Agenda item

Annual Monitoring Report 2013 (Agenda item 6)

Report of the Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development.


The Executive Member for Assets and Strategic Development presented the Annual Monitoring Report (AMR) for the 2012/2013 financial year.  All local authorities were required to produce an AMR in conjunction with Section 35 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and Section 34 of the Town and Country Planning Regulations (Local Planning) 2012.


The AMR sets out the progress and implementation of the policies contained within the Local Development Framework.  It was recommended that the document should be placed on the Council’s website as part of the evidence base for the Local Plan


The AMR had been divided into a number of chapters:


·        Housing, Employment and Regeneration

·        Natural Resources

·        Environment; and

·        Accessibility


The key findings were highlighted.  In relation to housing, Members were informed that 329 homes had been completed in Breckland during the past financial year.  This had been the lowest completions rates the District had seen over the Plan period for the Core Strategy since 2001.  Of these 329 dwellings, 86 had been affordable; this equated to 26% of the total completed.  It was hoped that housing numbers would increase in future.


Local Authorities were required to produce a five year Land Supply Statement.  This Statement had been reported to the Planning Committee on 29 July 2013.  This year’s Statement highlighted the fact that Breckland did not have a five year housing land supply and instead could only demonstrate a 2.8 year supply; however, it was anticipated that the forthcoming developments in Thetford should help facilitate the supply in the District.


In relation to employment, the majority of employment floorspace over the past financial year had increased to 28,418sqm the majority being for general and industrial uses; however, for retail there had been a slight decline in A1 floorspace.


There had been a number of new renewable schemes that had been granted planning permission in the District over the past year particularly in the form of solar farms.  When installed, the applications permitted would, in total, have a capacity of 77.8MW.


The AMR also included an update on progress of documents within the Local Development Framework.  During the last financial year the Council adopted the Thetford Area Action Plan (TAAP), and as such this years AMR contained guidance on how the targets within the TAAP were being met.  Members were asked to note that the reviewed Local Development Scheme had been adopted in March 2013 and the performance against it would be considered in next years AMR.


Onwards from page 51 of the report contained performance of policies within the TAAP and the performance within the Site Specifics Policies and Proposals which would be updated every year.


The AMR also included an update on the Council’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) and it highlighted whether any of these sites had been built since last year.


Referring to the vacancy levels of A1 floorspace in Dereham (see paragraph 1.8 of the report and pages 30 to 31 of the AMR), Councillor Duigan felt that the words “slightly decreased”, should be changed to “significantly decreased” as the levels of vacant floorspace in 2013 had gone down by a third in comparison to 2011/12.  He also felt that the analysis and how it had been written was incorrect.  Further to this, he asked if the tables within the report could be re-formatted as they were not showing the same on screen as they were on paper.  The Planning Policy Team Leader said that all the above concerns would be looked at. Councillor Duigan further asked if the number of properties the amount of floorspace represented could be added to the tables.


Councillor Cowen put forward a number of questions and concerns in relation to the quota of affordable housing that had been completed which called for a target amount of 40% which in his opinion was far too high.  The result for 2012/13 had been 26% and he felt that this figure should inform how the Council’s Core Strategy should be taken forward in relation to the affordable housing figures. 


Breckland Council currently had a 3.12 year supply of deliverable housing land; however, when taking into account the need to provide an additional 20% buffer, the total housing land supply would be reduced further to 2.8 years.  Referring to this, Councillor Cowen asked what the real impact of the 5000 homes for Thetford in 2.8 years would be.  The Planning Policy Team Leader explained that the growth in Thetford would last a number of years, not all dwellings would be added in the five year period.  Councillor Cowen thought this was a very important answer as it would help inform many future decisions made.  He further asked whether the new guidance on permitted development that had recently been submitted by the Department of Communities & Local Government (DCLG) would have any impact on Breckland Council.   Members were informed that it would have little effect on Breckland Council as it was difficult to record any build under permitted development rights.  Councillor Cowen felt that this matter should be looked at more closely as the Council’s Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) could be affected.


Referring to the aforementioned point about 40% affordable housing, Councillor Kiddle-Morris stated that the policy did have a caveat included to reduce this target figure.  He pointed out that he knew of other local authorities lower than 26% but he was not keen to reduce the amount as he was certain that the economic climate would get better in future.  Councillor Joel thought that 26% during a recession was a good figure and felt that 30% to 35% was the target that the Council should be looking at.


Councillor Bambridge asked how many jobs the 28,418sqm equated to. In response, Councillor Kiddle-Morris said that the Economic Development Team kept a close eye on employment figures in the Breckland area which Planning could have. 


Councillor Bambridge also asked whether Breckland should have a policy on occupancy rates of its retail establishments in all of the towns and, in relation to renewable energy schemes, he wanted to know if the Wind Farm Strategy should be included in the LDF.  In terms of retail and the amount of floorspace, the Planning Policy Officer advised that the Planning Policy Team did try to encourage A1 users to the towns.  It was agreed that the policies needed to improve the mix of shops in the towns.  In response to the latter questions, particularly in relation to renewable energy, the Planning Policy Team Leader informed Members that there was an assessment document referenced in the supporting text within the AMR; unfortunately, the document that Councillor Bambridge had mentioned was significantly out of date.  It was noted, however, that micro-renewables were going to be looked at.


Councillor Duigan felt that Dereham town was suffering due to the number of buses available to Norwich.  It was noted that according to new studies retail premises would be reduced in town centres in future.


The Annual Monitoring Report 2013 was otherwise noted.


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