessary part of the provision to make up the numbers, it also acknowledges the well-established empirical evidence that large sites have long lead times and may have lower sales rates. Large sites require more infrastructure to be provided from scratch, and ensuring the infrastructure is in place when early stage residents expect it to be available raises viability and hence planning issues.

6.1.2 Medium sized sites clearly have a significant part to play in getting the mix right – neither too large to have the problems above, nor too small to achieve community benefits or to make an impact on the overall needs – they meet the Goldilocks test. Our expectation however, is that the Council will have the choice of relatively few medium sized sites in its area that are well related to existing communities and facilities and which are genuinely available and deliverable from the outset.

6.1.3 In moving forward from the consultation, the Council should be clear that:

• It will be particularly seeking to identify available medium sized sites that are predictably deliverable especially in the early stages of the Plan period, and which support existing community infrastructure and promote its continued enhancement.

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?

Fine, provided the assessment of the scale of the opportunity takes proper account of the need to promote and maintain a mix of uses consistent with short trip lengths and equitable accessibility, the maintenance and enhancement of green infrastructure (for the benefit of urban wildlife and public access and movement), and the retention of employment rather than allowing sites to be displaced by housing; and involves a realistic assessment of deliverability.

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?

The identification of ‘potential urban lifestyle locations’ wrongly omits Oldland Common, notwithstanding the availability of facilities and services consistent with (an appropriate interpretation) of the standards for the desired proximity of facilities set out in the consultation document, the relative proximity of Keynsham railway station, and the availability of development land that would consolidate the existing community. This point is developed further in the text that precedes the questionnaire in our submission.

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?

Whilst we have no specific interest in ‘rural villages and settlements’ (in this submission, though other submissions by WPL address the matter), any tendency to bundle together such as AONBs and areas designated as Green Belt would be deeply misleading.

As a general point on the consultation overall, we do not think that the consultation document is correct in its presentation of the relevance of Green Belt policy, nor sufficiently direct in saying that a change to Green Belt is desirable and inevitable in creating a proper and appropriate Spatial Strategy for South Gloucestershire.

16: Creating Sustainable Rural Villages and Settlements

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

Not relevant to our interest in this consultation response.

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?

Though a worthwhile intention, it is quite difficult to address this consultation question at this stage without knowing more of the relationship between the Local Plan and the SDS.

The general principles to be followed however in presenting policies are:

• To have as few policies as possible, to make the preparation of the Plan simpler (reducing the amount of consultation time and process), and to improve clarity and certainty in the Plan’s use with less scope for confusion and conflict between policies;

• To avoid repetition of national planning policy;

• To only have the policies needed to implement the clearly expressed Spatial Strategy;

• To write policies in terms of the outcomes sought, not in terms of specific land uses.

Whilst there seem to be a lot of policies proposed overall it is not clear whether there is sufficient intended on the process by which development proposals – particularly for large sites - should come forward, and on the performance required from development.

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?

This is a vitally important issue for the Local Plan, and the policy approach seems good, though the more important way for the Local Plan (and the SDS) to address these matters is through the Spatial Strategy and the planned integration of development and the management of movement.

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?

No.

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?

No.

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?

No.

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?

No.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Q37

Phase 1 General or Other Comments

«No response»

Q38

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

Land at Oldland Common.

Q39

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