North Somerset Local Plan 2038 Preferred Options

North Somerset Local Plan Preferred Options: Consultation Draft March 2022

Economic Development

Policy DP20: Safeguarding employment sites

On land with existing or proposed employment uses (Use Classes B2, B8 and E(g)) proposals for other uses will only be permittedwhere it can be demonstrated that the proposed development:

  • would not adversely impact the ability to deliver wider economic or sustainability objectives including harming the range or quality of local employment opportunities and land available to meet employment needs over the plan period, or contributing to increased commuting; and
  • would either complement existing employment uses or result in environmental benefits such as the removal of an incompatible use or result in significant improvement to the living conditions of local residents.

In all cases, proposals must demonstrate through effective marketing that the site or premises are no longer suitable for employment use.

The Council will consider removing permitted development rights when granting planning permission for new employment development in order to avoid the future loss of these uses.

Justification

Policy SP9 sets out the overall scale and distribution of employment development in line with the spatial strategy.  Within this overarching approach the objective is to safeguard a range of sites for new employment in order to meet future demand and to meet wider economic objectives as part of a sustainable plan. 

The approach taken reflects national guidance in terms of supporting economic growth and productivity, taking into account meeting local business needs and wider opportunities for development (NPPF paragraph 81).  This is achieved through ensuring the availability of a wide range of different sites and premises to provide flexibility and choice, in locations which meet business needs and are accessible to the labour force.

Recent changes to use classes have seen the former B1 uses, including office, move to a new E Class that covers a wider range of land uses.  Subject to certain limitations and conditions, development in class E may alter to C3 residential use as permitted development.  This is limited by the requirement that the cumulative floorspace of the existing use does not exceed 1500sqm, and that the existing use must have been operational for a minimum duration.

The policy includes the potential to remove permitted development rights and this could be attached to consented business proposals.

Policy DP21: Visitor attractions

Across the district new improved and replacement visitor facilities will be supported provided that they:

  • Are of high quality design, are of an appropriate scale and have no adverse impact on the natural and historic environment and character of the area;
  • Are sustainable and support climate change objectives such as through the use of sustainable design and construction, incorporate renewable energy generation and climate change adaption into the design and minimise its carbon footprint;
  • Support opportunities for access by walking, cycling or public transport; and
  • Support, strengthen and diversify the local visitor economy by improving the quality of facilities on offer as well as the number of all-weather attractions and facilities.

Within Weston-super-Mare additionally proposals should be located so as to support the development of a vibrant modern seafront and town centre.

Justification

North Somerset's geographical location with 25 miles of coastline, proximity to Bristol, Bath, Wells, Cheddar Gorge and the Mendip Hills, as well as accessibility from Bristol Airport and the M5 make it a versatile visitor location.

The coastal location of Weston-super-Mare has traditionally been the focus for visitors on holiday, although attractions such as Puxton Park, Grand Pier, Noah's Ark Zoo Farm and Tyntesfield are also important. Visitor expectations are changing and there is a role for raising the quality of the visitor experience with higher quality accommodation and attractions and so raising the value of this to the economy. The establishment of 3* or above hotels in Weston and Clevedon will meet the needs of this changing demographic/environment.

Changes to post-Brexit farming policy and support payments are likely to result in an increasing number of farmers and landowners looking to diversify their businesses and potentially include visitor accommodation, camping and glamping. More experience based visitor attractions focused on outdoor activities and the natural environment are seen as key areas for growth. By their very nature such attractions may need to be sited in a rural rather than urban locations.

The Weston Placemaking Strategy sets out a new vision for the town as an experience-based economy comprising a vital and consolidated town centre and a thriving arts, culture and heritage sector. Weston is becoming a major stop along the English Coastal Path for walking, cycling and active tourism throughout the year. The aim is for a year-round visitor destination with quality but affordable overnight accommodation meeting demand for healthy and active tourism.

North Somerset Council declared a climate emergency in February 2019 and there is an increasing general awareness of the benefits of sustainable tourism and in particular of minimising the carbon footprint of visits. This means a shift to accommodation and attractions which can demonstrate achieving a low carbon footprint.

Both Brexit and the COVID 19 pandemic have caused significant challenges within the visitor economy from recruitment of workforce to business closures and redundancies. The North Somerset Visitor Economy Action Plan published in 2021 aims to put in place initiatives to redress this. Staycations have been made increasingly popular by the pandemic and additional appropriate high quality visitor accommodation such as 3* and above hotels family accommodation, quality budget accommodation in rural areas that is suited to outdoor based activities and camping/glamping sites. These will be supported to meet these changing demands where they meet climate change objectives and have no adverse impact on environmentally sensitive areas such as the Mendip Hills AONB, flood risk and they minimise the development of permanent structures and hardstandings.

Policy DP22: Visitor accommodation

New, improved or replacement visitor accommodation will be supported provided it is of an appropriate scale, improves the quality and variety of the visitor accommodation on offer and is capable of providing a high standard of accommodation in accordance with national quality assessment schemes.

Justification

The geographical location of North Somerset makes it an attractive tourist destination. Its combination of coastal setting, beautiful countryside, accessibility via the M5 and Bristol Airport, and close proximity to Bristol, the City of Bath, Cheddar Gorge, Wells and the rest of Somerset, as well as Devon and Cornwall, make it a versatile location which could appeal to a wide tourist market.

Weston-super-Mare has traditionally been the main tourist destination within the district but the majority of visitors to Weston are day trippers rather than people taking longer holidays requiring tourist accommodation.

The tourism focus for North Somerset is to promote and enhance its role as a centre for regional and sub-regional activities and events, protect existing visitor facilities, capitalise on its outstanding natural environment through its sustainable promotion of outdoor activities and pursuits and emphasis its excellent location as a base for exploring the other attractions within the sub-region.

Ensuring the provision of a range of good quality visitor accommodation is key to sustaining North Somerset's tourist industry and attracting visitors to the district for long breaks and annual holidays.

Policy DP63 sets out our approach to visitor accommodation in the countryside and to proposals for camping and caravanning.

Policy DP23: Town Centres

Within the town centres of Weston-super-Mare, Clevedon, Nailsea and Portishead as defined on the Policies Map:

  • Proposals for retail and other complementary uses at ground level which encourage footfall and create an attractive and vibrant centre will be supported;
  • Development should enhance the distinctive character of the town centre, reflecting the identity and heritage of individual buildings, shopfronts or streets;
  • Support will be given to higher densities and the diversification of uses guided by good design and placemaking principles, particularly proposals which retain or enhance street level interest and active frontages;
  • Support will be given for proposals which use land efficiently, support the residential use of upper floors and for the re-use of underused, poor quality or vacant land and buildings including appropriate temporary uses;
  • Developments should prioritise walking and cycling both into and within the town centre to create a legible and accessible town centre environment and improve accessibility by public transport;
  • Support will be given to developments which increase job, education and training opportunities; and
  • Support will be given to proposals which extend activities and interest into the evenings and night time in an way which is safe and enhances the character of the town centre.

In addition, requirements to apply to specific town centres are as follows:

Weston-super-Mare

Priority will be given to the re-use of underused sites.

Proposals which contribute to public realm enhancements, increase the attractiveness and accessibility of the town centre and promote better connectivity between the seafront and High Street will be supported.

Along and adjacent to the sea front priority will be given to entertainment, arts, culture and leisure uses, tourist facilities and accommodation. This includes development/redevelopment of the Tropicana. Proposals should not prejudice the viability and vitality of the Primary Shopping Area and should complement activities in the town centre.

Justification

The economic, social and environmental regeneration of town centres is a strategic objective of the local plan. This policy provides an overall framework for the assessment of development proposals in order to enhance viability and vitality through encouraging a range of uses with an emphasis of retaining their character and relevance as the heart of their communities.

The policy applies to all four town centres. These are also subject to placemaking studies which are at different stages of preparation. These placemaking studies will inform future iterations of the policy in relation to specific requirements and policy approaches.

Weston town centre has become the focus for investment with the redevelopment of Dolphin Square for leisure and hospitality uses and more recently through two Heritage Action Zones (HAZ) and the production of the Weston Placemaking Prospectus.

Much of Weston town centre lies within the Great Weston Conservation Area (Civic Quarter, High Street, Orchard Meadow and The Boulevard). Heritage plays an important role in creating an attractive and economically sustainable place. The restoration and improvement to the historic fabric such as the repair and re-use of historic buildings and enhancements to pedestrian and cycle routes into and around the town centre and to the seafront are important components of increasing the appeal of the Town Centre as a destination.

The Tropicana and Birnbeck Pier lying at either end of the seafront provide an important focus for uses and activities which can complement the town centre economy, extending the zone of activity out from the central area.

It sets out a vision and ambition for a ten-year programme of project delivery to help Weston become a healthier, greener, and more prosperous place to live, work and enjoy. It recognises the longer-term effects of the pandemic on the town centre and visitor economy and the move away from a retail focus of the town centre to become part of the visitor/experience economy and should be reflected in any development proposals for the town centre.

In particular it supports:

  • Encouraging housing on key sites and homes on upper floors.
  • Promoting independent retail and turning surplus retail space into homes, business premises, arts, cultural and community spaces.
  • More and better quality homes within the town centre area by rebuild and re-use for rent or sale including affordable homes and improving the offer of the private rental sector.
  • Identifying sustainable future uses for key buildings such as the Tropicana and Old Magistrate's Court.
  • New primary health services.
  • Repurposing of underused parts of the Sovereign Shopping Centre and car park.
  • Expansion of Weston College and University Centre Weston including additional student accommodation.
  • Carbon neutral infrastructure for safe cycling/walking and public transport, local renewable energy generation on buildings.
  • Rewilding planting routes down High Street and Orchard Street.

Development proposals for the town centre should reflect the ambitions of the Placemaking Prospectus.

Although lying at either end of the sea front and outside the town centre area the Tropicana and Birnbeck Pier provide important anchor points and a focus for uses and activities which can complement the town centre economy, extending the zone of activity out from the central area.

For Portishead, the Wyndham Way Area placemaking work will provide a framework for development within that part of the town centre area and proposals will be reflected in the local plan where appropriate.

Work has also commenced for placemaking strategies for Nailsea and Clevedon (Two Towns) which will also provide context for the Local Plan town centre policy.

Policy DP24: District centres

Within the district centres at Worle High Street, Locking Castle, Queensway and Hill  Road, Clevedon as defined on the Policies Map, proposals which increase the range of shopping and other appropriately scaled town centre uses will be supported.

Proposals for new retail floorspace  up to 500m2 will be supported. Larger proposals will need to  demonstrate that there would be no significant impact on the vitality and viability of the other centres and that there are no sequentially preferable sites   available elsewhere within the town.

Opportunities to improve access by cycling and walking and other improvements to the public realm should be taken where possible.

Residential and other appropriate active uses above shops will be supported.

At Hill Road, Clevedon specialist small scale shops, craft workshops, cafes and restaurants will be supported and the loss of uses outside of use class E on the street frontages will be resisted. Opportunities to increase outdoor café culture should be pursued and welcomed provided it does not hinder pedestrian access.

Justification

The district centres provide a range of shopping and other local services to the surrounding neighbourhood areas and the objective is to maintain and where possible expand the range of local shops and services serving these neighbourhoods.

Additional large out of town retail units, should be located in retail parks.

The policy recognises that the district centres vary in character and that a flexible approach will be required to ensure that they maximise their effectiveness to the local community.

Policy DP25: Local centres

Within the local centres as defined on the Policies Map, proposals for new small scale retail development which is appropriate to the scale of the settlement or neighbourhood will be  supported. Proposals for a net additional floorspace over 300m2 will not normally be acceptable unless it can be demonstrated there is no adverse impact on the viability, vitality and character of other centres.

Proposals for other appropriately scaled town centre uses such as local services facilities, meeting places and small scale leisure may also be appropriate within these centres.

Residential and other appropriate active uses above shops or other  commercial premises will be supported.

Where redevelopment or regeneration opportunities arise within local centres the needs of the local community for services, facilities and improve access by cycling and walking and other improvements to the public realm should be taken where possible.

Justification

The primary function of these centres is for local shopping, although several, particularly in the rural areas, function as the hub for a range of community, commercial and retail functions. It is important to maintain the viability and vitality of these local centres for the communities they serve whilst ensuring any new development is appropriate to the scale of the settlement or neighbourhood it is supporting.

The proposed local centres to support the new strategic developments at Wolvershill (north of Banwell) and Yanley Lane (Woodspring golf course) are also defined in this policy given their importance to the development of these new communities. Guidelines for the new local centres at these new communities will be set out in detailed masterplans for these areas.

Policy DP26: Primary shopping areas

The primary shopping areas of Weston-super-Mare, Clevedon, Nailsea and Portishead as defined on the Policies Map, are the preferred location for retail development falling within Class Ea) of the use class order. Other class E uses may be appropriate where they:

  • Make a positive contribution to the vitality, viability and diversity of the centre;
  • Contribute to local distinctiveness such as by reflecting the heritage/coastal location;
  • Encourage greater footfall in the town centre in particular better linkages between the seafront/dock and primary shopping areas; and
  • Extend the time frame of active uses to support the evening economy.

Other town centre uses will not normally be appropriate or supported.

Justification

Primary shopping areas have been defined for the towns of Weston-super-Mare, Clevedon, Nailsea and Portishead. These lie within the main town centre areas and will be the focus for new retail proposals.

Within these areas proposals for retail uses (class Ea) will be particularly supported in order to maintain a focus for shopping activity and legibility for town centre users. Other commercial, business and service sector uses (other E class uses) which support the retail focus and contribute to vitality of the primary shopping area may be appropriate in some circumstances as listed in the policy criteria. Other town centre uses which may be appropriate within the wider town centre area, but which may require greater floorspace or are more appropriate to a night time economy and would potentially detract from the focus of the primary shopping area will be resisted within the primary shopping areas.

All the town centres are subject to placemaking strategies.

Policy DP27: Retail Parks

Land at the retail parks is allocated for large scale retail uses over 500m2 (gross). Within the retail parks as defined on the Policies Map, all retail proposals (E(a) uses) will be required to:

  • Demonstrate that the sequential approach to retail proposals (E(a) use class) has been applied and no other suitable location is available; and
  • Provide robust justification setting out their specific locational requirements for a retail park location;
  • Demonstrate, for schemes over 2,500sqm (gross) of retail floorspace, that proposals do not harm the viability and vitality of any identified town or local centre through the submission of an impact assessment.

Proposals to extend or subdivide the floorspace of an existing unit (including the addition of mezzanine floors) for additional E(a) use will be permitted provided the proposal does not result in a separate retail unit of under 500m2.

Proposals for other Class E uses in the either within an existing unit, as an extension or as an independent unit will not generally be regarded as appropriate as these should be located in the primary shopping area, district centres or local centres.

Within these areas all developments will be required to:

  • Make a significant improvement to the overall built form of the area by the use of high-quality design of buildings, layout and landscaping;
  • Demonstrate that a co-ordinated approach has been developed with other retailers and businesses to ensure an improved layout of buildings and spaces including shared use of car parking and pedestrian links between buildings and the surrounding areas; and
  • Improvements to the public realm are included in the proposals.

Justification

The policy approach seeks to provide a balance between ensuring that residents have the opportunity to access a range of retailing opportunities whilst at the same time including safeguards to protect the role and function of other centres. They provide the opportunity for large scale retail units which cannot be accommodated in the primary shopping area to locate in the town and therefore not lost to other towns provided they do not have a significant impact on the primary shopping area.

Policy DP28: Sequential approach for town centre uses

A sequential approach to town centre uses development will be applied. New proposals for town centre uses which comply with the approach will be acceptable in principle.

A sequential test will be required for retail developments as specified in the following tables.

Retail Proposals

Size of proposal

Sequential preference and tests required

 

First priority:

No Sequential Test required

Second Preference:

Sequential Test required

Third Preference:

Sequential Test required

Under 200m2

No sequential test or impact assessment is required

Weston-Super-Mare

Retail Uses (Use Class Ea)

200m2-299m2

Primary shopping area or

District Centre or

Local Centre

Elsewhere within the town centre or adjacent to other centres

 

300m2-499m2

Primary shopping area or

District Centre

Elsewhere within the town centre or adjacent to other centres

 

Over 500m2

Primary Shopping area

Defined retail parks

Elsewhere within the defined town centre

Portishead

200m2-299m2

Primary Shopping area or local centre

Elsewhere in town centre or adjacent to local centre

 

Over 300m2

 

Primary shopping area

Elsewhere within the town centre

 

Clevedon

200m2-499m2

Primary shopping area or district centre

Adjacent to town or district centre

 

Over 500m2

Primary shopping area

Adjacent to town or district centre

Retail Park at Strode Road

Nailsea

Over 200m2

Within Town Centre

Adjacent to the town centre

 

 

For the retail proposal to be acceptable the sequential test must demonstrate that there are no sequentially preferable sites available. Only for retail developments over 2,500sqm (gross), an impact assessment must be undertaken that shows that the proposal will not have a significant adverse impact on the primary shopping area, and/or town district or local centre as appropriate.

The primary shopping areas will be maintained as the focus for shopping. Additional local retail proposals of up to 300m2 at the defined local centres and 500m2 at the district centres will also be supported.

When considering adjacent to centre and out-of-centre proposals, preference should be given to accessible sites, which are well connected to the town centre or other centres.

Other main town centre uses

Proposals for other main town centre uses outside of the defined centres or not on allocated sites will need to demonstrate that a sequential test has been applied, giving priority to sites within town or district centres, or failing this, sites on the edge of these centres proving that the proposal could not be accommodated within the aforementioned areas and that the proposal does not significantly impact individually or cumulatively on the vitality and viability of existing and proposed centres and offer significant benefits.

This sequential approach should not be applied to applications for small scale rural retail or other main town centre proposals within settlement boundaries of rural settlements.

Justification

NPPF advises that local planning authorities should apply a sequential approach to the assessment of main town centre proposals. The various spatial components of the hierarchy (primary shopping area, district centre, local centre, town centre and retail parks) are defined on the Policies Map.

The town centre and primary shopping areas at Clevedon and Nailsea are synonymous.

This policy sets out how the sequential test will be applied and when sequential and impact assessments will be required. The assessment is based on the size of the proposal.

At Portishead a two-tier sequential approach will be applied which prioritises the primary shopping area followed by the rest of the town centre area.

'Adjacent to the centre' is generally regarded to be within 300m of the boundary.

At Clevedon the following order of preference should be used when applying the sequential test for retail development:

● Within the town centre boundary

● At Hill Road district centre

● Strode Road retail park.

At Nailsea all new retail development should ideally be located within the town centre. Should it be demonstrated that no suitable site was available within the town centre boundary then sites immediately adjacent to the town centre would need to be considered as the next priority.

Policy DP29: Control of non-mineral development

Proposals for non-mineral development close to (generally within about 500m of the boundary of) carboniferous limestone mineral working sites which are active or recently granted consent for mineral working, including ancillary activities, will not be supported where, due to their nature and location, they would be likely to impair mineral working activities of such sites, unless satisfactory mitigation measures can be identified.

Justification

There is a risk of mineral operations being impaired (such as adversely affected or highly restricted) by encroachment of non-minerals development, with associated implications, such as potential for noise problems etc. This might apply to building of dwellings close to them, for example.

The NPPG on minerals paragraph 018 seems to refer to buffer zones as a possible solution to such issues. However, it indicates that buffer zones would need to be based on site specific assessments. It is considered that Policy DP29 offers a more flexible and therefore better approach than designation of buffer zones. The guide distance of about 500m is considered appropriate for carboniferous limestone sites having regard to the need for blasting and other elements of working such sites.

'Recently granted consent for mineral working' would be interpreted as within five years of planning consent being granted.

Policy DP30: Mineral working exploration, extraction and processing

In considering proposals for mineral working, including all stages, such as exploration, testing and production, extraction and processing, decommissioning, restoration and aftercare, and including on-shore oil and gas, such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking), regard will be had to the following:

  • Consideration of the need for the development;
  • The existence of allocated areas for mineral working such as Preferred Areas or Areas of Search;
  • Evidence that the mineral resource is present at the location and that it is physically and economically practicable and environmentally acceptable to work; and
  • Any potential impacts on living conditions, human health, public safety, and the natural and historic environment, including impacts concerning visual quality, landscape, biodiversity, historic assets, traffic and the local road network, water resources, contamination, land pollution, air pollution including dust, noise, vibrations, air blast, flyrock, risk of flooding, land stability, seismic activity, tip and quarry slope stability, and measures to prevent or minimise any potential problems.

Proposals should be supported by adequate evidence that the development is needed and justified, and that potential impacts have been satisfactorily investigated and addressed. Proposals must not have unacceptable impacts and should satisfactorily mitigate any adverse impacts. This should include consideration of any cumulative effects of multiple impacts from individual sites and/or a number of sites in a locality.

Where investigations identify a need for safeguards or mitigation appropriate conditions may be imposed, or agreements sought.

Adequate measures must be taken to ensure minimum waste of resources during extraction and processing, and that any waste material generated is used for a productive purpose where economically viableor, where this is not possible, safely disposed of.

The Council will normally require mineral working and restoration to be carried out in phases, with a view to minimising potential impacts.

A high quality of decommissioning (where relevant), restoration and satisfactory after-use of the land, for an appropriate use or uses to be agreed, will be required. Appropriate conditions may be imposed, or agreements sought.

Restoration should be carried out, at the earliest possible opportunity, to a timescale to be agreed with the Council and completed without delay. In appropriate cases, such as at carboniferous limestone sites, there should normally be phased restoration to occur alongside and integrated with the extraction, so that restoration is not left until extraction on the site has completed.

In the case of proposals for oil or gas development, in addition to the above requirements, the applicant should demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Council that:

  • Well sites and associated facilities would be sited in the least sensitive location from which the target reservoir can be accessed, including exploration;
  • A full appraisal of the oil and /or gas resource has been carried out; and
  • A satisfactory development framework for the site has been produced, including justification for the number and extent of the proposed production facilities and an assessment of the proposals' economic impacts.

Justification

NPPF paragraph 210 (f) requires local authorities to 'set out criteria or requirements to ensure that permitted and proposed operations do not have unacceptable adverse impacts on the natural and historic environment or human health, taking into account the cumulative effects of multiple impacts from individual sites and/or a number of sites in a locality'.

Currently minerals working in North Somerset primarily involves extraction of carboniferous limestone. However, it is appropriate to cover onshore oil and gas, including hydraulic fracturing, in the policy, since the NPPF includes oil and gas in its definition of minerals resources of local and national importance.

The criteria include the need to consider potential impacts on a number of issues including landscape, biodiversity, water resources, etc.

The Council is concerned about the potential impact of minerals sites being left unworked and unrestored for long periods and will encourage all operators to try to reduce the likelihood of this occurring. The policy stresses the need for restoration to be carried out in the shortest possible time, at the earliest opportunity, to a timescale to be agreed with the Council.

The policy includes a need criterion. The Council will have regard to factors such as the landbank for crushed rock, land allocations and the deliverability of existing permitted reserves, in considering the need issue for planning applications. The Local Plan includes some allocated areas for mineral working, notably to facilitate extensions to existing quarries; (see policies LP15 and LP16). The Council will monitor the landbank annually and aim to maintain a ten-year landbank, as indicated in policy SP12.

Oil and gas development, including hydraulic fracturing, is subject to a very robust system of regulation, of which the requirement for planning permission from the local authority is only one part. The regulation system covers a wide range of issues such as the potential impacts listed in the policy.

The regulation system includes (for on-shore development) the requirement for the would-be operator to secure a Petroleum Licence (PL) from the government (Department of Energy and Climate Change), as the first stage in a multi-stage process. The PLs give exclusive rights for exploration and extraction of oil and gas resources to the licence holder within a defined area. However, PLs do not give consent to drill or undertake any other form of operations.

In order to drill an onshore oil or gas well (including exploration wells), in addition to a PL, potential operators need planning permission from the local authority, for which the Environment Agency is likely to be consulted

The Environment Agency also has a regulatory role regarding the issue of appropriate permits, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are responsible for enforcing legislation on well design and construction. The Council will need to seek advice from those bodies that such issues can or will be adequately addressed before granting planning consent. Final development consent for drilling a well is required from DECC, once other permissions and approvals are in place.