Planning Policy Context

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Object

Brentwood Local Plan 2016 - 2033 (Pre-Submission, Regulation 19)

Representation ID: 24139

Received: 19/03/2019

Respondent: Mr Mr J Nicholls and Mr A Biglin (Land owners)

Agent: Sworders

Legally compliant? Yes

Sound? No

Duty to co-operate? Yes

Representation:

Since the Local Plan Regulation 18 consultation, which took place in early 2018, the revised NPPF has been published. Significant elements of the evidence base to the Plan, which were prepared under the 2012 NPPF, have not been updated. We question whether, in light of this fundamental change to the planning policy context, as well as changes to the introduction of the Standard Methodology for calculating housing need and the Housing Delivery Test, which will be discussed below, the Plan should progress to Examination.

Change suggested by respondent:

The Plan should be updated so that the housing need is calculated based on the Government's standard methodology for calculating housing need, as well as reflecting the findings of the Housing Delivery Test. This will significantly increase the housing numbers and the number of sites required. Further consultation should then take place on a revised draft Plan, before it is submitted for Examination.

Full text:

RE Planning Policy Framework 1.24 - 1.25
Planning Policy Framework
Since the Local Plan Regulation 18 consultation, which took place in early 2018, the revised NPPF has been published. This Plan will therefore now be examined against the policies set out in the revised NPPF (February 2019). Paragraph 212 of the NPPF confirms this, stating that:
'Plans may ...need to be revised to reflect policy changes which this replacement Framework has made. This should be progressed as quickly as possible, either through a partial revision or by preparing a new plan.'
We question whether, in light of this fundamental change to the planning policy context, as well as changes to the introduction of the Standard Methodology for calculating housing need and the Housing Delivery Test, which will be discussed below, the Plan should progress to Examination.
In addition, we note that significant elements of the evidence base to the Plan, which were prepared under the 2012 NPPF, have not been updated.
For example, the Site Assessment Methodology and Summary of Outcomes - Working Draft provides the basis on which sites have been assessed as suitable for development and whether they should be allocated in the Plan. This document has not been amended to reflect the publication of the revised NPPF, or the Standard Methodology. The paper still refers to making provision for 'slightly above 380 dwellings per annum'; in fact, this number will need to increase significantly, for reasons set out below.
On this basis, we believe that the Plan is unsound. It is not positively prepared because it does not make provision for the Borough's objectively assessed needs and it is not justified because the evidence base on which it is based is not proportionate.
The Plan should be updated so that the housing need is calculated based on the Government's standard methodology for calculating housing need, as well as reflecting the findings of the Housing Delivery Test. This will significantly increase the housing numbers and the number of sites required. Further consultation should then take place on a revised draft Plan, before it is submitted for Examination.

RE: Policy R01 (i) Garden Village Strategic Allocation
Dunton Hills Garden Village Strategic Allocation: Policy R01 (I)
Land at Dunton Hills (east of the A128, south of the A127 and north of the C2C railway line, approximately 259.2 ha in size) is allocated for residential-led development to deliver Dunton Hills Garden Village (DHGV).
The policy states that development will deliver a mix of uses to comprise around 2,700 homes in the plan period (as part of an overall indicative capacity of around 4,000 homes to be delivered beyond 2033 - subject to further feasibility and assessment of impact). This number has increased from 2,500 homes stated in the Preferred Site Allocations Consultation document of March 2018.
We object to this policy to propose a new settlement to deliver 2,700 dwellings during the plan period to meet a significant proportion the Borough's housing needs. Whilst we do not object to the principle of a new settlement, we do not consider that it should be relied upon to deliver such a significant proportion of the Borough's housing need within the timeframe envisaged.
We consider there to be both generic and site-specific constraints to delivery. Delivery of this strategic allocation is crucial to being able to demonstrate and maintain a five-year supply in the early Plan period, meaning the Plan fails the tests of soundness as set out in paragraph 182 of the NPPF.
It is considered that such a significant reliance on a single site within a Local Plan is not a sustainable approach to meet housing need and is one that has been heavily criticised by a number of Inspectors at recent Local Plan Examinations, for example Braintree District, Tendring District and Colchester Borough councils in relation to the North Essex Garden Communities.
Research published by consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners (Start to Finish: How Quickly do Large-Scale Housing Sites Deliver? November 2016) found that average planning approval period and delivery of first dwelling (i.e. from the date of the validation of the planning application) for sites of over 2,000 dwellings was just under seven years. This compares to just under five and a half years for sites of between 500 - 999 dwellings, just over four years for sites of 100 - 499 dwellings and just under three years for sites up to 99 dwellings.
The housing trajectory suggest that DHGV will deliver 750 dwellings by 2026. However, given the recent research, adopting the lag of seven years from a Plan adoption date before the end of 2019 (which we consider highly ambitious) would mean there would be no deliveries on site until after 2026.
Paragraph 9.33 states that of the 6,700 homes, 4,000 are to be delivered after 2033. However, this is caveated by the statement 'subject to further feasibility and assessment of impact', calling into doubt whether 4,000 can in fact be delivered on site.
The Plan places significant reliance on the timely delivery of Dunton Hills Garden Village. This is not a positive strategy for meeting housing need and does not provide the flexibility required to address changes in circumstances. The allocation should be complemented by the allocation of small sites, to improve deliverability.
We wish to participate in the Examination to set out the case that additional smaller sites should be allocated, to ensure the Plan's deliverability and to ensure a constant delivery of new homes.

RE Policy SP02 - Managing Growth
Housing Delivery
The Plan proposes that as 'the high proportion of designated Green Belt within the Borough makes it extremely difficult to achieve a five year supply' (Paragraph 4.19), a greater proportion of the required homes are forecast to be delivered in the period beyond 2023. Policy SP02 therefore sets out a stepped trajectory of delivery of 310 homes per annum to 2023, followed by a higher target of 584 per year to 2033.
We do not believe that Policy SP02 is sound because it does not provide an appropriate strategy to comply with the requirements of the NPPF, which states in paragraph 23 that:
'Strategic policies should provide a clear strategy for bringing sufficient land forward, and at a sufficient rate, to address objectively assessed needs over the plan period, in line with the presumption in favour of sustainable development.'
The strategy does not result in the delivery of housing throughout the Plan period. Paragraph 73 of the NPPF requires strategic policies to include a trajectory illustrating the expected rate of housing delivery over the Plan period. Appendix 1 of the Plan sets out this housing trajectory, which demonstrates that no units will be delivered in 2019/2020 from the site allocations, and only 66 units are proposed to be delivered in 2020/2021, with 318 in 2021/2022 and 632 in 2023/2024.
We question whether this is an appropriate strategy, and believe that on this basis, Policy SP02 is unsound because it is not justified.
To set out the case that the Plan should allocate additional, smaller sites, to enable the Plan to deliver homes throughout the Plan period.

RE Local Housing Need - Paragraphs 4.11 - 4.21
Housing Need
In October 2018, the Government consulted on technical changes to its proposed Standard Methodology to calculate housing need based not on the 2016 household projections published by the Office for National Statistics, but on the 2014 household projections published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). These revised projections result in a housing figure for the Borough of 456 dwellings per annum.
In February 2019, the Government published a summary of the responses to its October 2018 technical consultation and its view on the way forward, in which it confirmed that its proposed approach provided the most appropriate approach 'for providing stability and certainty to the planning system in the short term' and that Local Planning Authorities should not use the 2016 household projections, which resulted in lower housing numbers, as a reason to justify lower housing need.
The Plan states that the Borough's annual housing requirement is still 380 homes per annum, based on the findings of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (2016). However, paragraph 4.16 of the Plan sets out the intention to make provision for an additional housing supply buffer, which provides a 20% uplift to the annual housing figure of 380 units, resulting in provision of 456 dwellings per annum, resulting in a requirement for 7,752 dwellings from 2016 - 2033. This is the same figure as required by the Government's Standard Methodology for Calculating Housing Need.
However, Brentwood Borough Council was recently identified in the publication of the Government's Housing Delivery Test as an authority which has delivered less than 85% of its housing requirement, and therefore has to add a 20% buffer to its housing land supply figure.
We therefore object to the housing requirement set out in the Plan on the basis that it is insufficient to meet the Borough's needs. Paragraph 59 of the NPPF requires local planning authorities to boost significantly the supply of housing. It expects evidence to be used to ensure that the Local Plan meets the full, objectively assessed needs for market and affordable housing in the housing market area, as far as is consistent with the other policies set out in the NPPF. The Plan does not do this; it only makes provision for the OAN and does not provide for the additional 20% buffer, as required under the Housing Delivery Test.
It cannot be positively prepared to meet objectively assessed requirements and therefore cannot be considered sound.
The Plan should be updated to make provision for the Borough's objectively assessed need, to take account of the figure in the Government's Standard Methodology for Calculating Housing Need, with an additional 20% buffer to reflect the Housing Delivery Test.
If you wish to participate at the oral part of the Examination, please outline why you consider this to be necessary. To set out why the Plan is not making adequate provision for new housing.

RE Figure 2.3 - Settlement Hierarchy
Settlement hierarchy
To promote sustainable growth in rural areas, the NPPF (2019) paragraph 78 states that housing in rural areas should be located where it will enhance the vitality of rural communities, to ensure villages grow and thrive. To ensure the Local Plan responds to this, a broad Settlement Hierarchy Assessment has been undertaken to understand the role, function and relationship of Brentwood's dispersed settlements.
The Plan sets out the settlement hierarchy in the Borough. Ingrave is classed as a Category 3 settlement. Whilst we support the classification of Ingrave as a "Category 3 - Large Village", we object to the inconsistent treatment of this settlement in comparison to other settlements occupying the same level in the hierarchy.
For example, the other Large Villages of Kelvedon Hatch, Blackmore and Hook End/Tipps Cross (previously a smaller village) have been allocated development. However, neither Ingrave and Herongate (now linked), Wyatts Green nor Mountnessing, have been allocated any development. Mountnessing has already accommodated some development though existing permissions on previously developed sites, but the same is not true for Ingrave.
The moratorium of growth in these villages is contrary to the NPPF, which states that to promote sustainable development in rural areas, housing should be located where it will enhance or maintain the vitality of rural communities. The NPPF goes further, stating that Plans should identify opportunities for villages to grow and thrive especially where this will support local services (paragraph 78).
As drafted, the Plan is not sound. It identifies Ingrave as a Category 3 settlement but does not allocate housing in or near the settlement. This is not an appropriate strategy and therefore the Plan is not justified in this respect.
Additional land for housing should be allocated at Ingrave to meet local, settlement specific housing needs to address localised affordability issues but also retain the working age population in the village to ensure the viability and vitality of local shops and services.
Paragraph 2.16 of the Plan notes that, in relation to Category 3 settlements;
'Brownfield redevelopment opportunities will be encouraged to meet local needs, and policies in this Plan will help to bring forward nearby redevelopment of brownfield sites in the Green Belt where appropriate.'
This emphasis on bringing forward brownfield sites 'nearby' Category 3 settlements is supported. This approach would provide a more flexible approach and would enable sites such as our client's site to come forward.
We wish to participate in the Examination to set out the case that additional sites should be allocated in and near to Ingrave, a sustainable, Category 3 settlement.

RE: Site Assessment Methodology and Summary of Outcomes - Working Draft (2018)
The spatial strategy, as set out at paragraph 3.13, focuses upon the sequential use of land, which prioritises using brownfield land and to only release Green Belt land after all sustainably located, suitable, available and deliverable brownfield sites have been identified as allocations. This is in line with paragraph 137 of the NPPF, which requires that:
'Before concluding that exceptional circumstances exist to justify changes to Green Belt boundaries, the strategic policy-making authority should be able to demonstrate that it has examined fully all other reasonable options for meeting its identified need for development.'
However, we do not consider that the capacity of brownfield sites has been fully explored. The Stage 2 assessment process discounts sites where they are considered to be in an unsustainable location, (which included sites in the Green Belt with no connecting boundary to an existing urban area,) before considering the potential to use brownfield land. This has resulted in sites such as site 183, our client's site, being discounted prior to any assessment of the positive benefits of the re-use of this brownfield site and whether the location is sufficiently sustainable or can be made sustainable.
Specifically, in relation to this site, it is already serviced by water, sewerage and electricity so sufficient infrastructure is already available. Residents of the site would have opportunities to make sustainable journeys on foot, by cycle and by car-sharing. The unnamed road outside the site frontage is classified as a Public Bridleway; accommodating pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. This provides a pleasant walking route between the site and village of Ingrave. There are also a number of Public Footpaths in the vicinity of the site which provide access to nearby towns and villages such as Brentwood, Shenfield and Billericay which offer a wider range of local amenities. The nearest school is approximately 1.5 miles walking distance and the site is approximately 2 miles from the station at Shenfield, soon to accommodate Crossrail.
Paragraph 103 of the NPPF acknowledges that:
"opportunities to maximise sustainable transport solutions will vary between urban and rural areas, and this should be taken into account in both plan-making and decision taking.'
Paragraph 102 also states that:
'Transport issues should be considered from the earliest stages of plan-making and development proposals, so that c) opportunities to promote walking, cycling and public transport use are identified and pursued.'
Figure 4.2 of the Plan sets out how different types of land use will contribute to how the overall housing need will be met. The Plan's spatial strategy is unsound because it excluded all sites which do not meet the distance thresholds from existing settlements, and has not fully taken into account opportunities offered by smaller sites in the Green Belt, which could offer sustainable transport modes, and make a small but important contribution to meeting housing need.
In light of the higher housing numbers required, the Plan should be revised to re-assess all sites which do not meet the distance thresholds from existing settlements, and to take into account opportunities offered by smaller sites in the Green Belt, which could offer sustainable transport modes, and make a small but important contribution to meeting housing need.
We wish to participate in the Examination to set out the case that a further assessment of sites is required, and the opportunity should be taken to re-assess sites which were previously excluded.


RE Spatial Strategy
The draft Plan relies on the delivery of strategic sites, to meet a significant proportion of its housing requirement. Figure 4.2 of the Plan identifies that the Dunton Hills Garden Village strategic allocation will provide 35% of the total housing requirement. We note that in the Regulation 18 document, three strategic sites were proposed; this has now increased to five.
We object to the strategy relying on several large developments to deliver such a large proportion of growth for the Borough, particularly within the first five years from adoption. As set out in Appendix 1, this strategy results in the delivery of no new housing in the early years of the Plan.
Paragraph 68 of the NPPF notes that:
'Small and medium sized sites can make an important contribution to meeting the housing requirement of an area and are often built out relatively quickly. To promote the development of a good mix of sites local planning authorities should identify, through the development plan and brownfield registers, land to accommodate at least 10% of their housing requirement on sites no larger than one hectare.'

The Plan should be reviewed and sites identified to meet the higher housing number of 547 dwellings per annum, through the addition of smaller site allocations. Smaller sites are more deliverable over the early years of the Plan period since they typically require less investment in infrastructure, are within single ownership and have fewer complex issues to address at planning application stage. This is in contrast to larger strategic sites which are often reliant on significant infrastructure improvements, comprise multiple ownerships, require complex legal agreements and typically take much longer to deliver.
Allocating additional smaller sites will have multiple benefits; it will increase the flexibility of the Plan, it will contribute to the five year housing land supply, it will enable sites which do not require significant infrastructure provision to come forward quickly, and it will attract smaller house building companies who will not be present upon larger strategic sites.
To set out the case that the Plan should allocate additional, smaller sites, to improve the flexibility of the Plan, to ensure that the Plan complies with the NPPF, and to enable the Plan to deliver homes throughout the Plan period.

Attachments: