Agenda item

Core Policies (continued)

Part 2 consideration of Preferred Policy Options Consultation, adjourned from the last meeting (Minute 68/07 refers).

 

Printed versions of the following additional supporting documents are enclosed with this agenda as separate documents:

 

§         Appendix 6: Preferred Options (REG26): Development Control Policies

§         Appendix 7: Sustainability Appraisal: Development Control Policies

 

The documents can also be viewed online using the following link: http://www.breckland.gov.uk/brecklandcouncil/environment/planning/planningpolicy/localdevelopmentframework

 

Members should bring to the meeting their copy of the following documents as previously circulated:

 

  • Report of the Operations Manager (Environment)
  • Appendix 1: LDF Diagram
  • Appendix 2: Summary of Preferred Options for Members
  • Appendix 3: Core Strategy & Development Control Policies Preferred Options 2007

Supporting Documents folder containing:

  • Appendix 4a: Results of consultation to date
  • Appendix 4b: Development Choices Consultation feedback
  • Appendix 4c: Summary of Comments from REG26 Stage
  • Appendix 5: Sustainability Appraisal: Core Strategy Policies

 

[Note - For those members not present at the last meeting, copies of the supporting documents folder will be available for them at the meeting.]

 

Members are asked to retain their copies of the above documents for future reference.

Minutes:

Following on from the adjourned meeting on 23 October 2007, discussions on the Core Policies continued as follows:

 

CP4 Infrastructure

 

This policy aimed to deliver a proactive approach to infrastructure provision. 

 

Key issues related to the need for extra capacity for high schools at Dereham, Attleborough, Thetford and Old Buckenham; additional new primary school provision in Thetford, Attleborough and Dereham; enhancements to capacity at Dereham, Wayland (Watton) and Litcham high schools.  Additional strategic waste water treatment capacity was also needed at Attleborough and Dereham to meet future development.

 

Members endorsed the importance of resolving these issues for the District and during discussion the following further points were made:

 

  • A critical date for sewage treatment capacity in Thetford was 2016.  A separate water cycle study was being made which would include technical solutions to meet future needs.

  • Members remained of the view that infrastructure to meet housing expansion, particularly regarding schools, should be in place before housing development started.  It was explained that the preferred policy option put a responsibility on developers to demonstrate that developments would not harm existing provisions.

  • There was concern that the Council had little control over the provision of infrastructure, such as schools, sewerage and public transport.

  • Views were expressed in support of developers’ contributions from Section 106 Agreements to support community infrastructure needs.  In this regard, it was noted that the bulk of such funding would be related to housing developments but which would come only on completion of developments.  It was proposed by a member that the Council should adopt a policy requiring S106 Agreements to be agreed and signed prior to the submission of planning applications, which it was felt would help to speed up the planning system and also improve the Council’s Government planning grant.  It was explained that the Council was embarking on a major review of S106 policy, a key part of which would be to look at the issue around the timing of developer contributions and implementation of infrastructure.

  • So far as Dereham was concerned, it was confirmed that the problems facing schools and water treatment capacity were well understood.  A strategic risk model had been produced and solutions were being investigated.

 

            (Note – Mr. P.J. Duigan declared a personal interest in regard to the above point as a member of Dereham Town Council, which owned land in the town.)

CP5 Town Centres

 

This policy took a cautious approach to out of town retailing, which would require strong evidence of need and demonstrate that no town centre sites were available.

 

Primary retail shopping areas were to be defined in the proposals maps and were designed to limit the use of non-retail developments in those areas to prevent any over-dominance.

 

During discussion, the following points were raised:

 

  • In regard to Dereham, there was a need to factor in the impact on food retailing provision in the town from the recent planning approval for the expansion of the Tesco store.  With regard to non-retail use, the strategy would focus non-retail use into the secondary town centre area away from the primary area.

 

  • Some members had concerns that limits on non-retail use in town centres could risk properties standing vacant.  Another concern was that Banks in town centres attracted people into towns which supported retail shopping and that Banks would be unlikely to want to move into secondary town centre areas if they needed to expand.  In reply, it was explained that the Development Control Policies expanded on the Core Policy and would give flexibility to allow for some non-retail/office use (e.g. Banks) in primary shopping areas.

  • It was confirmed that there would need to be wide consultation with businesses on the LDF.

  • A member felt that it was crucial to ensure adequate nearby car park provision to serve primary shopping areas.  He felt that this was not demonstrated in the proposals maps, particularly so far as Dereham was concerned.

CP6 Natural Resources

 

§         A member raised the issue of water resources and the fact that Norfolk supplied a lot of its resource to Essex.  It was suggested this need could be met through other means (as technological advances meant that supplies could be made from elsewhere over longer distances) and including the use of desalination plants.  This would help to conserve Norfolk’s own resource.

§         On the question of water efficiency improvements, a member asked how much control the Council had to require developers to incorporate water and other energy resource saving solutions into housing developments.  In reply, it was explained that there was limited scope to condition developments through the use of conditions on planning consents.   Building Regulations were more relevant to this question and there was to be a national review by the Government of Building Regulations.  It was felt the Government needed to revise the policies around Building Regulations.  The Spatial Strategy was also relevant as it recognised other mechanisms which could be aligned with planning consents to deliver solutions.

 

CP7 Pollution and Waste

 

The Norfolk Minerals and Waste LDF and other Development Control policies would be relevant to this policy.

 

  • The concept of encouraging the use of renewable energy solutions to be provided in buildings was supported and it was noted that Planning Policy Statement 22 enabled authorities to adopt policies for embedded renewable solutions on sites.  However, it was explained that it was not felt desirable to prescribe policies for specific solutions, for example to require low level heat recovery systems, as there might be other viable solutions or a mix of solutions that could be applied.  Development Control Policy DC15 was also relevant. 

  • In addition, officers were looking at solutions employed elsewhere in the country to gather information and learn from their experiences.  An example of this was looking at a combined heat and power solution scheme in Woking as part of the investigations for an energy supply solution for Snetterton.

  • Future work on the Site Specifics stage of the LDF would provide more opportunities to look at solutions for sites and there should be opportunities to visit sites to view the types of solutions being employed elsewhere in the country.

 

CP8 Natural Environment

 

This policy sought to strike a balance between the various designations for protection of sites and enhancement of bio-diversity.  In line with Government guidance, international protection policies were not duplicated in the policy but these were applied through a separate and very strict assessment process, as well as through the planning process.  This would cover SAC sites such as the River Wensum, which a member felt needed to be protected.

 

(Note – Mr. S.G. Bambridge declared a personal interest in this item as a member of the Wensum Valley Trust.)

 

CP9 Protection and Enhancement of the Landscape of the District

 

This policy sought to protect the intrinsic beauty of the District and was one of the most locally-focused policies.

 

In terms of wildlife, protection policies would normally be those designated by English Nature or other national or international body.

 

In terms of landscape, the policy looked at how to protect those areas which give Breckland its character.  The Landscape Character Assessment was given weight in the policies when looking at diversification.

 

Examples of the type of areas that would fall within this policy were the flatlands at Yaxham and areas of oak trees to the North and East of Dereham, which were considered to be one of the few areas where this type of landscape could be seen.

 

CP10 Design Quality

 

Members strongly welcomed this policy.  There were concerns that much of the modern estate development created a blandness and sameness of design, such as the house types used by national house building companies, so that much of the local ‘Norfolk’ character was being lost.

 

It was explained the Development Control Policies set out in more detail the design principles.  However, Breckland was quite diverse in its built form and it would be difficult to set strict criteria and it was agreed that it would be a big challenge to raise design standards.

 

Members nonetheless felt the policies should seek to reflect the differences in areas, as was achieved elsewhere across the country.  It was suggested Village Appraisals could be used to establish design statements that could define the village style, thus helping to protect the uniqueness of an area.

 

Particular reference was made to the loss of the traditional Norfolk roof from housing developments in Breckland, which were unique to the area and the design of which, with its lower pitch and width of eaves, was ideally suited to the Breckland climate and landscape.   It was felt that this and other historically significant buildings (even if they were not Listed Buildings) and features but which were intrinsic to the character of an area should be protected.  Members endorsed the view that a policy should be included to this effect.

 

CP11 Energy

 

There was a national commitment to increase energy conservation through the use of renewable resources and low-carbon technologies.  This policy set out the criteria for proposals to be considered on their merits.

 

A member highlighted the importance of the need for wind energy developments to be viable, although he fully supported a policy which would put wind/renewable energy solutions on smaller sites.  Another member spoke against the development of wind turbines as unviable and inefficient solutions.

 

It was explained that the definition of viability and determination of long-term use was secured through those policies requiring the removal at the developer’s cost of a wind turbine or other installation when it was no longer needed or ceased use. 

 

There was an onus on local authorities to conform to national and regional policies in regard to renewable energy solutions.  The Council had carried out a survey which had identified, in terms of landscape character, certain areas where wind turbines could be permitted.  This landscape character assessment provided much useful information and helped the Council to manage such proposals.

 

A member queried who benefited from energy suppliers’ development contributions.  He felt it should be the village concerned but that this might not always be the case.  The Environmental Planning Manager thought that the respective villages did receive such contribution but undertook to clarify the matter.<1>

 

A member pointed out that some authorities required a development deposit on wind turbine developments, which he felt was something the Council should investigate.  Another member suggested that consideration should be given to producing scoring criteria for developments incorporating renewable energy design solutions.  Officers were asked to take these points into account in the development of Site Specifics policies.

 

CP12 Accessibility

 

This policy was closely interrelated with on housing and employment.  It accepted that Breckland was a rural area with dispersed villages and minimal public transport and recognised the need for adequate provision for cars and car parking in private developments.  However, it also had to be balanced with other mobility options where available. 

 

Members stressed the fact that 51% of the Breckland population lived in rural areas with no public transport or footpaths and that many of the options could only be related to urban areas, a point which was accepted.

 

Members supported the expansion of community car schemes as a proven solution to the lack of public transport. 

 

A member suggested the current ratio of car parking space per dwelling in the villages was insufficient and should be increased.

 

CP13 Rural Communities

 

This was a key policy which sought to provide for development outside local service centres and towns but with the scale of development being relative to the existing settlement.  It sought to protect and support existing service provision and employment in the countryside.

 

A member questioned the reference in the policy to the term “infill development”, which he felt was too prescriptive, and also questioned the need for two service provision criteria to enable development. 

 

The Environmental Planning Manager agreed to review the wording on “infill development”.

 

A key issue for rural settlements was how to balance safeguarding existing service provision with an appropriate scale for new development, i.e. to balance development against the issue of sustainability.

 

A member referred to instances of those villages which had no services but had a strong demand for more houses.  There was a fear that they could be constrained by this policy.

 

It was explained that much of the demand was for affordable housing to enable the younger population to remain in their local villages and this need could still be helped through the development of exception sites.

 

A member felt that the policy was not clear on this point.  The Environmental Planning Manager explained that this policy was an overarching one designed to allow the Council to address issues and match need.  More detail about how this could be achieved was provided through the Development Control policies.

 

A member questioned the definition of sustainability used in the policy and felt that the bigger a village was did not necessarily mean it was also sustainable.  Although he agreed that there could not be unlimited development, he felt that there should be more emphasis on local views being taken into account.

 

On a further point by another member, who felt that existing settlement boundaries were drawn too tightly, the Environmental Planning Manager agreed that a review was needed in some cases.  To this end, the Site Specifics stage would enable the boundaries to be revisited so that local communities could define where they would not want development to take place (e.g. to protect the character of an area) and to overcome some of the feelings about “cramming” from infill development which had been experienced in the past.

 

A member raised the issue of the need to address the issue of the railway crossing in Attleborough and it was confirmed that this was a key element in the transport strategy for Attleborough which was currently under discussion and it appeared that there were some positive solutions coming forward.

Supporting documents: