Local Plan 2036: Issues and Options Stage

2. North Somerset Local Plan 2036 Sustainability Appraisal: Scoping Report


1. Introduction

1.1 North Somerset Council is currently preparing a new Local Plan which will be one of the principal Development Plan Documents (DPD) for the administrative area of North Somerset for the period 2018 to 2036. This document will review and, once adopted, replace the following existing local plans:

  • Core Strategy 2006 - 2026
  • Development Management Policies - Sites and Policies Plan Part 1
  • Site Allocations Plan - Sites and Policies Plan Part 2

1.2 This Scoping Report provides the framework for the sustainability appraisal of the North Somerset Local Plan. This Scoping Report draws on the information collated for the Scoping Reports produced previously for the above Local Plan documents. It also draws upon the Scoping Report for the West of England Joint Spatial Plan, which was produced in 2015. The information contained within these reports has been reviewed and updated where necessary.

1.3 The council is working with the three other West of England unitary authorities to prepare the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP). The JSP will set out the overall amount of new residential and employment development, and where it should be located across the West of England sub-region, as well as the strategic infrastructure required to support that growth.

1.4 Part of the purpose of the new Local Plan will be to allocate sites for strategic development at the broad locations identified in the JSP, as well as to allocate new sites for non-strategic development in the local authority area. The Local Plan will also set out the suite of planning policies that will be used to deliver sustainable development in North Somerset.

Sustainable Development

1.5 National legislation and the Government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) require that local plans are prepared with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development. Through their plans, local planning authorities should seek opportunities to achieve each of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development with net gains across all three. Significant adverse impacts on any of these dimensions should be avoided and, wherever possible, alternative options which reduce or eliminate such impacts should be pursued.

1.6 The term 'sustainable development' originates from the Brundtland Commission Report of the World Commission of Environment and Development in 1987, which defined sustainable development as:

"Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".

1.7 The Government has developed a strategy for sustainable development that sets out the following guiding principles:

  • Living within environmental limits;
  • Ensuring a strong, healthy and just society;
  • Achieving a sustainable economy;
  • Promoting good governance; and
  • Using sound science responsibly.

1.8 It has also identified four priority areas for immediate action across the UK:

  • Sustainable consumption and production;
  • Climate change and energy;
  • Natural resource protection and environmental management;
  • Sustainable communities.

1.9 The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out the Government's view of what sustainable development in England means in practice for the planning system. It identifies three dimensions to sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. These dimensions give rise to the need for the planning system to perform several mutually dependent roles which work simultaneously with one another:

a) an economic objective - to help build a strong, responsive and competitive economy, by ensuring that sufficient land of the right types is available in the right places and at the right time to support growth, innovation and improved productivity; and by identifying and coordinating the provision of infrastructure;

b) a social objective - to support strong, vibrant and healthy communities, by ensuring that a sufficient number and range of homes can be provided to meet the needs of present and future generations; and by fostering a well-designed and safe built environment, with accessible services and open spaces that reflect current and future needs and support communities' health, social and cultural well-being; and

c) an environmental objective - to contribute to protecting and enhancing our natural, built and historic environment; including making effective use of land, helping to improve biodiversity, using natural resources prudently, minimising waste and pollution, and mitigating and adapting to climate change, including moving to a low carbon economy.

Strategic Environmental Assessment

1.10 Under the European Directive 2001/42/EC (known as the SEA Directive) local authorities are required to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of major land use planning documents.

1.11 The purpose of SEA is to consider issues such as biodiversity, population, human health, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, and material assets, cultural heritage, including architectural and archaeological heritage, and landscape (as well as the interrelationship between these) and to determine how the council's policies could influence each, identifying any likely significant effects on the environment.

1.12 By considering these issues in detail, SEA seeks to ensure that environmental considerations are fully integrated in the preparation and adoption of plans, programmes and policies which are likely to have a significant effect on the environment.

Sustainability Appraisal

1.13 Whilst SEA focuses on environmental issues, Sustainability Appraisal (SA) widens the approach to also include economic and social issues. The purpose of SA is to ensure that the principles of sustainable development are taken fully into account when preparing local planning documents.

1.14 The SA process has been designed so that, by carrying out one appraisal process, local authorities can also satisfy the requirements of the SEA Directive. Therefore, it should be taken that where the Scoping Report refers to the SA process it also incorporates the requirements of the SEA Directive.

1.15 The SA will also put in place a framework to monitor such policies once in operation, to ensure that they are working in a way that accords with sustainability objectives. This will help in reviewing policies later and revising or replacing them if necessary.

1.16 A final Sustainability Appraisal Report will accompany the Publication version of the Local Plan. This will identify and report on the likely significant effects (both negative and positive) of the plan and of reasonable alternatives and propose measures to reduce or enhance those effects.

SA Methodology and SEA Requirements

1.17 The SA process is typically conducted in five stages of preparation (see Diagram 1 below), the first being the Scoping stage (stage A); and the second and third (stages B and C) being the actual appraisal stage. This is followed by seeking comments on the SA report (stage D) and finally post adoption reporting and monitoring (stage E). Diagram 2 has been produced to illustrate the direct relationship between the North Somerset SA process and the North Somerset Local Plan process. The SA Scoping stage corresponds to the Issues and Options stage within the Local Plan preparation, which is part of initial evidence gathering and engagement.

Diagram 1: Stages of the SA process

Source: National Planning Practice Guidance


Diagram 2 - Stages in SA process relating to the North Somerset Local Plan

Sustainability Appraisal process Local Plan preparation

Diagram 2

Scoping Report

1.18 The Scoping Report is the first step in undertaking an SA. The Scoping Report undertakes the following tasks:

  • Task A1: Identifying other relevant policies, plans, programmes and sustainability objectives.
  • Task A2: Collecting baseline information.
  • Task A3: Identifying sustainability issues and problems.
  • Task A4: Developing the sustainability appraisal framework.
  • Task A5: Consulting on the scope of the sustainability appraisal.

1.19 This scoping stage (Stage A) identifies the scope and level of detail of the information to be included in the SA report. It should set out the context, objectives and approach of the assessment; and identify relevant environmental, economic and social issues and objectives.

1.20 The process of SA requires an examination of the state of North Somerset as it is today and the identification of key issues that could affect its future sustainability. Using this information, sustainability objectives are then developed, against which the draft proposals, including the Issues and Options of the North Somerset Local Plan will be assessed, to inform any judgements on what options best achieve the sustainability objectives.


1.21 In accordance with the relevant regulations, comments on this Scoping Report are invited from the following statutory environmental consultation bodies:

  • Environment Agency
  • Historic England
  • Natural England

1.22 Comments are also invited from members of the public, as part of the consultation process of the Local Plan: Issues and Options document.

1.23 In considering the Scoping Report, consultees are asked to address the following questions:

1. Have all relevant plans and programmes been referenced?

2. Is any significant environmental, social or economic data missing or misrepresented?

3. Are there any additional sustainability issues within North Somerset that need to be considered in the development of the New Local Plan document?

4. Do you agree with the proposed Sustainability Appraisal Framework?

5. Is the proposed methodology for the next stages of the Sustainability Appraisal correct?

1.24 A six-week consultation period will run from 3 September 2018 - 10 December 2018.