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Representation 2441 on Preferred Options Local Plan by Hopkins Homes represented by Pegasus Group (Nicky Parsons)

Support / Object: OBJECT
Document Link: Preferred Options Local Plan - Sustainable Settlements, Eight Ash Green, SS7: Eight Ash Green
Representation: The policy requires that the Neighbourhood Plan delivers up to 150 dwellings. This sets a maximum yield for this village and does not allow the Parish to plan for more growth than indicated in the Plan. My client considers this to be a mistake that may inhibit the Parish from delivering wider benefits associated with development in the village. It is also unclear from the Sustainability Appraisal how the limit of 150 units has been determined as being appropriate for this village. Suggestions for policy amendments provided.

Original submission

I set out below representations to your Preferred Options draft Local Plan made on behalf of Hopkins Homes (my client). Hopkins Homes has several land interests in your Borough and is currently in the process of delivery a high quality development in Stanway. These representations reflect their willingness to develop further sites in the Borough and maintain a good working relationship with the Council.
The representations are set out under the heading or policy number taken from the draft Local Plan. Where changes are proposed as a way of addressing any concerns raised these are shown as strike through for deleted text and bold for new test.

Strategic Objectives
Comment
My client supports the intention of the plan to provide sufficient new homes (first bullet point under paragraph 2.29) but is concerned that the over-reliance on Neighbourhood Plans to allocate sites may undermine this objective. The allocation process in the Neighbourhood Plan is outside of the control of the Borough Council and therefore cannot be influenced to ensure that it provides a suitable mix of housing types. The format of the draft Plan is to identify a number of units to those settlements that are including allocations in their Neighbourhood Plan. This will not ensure that a suitable mix of housing types will be provided. For example, the Neighbourhood Plan may choose to allocate a series of smaller sites that all fall below the threshold for delivering affordable housing or that may only be viable if they do not provide affordable housing. This important type of housing stock will therefore not be provided in that area.

Changes
Changes to address this concern are more appropriate in later sections of the Plan, as identified below.

Policy SP2: Meeting Housing Needs
Comment
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.

Changes
 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.

Providing Employment
Comment
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.
Changes
 Amend section to include London as a source of employment.

Policy SP4: Infrastructure and Connectivity
Comment
My client objects to the wording of the first paragraph of this policy, which states that development must be supported by infrastructure, services and facilities identified to serve the needs arising from the development. It is important that the wording of this policy takes into account that a developer is rarely the provider of infrastructure. A good example of this is healthcare provision. A developer can reasonably be required to contribute towards healthcare (in the absence of CIL) but cannot be responsible for delivering the healthcare facility. The delivery of the facility relies on the actions of NHS England not the developer.
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.

Changes
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
Comment
My client supports the majority of this policy but objects to the overly prescriptive nature of elements of it. These overly prescriptive elements are unjustified and unnecessary raising inconsistencies with the NPPF. The areas of concern are explained below.
The second bullet point requires all new development to exhibit individual architectural quality. This is a vague statement that 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 a specified measures. This may not be appropriate or possible in all cases 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 example, some development proposals may involve sites that are 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 and as such this is an unjustified requirement.
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.

Changes
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 are well integrated as part of the overall design'. Delete 'Include parking facilities that '
 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.

Policy SG2: Housing Delivery
Comment
My client supports the reference to Sustainable Settlements in this policy but is concerned to see that the role of such development in these settlements is confined to maintaining vitality and viability. Housing delivery in higher order settlements and at the Garden Communities is likely to have longer lead-in times and therefore be delivered at a slower pace. Delivery in the Sustainable Settlements allows for the pace of housing provision to be maintained in line with the annualised target and assist in maintaining a five year supply of housing. It is important that this is reflected in this policy.

Changes
To address this concern the following amendment is recommended to the final paragraph of this policy:
"To assist in maintaining a five year supply of housing and to support the vitality and viability of the Borough's smaller towns and 63 villages, an appropriate level of new development will be brought forward in Sustainable Settlements to support new homes and economic and social development. Details on those allocations are provided in Policies SS1- SS18 (Sustainable Settlements)"

Table SG2
Comment
My client supports the use of the word 'minimum' in the third column of this table but is concerned to note an absence of any justification for the numbers used either in this document or the accompanying Sustainability Appraisal. My client therefore objects to the lack of justification for the figures used.
Changes
Provide further justification for the figures identified against each settlement/area.

Policy SG6: Strategic Infrastructure
Comment
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 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 or smaller proposals where on-site infrastructure (such as a new school) is not included in the proposed development.

Changes
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.'

Policy SG7: Neighbourhood Plans
Comment
As identified in relation to the Strategic Objectives, my client is very concerned about the ability of the Plan to ensure that a suitable mix of housing types that is sufficient to meet housing needs is provided. This concern stems from the fact that part of the housing requirement is to be delivered by sites that will be allocated through various Neighbourhood Plans that are currently in preparation. This raises two concerns: the speed with which such plans are prepared and the nature of the sites that will be identified.
To ensure that housing needs are met from this source of supply it is imperative that the plan include a requirement for neighbourhood Plans to demonstrate how the Strategic Objective regarding meeting housing needs will be met. This will allow this matter to be considered during the Basic Conditions assessment.

Changes
To overcome the concerns raised it is suggested that the following text we added to the end of the first paragraph of this policy:
"This includes compliance with the Strategic Objectives of the Plan set out under paragraph 2.29."

Developer Contributions and Community Infrastructure Levy Policy
Comment
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.
Changes
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 the word 'gives' from the sentence.

Policy CC1: Climate Change
Comment
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.

Changes
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 WC2: Stanway
Comment
My client is concerned to note that infrastructure requirements are (in part) to be identified by the Parish Council. It is acknowledged that the Parish Council will have a clear understanding of the local area but it is not an infrastructure provider and therefore cannot fully understand the infrastructure needs of the area. The Parish Council should be involved in the preparation of the IDP and therefore will not be required as an additional source of information.

My client has an interest in the land at Chitts Hill and therefore supports the proposed allocation. However, there are elements of the allocation that are of concern and these are noted below:
 My client objects to the indication of a maximum yield of 100 dwellings at this site. There is no explanation either in the Plan or the accompanying Sustainability Appraisal why such a maximum figure is appropriate and it is considered that the reference to a maximum figure could artificially restrict the potential yield at this site - even by one unit. This raises concerns about the effectiveness of the Plan and its ability to meet housing needs. It also calls into question whether a scheme for 100 units would make efficient and effective use of the land. The suggested wording of this policy would therefore mean that the redevelopment of the site would be at odds with the clear requirement in the NPPF to boost significantly the supply of housing and make efficient use of land.
 The third bullet point of this allocation restricts 'access' to Chitts Hill. It is not clear whether this is all access or just vehicular access and should be clarified.
Changes

The following changes are suggested to overcome the concerns raised:
 Delete reference to the Parish Council in the first paragraph;
 Amend the Chitts Hill allocation as follows:
o Amend first bullet point to read "Approximately 100 new dwellings of a mix and type of housing to be compatible with surrounding development. Remove the words 'up to a maximum of'
o Amend third bullet point to clarify that only vehicular access is restricted to Chitts Hill.

Policy SS7: Eight Ash Green
Comment
The policy requires that the Neighbourhood Plan delivers up to 150 dwellings. This sets a maximum yield for this village and does not allow the Parish to plan for more growth than indicated in the Plan. My client considers this to be a mistake that may inhibit the Parish from delivering wider benefits associated with development in the village. It is also unclear from the Sustainability Appraisal how the limit of 150 units has been determined as being appropriate for this village.

The allocation of a set number of units for this village also does not guarantee that the housing needs of the village can be adequately met. It doesn't safeguard against the allocation of a series of small sites that individually may not be large enough to finance infrastructure provision and/or provide affordable housing.

To ensure that the delegation of site allocations to the Neighbourhood Plan complies with the Strategic Objective of meeting housing needs it is necessary to include further guidance and/or requirements in this policy.

Changes
To overcome these concerns, it is suggested that the policy be amended as follows:
 Amend criterion ii) to require at least 150 dwellings rather than up to 150 dwellings
 Include a new criterion that requires the allocation of sites that can deliver at least 30 new affordable dwellings (this being 20% of 150)
 Amend criterion iii) to require the required housing mix and types to be supported by local evidence of need

Policy SS16: West Bergholt
Comment
The concerns raised for this policy reflect the concerns raised for policy SS7.
The policy requires that the Neighbourhood Plan delivers 120 dwellings. This sets a maximum yield for this village and does not allow the Parish to plan for more growth than indicated in the Plan. My client considers this to be a mistake that may prevent the Parish from delivering wider benefits associated with development in the village. It is also unclear from the Sustainability Appraisal how the limit of 120 units has been determined as being appropriate for this village, especially given its sustainability credentials that are clearly articulated in the Plan. My client considers that this village should be taking at least the same level of development as is proposed for nearby Eight Ash Green.

The allocation of a set number of units for this village also does not guarantee that the housing needs of the village can be adequately met. It doesn't safeguard against the allocation of a series of small sites that individually may not be large enough to finance infrastructure provision and/or provide affordable housing.

To ensure that the delegation of site allocations to the Neighbourhood Plan process complies with the Strategic Objective of meeting housing needs it is necessary to include further guidance and/or requirements in this policy.

Changes
To overcome these concerns it is suggested that the policy be amended as follows:
 Amend criterion ii) to require at least 150 dwellings
 Include a new criterion that requires the allocation of sites that can deliver at least 30 new affordable dwellings (this being 20% of 150)
 Amend criterion iii) to require the required housing mix and types to be supported by local evidence of need

Policy DM10: Housing Diversity
Comment
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.

Changes
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
Comment
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.

Changes
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
Comment
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. 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.

Changes
"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 the words '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
Comment
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.

Changes
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."

On behalf of my client, I have tried to provide clear suggestions for amending the policies to address the concerns raised. My client and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these further with you before you publish the next version of your Plan.


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