Agenda item

Chapter 3: Spatial Strategy


The Planning Policy Team Leader said this chapter included representations of the main strategic policy of the plan, such as scale and distribution of housing growth and provision of jobs. Most comments were directed at the three proposed garden communities.


Councillor Dean noted comments between pages 213 and 219 about Uttlesford District Council’s engagement with Cambridgeshire. He said the Council should work hard to demonstrate that it is properly engaged in cooperation with other councils. He asked whether Uttlesford District Council were adopting a leadership role with other authorities.


The Chairman said Councillor Barker had been doing a lot of detailed work with Uttlesford’s SHMA partners and with Braintree District Council. Uttlesford had also been engaging with various levels of authorities in Cambridgeshire, including the City of Cambridge Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, the combined authority, the mayor and Cambridgeshire County Council. Representatives of the City of Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire would be visiting the proposed North Uttlesford garden community in the New Year.


In response to a question from Councillor Dean asking whether there needed to be any flexibility in the Local Plan in case some of the proposed sites for development could not be built on, the Planning Policy Team Leader said there had been suggestions that the Council over-allocate housing numbers to provide a buffer of sites that could come forward if there was a problem with a certain site. This was something the Council was looking into.


Councillor Dean said some comments had expressed concern that building work would squeeze out smaller builders.


The Chairman said allocations of building work for the Local Plan would provide room for smaller builders, and there would be standard planning applications as well.


Councillor Mills said the inspector would be looking for the plan to be robust, and so there would have to be a backstop of normal planning applications to over-allocate housing numbers.


Councillor Barker said many houses had already been built or had planning permission. There would likely be jobs for small builders because of the large amount of development going on throughout Essex.


The Planning Policy Manager said the Council was beginning to look at the Affordable Housing Strategy in greater detail. Community-led housing and self-builds were two initiatives which could be built into policy.


The Chairman said the Council was diligent about providing 40% affordable housing. The Council was also keen to develop a model to provide housing that had rent which was affordable to most people. A mix of housing was crucial.


Councillor Loughlin said the district lacked council properties. 


The Chairman said housing associations would probably charge 80% of market rent, so it would likely be that the Council would have to own the properties.


Councillor Mills said there were multiple options for this.


Councillor Dean said housing could be owned by local community groups and so would not be subject to Right to Buy. The Council needed to be innovative in how it approached the issue.


Councillor Dean said the Council needed to allay concerns that garden communities would not be delivered because there was no money to provide them. The Chairman said the government had gone out to consultation on development corporations. In the New Year, the Council would begin to lay out how it would go forward. Guaranteeing the infrastructure would be vital. Grosvenor and Land Securities recognised that the developments would be built on garden city principles.


Councillor Lodge said government policy was changing very rapidly and that meant policy SP5 in the regulation 18 draft local plan was out of date. The government now saw development corporations as the way forward and this needed to be put into the regulation 19 plan. He proposed officers look into creating a new development corporation and return to the working group with options.


The Chairman said how the corporation was modelled was centric to the whole proposal. However, it needed to be in line with government policy which had not yet been set in stone. The matter was being worked on, with the aim of providing the full range of facilities in the garden communities.


The Assistant Director – Planning said work was underway investigating delivery options for the plan. These options would be brought before members, but would not going to be the Planning Policy Working Group because its remit was to look at the Local Plan and policies included in it, rather than the governance arrangements for agreeing the delivery vehicle for the plan.


Councillor Lodge said that the method of implementation was integral to the work of the group, and he objected to it not being brought before the working group.


The Chairman said the delivery of the Local Plan would be scrutinised in a public forum, but the terms of reference did not give the Planning Policy Working Group the authority to make recommendations on delivery mechanisms.


The Assistant Director – Planning said the Project Manager – Local Plan was looking at ways to bring governance options before members. It was important to separate the two processes of creating the plan and ensuring its delivery so that one process was not being led by the other.


Councillor Lodge said he could not see the reasoning for this. The Chairman said the Project Manager – Local Plan should be given time to develop ideas on the matter.


Councillor Lodge said the legislation was there for development corporations to take on all new town development.


The Chairman said the government was now working on how to apply that on a more regular basis. The Council would make it clear what the vehicle for delivery would be.


Councillor Mills said variance in the delivery vehicles would be needed for the three proposed communities. It would be integral to their delivery that they meet certain requirements. It would therefore be necessary to see that the formalised governance arrangements be in place for the regulation 19 plan. This needed to be sorted out going forward.


Councillor Dean noted comments from Great Easton and Tilty Mill Parish Council about the lack of access to the proposed Easton Park development, and asked whether the Council could dispel these concerns.


The Planning Policy Team Leader said the Council were looking at whether a proposed transport link from the proposed West of Braintree garden community towards Tendring could be expanded between West of Braintree, Easton Park and Stansted Airport. Land Securities was also being consulted about the best possibilities for road access to the proposed Easton Park development.


Councillor Mills said the existing access was dual carriageway, and another interchange was being proposed once the population level of Easton Park had reached a certain amount.


Councillor Dean said there were comments on page 334 about the need for more transparency about developing the Local Plan. He did not think lack of transparency was a problem now, but the Council needed to keep doing everything it could to change the public perception here. Developers had been encouraged to engage with the public, and the Council join developers at the public exhibitions they were holding.


The Chairman said that was a good idea, though the Council would first have to consider whether it could do this without giving the impression of pre-determination.


The Chairman said in the New Year, there was the intention to have a new round of meetings between parish councils, Uttlesford District Council and developers, and to hold further exhibitions. Developers were also considering design weekends to bring communities in to share thoughts and get community feedback. The Council should also aim to make sure the wider community was aware of what was happening, why it was happening and when.


Councillor Dean said there had been a representation from East Herts District Council suggesting Uttlesford District Council could adjust its green belt so that East Herts could change its commercial area.


The Chairman said he did not think a minor adjustment was an intrusion into the green belt, but the Council took its substantial protection very seriously. The development in North Bishop’s Stortford was impacting on Farnham at the moment.


Councillor Loughlin said the green belt was sacrosanct and allowing development in it would create a precedent. It was up to the Council to protect the green belt and the Countryside Protection Zone.


Councillor Lodge said Policy SP10 on page 436 was replacing Policy S7. Policy SP10 was a watered down policy and it would be good for officers to see if the current S7 protection could be built into SP10. Councillors Loughlin and Lees agreed with this suggestion.


The Chairman said that officers would look into this point.


Supporting documents: