Core Strategy-Examination into consequential changes of remaining remitted policies Proposed main modifications

Document Section Core Strategy-Examination into consequential changes of remaining remitted policies Proposed main modifications Policy CS28, Modification CC-MM04 [View all comments on this section]
Comment ID 11854273//1
Respondent Deleted User [View all comments by this respondent]
Agent Tom Rocke
Response Date 05 Sep 2016

The requirement for main modifications to the Other Remitted Policies has arisen principally from concerns raised by the Inspector at the Examination regarding the deliverability of the overall housing requirement, and in particular the potential constraints at Weston-super-Mare which is to contribute substantially to delivering the district’s overall requirement. In consequence, in order to find the plan sound, the Inspector indicated that main modifications were required to introduce greater flexibility into the policy framework.

One of the issues considered at the Examination was the potential contribution of sustainable development opportunities on sites outside the settlement boundary of Weston-super-Mare and the Weston Villages in locations that in planning policy terms are treated as open countryside, but are more sustainably located in relation to employment and other social and community infrastructure than development at the service villages (Policy CS32) or the smaller settlements (Policy CS33). A case in point relates to the Weston Business Park.

The Council’s proposition at the Examination was to consider how such opportunities could be accommodated through greater flexibility to the policy provisions for Weston-super-Mare (Policy CS28) rather than a relaxation of constraints on development in open countryside (Policy CS33). However, the Main Modifications introduce little flexibility to accommodate such sustainable development opportunities.

Whilst the policy now refers to development ‘at’ Weston-super-Mare, it is not permissive of proposals that are outside but not ‘adjoining’ the settlement boundary. The policy should be clarified to allow for sustainable development opportunities outside the development boundary of Weston-super-Mare and the Villages, but that are well related to them.

The requirement for residential proposals outside the settlement boundary in excess of about 75 dwellings to be brought forward as allocations through Local Plans or Neighbourhood Development Plans, should be deleted. It is for a local planning authority to decide through its LDS which Development Plan Documents it intends to prepare, and whether sites are to be brought forward through a Site Allocations DPD or through criteria-based policies. To include a requirement for sites above a certain scale to be brought forward as site allocations is therefore pre-empting the local planning authority’s approach that is properly determined through its LDS.

Moreover, the requirement for sites above about 75 dwellings to be brought forward as allocations could be prejudicial to delivery of the overall requirement in circumstances where preparation of a Site Allocations Plan is delayed or is not progressed in a timely manner. Under such circumstances it would be inappropriate, and indeed perverse, for a development proposal that is intended to meet objectively assessed needs set out in strategic policy, and that may be necessary to maintain the five year land supply on the basis of the strategic provisions, to be held to be in conflict with same simply because it is brought forward in advance of a specific allocation in a lower order plan. That is likely to encourage, rather than reduce, the need for Appeals.

Finally, having regard to the specific circumstances of the current case, where half of the Core Strategy period has elapsed, a significant uplift in the housing requirement has been added, and there is a significant backlog which the Inspector has advised the Council must be added to the five year requirement not least because there is evidence of a further substantial uplift in the housing requirement pending, there is no time to lose. Should there be similar difficulties and delays in progressing the Site Allocations Plan to adoption, as has beset the Core Strategy, there is a real risk that the Core Strategy requirement will not be met, the backlog will worsen, and the evidenced housing need in the district as a whole will become even more acute.

The requirement for sites exceeding about 75 dwellings to await allocation in a Development Plan Document is therefore inflexible. Inclusion of such a requirement means that the plan would not be ‘positively-prepared’ and would risk being ‘ineffective’. Ipso facto, the plan would be ‘unsound’. Moreover, given that it is a core planning principle that the planning system should be genuinely ‘plan-led’, it is unnecessary. However, necessary development should not be held up pending allocations to meet the strategic requirement, and which could encourage smaller scale, piecemeal proposals to circumvent the strategic requirement.

Notwithstanding, and without prejudice to, the foregoing, if it is held that development proposals above a certain size threshold should, under normal circumstances, be brought forward through site allocations, the threshold should be increased to a minimum of 150 dwellings.

Suggested changes

Modify the policy to confirm that sustainable development opportunities at Weston-super-Mare that do not adjoin the settlement boundary but are well related to urban area, including the Weston Villages, will be considered favourably.

Remove requirement for proposals outside settlement boundaries in excess of about 75 dwellings to be brought forward through allocations in Development Plans.

In the alternative, increase the threshold scale of development requiring to be brought forward through allocations in Development Plans to about 150 dwellings.