Agenda item

Breckland Local Development Framework: Core Strategy for the Rural Area (Agenda Item 7)

Report of the Strategic Director for Transformation.


The Senior Planning Policy Officer presented the report which provided Members with an analysis of the larger villages in Breckland that had the potential to accommodate sustainable growth as part of the Core Strategy for the Breckland LDF.


Revisions to national planning policies and the emerging Regional Plan recognised that larger villages had a role to play in providing employment, services and housing to meet local needs and work to date on the Council’s Core Strategy had consistently proposed that there were a number of larger villages in Breckland that could fulfil the role of Local Service Centres.


These proposals had produced significant consultation at the various stages of the consultation process and it was important that this locally determined element of the LDF was considered and a view given on what formed the basis of the forthcoming submission of the Core Strategy to the Planning Inspectorate.


The Panel was accordingly invited to consider the policy response to Local Service Centre villages in Breckland as the basis for submission to the Planning Inspectorate in November 2008 and to consider the role of non-Local Service Centre villages and the strategy for the rural area in general.


The report set out the context for the Strategy for the rural area and the regional assessment criteria.


From the responses to the consultations to date, there had been no substantial objections to the rural strategy as a whole or to the overall approach proposed through the suite of positive policies developed to support the larger and smaller villages in the rural areas.


The recent Matthew Taylor Report – “Living, Working Countryside” to the Government recognised the tensions in national policies and, in particular, highlighted the low supply of affordable housing in rural areas.  The Council’s policies were aimed at positively supporting housing in rural Breckland, as well as reflecting other Council strategies.


So far as the assessment criteria for Local Service Centre villages were concerned, it was evident that not all of these could be met, specifically so far as primary health care facilities were concerned, as these were not generally found in the villages.  A balance, therefore, had to be drawn.  In the Breckland context, the approach had been taken that where villages met three or four of the criteria these should be evidenced and justified for selection as Local Service Centres.


The Panel then discussed various aspects of the approach to the selection of local service centres and, in particular, whether the adoption of a one- or two-tier category of villages was desirable.


Referring to the proposed two-tier category (i.e. tier 1: those villages identified for development and tier 2: those for service protection only), one member felt that the second tier was key for Breckland, as it highlighted the wider understanding in the Regional Plan and the LDF of the issue of protection, which was an important message for the primary health care and other county service providers.  However, he was concerned that the proposals appeared to indicate that those smaller villages with less than two service facilities would lose their settlement boundaries.  This raised serious implications for their future, since he felt they would be very unlikely to benefit from any windfall housing or exception sites, ultimately leading to their decline.


The Senior Planning Policy Officer agreed that it was important to have a clear strategy to enhance and protect services which gave a clear message to other stakeholders.  He accepted that the two-tier concept in the submission document had not been clearly understood during the consultation process and the wording would be clarified.  So far as the issue of development boundaries was concerned, however, this would be dealt with under the later site specifics stage of the LDF.


Another member asked how the Council could protect those services which were not within its control, for example the closure of shops and post offices and the issue of public transport. 


It was explained that these issues were highlighted and promoted in the LDF to link to other Local Authority policies and strategies and, in this way, the Council could have some influence in the treatment of such issues by others.  A member concurred by saying that the Council’s Sustainable Community Strategy included reference to the strengthening of services in Local Service Centres and the market towns in the LDF, thereby reinforcing this approach at the wider level.  The point was also made that Members had the opportunity to raise issues at County level through their County Council representatives.


In answer to other questions, it was explained that the Annual Monitoring Plan would highlight and give an opportunity to look at the impact on villages from the withdrawal of any existing services from local service centre villages during the life of the LDF.  It was also unlikely that the Planning Inspector would decide to include a village as a local service centre for growth as opposed to service protection only, for example in the case of Necton, which had a high level of existing planning permissions and where there were constraints on further development due to flooding issues at the present time, but from which the village might recover to support growth in the future.


It was also pointed out that the concept of local service centres was not to compete with the market towns but rather to offer day-to-day choice.  New allocations in the villages should be based on what enhanced them, not just in terms of housing but also in terms of services.


Affordable housing in the countryside was recognised as a key issue in the LDF and development would still occur in the rural area, where there was a forecast of 3000 housing windfall.  The local service centre villages were those where the Council would make positive allocations for development over the 15-year period of the Plan.  For those centres not being promoted for growth, there would still be some smaller development potential, for example from barn conversions, replacement dwellings etc.


Members also spoke in favour of policies that would encourage small businesses and employment in the villages, in addition to affordable housing, to support sustainability and foster the live-work balance. 


The need for consistency in the approach adopted towards the rural areas and Local Service Centres was stressed.


The Core Strategy, together with the identification of Local Service Centre villages, positively responded to issues of employment and to give a policy framework to enable and support businesses; although there was no specific reference to the term ‘live-work’, the mechanisms and framework for such was enshrined within the policies.  A member asked that thought be given as to how the ‘live-work’ concept might be highlighted in the document.


Each of the candidate Local Service Centres were then considered in detail based on the analysis of the Local Service Centre villages and the policy responses, consultation comments received and options available, as set out in the report. 


It was noted that in terms of Local Service Centres promoted for Growth that they should generally meet at least four of the Regional Criteria. Great Ellingham only met three criteria and the Parish Council objected to the identification as an LSC for growth during the Preferred Options Consultation. Members therefore considered that Great Ellingham should be removed as an LSC for growth and be put in the second tier, consistent with the LSCs in that category.


In considering Weeting in the list of candidate villages, it was highlighted that there were a number of nearby designated European environmental habitats and the impact of growth on them was being investigated through the Appropriate Assessment process as it was an issue that would impact upon the ability of the village to be a Local Service Centre for Growth.  In addition, during discussion, a question was raised as to the level of housing growth supported by the Parish Council (i.e. 50 or 100 houses) and it was agreed this needed to be clarified.


In considering the summary of comments in Table 2 of the report, the Panel concurred with the view that there was no evidence to justify the inclusion of Kenninghall and Bawdeswell as candidate Local Service Centres on the grounds that they did not meet the criteria. 


The Panel also considered the position of the village of Carbrooke which had also previously been raised as a candidate Local Service Centre but again concurred with the view that there was no evidence to support its inclusion.




(1)    the Panel concurs with the assessment criteria used to identify villages as Local Service Centres as set out in paragraph 3.2.15 of the report, i.e. that they meet at least four of the Regional Plan criteria, with the presence of primary healthcare facilities being afforded less weight in terms of satisfying the criteria as this is considered to be less critical in meeting day to day needs, and taking into account the following additional factors:  a) community views (including parish plans/appraisals), b) environmental factors (e.g. biodiversity, landscape, flood risk), c) infrastructure capacity, and d) existing levels of committed development;

(2)    based on the detailed analysis of candidate Local Service Centre Villages, the following options be recommended for inclusion in the Core Strategy:


a)  Local Service Centre Villages allocated for growth –

§         Harling (for 50 homes, subject to review in five years’ time)

§         Narborough (for up to 50 houses)

§         Shipdham (for 100 homes)

§         Swanton Morley (for 50 homes)

§         Weeting (number of houses to be clarified)


b) Local Service Centre Villages allocated for service protection only –

§         Banham

§         Great Ellingham

§         Litcham

§         Mattishall

§         Mundford

§         Necton

§         North Elmham

§         Old Buckenham

§         Saham Toney


(3)    the Panel concurs with the view that there is no evidence to justify the inclusion of the parishes of Kenninghall, Bawdeswell or Carbrooke as candidate Local Service Centres;

(4)    subject to the above, the Strategy for the Rural Area as outlined in the report be supported.


Supporting documents: