Local Plan 2036: Issues and Options Stage

1. North Somerset Local Plan 2036: Issues and Options Document

Potential new policy areas

What are the existing planning policies?

Core Strategy
The Core Strategy currently sets the strategic context for planning in North Somerset up to 2026 and was fully adopted in January 2017. This document will be superseded by the Joint Spatial Plan. The high level policies within the Core Strategy will be reassessed through the Local Plan 2036.

Development management policies
Development management policies are the detailed policies used when assessing a range of planning applications and development proposals. They cover a range of issues including design, density, housing, transport, economy, historic environment, development in the countryside, community uses, tourism, green infrastructure and protection of green space and town centre and retailing. The existing Development Management Policies Plan was adopted in July 2016 and the policies are generally up-to-date and can be carried forward into the Local Plan 2036. Some of these policies may need to be reviewed and updated if national guidance or local circumstances have changed.

Site Allocations Plan
The Site Allocations Plan was adopted in April 2018. Despite being very recently adopted a number of the policies in this plan will need to be reviewed and updated to reflect the new housing and employment requirement set out in the Joint Spatial Plan.

What new policies will be needed in the Local Plan 2036
In this section we set out specific areas of policy, which we are seeking your views on at this stage in the consultation. This is because we are intending to introduce new policies or new approaches to existing policies to respond to changes in planning legislation, national guidance or changing local circumstances.

Self-Build Policy
The Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 (as amended) requires authorities to hold a register of persons seeking to acquire land to build their own homes and to give suitable development permissions in respect of enough serviced plots to meet the demand for self-build as evidenced by the number of persons on an authority’s self-build register. North Somerset Council established its self-build and custom housebuilding register in October 2017.

North Somerset’s development plan currently encourages self-build under Policy DM34: Housing Type and mix, however there is no specific policy that seeks to deliver permissioned and serviced plots for self-builders to meet an evidenced demand.

We will therefore explore options for facilitating self-build as a means of housing delivery. This could be through the allocation of housing sites specifically for self-build plots, requiring a proportion of self-build plots on residential schemes of a certain size, or a combination of both.

Question 40:

Are there any other options for how the Local Plan can deliver self-build and custom housing schemes?

Affordable housing
Within the current development plan policy CS16: Affordable Housing seeks 30% of all housing on sites of 10 dwellings or more to be affordable housing and an off site contribution on sites between 5-9 units. However, there have been a number of changes to affordable housing guidance at a national and regional level which would require us to review our existing policy approach.

Firstly, a Written Ministerial Statement was published in November 2015, which states that affordable housing contributions should not be requested on sites of 10 dwellings or less. Therefore North Somerset Council have been seeking affordable housing on sites of 11 or more dwellings. Secondly, Policy 3: The Affordable Housing Target in the draft Joint Spatial Plan identifies a minimum target of 35% affordable housing to be delivered on sites of 5 dwellings or more, and thirdly the new NPPF includes changes to the definitions of affordable housing, including the introduction of entry level exception sites. The new Local Plan will have to review its affordable housing policies to reflect these changes.

Question 41:

Do you have any views on the review of affordable housing policies?

Woodland neighbourhoods
Parts of the Green Belt are home to groups of residential properties in a woodland setting such as Cadbury Camp Lane and West Hill, north of Nailsea. These are not villages, they have few, if any, services and are not included in the settlement hierarchy. Issues often arise concerning extensions to properties in these ‘Woodland Neighbourhoods’ particularly in assessing what is disproportionate. Often the housing is secluded and within large grounds. Large extensions often have little impact on the Green Belt. Within these areas it is proposed that a more relaxed approach to larger extensions be applied.

Question 42:

Do you have any views on our intended approach to Woodland Neighbourhoods?

Health impact assessments
The impact of development on human health and wellbeing is a material consideration in the determination of planning applications. The National Planning Policy Framework (March 2012) recognises that supporting the health, social and cultural wellbeing of communities is part of the social role of planning in delivering sustainable development.

Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) give valuable information not only about potential effects of proposed development on health, but also how to manage them. They provide the opportunity to change the design of a proposed development to protect and improve health. Health Impacts Assessments are currently required through policy CS26: Supporting Healthy Living and the provision of healthcare facilities on all ‘large-scale developments in the district’.

It is proposed to have a specific policy on HIAs in the Local Plan 2036 which provides more detail on exactly when HIAs will be required and what will be expected as part of the HIA process. A more detailed policy will give better clarity to applicants at the start of the planning application process in terms of what would be required as part of the application and will result in health impacts being considered at the start of the process.

Question 43: 

Do you have any views on our intended approach to Health Impact Assessments?

Climate change
Tackling climate change is a long-standing priority in the UK, which is reflected in the Climate Change Act 2008. This sets out legally binding carbon reduction targets.

The council is committed to reducing carbon emissions and adopted a carbon reduction target in April 2018, of 50% reduction in emissions by 2035 (from a 2014 baseline). Given the scale of development in North Somerset over the plan period 2018 – 2036, planning policies will need to demonstrate how they contribute to meeting this target. Development should demonstrate a commitment to reducing emissions, including minimising energy demand through good design, utilising renewable and low carbon forms of energy generation.

As a result of this requirement, we need to update and upgrade our current climate change policies.

Adopted Core Strategy policies CS1 and CS2 are the principal policies relating to climate change in the Core Strategy. The first is an overarching policy to address a range of issues relating to climate change and the second is the policy to specifically address sustainability in new construction. It is proposed that these policies are merged in the Local Plan. There will be other distinct policies which relate to climate change, including sustainable travel, flood risk policies and those relating to green infrastructure and biodiversity. The move to a multi-modal enabled transport system with accessible, frequent and reliable bus, rail and mass transit services are a key element of the sustainable travel opportunity.

The Joint Spatial Plan sets the aspiration to deliver an efficient low carbon economy. The aspiration is to minimise energy demand and maximise the use of renewable energy, where viable meeting all demands for heat and power without increasing carbon emissions. The four West of England authorities have commissioned a study to assess the potential for development to be built to a zero-carbon standard. It will set out the viability of reaching different carbon reduction measures now and in future years for different development types. This
technical report will be available to inform the climate change policy of the draft version of the Local Plan.

The new draft climate change policy will also include measures to address climate change adaptation, such as requirements to prevent overheating. Other policies such as flood risk, biodiversity and green infrastructure which contribute to climate change adaptation will be covered within the plan.

We would like to gain views on how new development should meet a given carbon reduction requirement. Feedback on the following is sought:

Question 44:

Should a new policy aspire to net zero carbon new development?

Question 45:

Should a new policy require a significant increase in the use of renewable and low carbon energy generation? (currently 10% for 1-9 dwellings and 15% for 10 and more dwellings)

Question 46.

Should the Local Plan identify suitable land for large-scale renewable energy development to support new development?

Question 47:

Where a new policy sets a % reduction in carbon emissions, if it is deemed this cannot be met on-site, should it introduce a mechanism to collect off-site carbon-emission payments?

Flood risk
National policy requires many developments in areas at higher risk of flooding to demonstrate wider sustainability benefits to the community that outweigh flood risk. These benefits might include, for example, urban regeneration. Such developments must in any case be safe for their lifetime and not increase flood risk elsewhere. The issue for the new Local Plan is how ‘wider sustainability benefits’ are understood in the light of local objectives. Much of Clevedon, Portishead and Weston-super-Mare in principle at risk from tidal flooding is in
practice protected by flood defences. These towns therefore have the potential to contribute significantly to delivering the urban living agenda.

The new Local Plan could be explicit that the development of urban sites within areas benefiting from defences is normally a wider sustainability benefit to the community that outweighs flood risk. There could be localised reasons why this rule would not apply, such as site-specific problems with drainage. Currently the balancing of benefits against risk is done on a case-by-case basis with very limited policy support. The regeneration argument is strongest for sites in the older parts of the towns but there are many infill sites in the newer parts that would not be approved under the existing policy. This is not because the development would be unsafe but because there is no explicit policy support for it to be allowed within a higher risk flood zone.

Some villages are also within areas benefiting from defences but it is not proposed to extend the new approach beyond the towns. Smaller settlements are not so high a priority for development or for the maintenance and improvement of flood defences, which in view of climate change could require significant investment to maintain the current standard of protection. In such areas, the frequency of flooding may therefore increase and it would not be appropriate to encourage development.

Question 48:

Do you have any views on our intended approach to flood risk?

Development on previously developed land in the countryside
The current policy approach supports the redevelopment of previously-developed land in the countryside for economic development, but is silent on the approach to take to other uses, including residential. It is suggested that this support in principle for economic uses will be retained, and also to extend this to community facilities such as schools and community halls where well related to settlements in order to enhance access for rural communities. Should this principle be extended to residential development? One approach would be to support rural housing on sites in close proximity to nearby settlements but only where other uses have been sought first and have been ruled out, and where the new housing provision could function sustainably in the context of the wider area.

Question 49:

Do you have any views on our intended approach to development on previously developed land in the countryside? What type of sites may be suitable for residential redevelopment?

Holiday accommodation in the countryside
Planning policies have traditionally tried to restrict residential development in isolated locations in the countryside which are considered unsustainable. This has included restricting, through the use of planning conditions, the change of use of holiday accommodation to residential use. However, permitted development rights introduced in 2015 now allow the change of use of agricultural buildings to residential use resulting in more flexibility in the planning system in terms of the conversion and re-use of isolated rural buildings in the countryside. The new Local Plan will need to address this issue through a review of policies DM45: The conversion or re-use of rural buildings to residential use and DM57: Conversion, reuse and new build for visitor accommodation in the countryside.

Question 50:

Do you have any views on the conversion of holiday accommodation to residential use in the countryside? What approach should future policies take?

The new Local Plan will cover minerals. There will need to be a review of existing minerals policies including development management policies such as DM14 on mineral working (including limestone and on-shore oil and gas) for example. There will also be a need to review the required level of provision of crushed rock for North Somerset. The existing level of provision to 2026 is set out in policy CS8 of the adopted Core Strategy; the new Local Plan will need to determine the level of provision to 2036.

In reviewing the level of provision, the council is likely to need to liaise with South Gloucestershire Council, because limestone quarries in North Somerset and South Gloucestershire together produce primary crushed rock aggregate which go towards meeting the level of provision for the West of England (WoE).

Question 51:

Do you have any views on our approach to minerals?

Electric vehicle charging points
The use of electric vehicles is a key measure in reducing emissions and the provision of infrastructure to facilitate and stimulate this change is essential. Growth in the uptake of plug-in vehicles is growing significantly and it is important that developers recognise and respond to this change.

The North Somerset Local Plan 2036 seeks to support the use of sustainable forms of transport, this includes the use of electric vehicles. In order to support the use of such vehicles the necessary infrastructure will need to be put in place. We are considering the inclusion of specific standards for the requirement of electric vehicle charging points. This includes:

  • Investigating the need to set specific standards to allow people to charge their vehicles at home and when they travel to a destination.
  • Considering what percentage of the requirement is to be fully operational and what capacity should be built in to allow for future
    provision to be easily made fully operational in the future.

Question 52:

What are your views on our proposed policy approach to electric vehicle charging points?

Green infrastructure
The Joint Spatial Plan emphasises the importance of the green infrastructure network in term of delivering multiple benefits for people, the environment and place-making. The West of England authorities are jointly preparing a Green Infrastructure Plan to co-ordinate the approach to strategic issues and identify best practice for inclusion in Local Plans. This will include the investigation of the use of a Natural Capital approach which seeks to identify the stock of natural assets such as parks and gardens which provide benefits to people, identify their financial value and quantify their benefits over time.

Environmental, and ecological mitigation: At the strategic development locations mitigation may be required to ensure surface water is effectively managed, and wider ecological impacts are suitably addressed. There is an opportunity through the Local Plan to address these issues comprehensively. This could take the form of a strategic solution to catchment based water management, habitat creation
for wildlife, and recreational benefits that can facilitate the delivery of all of the strategic sites in North Somerset.

The potential exists to create a broad ecological zone linking existing key habitats in North Somerset and provide a connected network of habitats linked to sites of ecological importance. This would also link with opportunities for leisure, recreation and environmental education. One potential opportunity would be in the vicinity of the Strawberry Line generally between Churchill and Congresbury,
and linking habitats between the levels and the Mendip Hills.

Question 53:

What are your views on our proposed approach to Green Infrastructure?

Question 54:

Are there any other policy areas you feel need to be considered – either new policies, or amendments to an existing policy?