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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 13/03/2007
Revised Local Development Scheme



APPENDIX I
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL
ENVIRONMENT AND LEISURE OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE:
13TH MARCH 2007

Title:
REVISED LOCAL DEVELOPMENT SCHEME
[Wards Affected: All]

Summary and Purpose:

The Council approved its first Local Development Scheme (LDS) in February 2005. This document was submitted to the Government Office at the beginning of March 2005. The Government Office approved the document on 8th March 2005. In December 2006 the Council formally agreed to amend the LDS timetable in respect of the Core Strategy.

The Government Office responded to the formal consultation on the original Core Strategy and, apart from some minor comments, had no fundamental objections to the original Core Strategy or to the processes carried out. Similarly, the South East Regional Assembly confirmed that the original Core Strategy was in general conformity with both the current Regional Plan and the submitted draft of the South East Plan. However, at the end of November 2006 GOSE informed the Council that, having regard to the Inspectors' reports on the Lichfield & Stafford Core Strategies, it had reservations about some of the aspects of the original Core Strategy in terms of the tests of "soundness".

As a consequence, the Government Office has written to the Secretary of State to ask her to direct that the original Core Strategy be withdrawn. A response from the Secretary of State is still awaited.

Notwithstanding that the Secretary of State has not yet directed withdrawal of the original Core Strategy officers have examined the timetable and resource implications of the work necessary to complete a revised Core Strategy to take into account GOSE's perceived shortcomings and subsequent Government policy, including PPS3 and PPS25, both published at the end of 2006.

The purpose of this report is to set out the findings of this re-evaluation and to recommend a timetable for a revised Core Strategy.

Quality of life implications – social and community implications:

The production of a Local Development Scheme is a requirement of the new development plan system established under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. This report brings the current Local Development Scheme, which was approved by the Government Office in March 2005 and amended in December 2006, up to date.

E-Government implications:

Wherever possible, the Council will undertake consultation electronically. This document will also be made available on the Council’s website.

Resource and Legal Implications

There are no direct resource or legal implications.

Background

1. The Council approved its Local Development Scheme (LDS) in February 2005. This document was submitted to the Government Office at the beginning of March 2005. The Government Office approved the document on 8th March 2005. Revisions to the LDS were agreed by Council in December 2006.

2. Members will recall that the Government Office responded to the formal consultation on the original Core Strategy and, apart from some minor comments, had no fundamental objections to the original Core Strategy or to the processes carried out. Similarly, the South East Regional Assembly confirmed that the original Core Strategy was in general conformity with both the current Regional Plan and the submitted draft of the South East Plan.

3. The Inspector appointed to undertake the Examination of the Core Strategy held a Pre-Examination Meeting on 10th November 2006 in which he identified the main areas to be considered at the formal hearing sessions which he had scheduled to begin on 16th January 2007.

4. Subsequently, the Government Office (GOSE) revisited Waverley's Core Strategy following the publication of Inspectors' reports which found both the Stafford and Lichfield Core Strategies unsound. At the end of November 2006 GOSE informed the Council that, having regard to the Inspectors' reports on the Lichfield & Stafford Core Strategies, it had reservations about some of the aspects of the Core Strategy in terms of the tests of "soundness". As a consequence of these perceived weaknesses, the Government Office has written to the Secretary of State to ask her to direct that the Core Strategy be withdrawn. The Inspector has issued a Notice of Suspension and all participants in the Examination, which was due to commence on 16th January, have been informed.

5. Notwithstanding that the Secretary of State has not yet directed withdrawal of the Core Strategy officers have examined the timetable and resource implications of the work necessary to complete a revised Core Strategy to take into account GOSE's perceived shortcomings and subsequent Government policy, including PPS3 and PPS25, both published at the end of 2006.

The Government Office’s perceived shortcomings of the Core Strategy

6. No formal indication has been given for the perceived shortcomings. However informal discussions between your officers and GOSE indicate that, notwithstanding that GOSE originally had no fundamental criticisms of the Core Strategy, following a reassessment in the light of the Lichfield and Stafford decision letters, the Government Office now has the following concerns:

notwithstanding that the Council had worked closely with the Government Office in deriving the options, GOSE now perceives the options as being poorly developed and is unhappy that the choice of preferred option was a mixture of two;
a number of the policies are now perceived as being too generalised, appear to repeat national policy and contain no local or spatial dimension;
notwithstanding that there are no requirements to do so, the critical policy for the location of development (CP2) provides no quantum of development for each of the main centres and does not differentiate in policy terms between them. Furthermore, GOSE is concerned that there is no rural settlement hierarchy, the policy being that all rural settlements should meet 'local needs', with no quantum.
GOSE is now of the view that there is undue reliance on windfall sites.
GOSE now considers that Policy CP19 (retail) does not distinguish between the four main settlements and does little more than apply PPS6. 7. There is also concern that the identification of one Major Developed Site in the Green Belt led to requests for others to be identified and that the 2006 consultation on monitoring was a “de facto” admission that the monitoring process was unsound. The Government Office has also now expressed concern about that way in which the Appropriate Assessment had been carried out and the lack of a clear link to the strategy and the generation of options.

Subsequent changes in National Policy and other influences

8. In November and December 2006 the Government published the final versions of PPS3 (Housing) and PPS25 (Development and Flood Risk). PPS3 is particularly important insofar as it requires Local Authorities to identify in their Development Plan Documents locations and sites that will enable delivery a 15 year supply of housing land (up from 10 years). It also indicates that Local Authorities should not include “windfalls” in the first 10 years’ supply unless there is “robust evidence of genuine circumstances that prevents specific sites being identified”.

9. Other significant documents that were published before Christmas include the final version of the Barker Report. This suggests that the country’s planning regime should be more efficient and more responsive to economic concerns within the context of sustainable development.

10. Finally, on 19th February 2007, the Assessor appointed by the Panel examining the South East Plan, published his report on the 7 days of Technical Meetings into the impact of the Thames Basin Heaths SPA on the South East Plan. The Assessor concludes that, whilst the Delivery Plan and mitigation measures are acceptable approaches in principle, the evidence behind the standards very weak. He does, however, conclude that the amount of land available to provide alternative natural green space is sufficient to meet the off-site mitigation needs of the housing allocations in the current draft South East Plan and that, until such time as further research has been undertaken, he would recommend against allocating more housing within the SPA-affected area, which, in Waverley, includes the Farnham part of the Borough.

11. The Assessor also proposes the setting up of a joint strategic body involving the affected local authorities, SEERA and Natural England to co-ordinate a strategy and channel funding to the SPA. He also proposes that a joint Development Plan Document (DPD) be drawn up over a three year period to “include not only a long-term avoidance and mitigation strategy but also access management and habitat management plans for the SPA and strategic policies covering other land or activities outside the SPA which could have a bearing on its future integrity”.

12. Whilst these remain recommendations, should they be accepted, they will clearly have resource and timetable implications during the next few years.
Core Strategy Timetable

13. The significant change in the position of the Government Office and the advent of PPS3 require a completely fresh approach which requires more than “minor tweaking” of the original Core Strategy. Most significantly, the Government’s need for certainty on housing delivery signals a shift in the long-standing Waverley approach which, historically has relied on accommodating relatively modest housing allocations within existing urban areas primarily by “windfalls”.

14. It is clear, therefore, that the evidence base upon which the Core Strategy is based will have to be revisited. This work has already been commenced. It is also clear that the Spatial Portrait setting out the particular issues faced by each part of the Borough should also be revisited having regard to the proposed revision of the Community Strategy and the current visioning workshops taking place in Farnham. This work will lead to the consideration of a revised vision and key spatial objectives.

15. Much work has already been undertaken which can be re-used and other work, including the Housing Land Capacity Study, will need to be updated. Other work including the Employment Land Assessment, the Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showmen Accommodation Assessment and joint work with other Surrey Boroughs on S106 agreements and Sustainable Development/Renewables etc, currently under way, together with the proposed Housing Market Assessment due to be undertaken jointly with Guildford and Woking Boroughs will need to be completed.

16. Discussions will also have to take place with the statutory consultees and with principal partners to ensure that their inputs are up-to-date. This will be a continuous rather than a one-off process.

17. The Panel’s report on the South East Plan Examination is not due to be published until the end of July. The Government Office’s response is not likely to be received until the autumn. The Council will need to take into account the impact of both of these.

18. The results of all this work will lead to the identification of the Issues and Options. In view of amount of work that needs to be undertaken to provide the required level of robust front-loaded evidence to pass the tests of soundness, the Issues and Options work could not realistically be completed before January/February 2008. The derivation of the Preferred Options could therefore commence at the in February/March 2008 leading to a consultation a year later (February/March 2009). A minimum 6-month period is required pre-submission with submission at the end of October 2009. The normal 12-month period between submission and adoption would indicate that the Core Strategy would be adopted in October 2010

19. The position regarding the timetable continues to evolve, not least because of the absence of any letter directing withdrawal from the Secretary of State. The current position regarding the revised Core Strategy timetable is:

Content of the Core Strategy 20. It is likely that the revised Core Strategy will have a very different format to the current Core Strategy. Whilst the document will, as with the original Core Strategy, contain core sustainability principles consistent with PPS1 and PPS7 and will include an assessment of the different strategic options, it will also include policies that are spatially specific, including the spatial distribution of housing allocations. The revised Core Strategy is, therefore, likely to focus on a sustainable framework for (not in any particular order):

a spatial settlement strategy;
housing land provision;
affordable housing and other housing needs, including needs of Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showmen;
employment;
town centres;
infrastructure;
open space, leisure and recreation;
the role of the rural areas;
biodiversity and climate change; and
sustainable development and design. 21. As a result, much of what was previously intended to be included in the Housing Development Plan Document will now be included in the revised Core Strategy. There will, therefore, no longer be a need for a separate Housing DPD.

Other Development Plan Documents

22. In due course it will be necessary for the Council to prepare a Site Allocations Development Plan Document and a specific SPD on Housing Density, taking into account the need to consider the question of the identification of low density housing areas. However until the outcome of the Examination into the South East Plan is known and the regional context for these issues clarified, including a decision is reached as to whether a joint DPD on the SPA issue has been made, it would be premature at this stage to formulate detailed timetables for the completion of these documents. Nevertheless these documents should be highlighted in the revised Local Development Scheme.

23. The completion of the A3 tunnel at Hindhead will require an Area Action Plan. However this cannot be completed until such time as the Core Strategy has been adopted. Therefore it is proposed that an Interim Planning Brief be prepared over the next 12 months. This would provide the framework for decisions until such time as the Core Strategy is completed and a formal Area Action Plan can be set under way.

24. Other Documents that could be highlighted in the LDS, to be completed subject to the availability of future resources, include:

Development Control Policies Development Plan Document;
Dunsfold Aerodrome Action Plan;
Farnham, Godalming, Haslemere and Cranleigh Centre Area Action Plans.


25. The opportunity should also be taken to update the LDS and remove those tasks which have been completed (including the Cycling Plan SPD and the Bramley Conservation Area Appraisal SPD) and to insert those documents which are currently under way, including:

the Sport and Leisure SPD;
the Surrey Planning Collaboration Project joint Code of Practice for S106 Agreements and the Planning Obligations SPD;
the Sustainable Construction/Renewables SPD
the Conservation Areas SPD
the Chiddingfold Conservation Area Appraisal SPD.

Implementation

26. There is clearly a significant amount of work to be undertaken. In order that this work can be carried out in the most efficient and effective manner it is suggested that the Planning Policy SIG be reconvened.

Recommendation

That the views of the Environment and Leisure Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the approach set out in the report be forwarded to the Executive.

Background Papers (DoPD)

There are no background papers (as defined by section 100D5 of the Local Government Act) relating to this report.

CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Peter Hartley Telephone: 01483 - 523297

E-mail: phartley@waverley.gov.uk




Comms/o&s3/2006-07/181