North Somerset Local Plan Preferred Options: Consultation Draft March 2022

Introduction

North Somerset Council is preparing a new local plan with a 15 year plan period 2023-2038.  Once adopted it will replace the current development plan which comprises the Core Strategy, Site Allocations Plan and Development Management Policies and which has an end date of 2026.

This Preferred Options document is a consultation document prepared under Regulation 18 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012.

The Local Plan will provide a positive vision for the future of North Somerset, a framework for addressing housing needs, employment requirements and other priorities and a mechanism through which local communities can help shape their surroundings. The heart of the planning system is the delivery of sustainable development which comprises interdependent economic, social and environmental objectives. The local plan provides the local expression of what sustainable development means for North Somerset. It must be positively prepared (to address objectively assessed needs), justified (an appropriate strategy based on reasonable evidence), effective (deliverable over the plan period) and consistent with national policy. It is subject to several stages of consultation and tested through independent examination.

The initial stages of consultation took place in 2020: Challenges for the Future and Choices for the Future.

Challenges for the Future (July 2020)

The Challenges document sought views on the key challenges facing the district over the plan period and set out a draft vision, aims and priorities.  The key challenges included the climate and nature emergencies, the scale of the government’s housing requirement, improving design quality and placemaking and responding to the impact of the pandemic on society and economic growth.

Choices for the Future (November 2020)

Following consideration of the responses received to the Challenges  consultation, Choices focused on the alternative high-level approaches for delivering the growth required.  While these illustrated the principal alternatives, the consultation document emphasised that there will be other options and that the preferred strategy may be a hybrid combining elements from different alternatives. Each of the approaches sought to accommodate the growth required (housing and employment) but through the identification of broad locations, not specific sites. Four illustrative broad approaches were identified:

  • Retain Green Belt (development opportunities identified outside the Green Belt).
  • Urban focus (maximised the amount of growth close to the districts four main towns as well as locations well related to the Bristol urban area using a relatively small number of large strategic sites).
  • Transport corridors (focused growth on existing or potentially enhanced public transport corridors into Bristol and Weston).
  • Greater dispersal (growth is more widely distributed using a large number of smaller development locations).

Each of these was illustrated with a range of different scales and locations of growth to help inform a debate about how best to meet the growth required and therefore to help shape a preferred spatial strategy for inclusion in the local plan.

Having considered the evidence and taken account of the initial consultation stages, in April 2021 the Council approved the vision and strategic priorities for the local plan and set out the spatial strategy and sequential approach to the assessment of development opportunities to act as the framework for plan preparation, although this was still to be subject to further testing.

This Preferred Options document sets out the Council’s preferred approach taking account of the evidence and the engagement undertaken to date.  It is not the final version of the local plan.  The plan is still at an early stage and this is a chance for all interested parties to comment on the proposals and help shape the emerging policies and allocations.  All responses will be considered before the Council agrees a final version which it intends to submit for examination (the pre-submission version).

The pre-submission version will also be consulted upon prior to it being submitted for examination by an independent inspector.  Following the examination, the Council will receive an Inspector’s Report setting out any proposed amendments.  The plan can then be adopted.

The local plan timetable is as follows:

Consultation on Preferred Options (Consultation Draft)

March/April 2022

Consultation on pre-submission plan

November 2022

Submission to Secretary of State

January 2023

Examination

April 2023

Inspector’s Report

October 2023

Adoption

December 2023

When reading the Local Plan there are some key issues we would like you to consider and comment on at the appropriate policy. These are:

Question

Policy

The government’s housing requirement for North Somerset is 20,085 dwellings over the plan period.  This Preferred Options identifies capacity for about 90% of this total.  How should we make up the shortfall?

SP8: Housing

Does the plan deliver the type of housing that our residents need?  Is the affordable housing target of 40% affordable housing on large sites appropriate to address needs and deliverable?

SP8: Housing

Are sufficient sites for employment been identified to meet business needs and are they in the right locations?

SP9: Employment

Do you support the conclusion that it is necessary to consider locations for development within the Green Belt?

SP7: Green Belt

Is the mix and location of sites appropriate to deliver the plan’s objectives?  In particular, is the balance between town and village development appropriate?

SP3: Spatial Strategy

How can we increase the quality of new development in North Somerset to create attractive new communities?

SP4: Placemaking