Agenda item

Thetford Area Action Plan (TAAP) (Submission Version) (Agenda Item 11)

Report of the Executive Member for the Planning and Environmental Services Portfolio (Paul Claussen).

 

To save on paper costs all appendices to this report will only be available on the Council’s website (please click on the appropriate Cabinet meeting agenda link and this will take you to where the electronic versions of the documentation are contained).

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development introduced the report and handed over to the Principal Planning Policy Officer and the Planning Policy Officer (Growth Point) to present the details.

 

Members were advised that the document was ready for submission and the six week publication period would provide an opportunity for representations on its soundness.

 

When adopted, the Council would have in excess of eight years Housing Land Supply which would allow greater control over future development.

 

The evidence base was comprehensive and there had been numerous meetings with stakeholders.  The full suite of documents was available on the website.

 

The main changes to the document were pointed out and explained.  A key change was to re-order the document placing town-wide policies, including Town Centre regeneration, at the start of the plan.  Flexible policies would allow estate regeneration and encourage investment in commercial areas.  There had been improvements to the text and maps.  Policies had been strengthened where necessary.  Two new policies had been introduced on Biodiversity Management of Key Sites and Settlement Boundary.

 

The projected timeline was to publish the document for six weeks and following analysis of comments received and any amendments necessary to submit the document around November.  An Examination in Public would be held in early 2012 with the Inspector’s report expected around June and adoption by full Council around July 2012.

 

Mr Kybird noted that there were a significant number of policies and that growth and regeneration went hand in hand.  The contentious issues were Stone Curlews and the Bus Interchange.  He gave support to the detailed consideration of Thetford’s heritage.  He noted that there were no objectors present.

 

Mr Goreham asked how additional GPs would be attracted to Thetford and was advised that services would be competitively commissioned by NHS Norfolk either by existing practices expanding or the introduction of new practices.

 

Mr Cowen suggested that the Draft Masterplan should be amended to show the location of the proposed bus station, academy and additional railway station.  The Planning Policy Officer (Growth Point) Officer said that the Masterplan gave an indicative and strategic indication of proposals and that details would be made clear in the text.

 

Mr Cowen said he had not intended to criticise but wanted to help other people to understand the proposals.  He also raised the subject of Stone Curlews saying that they had created a lot of tension and had a huge impact on the shaping of Thetford.  The Inspectors had been keen for more work to be done as not enough was known about the impact of development on the birds.

 

The Principal Planning Policy Officer acknowledged that the Inspectors had made reference to the need for urgent research on Stone Curlew nesting densities near development.  It was difficult to mitigate until more was known and it would be a two to three year process to carry out the necessary study.  Officers had interpreted the Inspector’s comments to mean an urgent need to get on with the work.  There were various research options and Cabinet had agreed to go with a re-analysis of the existing data, together with the additional two years of data now available.  The work was being investigated and it was hoped to share the research with Forest Heath and maybe other affected authorities.  There were also a number of developers keen to contribute to the research.

 

Various other issues were discussed, including water abstraction.  Mrs Jolly was concerned about the potential effect of abstraction on the Meres which were European Protected Habitats.  The Officers advised that the detailed water cycle study had confirmed that there would be sufficient groundwater available assuming lower water demands were achieved in the new developments and that relevant policies sought reduced water demand as well as emphasising the need to protect habitats.  The Habitats Regulation Assessment had investigated the effect of water abstraction as well.

 

Mr Cowen asked if the adoption of the TAAP in 2012 would conclude the LDF process and it was pointed out that the Attleborough & Snetterton Heath Area Action Plan would still be outstanding.

 

The Chairman asked if the item on the Scrutiny agenda in September regarding development in Thetford was still required.  Mr Cowen said that he had attended the Cabinet meeting to gain further understanding and he did not feel that the matter needed to be scrutinised.

 

Option A

 

To agree to the publication of the TAAP document, including any amendments, for a period of at least six weeks.  To further agree to submit the TAAP document to the Secretary of State for an Examination in Public, unless comments received during the six weeks of pre-submission publication indicate that the document is unsound and should be withdrawn.

 

Option B

 

Not agree to the publication of the TAAP document, including any amendments and to further not agree to the submission of the TAAP document to the Secretary of State for an Examination in Public.

 

Reason

 

To allow the timely progression of a sound development and regeneration framework for Thetford.

 

RECOMMEND TO COUNCIL that the TAAP document be published for a period of at least six weeks.

Supporting documents: