Changes to Local Plan - Correspondance to BDBC

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Below you will find a copy of the exchange between Cllr. Malcolm Bell, Deputy Chair of Bramley Parish Council and Jill Fisher, Policy Manager (Planning and Infrastructure) at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.  Also enclosed below is a response from Matthew Evans, Head of Planning and Infrastructure (Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council).
This was in respect to the proposed changes to the terms "At Least".

Clicking on the links below takes you to the correspondence indicated:

Copies of the emails and letter can be found in PDF format at the bottom of this page.

Letter from Jill Fisher, to Mr Mike Fox HA (Hons) DipTP MRTPI (Government Inspector of the Local Plan)

Our ref:    JF/MR/PS/Exam/2/10    23 February 2016

Dear Mr Fox,

Proposed Modifications to the Submission Local Plan Consultation following the Local Plan Examination Hearings

Following the conclusion of the consultation on the proposed modifications to the Submission Local Plan in February 2016, I am writing to update you on the outcomes of the consultation and the council’s decision on the need for further modifications. A number of documents are enclosed for your information:

  • Statement of Consultation
  • Summary schedule  of issues raised and the council’s response
  • Schedule of further minor modifications

As outlined in the enclosed Statement of Consultation, approximately 400 representations were received from individuals, organisations and statutory consultees in response to the recent consultation. The council has carefully considered and responded to each of the representations received, as outlined in the enclosed summary schedules, including those that did not relate to a specific change. A small number of notable issues were raised and these are considered below.

Policy SS4 (Ensuring a supply of deliverable sites) and EM6 (Water quality)

Representations were received relating to the proposed modifications to policy SS4 and EM4. In particular, the Environment Agency, while supporting the modifications, suggested further amendments to provide greater clarity, including the removal of the word likely to deteriorate' from policy SS4.

The council understands that the Environment Agency’s intention is to add certainty regarding actions to be taken if deterioration of band status is identified through monitoring.  However, the council is keen to ensure that the policies act in a precautionary manner to ensure water quality is protected and band status is not breached. The council would not wish to see any change which suggests that action would only be taken once the change in band status has occurred. Therefore, the council considers no further modifications to the policies are required. However, it is appreciated that in the context of the NPPF requirements, policies should be positive and provide clarity and therefore the council welcomes the Inspector’s view on this issue via the forthcoming Inspector’s Report.

Policy SS5 (Neighbourhood Planning)

Approximately 65% of representations on the proposed main modifications related to policy SS5 (Neighbourhood Planning) with a particularly high level of interest from residents in Bramley parish. Comments primarily related to the change of wording from ‘approximately’ to ‘at least’ for the levels of development identified for the 5 named settlements in the policy. Representations were also made regarding the requirement to identify sites/ opportunities to deliver at least 10 homes in and around each settlement with a defined Settlement Policy Boundary.

The proposed modifications reflect discussions held during the examination and the views of the Inspector. As outlined in council document MF15, the change to ‘at least’ has been made to promote flexibility and ensure that the neighbourhood planning figures are not considered as a ceiling for development.  The use of 'at least' is common practice in Local Plans and should not equate to an unlimited amount of further development. The ‘at least 10 homes in and around each settlement with defined Settlement Policy Boundaries’ has been added to provide clarification regarding the location of the 150 homes requirement for those areas outside of the 5 settlements listed in the policy. Consequently, Mr Fox
Policy EP1 (Economic Growth and Investment)

A representation was received from Enterprise M3 stating that the proposed modification to policy EP1 did not go far enough as the development of additional sites for industrial and campus style B1 office uses should also be facilitated by the policy. The council considers that the proposed change is not justified, particularly in light of the fact that the modification to the policy was specifically made in response to the need for Storage and Distribution uses. There is already a considerable amount of vacant office space in the borough and rental values do not currently support speculative office development. Moreover, the NPPF directs offices to the town centre, and then edge of centre locations, where there is considerable capacity (in Basing View for example).

Conclusions

Having considered all the representations, the council is of the view that no further main modifications are necessary. However, a small number of further minor modifications are proposed. None of the further minor modifications significantly undermine the conclusions of the Sustainability Appraisal (incorporating Strategic Environmental Assessment) and Habitats Regulations Assessment that has been undertaken. Whilst it is acknowledged that it is the council’s decision to make minor modifications, the council would welcome views on whether any of these changes should instead be categorised as a main modification.

The council has already requested that you recommend any main modifications necessary to enable the plan to be adopted. The council also welcomes consideration of the consultation representations and the council’s response to them. 

I hope you consider this way forward acceptable and the attached information meets your requirements.  Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any further clarification.

Yours sincerely
Jill Fisher
Policy Manager (Planning Policy and Infrastructure)

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Email to Jill Fisher, Policy Manager (Planning Policy and Infrastructure)

Date: Mon, Mar 21, 2016

To Jill Fisher,
copying Matthew Evans( Head of Planning And Infrastructure) and Mel Barrett (Chief Executive Officer, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council)

Dear Jill Fisher,

Please find attached a letter to you, copying the Officers above. It is concerning the intention to retain the wording "at least" in policy SS5 against the original wording of "approximately". As Chair of Neighbourhood Planning then we strongly objected to this change, backed by residents of Bramley and by the Parish Council. Overton and Oakley Parish Councils listed in Policy SS5 also strongly objected.  The change might give flexibility but it is completely undermining Neighbourhood Planning.

In putting the plan out for Consultation, you had the response strongly objecting to the change. In ignoring the responses you are favouring unlimited numbers of houses being built in Policy SS5. We look forward to your reply that this change will not be incorporated in the Final Plan.

Yours sincerely

Malcolm Bell
Chair Neighbourhood Planning
Bramley Parish

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Letter to Jill Fisher, Policy Manager (Planning Policy and Infrastructure)

To Jill Fisher Policy Manager (Planning Policy and Infrastructure)
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.

CC. Matthew Evans (Head of Planning and Infrastructure)
Mel Barrett (Chief Executive Officer, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council)

Dear Jill Fisher

I am writing concerning the Council’s intention, whilst being sympathetic to the concern that ‘at least’ does not represent clear guidance on housing numbers in Policy SS5,  to retain this wording in preference to “approximately” because it considers that the proposed wording is a suitable response to the need for flexibility.

In the letter to Mr Fox updating him on the outcome of the consultation on the Local Plan, you point out the high number of representations made against policy SS5, Neighbourhood Planning, with the high interest from Bramley residents. I would say, an extraordinary HIGH Interest from Bramley residents. Of the 209 representations made against the Policy Change from “approximately” to “at Least” concerning housing allocation via neighbourhood planning there were 198 objections and 183 of those were from Bramley residents, backed by objections from Bramley Parish Council and Oakley and Overton Parish Councils, Parishes within Policy SS5.

Volunteers within these Parishes listed in Policy SS5 have spent hours communicating with the community to put together Neighbourhood Plans that will see their communities grow, but in a controlled manner. The Neighbourhood Plans reflect the wishes of the community. Oakley has just passed referendum, Overton in an advanced state and Bramley has completed a Health Check on the plan with the external examiner being complimentary about the plan and relayed his “well done” to the Neighbourhood Planning Team.

His findings:-

This ‘health check’ review has found the NDP to be of a high quality standard and demonstrably grounded in local opinion. With some adjustment, the Plan has the potential to offer a sound basis for future decision making in respect of planning proposals emerging in the plan area over the next 13 years. It is a particular strength of the Plan that it focuses on those issues that are central to local community aspirations.

Whilst you say that “at least” is used in planning terms, from our recent dealings with prospective developers, then they will twist the words to suit their objective of building as many houses as possible without any concern for the impact it will have on the community. With BDBC not having a 5 year sustainable land availability and a shortage of housing, the wording “at least” will give developers an opportunity to say that means “AD INFINITUM” number of houses.

During this period of no Local Plan and No Neighbourhood Plan, developers in Bramley have had a field day quoting paragraphs of the NPPF to justify the application, and have quoted “at Least” in the Emerging Local plan as being justification for the application being in excess of “approximately” 200.

Bramley now stands at having to accept 325 housing. Where does that figure of 325, I ask you, sit in the context of “AT LEAST”?

Within the representations made to the Local Plan, then for those supporting the change to “At Least” we have prospective developers. From their response you can see where they will be coming from in making applications:-

The Fogarty Group Ltd welcomes and supports the change to Policy SS5 (change PM141) which seeks the delivery of 'at least' 150 homes at Oakley (as opposed to 'approximately' 150 homes as previously stated within the draft Local Plan).

Gleeson strongly supports the councils proposed changes to Policy SS5. which seeks to include the words 'at least'. The introduction of a minimum housing requirements will provide the council with the flexibility required to respond to changing circumstances

“Approximately “definition: - Close to, around, roughly in the region of.

“At Least” definition: - not less than, at the lowest estimate going to “ad infinitum”

With no 5 year sustainable Land Availability then quoting the paragraphs of the NPPF, quoting the shortage of houses in the Borough and now “AT LEAST”, the Neighbourhood Plans showing the wishes of the community will be falling away into insignificance and to allow that to happen is unacceptable. BDBC whilst planning for the future have to live up to the paragraphs in the Local Plan, 2.4 to 2.8, here you are supposedly protecting the lives of the community against excessive development, ensuring a good quality of life.

“AT LEAST” does not give Neighbourhood Planning a real opportunity to plan for growth against the wishes of the community through Localism, which you support.

“At Least” is completely unacceptable from Bramley Neighbourhood Planning perspective.

If you want some flexibility, then have “approximately, but as a minimum, 200” in the case of Bramley and then we have a chance. I am sure it would similarly apply to the other parishes under Policy SS5.

As can be seen from the Submission Neighbourhood Plan for Bramley, then we are not against Growth, but want planned infrastructure to be alongside, ahead of housing to give us the quality of life we deserve, have a right to.

The representations from residents of Bramley to “At Least” are significant in their number. They see from experience what uncontrolled development can have on their lives and want it controlled in the future. That is why our Neighbourhood Plan is at the stage it is and the response from the external examiner at the Health Check supports its ideal.

Take out “AT LEAST”. Do not destroy the surrounding parishes with uncontrolled high numbers of houses.

What more can we say.

Kindest regards

Malcolm Bell
Chair Neighbourhood Planning
Bramley Parish Council

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Response from Mathew Evans, Head of Planning and Infrastructure.

Date: Thu, Mar 24, 2016

Dear Mr Bell

Thank you for your letter to Jill Fisher concerning the above.
I note your concern that the Council has supported a change to Policy SS5 which sets out that targets
for new housing are in effect a minimum. I understand that you would like the Plan be more definitive
in deciding the appropriate level of housing for each settlement.

As you know I am relatively new to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and so have not been
involved in the discussions about detailed policy wording. However my experience elsewhere is that
Inspectors are unwilling to be prescriptive in setting housing allocations in Local Plans. This is because
they consider that such an approach would not provide flexibility to respond positively to schemes
which are consistent with the Local Plan and national planning guidance. This could preclude
supporting schemes which overall meet the principles of sustainable development and including
addressing identified housing need. As you know a Government priority is to boost significantly the
supply of housing and the NPPF does expect Local Plans to be sufficiently flexible to adapt to change.

I would add however that the policy change does not amount to a free for all – far from it. All housing
applications will need to be considered against the relevant national and local plan policies including
the relevant policies in adopted neighbourhood plans.

The Council is now waiting the submission of the Local Plan Inspector’s report and within that report I
expect him to comment on an appropriate working for Policy SS5. The report is due in the middle of
April.

I know the Council is very committed to supporting the preparation of neighbourhood plans and if there
is any more help either myself or the team can provide please give me a call.

I hope you find these comments of use.

Matthew Evans
Head of Planning and Infrastructure
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council

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Attachments:
FileDescriptionFile sizeLast modified
Download this file (Email_To_Cllr_Bell_From_Matthew_Evans.pdf)Response from Matthew Evans, Head of Planning And InfrastructureModifications to Local Plan127 kBThu, 07 Apr 2016 15:01:18
Download this file (Email_To_Jill_Fisher_BDBC_21MAR2016.pdf)Email to Jill Fisher, Policy ManagerModifications to Local Plan215 kBThu, 07 Apr 2016 15:02:13
Download this file (Letter_to_Jill_Fisher_from_Cllr_Malcolm_Bell.pdf)Letter to Jill Fisher, Policy Manager (Planning Policy and Infrastructure)Modifications to Local Plan356 kBThu, 07 Apr 2016 15:00:21
Download this file (Letter_to_M_Fox_proposed_mods.pdf)Letter to Mike Fox from Jill Fisher Head of Planning And InfrastructureModifications to Local Plan299 kBThu, 07 Apr 2016 15:03:08

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