Local Plan 2036: Issues and Options Stage

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

Local Housing Growth

What is local housing growth?
The Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) sets out that 1,000 new homes will need to be allocated in North Somerset to meet requirements for ‘non-strategic’ growth. Non-strategic growth is any residential development under 500 dwellings. 500+ dwellings is the figure set by the JSP for strategic development and therefore anything less than this is considered as non-strategic. However, in practice it is likely that most non-strategic sites will be much smaller and distributed across the district. The objective is to identify locations where additional development would provide benefits without significant harm to, or loss of, built and natural assets. The settlement hierarchy and settlement boundaries are two planning policy ‘tools’ that help decide where new housing will go. These are discussed later in this section.

Proportional growth will differ from place to place based on a number of factors including:

  • The size of the existing settlement or village
  • The capacity for delivering housing in a settlement based on existing constraints (for example, flooding, landscape, heritage, ecology) and the availability of deliverable sites
  • The level of sustainable access to key services and facilities as well as the scale and requirement for new infrastructure

Requirement for small sites
The NPPF (July 2018) requires that at least 10% of all sites identified for housing in Local Plans are of 1 ha or less. This is to ensure a wider range of sites are provided in a variety of locations to give greater choice to those needing a new home and those wishing to build their own home. Typically a site of this size would deliver around 40 dwellings.

Smaller and medium size sites tend to be relatively easier to deliver. The provision of smaller sites should ensure that the delivery of new homes rises overall and delivery rates are more constant over the duration of the plan period.

Where will the non-strategic sites be?
The Issues and Options document does not propose specific sites for new development at this stage. An indication of the potential opportunities which may be available is undertaken through the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA).

This is an assessment of sites within and surrounding towns and villages which have been submitted to the council through the call for sites process, or identified by local communities, and assessed in terms of their suitability. These assessments are used to support plan preparation, allowing an understanding of the characteristics of land supply and opportunities available to assist land supply for housing and economic development.

The next stage of the Local Plan will identify potential sites using the SHLAA and other evidence, taking account of the wider issues relating to settlement policy and the location of development to deliver a sustainable future pattern of development.

You can see which sites have already been submitted for our consideration in the SHLAA which can be viewed on our Local Plan 2036 Evidence Base webpage.

If you would to like to propose a new site you can submit a site plan and details of the site by downloading a form from our website and uploading into the comments box below.

How will Neighbourhood Plans fit with the Local Plan?
There are currently three Neighbourhood Plans in force in North Somerset, these being for Backwell, Long Ashton and Claverham, with others being prepared. Neighbourhood plans sit alongside the Local Plan and carry the same weight in making decisions on planning proposals for the area covered by the plan.

Neighbourhood plans allow communities to shape, direct and help to deliver sustainable development of all kinds within their own neighbourhood. This means they can contain policies and proposals to meet the housing need within the neighbourhood area and propose some local housing growth. In doing so they should generally conform to the Local Plans housing strategy and not propose
less growth, but they can propose more. One of the purposes of this document is to explore the options for how local growth in North Somerset can be met and move towards an updated housing strategy.

Settlement Hierarchy

What is a settlement hierarchy?
A settlement hierarchy is a way of categorising an area’s settlements to recognise their different roles and functions. A hierarchy groups together those settlements that have similar characteristics. At the top of the hierarchy are settlements that play a key role within the district, providing services used by a much wider catchment, having the best infrastructure (facilities and services) and which are well connected in terms of transport links. At the bottom of the hierarchy are settlements which have relatively few functions, less infrastructure and are more isolated in terms of transport links. Identifying a hierarchy will help to determine what role each settlement can play in addressing the future housing needs of the district and the most sustainable way to distribute the non-strategic housing growth over the next plan period.

In considering where new development should be located, there is a need to balance the requirements of development against other factors such as sustainability and environmental impacts. Development should generally be accommodated in settlements where the need to travel can be reduced through good access to facilities and services and where it can be accommodated without significant adverse impacts.

What is the existing hierarchy?
The Core Strategy sets out the current settlement hierarchy (see table 1) within North Somerset through Policy CS14: Distribution of Housing. It states that:

  • Weston-super-Mare will be the main focus for new residential development including the strategic allocations at Weston Villages.
  • Clevedon, Portishead and Nailsea are identified as locations for any additional housing growth either within or abutting the settlements.
  • The Service Villages, which are listed in policy CS32, are identified as locations for small scale development of an appropriate scale either within or abutting the settlement boundary.
  • Infill Villages are listed in Policy CS33 and are settlements where infilling may be acceptable within the settlement boundaries.

The Core Strategy introduced a flexible approach to sustainable development around towns and service villages. Policies CS28, CS31 and CS32 allow sites of a certain size (up to 75 dwellings at Weston, up to 50 dwellings at Clevedon, Portishead and Nailsea, and up to 25 dwellings at the Service Villages) to come forward adjacent to the settlement boundary, providing the sites meet the requirements set out in the policies for each area.

Why does the existing hierarchy need to be reviewed?
The existing settlement hierarchy will need to be reviewed in the new Local Plan 2036. A review is needed because the Joint Spatial Plan provides a new housing requirement for the district up to 2036 which includes the identification of non-strategic sites to help deliver that target. It is therefore important to re-assess the role and function of all settlements in North Somerset to establish an up-to-date profile of their sustainability, capacity and constraints, particularly as some settlements may have changed since the Core Strategy hierarchy was originally conceived. For example, there may be smaller settlements which may be able to contribute to sustainable development, but may not fit within the existing categories in the hierarchy, or larger settlements which are identified as being appropriate for housing growth under the existing strategy may no longer be suitable due to constraints such as flood plain.

The review of the settlement hierarchy and settlement boundaries will include villages in the Green Belt. Currently some villages are inset within the Green Belt, others are washed over but have a settlement boundary, whilst others have no settlement boundary and are regarded as countryside. A revised hierarchy could change this and alter the approach to small scale and infill development in some

What are the options for a new hierarchy?
Three potential options for reviewing the settlement hierarchy have been identified and the advantages and disadvantages of each option are set out below:

Option 1 – Keep the existing hierarchy but re-assess the position of each settlement within the hierarchy


  • It allows for updating and review of the settlement’s role and function in the hierarchy.
  • The hierarchy is familiar to, and understood, by local communities.


  • Smaller settlements which may be able to contribute to sustainable development, but may not fit within the existing categories, may be overlooked.
  • Larger settlements which are identified as being suitable for housing growth under the existing strategy may no longer be suitable and could be moved into a different category.
  • Issues around the treatment of settlements which may share services and facilities.

Option 2 – An expanded hierarchy with an additional tier between Service and Infill villages.


  • A new tier creates an additional category for smaller service villages and larger infill villages which does not currently exist.
  • An additional tier would allow for small scale growth in some of the smaller sustainable villages which would distribute the growth and reduce the pressure on towns and particularly service villages.


  • This option assumes that residents in smaller villages can easily access services and facilities in neighbouring larger settlements
    which may not always be the case.

Option 3 – Growth based strategy. Group together settlements with capacity for housing sites with a tightly worded criteria-based policy to guide where development will go.


  • Settlements are not constrained by being in a category and therefore allows for more flexibility in terms of looking for suitable
  • It reduces the possibility of smaller villages stagnating as the policy would allow appropriate levels of growth in smaller settlements.
  • It allows for more choice of sites and it is not discounting settlements which could benefit from appropriate levels of growth.


  • A risk that it could result in too much development at villages with limited facilities.
  • Does not give communities certainty over how their settlement will develop over the plan period.
  • It could result in over-development in smaller settlements rather than distributing growth more effectively.

Question 8:

What are your views on the options for a revised settlement hierarchy?

Settlement Boundaries

What are settlement boundaries?
Settlement boundaries are a well-established planning tool for defining the edge of a town or village in order to direct development to those locations. They are sometimes referred to as ‘the village fence’.

The primary function of the settlement boundary is to prevent sprawl and concentrate development within settlements in a form which is appropriate to the scale and needs of that community. Settlement boundaries define the areas where housing policies apply. Land outside of settlement boundaries is classified as ‘countryside’ where different policies apply. Policies in the countryside tend be much more restrictive in terms of what sort of development is acceptable.

The settlement boundaries in North Somerset have been well established through a succession of Local Plans and are reviewed when new plans are prepared.

The Core Strategy removed some of the settlement boundaries of the smaller villages (Abbots Leigh, Blagdon, Clapton-in-Gordano, Failand, Kingston Seymour, Leigh Woods, Portbury, Redhill, Tickenham, Weston-in-Gordano) as their status in the settlement hierarchy changed from infill villages to become ‘countryside’. The Site Allocations Plan made some changes to existing settlement boundaries where
specific issues had been raised.

Why do the existing boundaries need to be reviewed?
Apart from removing the settlement boundaries from some settlements through the Core Strategy and minor amendments made to some settlement boundaries through the Site Allocations Plan, the council has not undertaken a wholesale review of settlement limits since the preparation of the North Somerset Replacement Local Plan (NSRLP) 2007.

The existing boundaries do not reflect and include new development that has been completed adjacent to settlements. The existing boundaries also contain some anomalies as a result of changes over time. Additionally a review of the boundaries would be one mechanism for assessing how development needs up to 2036 would be addressed through the Local Plan.

The new Local Plan (2018-2036) presents an opportunity for a comprehensive review to reflect new development, planning consents, new allocations, and any identified anomalies. This includes reviewing settlements in the Green Belt to assess whether there are opportunities to allocate sites and review boundaries for specific local needs and in exceptional circumstances.

Which settlements will have their boundaries reviewed?
A review of the settlement boundaries will assess all settlements which have an existing boundary identified through the Core Strategy and Site Allocations Plan. It will also assess settlements which do not currently have a settlement boundary but have been identified as potentially having a role in the settlement hierarchy and therefore may need a boundary to guide the level of growth within them. Table 1 shows which settlements will be part of the settlement boundary review and their current status in the existing settlement hierarchy.

Table 1: Settlements to be assessed through a settlement boundary review.

Current position in hierarchy Settlement
Town Weston-super-Mare, Portishead,
Nailsea, Clevedon.
Service Village Backwell, Banwell, Churchill,
Congresbury, Easton-in-Gordano/Pill,
Long Ashton, Winscombe, Wrington,
Infill village Bleadon, Claverham, Cleeve, Dundry,
Felton, Flax Bourton, Hutton, Kenn,
Kewstoke, Locking, Sandford, Uphill,
Countryside Abbots Leigh, Blagdon, Clapton-in-
Gordano, Failand, Kingston Seymour,
Leigh Woods, Portbury, Tickenham,
Walton-in-Gordano, Weston-in-
Gordano, Wraxall

What are the options for reviewing the settlement boundaries?
There are two options in terms of reviewing settlement boundaries in order to accommodate future housing needs which are set out below:

Option 1 – Adjust settlement boundaries to include new allocations within the boundaries and retain the current policy which allows sites to come forward adjacent to boundary.


  • It meets the governments pro–growth agenda as it allocates sites plus incorporates flexibility for other sites to come forward.
  • By allocating sites it is easier to demonstrate that the Local Plan meets the district’s housing target for non-strategic growth as set out in the Joint Spatial Plan.
  • Allocating sites ensures plan-led distribution of housing and reduces the potential for speculative development.


  • It does not give communities complete certainty over how their settlement will develop over the plan period.
  • It could result in too much growth at villages

Option 2 – Adjust settlement boundaries to include new allocations within the boundaries but remove the current policy which allows sites to come forward adjacent to the boundary.


  • By allocating sites it is easier to demonstrate that the Local Plan meets the district’s housing target for non-strategic growth as set out in the Joint Spatial Plan.
  • There is more certainty for local communities over where development will go during the plan period.
  • By allocating sites for the non-strategic housing growth it is easier to plan for infrastructure such as schools, health facilities, road and
    public transport improvements.
  • Allocating sites ensures plan-led distribution of housing and reduces the potential for speculative development.
  • It reduces the flexibility for bringing new sites forward outside the plan-led process.
  • Have to make more provision inside settlement boundaries for housing sites.

Question 9:

What are your views on the options for revised settlement boundaries?