Site Allocations Plan - Main Modifications Consultation

Document Section Site Allocations Plan - Main Modifications Consultation MM2 [View all comments on this section]
Comment ID 16123553//1
Respondent Deleted User [View all comments by this respondent]
Agent GL Hearn (Henderson)
Response Date 30 Oct 2017

This proposed main modification seeks to combine Policies SA4 – 6 of the SAP Publication Version into a single policy. In practice MM2 constitutes a complete re-draft of the employment section of the SAP Publication Version and introduces new policy that conflicts with both the policy and the sentiment of the Core Strategy.

SAP Publication Version Policies SA4, SA5 and SA6 respectively apply to land allocated for new business development (SA4), existing employment sites (SA5) and land in existing economic use (SA6). Policies SA4 and SA5 are each supported by a schedule (Schedules 2 and 3 respectively) which define the sites allocated for new business development (Schedule 2) and existing employment sites safeguarded for business development (Schedule 3). The specific terminology used for each policy is significant. Whereas SA4 and SA5 both define ‘business development’ as comprising Use Classes B1, B2, and B8, Policy SA6 applies explicitly to land in existing "economic use" and which therefore encompasses a wider range of uses than solely Class B1, B2 and B8, with the criteria of Policy SA6 therefore applied on that basis. Additionally, Policy SA6 sites are not identified or defined within a schedule.

MM2 fundamentally changes this policy approach by referring specifically, and therefore applying specifically (other than if otherwise set out in proposed Schedule 2), to B1–B8 ‘business employment areas’ and setting criteria for non B1–B8 development.

This approach does not align with Core Strategy Policy CS20, which refers variously to ‘employment opportunities’, ‘economic development’ and ‘economic use’, but does not define any of these as being limited to B1 – B8 uses only.

Moreover, the inclusion of "B1 – B8 business employment areas" within the policy will mean that criterion i) of SA4 (MM2) could not be satisfied unless existing employment areas are specifically defined. However, there is no schedule defining existing employment areas proposed by the Main Modifications.

Criterion i) of SA4 (MM2) requires the proposed redevelopment of any Class B1–B8 use to a non B1–B8 use to demonstrate that there would be no harm to the range or quality of land and premises  available for business use within existing employment areas. In the absence of defined employment areas, compliance with criterion i) is unachievable because the loss of an existing B1–B8 use would by definition harm the range of land and premises available for business use. Additionally, because Policy SA4 (MM2) requires all criteria to be demonstrated the automatic failure to demonstrate compliance with criterion i) would render the remaining criteria obsolete. That cannot be the intent or purpose of Policy SA4, and does not accord with the Core Strategy, including Policies CS20, CS21 and CS31, or national policy.

Criterion iii) of SA4 (MM2) includes the term ‘incompatible development’ but there is no definition of ‘incompatible’ despite the significance of the term to the consideration of potential redevelopment proposals that offer regeneration and economic growth – such as envisaged by criterion iv) of SA4 (MM2) – as well as significant environmental, amenity and sustainability benefits. Hence whilst the second-half of criterion iii) recognises sustainable development benefits arising from the redevelopment of a site can outweigh its Class B1–B8 employment use, that recognition is only triggered if the site is either "no longer capable of offering accommodation for business use development" or the site’s existing use is deemed ‘incompatible’.

In respect of the capability of a site to offer accommodation for business use development, the effect of this requirement would be to preclude existing Class B1–B8 sites from redevelopment, irrespective of whether such redevelopment provided economic growth, sustainable development, mixed use development or other objectives of national policy or the NSC Core Strategy.

The effect of Criterion iii) of SA4 (MM2) therefore is to impose inappropriate and unjustified constraints on the delivery of Core Strategy objectives and policy. That cannot be considered sound.

As a minimum before SA4 could be considered sound ‘existing B1 – B8 business employment areas’ should to be defined and the policy criteria reviewed and re-drafted to provide criteria that accord with the Core Strategy; are relevant to the matter to which they are intended; are coherent; and, applicable individually rather than collectively.

Additionally, the definition of existing B1-B8 business employment areas to which Policy SA4 (MM2) would then apply must recognise the objectives of the Core Strategy and existing adopted policy designed to deliver those objectives, including Policies CS21 and CS31 of the Core Strategy and Policy DM60 of the Sites and Policies Plan, Part 1.

Policy CS21 of the Core Strategy encourages and supports the regeneration of town centres, including Portishead, providing proposals meet criteria relating to:

  • The scale of the development relative to the size and role of the centre;
  • The creation of a comfortable, safe, attractive and accessible shopping environment;
  • Improve the mix of town centre uses.

CS21 also sets out that retail centres will be defined "exactly" by the Sites and Policies DPD, with the purpose of retaining "the predominance of town centre uses in general and retail uses in particular."

Policy CS31 of the Core Strategy provides the ‘area policy’ for Portishead as well as the other town centres of Clevedon and Nailsea. The policy requires Portishead to "maintain and enhance" its role providing facilities, employment opportunities and services. Alternative uses on existing employment sites are accepted "where they are shown to address other identified community benefits and do not have an adverse impact on the quality and range of sites and premises available for business use".

It must be the case that regeneration within Portishead Town Centre, providing new retail and an improved mix of town centre uses, as expected, encouraged and supported by Policy CS21, cannot be effectively nullified by either Policy CS31 or by proposed SA4 (MM2).

Additionally, Policy DM60 of the adopted NSC Development Management Policies: Sites and Policies Plan, Part 1, says proposals for main town centre uses within the town centre will, in principle, be supported provided they contribute to the improvement of the town centre. Whilst ‘improvement’ in the context of the policy is not specifically defined, Policy DM60 provides criteria against which proposals are expected to be assessed, including:

- Increase the activity and footfall in the centre, including supporting the evening economy

- Secure the redevelopment or improvement of buildings, features or areas which detract from the quality or appearance of the centre

- Enhance the mix or quality of uses at the centre

- Enhance the built environment and public realm

- Do not prejudice the delivery of proposed redevelopment schemes

- Retain or increase the amount and quality of public car parking spaces available

Notably there is no criterion relating to the protection of (or otherwise resisting the loss of, or requiring re-provision for) existing Class B1–B8 uses.

SA4 (MM2) should therefore either not apply to town centre sites, or should recognise that within town centres different criteria will apply to the potential loss of existing B1–B8 uses.

Specifically in respect of the Old Mill Road site, MM2 introduces new policy that would be applicable to the site (albeit the proposed policy will be inconsistent with both core policy and the principles of the use of the site for mixed use as set out by emerging SAP Schedule 1) the effect of which will be to negate the site’s economic development potential, preclude the delivery of Core Strategy objectives and policy and unnecessarily put at risk the delivery of the Old Mill Road site for mixed-use development appropriate to its town centre location and including the delivery of a significant number of new dwellings.

Schedule 1: Old Mill Road

The only proposed modification to Schedule 1 in respect of the Old Mill Road site set out by the main modifications documents concerns a change to the text describing the quantum of residential at the site. In respect of employment provision, Schedule 1 retains a requirement for "existing businesses to be relocated or incorporated into redevelopment scheme" and that "no net loss of employment capacity will be supported" which was introduced as a proposed modification to Schedule 1 by SD20, but which has not been subject to any formal consultation.

Neither MM2 and its implications for the Old Mill Road site, or the continuing inclusion of the specific employment related wording for the Old Mill Road site within Schedule 1, is supported by any evidence demonstrating or justifying the Council’s intentions to protect Class B uses at the site. No evidence was evident prior to the submission of the SAP Publication Version, and no evidence has been provided through the examination process or the main modifications exercise.