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I set out below representations to your Preferred Options draft Local Plan made on behalf of Bloor Homes Eastern (my client). Bloor Homes Eastern has an interest in the land proposed for allocation at policy WC4 (land at Gosbecks) and these representations have been prepared in this context.
Policy SP2: Meeting Housing Needs
The table within this policy sets a minimum net additional figure for new homes provision during the plan period. It is suggested that the word minimum is also added to the annualised figure in column 3 of this table.
Paragraph 2.40 refers to the housing market area and the work undertaken with neighbouring authorities. As Colchester is on a mainline route into London, the potential for it to meet housing needs in London should not be ignored and the Plan should acknowledge how this has been addressed in arriving at the housing figures that have been identified.
Include 'minimum in the heading of column 3 of policy SP2.
Explain how the influence of London has been taken into account in arriving at the housing figures.
This section of the Plan should be amended to include reference to sources of employment in London. It is noted that Stansted is rightly referred to in paragraph 2.42 despite it being outside of the HMA. This reflects the acknowledgement in paragraph 2.50 that some residents commute out to London.
Amend section to include London as a source of employment.
Policy SP4: Infrastructure and Connectivity
The first paragraph of this policy states that development must be supported by infrastructure, services and facilities identified to serve the needs arising from the development. My client objects to this obligation as it is unreasonable and an unjustified burden on a developer. A developer can only provide the mechanisms to allow the infrastructure provider to provide the services - it cannot provide the services. For example, a funding for new school places can be provided but the provision of those spaces will be down to the LEA.
These same concerns are relevant to the wording of paragraph 2.70, which has a similar emphasis on the developer although relates to new communities rather than development within or on the edge of existing communities.
To overcome this objection, it is suggested that both policy SP4 and paragraph 2.70 are amended to reflect the extent of obligations imposed on developers by Planning Law. It is suggested that a phrase such as the following is used in policy SP4:
"New development must include measures to mitigate the impact of the proposal on infrastructure, services and facilities. In all cases, the measures must be sufficient to address the needs arising from the new development."
The supporting text at paragraph 2.70 can then be similarly amended.
Policy SP5: Place Shaping Principles
My client objects to the following elements of this policy as they are overly prescriptive, unjustified and unnecessary raising inconsistencies with the NPPF:
The second bullet point requires all new development to exhibit individual architectural quality. This is a vague statement that fails to provide clarity to a development and taken to extreme could impose an unnecessarily high level of design quality that may not be appropriate to either the scheme or the area. The design requirements of the NPPF are adequately addressed in the first bullet point of this policy.
The fifth bullet point requires the enhancement of the public realm through the provision of specified measures. This may not be appropriate in all cases - or even possible - and as such the policy is unnecessarily rigid.
The seventh bullet point assumes that all development will provide parking facilities. This may not be the case for schemes in highly accessible locations or those already adequately served by parking.
The eighth bullet point requires all new development to provide public open space and larger scale green infrastructure. This may not be appropriate or necessary for all development.
It is noted that the introductory sentence to this list of criteria requires all development to reflect the principles. It is politely suggested that this should read observe.
To overcome this objection, the following changes are requested:
Delete the second bullet point
Replace the word 'and' with the word 'or' in the fifth bullet point
Amend the seventh bullet point to read 'Where parking is proposed it should be well integrated as part of the overall design'. Remove 'include parking facilities that are'.
Amend the eighth bullet point to read 'Provide public open space or larger scale green infrastructure that is appropriate to the nature and scale of development proposed and in line with policies ENV3 and DM18'
Consider substituting the word 'reflect' for 'observe' in the introductory sentence to the bullet point list.
Paragraph 4.20 includes the assessment criteria used to identify sustainable settlements. My client objects to the use of such strict criteria as it unfairly penalises the assessment of rural communities. In reference ID: 41-044-20160519 the Planning Practice Guidance notes that "in rural areas, all settlements can play a role in delivering sustainable development". As acknowledged in the NPPF development in one village can support services in a village nearby (paragraph 55). The strict criteria referred to in paragraph 4.20 does not take into account the potential for services to be split between a group of villages. The use of a 400m distance also conflicts with the definition of a walkable neighbourhood set out in Manual for Streets, which advocates an 800m distance.
It is suggested that the proximity to community facilities be reviewed and adjusted so as to avoid unfairly penalising rural areas.
Policy SG6: Strategic Infrastructure
This policy requires all new development to be supported by and have good access to all necessary infrastructure. This suggests an 'infrastructure first' policy, which is considered to go beyond the remit of the development industry. This point has been raised in relation to policy SP4 and the comments made are relevant here. Developers can only be required
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to mitigate the impacts of their proposals through appropriate mechanisms such as financial contributions. The physical delivery of infrastructure is down to the relevant provider, which the developer does not have any control over. This is particularly significant on smaller proposals where on-site infrastructure (such as a doctor's surgery) is not included in the proposed development.
To address this objection, it is suggested that the opening sentence of this policy be amended as follows:
"All new development should include appropriate proposals to mitigate any infrastructure impacts arising from the scheme." Remove 'be supported by, and have good access to, all necessary infrastructure.'
Developer Contributions and Community Infrastructure Levy Policy
My client objects to the first sentence of paragraph 4.65 as it is plainly wrong to assume that new development will always give rise to the need for many new or improved services. This is misleading and unhelpful.
Amend the first sentence to read:
"New development 'can give' rise to the need for many new or improved services, facilities and other infrastructure which can be considered as part of the overall cost of development." Remove 'gives'
Policy CC1: Climate Change
This policy includes a list of measures by which a low carbon Colchester will be achieved. This does not reflect the energy hierarchy set out at paragraph 5.42, which rightly refers to a 'fabric first' approach.
To ensure consistency with the supporting text it is suggested that the list of measures be clarified to reflect the energy hierarchy and the importance of reducing the need for energy use in the first place.
Policy WC4: West Colchester
My client supports the proposed allocation of 'land at Gosbecks Phase 2' and is currently in discussion with the development Management team regarding a potential layout for this site. This is at an early stage and continues to evolve. There are elements of this policy that my client has concerns with. These are as follows:
The proposed allocation suggests a development yield of 'up to 150 new dwellings'. As the proposal is evolving this maximum figure is not justified at this stage and inhibits the ability of a more appropriate scheme with higher numbers (even by 1) to come forward.
The policy requires a contribution to Gosbecks Archaeological Park (fifth bullet point). The need or justification for this is not identified in the supporting text. As with all contributions, this must be reasonable, necessary and directly related to the development. As the details of the development and the consequential impacts are yet to be evaluated it is unclear how such an obligation can be justified such that it is necessary to be included in the policy.
The supporting text for this policy at paragraph 6.86 includes an incomplete sentence (third sentence in).
The following changes are recommended to overcome these concerns:
Amend the first bullet point to read 'Approximately 150 new dwellings of a mix and type of housing to be compatible with surrounding development' Remove 'up to'
Delete the fifth bullet point as this is a matter that will be covered during the planning application process.
Complete the unfinished sentence in paragraph 6.86.
Policy DM10: Housing Diversity
My client objects to the explicit requirement to provide Lifetime Homes for older people. The needs of older people within a development can be catered for in many ways rendering the need to refer to Lifetime Homes unnecessary. The wording of policy DM12 also makes the need to refer to this unnecessary. My client also considers that it is important that this policy does not restrict the design to a particular standard that may not be appropriate or necessary for an individual scheme. As such the lack of flexibility coupled within the unnecessary need to refer to Lifetime Homes renders this part of the policy unjustified.
It is also noted that this part of the policy cross-refers to policy DM10 rather than DM12.
To overcome my client's objection, it is suggested that the final sentence under the section 'Older people' is deleted and replaced with the following:
"In doing so, regard will be had to the nature of the scheme, the location of the proposal and the requirements of policy DM12."
Policy DM12: Housing Standards
Criterion vi) of this policy requires new residential development to be in accordance with the National Described Space Standards. The NPPG at ID Reference: 56-020-20150327 advises that to use this standard the Council must provide evidence of the need for it, the impact on viability and transitional arrangements. The supporting text for this policy does not include reference to this work. The emerging evidence base (including the Sustainability Appraisal) is also silent on this suggesting that it does not exist. As such, this part of policy DM12 is not justified and its impact on the effectiveness of the Plan has not been tested. My client therefore objects to its inclusion in this policy.
Criterion x) requires the provision of broadband and other required infrastructure as referenced in Policy SG6. I have already raised concerns in relation to Policy SG6 and these are relevant to this criterion. Furthermore, the provision of broadband is not within the ability of the developer unless that developer is a broadband provider. A broadband provider will consider the business case for providing new services and that is not something that either the Council or the developer can control.
To address the objections raised above the following actions or amendments are suggested:
Provide evidence to support criterion vi) or delete it from this policy;
Amend criterion x) to read 'Measures to maximise the potential for the provision of broadband ....'
Policy DM16: Historic Environment
The first paragraph of this policy advises that development will not be permitted that will adversely affect a specified list of heritage assets. This presumption against development does not accord with the requirements of the NPPF (or indeed planning law), which at paragraphs 131-134 requires a balancing of impacts against benefits taking into account the desirability of preserving the building/setting. Neither the NPPF nor planning law require an automatic refusal where harm is identified. My client therefore objects to this part of the policy.
The policy also includes a list of measures that will be applied to ensure the conservation of the historic environment. This includes reference to the protection of various designated and non-designated heritage assets. It is not clear what is meant by protection although the start of the policy would suggest that it means an embargo against all development. This would not accord with the NPPF for the reasons set out above and therefore my client objects to the approach of this part of the policy.
"Where it is identified that a development will cause harm to a designated heritage asset planning permission will be refused unless it can be demonstrated that the benefits outweigh the harm identified. In carrying out this exercise the Council will have regard to the significance of the designated heritage asset that will be harmed." Remove 'Development will not be permitted that will adversely affect a listed building, a conservation area, historic park or garden or important archaeological remains (including development that adversely affects the setting of heritage assets).'
The policy should be clarified to explain what is meant by protection of heritage assets so that it reflects the requirements of the NPPF.
To assist in the interpretation of this policy it is recommended that the supporting text makes reference to section 12 of the NPPF.
Policy DM19: Private Amenity Space
This policy sets out the required standards for private amenity space. It is noted in the Essex Design Guide (EDG) that authorities are advised to 'be flexible as to how much private garden area' to require in situations where 'for townscape reasons' a larger garden may not be appropriate (see p.79 of the EDG). This important design consideration does not feature in this policy and it is considered that it is important to recognise this.
To overcome this concern it is suggested that the following sentence be added to the policy:
"Variations to these standards must be supported by a strong urban design case that justifies why some units within a development cannot meet the required standards."