CS15: Mixed and Balanced Communities

CS15: Mixed and Balanced Communities

The council will seek to ensure a genuine mix of housing types within existing and future communities in North Somerset through considering proposals for development in terms of the extent to which they:

1)  Contribute to a well integrated mix of housing types and tenures to support a range of household sizes, ages and incomes to meet identified housing needs in accordance with the Strategic Housing Market Assessment.

2)  Reduce an existing proliferation of one housing type within an area through encouraging the development of a range of housing types that better meet housing needs and contribute to an improved local environment.

3)  Contribute to creating an accessible, inclusive and safe community with easy access to a range of services.

This policy contributes towards achieving Priority Objectives 3, 4, 6 and 8.

Background

Creating mixed and balanced communities is one of the government's aims for sustainable development. This means providing sufficient good quality housing of the right types and mix, in the right places, which will be attractive to, and meet the identified needs of, different groups in society. The types of housing include market, social rented, mixed tenure, lifetime homes and special needs housing for groups like the elderly.

The Core Strategy objective to create mixed and balanced communities applies to both existing areas which may currently lack a genuine mix of housing types and tenures, and to new communities that will emerge such as at the Weston urban extension.

Balanced communities consisting of a range of services and housing types can help to achieve a sustainable community by:

Supporting a wider range of social and community infrastructure such as schools, nurseries and shops;

Encourage stability and community cohesion through allowing residents to move house but remain in the same area;

Reducing the transient population and fostering community spirit by an increased sense of belonging, identity and pride of place;

Increasing local employment levels which can help support local services;

Reducing the social isolation of a particular age group such as the elderly or the young;

Creating a more diverse and inclusive community than the one dominated by a single accommodation type.

Within North Somerset in 2008 there were approximately 90,464 dwellings of which about 80% are houses (mainly detached and semi-detached) and 20% are flats. The 2001 census showed that in North Somerset 78.6% of houses are owner occupied and of these 35.4% of homes were owned outright. However, home ownership levels vary across the district with for example, Clevedon Walton ward having 92.5% owner occupation, compared to Weston-super-Mare South Ward which has just 43%. Private rented accommodation accounted for 8.2% of the stock. Property rented from the local authority/housing association/registered social landlord (including shared ownership schemes) accounted for 13.1% of the stock.

North Somerset has a comparatively high level of home ownership (England and Wales average was 68.2% in 2001). However, there are significant disparities in homeownership levels across the district and an inability for people to access the property market due to a discrepancy between house prices and income levels. House prices have risen by 150% since 1996 compared to incomes which have risen by just 43%.

The Core Strategy approach

This policy aims to ensure the delivery of a mix of housing types and tenures across the district which will address the above issues by increasing accessibility to the housing market, increase equality of opportunity to live in certain areas and facilitate the creation of mixed and balanced communities.

Concentration of one housing type

In the Central and South Ward areas of Weston-super-Mare there are a higher proportion of sub-divided properties than in the remainder of Weston or North Somerset. In Central Ward in Weston the proportion of the housing stock given over to flats is 70% compared to a Weston average of 30%.

The North Somerset Sustainable Community Strategy aims to tackle inequality and disadvantage in deprived areas with some areas in Weston-super-Mare in the top 10% most deprived in England. Overall North Somerset has the 11th biggest equality gap in the country and it is one of the Core Strategy objectives to reduce inequalities between areas.

Although the predominance of flats and lack of family accommodation are not the sole reasons for the high levels of deprivation in these areas, they contribute to these communities exhibiting a transient population. This concentration of flats has significant implications for the provision of services, community spirit and deprivation levels. Through the implementation of this policy the Core Strategy will seek to retain and where appropriate increase the range and quality of housing, particularly family housing, in these areas.

How and where the policy will be delivered

The policy will be delivered through the preparation of detailed masterplanning, briefs and urban design codes for new developments, the assessment of planning applications, and exploring opportunities to re-balance the housing stock within existing communities. There may be an opportunity to examine more detailed area based approaches where a predominance of one particular type or tenure is causing social issues.

Effective delivery requires close working with housing and community development professionals, police and health experts.

Alternative options and contingency planning

The alternative would be not to require a mix of housing types and tenures in new developments. This would result in developments consisting of one housing type or tenure which could lead to a segregation of communities and an increase in the geographical inequalities in the district which would be contrary to national guidance and fail to achieve the sustainability objectives of the Core Strategy.

Monitoring and review

Monitoring will identify the mix of housing types (eg one/two/three/four bed flats/houses) and tenures (private rented/social rented/affordable/market etc) in new housing developments. Within identified areas such as Central and South wards in Weston-super-Mare, the number of applications and implementation of flats or homes in multiple occupation and conversions will be assessed.