Strategic Gaps

Background

Core Strategy Policy CS19 establishes the need for strategic gaps. It states that “the council will protect strategic gaps to help retain the separate identity, character and/or landscape setting of settlements and distinct parts of settlements”. The Core Strategy indicates that strategic gaps will be identified, and a policy to guide assessment of development proposals affecting strategic gaps will be set out in the Sites and Policies Development Plan Document (now the Site Allocations Plan). Policy SA 9 provides this.

Strategic gaps are needed because reliance on countryside policies alone would be unlikely to provide sufficient protection against development which would harm the separate identity, character and/or landscape setting of settlements or distinct parts of settlements.

While existing policies in the adopted North Somerset Replacement Local Plan (RLP) and Core Strategy (CS), and emerging policies in the Sites and Policies Plan Part 1 Development Management Policies (SAPP) provide some control of development in the countryside, they do allow for exceptions. There is also a risk of development between settlements being allowed on appeal.

Thus there is a significant risk that, without the added protection of strategic gaps, the open character of land between the settlements would be significantly adversely affected and their landscape setting, separate identity and character harmed. There would particularly be a risk of gradual incremental development, and where the gap is narrow there would be a potential risk of eventual coalescence of the settlements.

Strategic gaps have broadly similar functions to the Green Belt, but with important differences, notably that they operate on a much more localised, focussed scale. The purposes of the Green Belt are set out in paragraph 80 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)). The functions of strategic gaps are reflected in Policy CS19 and further detail is provided by policy SA 9. The broad similarity to some of the purposes of the Green Belt is that strategic gaps would help prevent the merging of settlements, assist in safeguarding the countryside from ‘encroachment’ so far as land between the settlements is concerned, and help to protect the setting and character of settlements (though this would involve villages as well as towns).

This broad similarity of functions means that it is inappropriate for strategic gaps to overlap with the Green Belt, so this has influenced definition of strategic gap boundaries in some cases.

Strategic gaps, with detailed boundaries, are identified on the emerging Proposals Map, between the following places:

  • Weston-super-Mare, Hutton, Locking and Parklands Village
  • Weston-super-Mare and Uphill
  • Weston-super-Mare and St Georges
  • Congresbury and Yatton
  • Nailsea and Backwell  

POLICY SA 9: Strategic Gaps

Development within strategic gaps as shown on the proposals map will be permitted where:

  • the open or undeveloped character of the gap would not be significantly adversely affected;
  • the separate identity and character of the settlements would not be harmed; and
  • the landscape setting of the settlements would not be harmed.

The likely impact of the proposal in conjunction with any other developments with extant planning consent will be taken into account.