LDF - Adoption of Core Strategy and Development Control Policies Development Plan Document (Agenda Item 11)
Report by the Deputy Chief Executive.
The appendices to the report are available to view by following the link:
Councillor Claire Bowes, Lady Fisher and Messrs Askew, Childerhouse, Kybird and Sharpe left the meeting and took no part in the discussions on this item.
The Development Services Manager and Principal Planning Policy Officer presented this item.
The Development Services Manager said that he was delighted to be able to present good news to the Council as the Independent Inspectors’ Report had concluded that the Council’s Core Strategy was a “sound” policy document. As a result of a thorough and robust examination procedure, some minor changes had been proposed. He explained that, if adopted, the document would form part of the up-to-date Development Plan for Breckland, and would form the starting point for the determination of planning applications.
Public hearings had commenced on 30 June and concluded on 17 July 2009.
Whilst most meetings had been held at Elizabeth House in Dereham, the Inspectors also held specific meetings in Attleborough and Thetford, which had proved a positive way for local communities to see the Inspectors and hear the discussion. Feedback had indicated that this approach had been much appreciated within the communities.
Breckland had produced a comprehensive and complex document, and was one of fewer than 50 (out of 326) Local Planning Authorities in England to have achieved such a sound Core Strategy. The Strategy meant that Breckland would be in a very strong position to manage development in its area.
Key points highlighted by the Development Services Manager and Principal Planning Officer in the report presented to Council included:
Ÿ Local Service Centre Villages - para 3.2.14
The Inspectors had endorsed the allocation of 50 new homes in Swanton Morley, but had advised that local details needed to be more rigorously examined and tested as part of the Site Specifics document.
The LDF Task & Finish Group had then given this further consideration, and had concluded that these 50 new homes should be delivered on one site in order to minimise the environmental impact and enable a phased approach to the release of land.
Ÿ Weeting - para 3.2.15
The Inspectors had endorsed Weeting’s status as a Local Service Centre, with no allocation for housing. However, they also recommended that while further advice should be sought, and research undertaken, with regard to the possible identification of future development, the Site Specifics document should not be delayed whilst awaiting the results of further Stone Curlew research.
The Development Services Manager concluded the presentation by explaining that elements of the Breckland Local Plan dated back to 1999. The Core Strategy and Development Plan document would bring this up-to-date, as well as provide a strong basis upon which to take forward specific Area Action Plans, such as for Thetford and Attleborough. The proposed LDF policy would remain under review and, as a sound document, having been thoroughly examined under public scrutiny, he recommended the Core Strategy and Development Control Policies Development Plan 2001-2026 to Council for adoption.
The Chairman then invited Members to raise any questions, and the following key points were discussed:
European Sites and Protected Species (para 3.2.2)
A Member highlighted para 3.1.6, reminding Members that the Inspectors’ Report was binding in its entirety on the Local Planning Authority. The Council would be unable to be selective in terms of which parts of the Report it chose to accept, nor was there any scope for modification.
Bearing this in mind, and with respect to European Sites and Protected Species (para 3.2.2), he drew attention to the fact that a large part of Breckland was facing “draconian” restrictions on local development because of the extent of the ‘buffer zones’ of the Special Protection Areas (SPAs), and, specifically, the possible impact on Stone Curlews. The rest of that section highlighted that many expert witnesses had been called, and that the Inspectors had considered this in great detail, recommending that “urgent work” was now essential in order to have a better understanding of interactions between Stone Curlews and human settlement/boundaries. In other words, at this stage, there was insufficient evidence to prove that the proposed 1500 metre buffer zone needed to be fully endorsed. The Inspectors had proposed a cautious approach. He therefore made a proposal, which was seconded by Mr J. Labouchere, to refer this matter back to Cabinet, requesting a Report on the possibility of sponsoring urgent research over the next 2-3 years (in conjunction with the three other neighbouring Local Authorities which form part of the Brecks SPA, or buffer zone), in order to enable a better understanding of the interaction between Stone Curlews and human settlements.
Rural Communities (para 3.2.16)
The Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Commission expressed his disappointment in the attitude of the Inspectors, who had concluded that a strategy directing more housing to smaller villages would provide no guarantee of supporting rural services - and was more likely to reinforce unsustainable commuting patterns.
As detailed above (Minute No. 142/09(c)), he felt that the Council had a real responsibility towards its rural communities, and that such communities needed as much support as possible. It would therefore be sensible to take care to tie the Core Strategy in with the proposed review of DC19, rather than pull in different directions.
The need to support and sustain rural enterprises was warmly endorsed by another Member, who believed this should be a key area of concern for the Council.
Attleborough and Snetterton
Mr P. Francis raised the issue of the proposed link road at Attleborough (para 3.2.11). This formed part of the Core Policy 4, which the Inspectors had deemed to be undeliverable as submitted before the Examination. He was particularly anxious to stress local concerns about this issue, as there was strong local feeling that the link road was essential: it would pay a vital role in ensuring that construction traffic was routed away from the town, rather than causing unnecessary and untenable congestion.
He believed that he had at some point, having been duly seconded, obtained a resolution seeking the installation of the link road as a pre-requisite to development to the south of the town. He asked if the Development Services Manager and his team felt confident that they could deliver the link road as part of a planning agreement before any new housing development was permitted south of the railway line.
In response, the Development Services Manager said that there had been careful consideration and much consultation with the Attleborough Task Force and other concerned bodies about how best to take this forward. Attleborough clearly had a significant number of issues in terms of roads and drainage, etc, which needed to be resolved. He acknowledged that the considerable growth proposed for Attleborough (4,000 new houses) meant that it would be essential for careful research to be done in advance, especially in terms of local traffic impact. The Inspectors had also indicated that the Area Action Plan for Attleborough needed to focus on these key areas.
Site specific issues would therefore be taken forward through the Area Action Plan process and the normal planning application process, which would include a S.106 Agreement, both of which were controlled by the Local Authority. There was a provision which enabled any proposed development to be almost entirely dependent upon the outcome of a local transport study.
Consideration also needed to be given to the fact that Norfolk County Council (NCC) might well need to be involved in any proposed fundamental changes to the transport infrastructure around Attleborough, prior to any new development.
Mr Francis remained concerned that the link road should form an intrinsic part of any planning proposal before any new properties were built south of the town.
The Development Services Manager said that he anticipated that any application for a substantial number of new houses to the south of Attleborough would indeed include a requirement for a link road, and would be dealt with under S.106. However the details of where, and when, would need considerable more work before submission to the Development Control Committee for a final decision.
He also said that there would need to be consultation with relevant agents about how to deal with the issue of construction traffic, in terms of routing agreements to ensure that the vast bulk of such traffic would be taken away from the town centre.
Another Member commented that the importance of proper preparation and consultation had been illustrated a couple of years ago in Carbrooke, when chaos had ensued owing to the lack of key agreements being in force in advance of development.
The Attleborough to Diss road was also highlighted as another case where half a new development had been built in advance of a suitable road. Again, this had proved impractical at the local level.
In conclusion, there was a strong feeling among Members that suitable transport links needed to be prioritised at an early stage of any proposed new development. Specifically with regard to the proposed new housing development for Attleborough, it was felt that the link road should form a crucial part of any planning process.
(1) Breckland’s Core Strategy and Development Control Policies Development Plan Document 2001-2026, be adopted, with the amendments recommended in the Inspector’s Report; and
(2) Cabinet be asked to instigate a report into the interaction between Stone Curlews and their impact on human settlements.