Venue: Norfolk Room, The Conference Suite, Dereham
Contact: Julie Britton
Note: Immediately following the Cabinet meeting
To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 6 March 2013.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 6 March 2013 were confirmed as a correct record.
Non Members wishing to address the meeting (Agenda Item 5)
To note the names of any non-members who wish to address the meeting.
Mr Bambridge, Mr Joel, Mrs Jolly, Mr Martin, Mrs North and Mr Sharpe were in attendance.
Chairman's Announcements (if any) (Agenda Item 6)
The Chairman advised Officers that any future reports ‘for information only’ would be noted and not discussed.
Report of the Senior Planning Policy Officer, Feng Li.
The Senior Planning Policy Officer presented the report and gave an overview of the methodology that would be used to gather evidence to plan for growth and set a local housing target.
The methodology broadly comprised three stages and the details were explained. Stage one would gather information on baseline population, migration and household size. That information would be fed into stage two when a range of forecasts and scenarios would be generated. It was indicated that Norfolk County Council (NCC) could provide support for that, but there was a risk that they did not have sufficient resources and if was advised that such work would otherwise have to be outsourced. Stage three would be partially based on those scenarios and would test how policy concerns would be addressed.
As one of the Councils at the forefront of setting new housing numbers it was explained that there were not many examples to learn from and none had been successfully tested. The Kent County Council model was being considered and the Norfolk Strategic Planning Group was examining implementing a similar structure to the one found in Kent. A Norfolk level protocol was being discussed to develop the Policy Framework and set housing numbers.
The Planning Policy Team Leader referred to the ‘duty to cooperate’ which he had explained at the first Local Plan Working Group (LPWG) meeting. The Council would need to discuss the impact of growth on neighbouring Local Authorities and vice-versa to build up a local picture of housing evidence within the County.
Councillor Bambridge noted that Thetford was one of the largest centres and that it impacted upon Suffolk and East Cambridge, not just Norfolk. The Planning Policy Team Leader agreed and said that the Norfolk Wide structure would take account of those areas.
Councillor Kiddle-Morris noted that there were other areas where cross border consultation would be needed, such as Weeting and Snetterton.
Councillor Turner pointed out that all through the document it talked about special needs. She hoped that Age Concern would be consulted.
The Senior Planning Policy Officer explained that Stage Three was divided into two parts. The first part would identify the level of housing need over the Plan period. The second part would identify the capacity and opportunities with regard to water, flood risk, environment and qualitative assessment to see if that number of dwellings was correct.
The challenge to the methodology was to objectively assess local need. The risk was that that would be influenced by other means. Another challenge was the duty to cooperate. There was no firm guidance yet from the Inspectors to explain the difference between cooperation and agreement.
Councillor Bambridge was concerned that the Housing Needs Survey did not drill down to village level and that it needed to acknowledge that two adjoining villages could have very different needs.
The Deputy Planning Manager advised that evidence of local need at parish level would be fed by a survey of Breckland residents. The early stage of ... view the full minutes text for item 11.
Report of the Housing Enabling Officer, James Heaton.
The Deputy Planning Manager presented the emerging results from the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA). He introduced James Heaton (Housing Enabling Officer) and Richard Bland (Senior Enabling & Projects Officer) who had been working on the assessment. He was pleased that the work was being done in-house; previously it had been done externally. The SHMA would form part of the evidence to inform the Local Plan on the size, mix and types of housing required.
20% of the residents of Breckland had been sent a survey. They had been selected at random, but stratified to ensure that even the smallest villages in the District were represented. There had been a good response to the survey.
The population was predicted to rise with significant growth in the percentage of people aged over 65. Using Government methodology it was calculated that there would be a need for 700 housing units (including 398 affordable housing units) per year. To meet that need, a level of 40-45% affordable housing requirement for developments would be required in the Local Plan. That information would form part of the evidence base for the Local Plan and would be put into the library. It was clear that Breckland retained a strong need for both market and affordable housing.
Councillor Bambridge was concerned that the Council would not get the 40-45% of affordable housing required as it was currently only achieving 25% and builders were struggling to meet that requirement.
The Deputy Planning Manager acknowledged that viability was a critical factor that would have to be considered, but the net figures identified a high level of housing need in the District.
Councillor Joel asked if there was a way to encourage builders to provide more one and two bedroom properties within the Local Plan. Elderly people could not downsize because of the lack of such properties.
Elderly housing was a key issue and the Housing Enabling Officers thought there might be the need for an additional piece of work with Norfolk County Council, as key providers of care for the elderly.
The Chairman noted that unless the number of houses built matched the figures in the assessment the Council would never meet its Five Year Housing Land Supply requirement and developers would be able to do what they wanted. If unrealistic figures were put forward the Council would never get control and the Plan would be pointless.
The Planning Policy Team Leader agreed and said that the need would not be met if unrealistic figures were set. All options had to be looked at to work out what was deliverable.
The report was noted.
Report of the Joint Deputy Planning Manager, David Spencer.
The Deputy Planning Manager presented the report which explained the requirement to assess the accommodation needs of Gypsies and Travellers. Under the NPPF the Council had to provide sufficient sites over the timescale of the Local Plan and the duty to cooperate with neighbouring Local Authorities applied to this issue as well.
Consultants would be used to do the assessment work and a report would be presented to the Working Group in September 2013. The Consultants would look at existing sites and those coming forward. They would not identify specific sites but would suggest broad areas for development.
In response to a question from Councillor Sharpe it was confirmed that Breckland had to have its own figure for sites although there might be scope to have joint provision with neighbouring authorities if there was local evidence of need in those areas.
Councillor Bambridge noted that Gypsies and Travellers had their preferred stopping places and would not use sites if they were in the wrong areas therefore it was important to work with the travelling community.
The Chairman was concerned about the duty to cooperate. If the Council produced its Plan first and then other authorities did not cooperate would that make the Plan unsound?
The Deputy Planning Manager advised that as long as it could be demonstrated that the Council had tried to consult and cooperate with its neighbours the Inspector should be satisfied.
The Planning Policy Team Leader reiterated that there were no details yet about what was required regarding agreement with neighbouring authorities. However, if the Plan was well evidenced, justified and effective it would be difficult to find it unsound.
The report was noted.
Report of the Planning Policy Officer, Natalie Beal.
The Planning Policy Officer updated Members on the progress of the three Attleborough Transport Studies being carried out by Capita Symonds.
The Smarter Choices Study was looking into ways of encouraging other modes of transport than single occupancy car journeys. It was pointed out that Attleborough was relatively compact and flat which made it conducive to walking and cycling. However, some areas were not easy to access by cycle and it was also difficult to access some areas by bus. Options such as having supermarket deliveries, rather than travelling to the shop, working from home and using public transport or car sharing were being looked at to try to reduce the number and length of trips.
The Town Centre Study was investigating the way that the one way gyratory system was working and to consider options for change to improve the town centre environment.
The Link Road Study was considering three alignment options including how best to cross the railway line, land ownership and cost issues. Modelling studies (using automated number plate recognition) had been carried out to inform a traffic model to test scenarios and provide information for the final report.
The aims of the study were to reduce single occupancy journeys and improve the movement of traffic.
Councillor Joel noted that the only way that some village residents could access the town was by car as some had no other means of transport. He was also concerned about increased traffic from Old Buckenham to Diss and the effects that would have.
The Planning Policy Officer acknowledged that there were some villages not linked to higher order service centres and suggestions for improved bus services would be made. With regard to the Link Road it was important to understand where people were going and how they were getting there to assess its potential diversionary effect on the town centre.
Councillor Bambridge noted that Attleborough had a car sharing scheme but that people left their cars in the car park all day. People were tied to their cars and it would be difficult to get them to change.
The Planning Policy Officer said that it was important to note that the study was aimed at those who could change their habits and it was acknowledged that not everyone could.
Councillor Kiddle-Morris advised Members that the Planning Policy Officer (Natalie Beal) was leaving the Council. He wished to personally thank her for all the work she had done for Breckland.
Councillor Martin asked what would happen if the final report concluded that the town could not take any more development and the Deputy Planning Manager advised that when the results were published there would be a comprehensive assessment of the town centre’s capacity for the first time.
It was confirmed that the final report would be ready in mid May 2013.
The report was noted.
Next Meeting (Agenda Item 11)
The next meeting of the Local Plan Working Group will be held on Tuesday, 7 May 2013 immediately following the Cabinet meeting.
The arrangements for the next meeting immediately following Cabinet on 7 May 2013 were noted.