Sites and Policies Plan Consultation Draft

Document Section Sites and Policies Plan Consultation Draft Delivering Strong and Inclusive Communities DM34 [View all comments on this section]
Comment ID 3371105//2
Respondent Deleted User [View all comments by this respondent]
Agent PCL Planning Ltd
Response Date 22 Apr 2013
Current Status Accepted
Comment

 

 

 

As a general comment, and notwithstanding the statement on the title page of the consultation site, it is considered premature for consultation on the Draft Sites and Policies Plan to proceed in advance of a thorough assessment of the implications for this plan arising from the successful High Court challenge to the North Somerset Core Strategy.

Having regard to the scope and extent of matters remitted back to the Secretary of State (SoS) for re-examination, together with the revised national planning policy context within which that re-examination must now be conducted, it is considered that the implications for the Sites and Policies Plan could be far-reaching and may necessitate a plan of a materially different complexion in due course.

As was clearly stated by the Judge in her Approved Addendum Judgement:

 

"While it is regrettable that the policies remitted will no longer have the force of adopted policy until the further examination has been concluded and the policies readopted, this is the inevitable outcome of the fact that

 

the unlawfulness of the previous examination relates to the total housing provision figure which itself feeds into a great many other policies. If on re-examination the housing provision figure increases, this has the potential to affect the other housing policies as well. While it is unlikely that all the policies would be affected, it is not possible at this stage to predict which would be. However, it will be apparent to any reader of my judgment and this addendum that there is nothing unlawful per se about the policies remitted other than CS13 and that any potential change in housing numbers will be an increase rather than a decrease."

(para. 20).

 

It is relevant that the original Examination of the Core Strategy was conducted in a pre-NPPF policy context therefore any re-examination of the policies that have been remitted back to the SoS for re-examination must now be conducted within the new policy context provided by the NPPF.

Since the unlawfulness of the previous Examination related to the housing provision figure, central to this re-examination will be whether or not the Core Strategy is consistent with the NPPF’s core objective to

"... boost significantly the supply of housing..." through, inter alia, providing evidence-based ensurance that the Local Plan "... meets the full, objectively assessed needs for market and affordable housing in the housing market area ..." (NPPF, para. 47).

It would seem clear from the Court judgement that the adopted Plan does not plan to meet the full, objectively assessed housing need since the central weakness that led to the salient policies being remitted back to the SoS related to a failure of the Inspector to consider adequately the matter of latent demand for housing. As is acknowledged in the judgement, the Council’s housing requirement figure

"... depended wholly on the ratio applied to the figure for jobs growth" (para. 106). This is inconsistent with the current requirement to meet the ‘full, objectively assessed’ housing needs of the area, as is reflected in the Judge’s subsequent acknowledgement that any potential change in housing numbers will be an increase rather than a decrease.

 

The NPPF requires local planning authorities to have a clear understanding of housing needs in their area, informed by a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), to assess their full housing needs. The SHMA should identify the scale and mix of housing and the range of tenures that the local population is likely to need over the plan period which,

inter alia:

Meets household and population projections taking account of migration and demographic change.

 

? Caters for housing demand and the scale of housing supply necessary to meet this demand. (NPPF, para. 159).

 

The 2011 – based Interim Household Projections to 2021, published on 9

 

th April 2013, provides the most up to date indication of household and population growth in North Somerset. The Interim Household Projections indicate that in North Somerset the number of households will increase by 17,000 households between 2006 to 2021; equivalent to an annual requirement of 1,133 additional dwellings. Projecting this forward indicates that by 2026 22,660 dwellings will need to be provided in North Somerset in order to meet current projections. The latest household projections therefore point toward an objectively assessed need much closer to the draft RSS requirement of 26,750 dwellings rather than that currently stated in the adopted Core Strategy, which provided for a minimum of 14,000 dwellings up to 2026.

 

The implications of re-examination for the Core Strategy could therefore be far-reaching and could affect policies that go to the heart of the ‘Plan Strategy’ and therefore the shape of its current constitution. That being the case it is likely that similar ramifications will be had on other documents, particular those that contain housing policies allied with the adopted Core Strategy, such as the Draft Sites and Policies DPD. As such, consultation on a document that might have to be superseded by what will in effect be a ‘replacement plan’ is considered to be a somewhat abortive exercise.

 

In addition, for reasons that are set out below, there are considered to be significant deficiencies in the current draft document that need to be addressed before effective consultation can proceed. These deficiencies pertain to its soundness on each of the four counts set out in the NPPF (para. 182). In its

current form it is far from clear that the plan is sound. Further evidence and justification is therefore required to demonstrate that it is.

Policy DM34: Housing Allocations

Schedule 1

Within the wider context of the deficiencies of the housing provisions of the Plan outlined above, it is considered that the housing allocations in the plan are insufficient to deliver the housing requirements and objectives of the Core Strategy. The provisions of the plan are deficient in terms of quantitative provision and distribution. Moreover, there is insufficient evidence base to demonstrate the deliverability of sites or to illustrate the expected rate of housing delivery through a housing trajectory for the plan period as required in accordance with the NPPF (para. 47). Further, there is little evidence as to how the Plan has taken account of market signals (NPPF, para. 17). As such, the housing provisions of the Plan are insufficiently justified.

Housing Capacity Position

The Housing Capacity Position set out in the consultation draft (p.67) requires clarification. A significant proportion of dwellings identified in Schedule 1, whilst posited as ‘allocations’ are in fact existing commitments that already benefit from planning permission. These permissions, amounting to approximately 20% of the identified capacity, need to be reviewed and judgements made concerning their deliverability and likelihood of implementation.

The sites with extant planning permissions should be identified in a separate table in the Appendix and accompanied by a delivery trajectory. At the very least a non-implementation allowance should be made against these sites that will reduce the overall dwelling capacity of sites that are identified in the Schedule.

Turning to the proposed site allocations, it is noted that a significant proportion of the projected capacity is on sites carried forward from the Replacement Local Plan. Such sites have been in an adopted Development Plan for some 6 years and would have been identified as suitable development opportunities some time before that, and at a time when the housing market was much stronger than it is now.

There is no evidence that these sites have been critically reviewed to take into account the market signals that have caused them to remain undeveloped during, and beyond, the time period of the adopted Plan. With the clear emphasis in the NPPF on taking account of market signals to objectively identify and then meet the housing needs of an area pursuant to the ambition to boost significantly the supply of housing, this is considered to be an essential exercise. Such an exercise should be clearly set out in the evidence base that supports the emerging Plan. At the present time such evidence is not clearly set out and therefore the deliverability of the sites that are being carried forward is questionable. As such, the reliance that is placed on the deliverable capacity from such sites should be reduced by a suggested 50%.

An assessment of deliverability should also be carried out for those proposed new allocations.

Housing Distribution

The broad distribution of new housing set out in Policy CS14 of the Core Strategy indicated a proportional split of approximately 64% to Weston-super-Mare, 27% to the second-tier settlements of Clevedon, Portishead and Nailsea, and 9% to the smaller settlements. The implied distribution based on the allocations set out in Schedule 1 indicates a share of 81% for Weston-super-Mare, 13% to Clevedon, Portishead and Nailsea, and 6% to the smaller settlements. It is therefore clear that the proposed distribution reflected in the draft Sites and Policies Plan provides a greater focus of housing development in Weston-super-Mare and less of a focus in other areas, including second tier settlements and service villages, than anticipated in the Core Strategy.

Conclusion

We consider the housing provisions of the Plan to be significantly deficient, exacerbated by a lack of clear evidence to demonstrate their sufficiency and deliverability. Bearing in mind the overall requirement is likely to increase following re-examination, which may well affect the overall distribution, policy approach and detailed site allocations in respect of housing, there is little merit in engaging in a more detailed interrogation of the provisions at this time. Moreover, in the absence of the further evidence base required, it is impossible to reach a robust view on their sufficiency and deliverability.

Yatton

Against the context of the comments made above we have particular concerns in respect of proposed provision at Yatton. It is apparent that the Council via the draft Sites and Policies Plan proposes the allocation of land sufficient to provide only 100 dwellings in Yatton over the plan period. Only two sites are proposed to be allocated solely for residential development both of which appear to have been carried forward from the Replacement Local Plan i.e. Land to the east and west of Wemberham Lane (24 dwellings) and the Oxford Plasma site (66 dwellings). A further 10 dwellings are proposed as part of the Yatton Station Mixed Use Proposal (Policy Y1). This is the only ‘new’ residential allocation to be made.

Notwithstanding our concerns pertaining to the deliverability of the allocations proposed what is clear is that, irrespective of the provisions that have been made and their adequacy, based on the current projected requirements the quantum at both second tier settlements and some smaller settlements, particularly service villages such as Yatton, should be increased.

It has consistently been our position that Yatton (identified as a service village in the adopted Core Strategy), due to its locational, sustainable transport advantages (via rail) and range of existing facilities, should play a more significant role in the settlement hierarchy than currently provided for and should accordingly, be allocated more growth than inferred by the adopted Core Strategy and now proposed in the Draft Sites and Policies Plan.

In this respect we take the opportunity to restate and confirm the availability and deliverability of my clients Land north of Moor Road, Yatton which, as the Council will already be aware, was assessed in the most up to date version of the Council’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (dated August 2011) as being suitable in principle (SHLAA Ref: SHL129).

For the avoidance of doubt we attach with this letter the relevant extract from the SHLAA.

 

 

Attachments