Site Allocations Plan - Main Modifications Consultation

Document Section Site Allocations Plan - Main Modifications Consultation 1. General comments [View all comments on this section]
Comment ID 11936993//1
Respondent Deleted User [View all comments by this respondent]
Agent Deleted User
Response Date 30 Oct 2017
Comment

MM1, MM4-MM32 : Table 1, Schedule 1 and Policies Map
OBJECTION

The Proposed Modifications fall well short of the Inspector’s clear requirements for a buffer based on 20% of the residual housing requirement which would call for sites to accommodate some 2,500 additional units. Her advice to the Council was quite clear that: … if the SAP is adopted in its current form with the high level of uncertainty as to the deliverability of allocated sites and in particular the need for more sites that can be developed within the next five years, it would fail to deliver the CS requirement or to ensure that the Council can maintain a 5 year housing land supply. Sources from which additional allocations can be sought have already been identified by the Council, and some preliminary work is being carried out to test suitable sites. Having regard to the urgent need to boost the supply of housing, I consider that the Council should test a potential for the provision of up to 2,500 additional houses in order to identify the environmental costs of allocating a wider choice of housing sites. Furthermore, where new allocations are to be made, there is a need to identify and allocate sites which can be made available for development at an early date to help meet the five year supply as well as secure the overall delivery of the housing requirement by 2026.

There is no evidence whatsoever that the Council has ‘tested the potential’ of up to 2,500 additional houses, and identified, through sustainability appraisal, the ‘environmental costs’ of meeting it. There is no robust consideration and rejection of potential options on environmental grounds. On the contrary, the Council has simply selected a number of sites on the basis of a cursory screening against the provisions of the Core Strategy and tested those. The sites that have been tested have not had the cumulative capacity to deliver the 2,500 additional houses recommended by the Inspector. The ‘potential’ has therefore not been tested, and therefore the Council has not done what the Inspector required them to do.

MM have been party to the preparation of, and fully endorse, the Joint Response of the Development Industry to the Proposed Modifications. They will not reiterate the points raised in that Joint Response, but would highlight the following elements of it:

  • Through the supporting documentation (CD2), the Council inappropriately sought to re-open the debate on the additional quantum of housing to be provided. This has caused the Council to neither test, nor meet, the Inspector’s requirements, rather than their failure to make additional provisions to meet it being a reflection of unacceptable conflict with the Core Strategy, or environmental costs, of doing so.
  • The process has failed to identify provision for an additional 2,500 units and, ipso facto, to demonstrate that the implications of doing so would be a plan that fails to comply with the Core Strategy and/or give rise to unacceptable environmental costs, in accordance with the clear requirements of the Inspector.

For reasons that are set out in specific response to MM14, there are additional sites that are compliant with the qualifying criteria identified by the Council4 that can contribute further to achieving the Inspector’s requirements without either conflicting with the Core Strategy or giving rise to unacceptable environmental costs.

REQUIRED CHANGES

The following changes are required:

  • Identification of additional sites that will meet the Inspector’s requirements to enable the consequences of doing so to be properly tested. 
  • Allocation of additional suitable sites, such as the whole of the omission site north of Youngwood Lane at Nailsea, to bring the Plan into line with the Inspector’s clear requirements.
  • Absent the above, the Plan is unsound, and the Inspector is requested to convene further Examination sessions to undertake her own investigation of the merits of omission sites that could enable her requirements to be upheld.

MM14 - Schedule 1
OBJECTION

MM welcome and support the inclusion of part of their omission site north of Youngwood Lane as a new residential allocation. However, they object to the failure to identify the whole of the site north of Youngwood Lane as an additional allocation. For reasons set out below it is MM’s submission that the evidence from the Council’s own site assessment confirms that there is no reason not to allocate the entire site, and that it complies with the broad criteria justifying selection.

MM welcome the acknowledgement in the consultation documents, in CD2a and the further site assessment, that the allocation of their omission site north of Youngwood Lane, Nailsea (CD2a, ref: 16/P/1677/OT2) would be broadly in accordance with the Core Strategy framework. Moreover, as is clear from the further site assessment, there are no overriding technical or environmental constraints relating to its development.

The further assessment suggests that the delivery programme is ambitious, requiring outline planning permission to be granted in October 2017. However, it is within the Council’s gift to facilitate that programme since the application is ready for determination. A six month period for the submission of reserved matters following outline approval is entirely realistic and achievable, and the Council’s target for the determination of any such application is 13 weeks. Therefore, subject to facilitation by the Council, the site has good and realistic potential to deliver a significant quantum of housing within five years, and to yield its full capacity well within the plan period. It therefore has the potential to achieve both of the objectives sought by the Inspector in identifying the uplifted requirement.

The only constraint identified in the further assessment is that the site is being considered for strategic development through the JSP, and the infrastructure requirements for the land have yet to be identified. The suggested mitigation for this is to avoid allocating the site through the SAP as a standalone allocation.

This might only be a legitimate reason for not allocating the site through the SAP if two circumstances prevailed. First, the provisions of the JSP had reached a stage at which they could be afforded weight in planning decisions. Second, if the Council’s evidence confirms that they have alternative sites that are broadly compliant with the Core Strategy framework sufficient to deliver the uplifted requirement. Neither of those circumstances prevails.

In accordance with the provisions of the NPPF (paragraph 216), the provisions of the JSP can be given no weight at the present time since they are at a very early stage in their preparation, and are no more than aspirational. They could be subject to significant change. Just as the Council is likely to afford the provisions very little weight in determining planning applications that might come forward premised on the draft strategic growth locations, equally the Council can give them very little weight in considering potentially suitable sites to meet housing needs during the current plan period. If there is an immediate need for which provision cannot be made elsewhere, and the site is otherwise suitable, then it should be allocated in the current plan. Those circumstances pertain to MM’s site north of Youngwood Lane.

With regard to the second issue, the Council is making provision for only approximately 821 additional homes. This amounts to only approximately one-third of the additional requirement, and indicates their view that the residual need cannot be accommodated elsewhere whilst maintaining conformity with the Core Strategy. Given this outstanding requirement, to which MM’s omission site can make a significant contribution, together with the Council’s acceptance that its allocation would be in broad compliance with the Core Strategy, and balancing these considerations against the potential future strategic allocation to which little, if any, weight can be given in planning decisions at the present time, the only appropriate conclusion that can be drawn is that the whole site should be allocated to meet housing needs arising during the current plan period.

Given the early stage of the JSP, any issue of prematurity simply does not arise within the terms set out in the NPPF (para. 216). Any implications for future growth therefore cannot be given any weight in deciding on a potential allocation that is necessary to meet the growth requirements during the current plan period, or in determining the current application. It would be perverse, and indeed onerous, to expect sites that are in broad conformity with the current strategic framework, as the further site assessment confirms the omission site north of Youngwood Lane to be, to also be in conformity with future strategic aspirations that have yet to be crystallised even into a draft Plan, let alone subject to Examination. It is therefore untenable to suggest that sites that are in conformity with the current Core Strategy, and needed to meet its requirements, should not be allocated simply because they might be inconsistent with future strategic aspirations to which no weight can be given at this time. Moreover, this reasoning, were it to be tenable, would apply equally to the proposed allocation at Engine Lane, Nailsea. Were the Council to avoid allocating the site through the SAP as a standalone allocation in favour of it being brought forward as part of a future strategic development area, as foreshadowed in the further site assessment, there would, in consequence, be an inconsistency with the position assumed in relation to the proposed allocation at Engine Lane, which is also in the future strategic development area foreshadowed in the emerging JSP.

Given that the site is on the south-eastern fringe of the future strategic development area, there is no reason why it cannot be developed in isolation without prejudicing future strategic development if that is confirmed as the JSP progresses. Moreover, in discussions with the Council, the only reason given for not allocating the whole site at the present time has been the need to protect a possible future route for the Metro Bus through the southern part of the site. However, given that the intention is to route the Metro Bus through future residential areas, and that the Masterplan accompanying the current live application (Ref 16/P/1677/OT2) for outline planning permission for development of the site for up to 450 dwellings is for illustrative purposes only, it would be possible, for a period of time that reflects the anticipated schedule for publication of the JSP, to safeguard the opportunity to provide a future public transport link through the site as part of the policy provisions in the SAP and terms according to which planning permission is granted for the current outline application. The route, if it materialises, could then be incorporated into any detailed reserved matters submissions in due course, assuming that it is confirmed through the ongoing JSP work within the trajectory for publication of the draft Plan.

In the light of the above, the only potential constraint on the allocation of MM’s omission site north of Youngwood Lane that is identified in the further site assessment is not a sound reason for resisting its allocation. Given the compelling need to allocate additional sites to meet the additional requirement, and the broad conformity of the north of Youngwood Lane site with the Core Strategy framework, the overwhelming weight of the evidence is in favour of its allocation.

The position can therefore be summarised as follows:

  • MM’s omission site north of Youngwood Lane, Nailsea is needed in its entirety as part of the additional provisions that the Inspector has held must be made in the SAP to ‘meet’ the growth requirements during the current Core Strategy period.
  • The site accords with the priority site selection criteria endorsed by the Inspector for allocations to provide for the additional requirement that she has held must be identified in the SAP.

  • No weight can be given to any future strategic growth aspirations which have yet to be formalised in a draft Plan let alone subject to Examination, and any alternative approach to MM’s site in this respect would be unjustifiable and untenable given its inconsistency with the proposed allocation in the SAP at Engine Lane

  • The entirety of MM’s site north of Youngwood Lane should be allocated in the SAP now. If considered necessary and justified by the available evidence, suitably worded provisions could be agreed to make adequate and reasonable safeguards to accommodate the possibility of a future metro bus route through the site, subject to that route being confirmed within a prescribed time period.

Notwithstanding the foregoing considerations, which are of sufficient weight to justify allocation of the entire omission site north of Youngwood Lane at the present time, there are inherent risks and uncertainties associated with the partial allocation as currently proposed by the Council. One of the sensitivities of developing land to the south-west of Nailsea relates to biodiversity, and in particular, the need to mitigate against potential impacts on the protected Bats SAC. Indeed, this was one of two issues that caused the Secretary of State to direct that the application should be accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment, along with potential impacts on off-site heritage assets. The overall scheme has been carefully conceived with embedded mitigation in the form of substantial green infrastructure and corridors to ensure that the impacts on both the bat populations and heritage assets are acceptable. This is illustrated on the Masterplan accompanying the outline application, a copy of which is included at Appendix 1 to these representations. This acceptability of the impacts of the development with the embedded mitigation proposed has been confirmed through the Environmental Impact Assessment and endorsed by both Natural England and Historic England, and indeed, through HRA it has been confirmed that there is a net gain in biodiversity terms. There is no evidence or assessment to confirm the mitigation that would be necessary with partial development of the omission site, or the implications in terms of the capacity of 170 dwellings on which the Council is reliant to be delivered from it.

In the ‘Site specific details/notes’ it is simply stated ‘ecological issues to be addressed on a strategic basis as part of any future wider development’. It is assumed that the reference to ‘future wider development’ is a reference to the emerging aspirations in the JSP. However, this is problematic since it implies constraints on developing the site at least in advance of future strategic proposals and an approach to mitigation being  identified, and potentially implemented. This augers against delivery of the allocated site within the period to 2026, let alone within the five year period following adoption of the Plan.

In addition to the above it is germane that the foul sewer into which the proposed development is intended to connect is located in Youngwood Lane adjacent to the southern boundary of the overall omission site promoted by MM. Given that the overall omission site is in two ownerships, with the boundary between ownerships coinciding largely with the boundary of the proposed allocation, it would mean a drainage connection crossing third party land. The alternative would be a pumped connection northwards back towards the existing urban area, which is far less acceptable for a development of that size than gravity flow.

A further consideration is that the overall development is proposing a new route through the site as an alternative for through-traffic to that section of Netherton Wood Lane that currently borders the western boundary of the omission site. This benefit would not be secured absent a comprehensive scheme based on the overall omission site.

Finally, Youngwood Lane provides a logical and defensible southern boundary to the new development area and for the extended town. Partial allocation of the site would result in a southern boundary that would be liable to considerable encroachment, and in consequence leave a residual parcel of agricultural land to the south which becomes unviable and untenable for continued agricultural use due to encroachment and trespass by the immediately adjacent residential community.

For all of the foregoing reasons it is MM’s view that the omission site should be allocated in its entirety, and there is no reason not to do so given the requirement for additional housing land.

REQUIRED CHANGES

  • Amendment of Schedule 1 and the Policies Map to extend the proposed allocation north of Youngwood Lane, Nailsea to include the entire omission site promoted through the SAP in earlier representations by MM, as identified on the Site Location Plan included with these representations at Appendix 2.

 

SEE ATTACHMENT FOR FULL APPENDICES

Attachments