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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 18/04/2006
The Location and Density of Housing - Policy Context


National planning policy on the Location of Housing (PPS1 & PPG3)
Planning Policy Statement 1 (PPS1) sets out the Government’s overarching policy on planning. It refers to the role that planning has in facilitating and promoting “….sustainable and inclusive patterns of urban and rural development.” It also identifies four aims of sustainable development:-
social progress which recognises the needs of everyone;
effective protection of the environment;
the prudent use of natural resources; and
the maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment

In relation to the location of development it refers to the need for plans to bring forward sufficient land for housing, and other uses, in appropriate locations, taking into account such issues as accessibility and sustainable transport needs. It also identifies the need to improve access for all to jobs, health, shops, leisure etc. by ensuring that development is located where everyone can access services or facilities on foot, bicycle or public transport.

It also states that plans should promote the more efficient use of land through higher density, mixed use development and the use of suitably located previously developed land and buildings. PPS1 also promotes good design. It states:- “Design which is inappropriate in its context, or which fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions, should not be accepted.”

Planning Policy Guidance Note 3 (PPG3) sets out the current national policy on planning for housing. In terms of the location of development it advocates a sequential approach, with priority being given to previously developed land and buildings within urban areas, followed by urban extensions and finally new development around nodes in good public transport corridors.

In terms of density, PPG3 states that local authorities should:-
avoid developments which make inefficient use of land (those less than 30 dwellings per hectare (dph) net);
encourage housing development which makes more efficient use of land (between 30 and 50 dph net; and
seek greater intensity of development at places with good public transport accessibility such as city, town, district and local centres or around major nodes along good quality public transport corridors.

Draft Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS3)
In terms of the location of housing, the draft PPS3 states that the priority for development is still brownfield land. However, to be considered this must be developable (i.e. available, suitable and viable). As part of the consideration of how to meet housing requirements, the draft PPS states that local authorities should review all their non-housing allocations (such as land allocated for industry) and consider whether some of this land could be more appropriately used for housing or mixed-use development.

In terms of density, local authorities are advised to develop density policies for their plan areas. The draft PPS3 includes an annexe that contains a table of indicative density ranges for specific types of location. These indicative densities range from 30-40 dph in areas defined as “rural” to above 70 dph in areas defined as “City Centre”. It goes on to state that the density ranges for each area should be based on a range of considerations, including an assessment of the characteristics of the area; the level of public transport accessibility; and the need to use resources efficiently and minimise environmental impacts.

In the section in the draft PPS3 on design, there is some discussion on the development of existing residential land and the role of garden land. It states that the approach to developments such as the redevelopment of existing housing and gardens should be developed as part of the wider strategy/policies for individual neighbourhoods. It adds that although residential gardens are defined as “brownfield” land, this does not necessarily mean that they are suitable for development. However, local authorities will need to have regard to the positive contribution that intensification can make, for example in terms of minimising the pressure on greenfield sites.

Regional Planning Guidance for the South East (RPG9)
Policy H5 of RPG9 deals with housing provision. The accompanying text refers to local authorities making proposals for high quality intensive residential and mixed use development on land close to town centres and at points of good public transport accessibility, or where public transport services can be improved as part of a planned approach.

The draft South East Plan
Policy H3 of the draft South East Plan relates to the location of housing. It identifies the target, across the region, of at least 60% of additional housing being on previously developed land. It goes on to state that the new housing required to meet district requirements - whether on previously developed land or on greenfield land – should be in sustainable locations, which have the necessary infrastructure, services and community provision, or where provision is planned. It adds that housing developments should generally be in locations that are, or can be, well served by a choice of transport modes, with higher densities in or near locations well served by public transport.

Surrey Structure Plan 2004
This contains a general policy on the location of development (Policy LO1). This also states that new development will be located primarily within existing urban areas on previously developed land.

Waverley Borough Local Plan 2002
Policy M1 is a general policy regarding the location of development. It states that the Council will seek to ensure that development is located so as to reduce the need to travel, especially by private car. Policy H4 deals with both housing density and housing mix. In terms of density it follows the guidance in PPG3 (see above).

There are many other policies in the Local Plan that affect choices about the location and density of housing. For example, policies for the Green Belt and the Countryside indicate a general presumption against new housing outside identified settlement boundaries. Within the developed areas, policies are less about the principle of development and more about detail. There are various policies that affect the type and density of development within settlements. In particular, policies D1 and D4 are general policies on environmental impact and the design and layout of development. Within identified rural settlements there is a general policy (RD1) that determines whether development is acceptable and if so, in what form.

There are also locations within the developed parts of the Borough that are subject to area-specific policies that seek to protect the distinct character of those areas. For example, Policy BE3, which seeks to protect the semi-rural character of specific parts of Farnham.

The Draft Core Strategy
As explained above, the overall strategy for the future location of development, as set out in the Council’s draft Core Strategy is to locate new development primarily on previously developed land in sustainable locations in Farnham, Godalming, Haslemere and Cranleigh.