Vale of White Horse District Council responses

Background

Vale of White Horse District Council officers attended a Stanford in the Vale Neighbourhood Planning Steering Group meeting on 17 March 2014, to explain the proposals for Stanford in the Vale in the emerging Vale Local Plan 2031 Part 1, and to answer questions about the Local Plan and the Neighbourhood Planning process.

The questions and written responses to the questions arising at the meeting are listed below.   The response to each question will appear when the respective question is clicked on.

A .pdf version is available by clicking here (opens in new window/tab). A .doc version is available here.

It should be noted that these officer responses are based on the understanding at the time of writing, and this position may change, particularly in light of new evidence and responses to the current Local Plan ‘Housing Delivery Update’ consultation. We will review all responses we receive to the consultation and will publish our responses to these in due course.

 

The recently published Cambridge Econometrics (CE) report projects three different working population projections as follows;

2011 2021 2031
Baseline* 67,200 71,700 76,400
Alternative Population** 67,200 72,100 77,900
Planned Economic Growth*** 67,200 81,600 90,200

* The population projections used for the Baseline projections are based on the ONS’ 2011-based interim Sub-National Population Projections made consistent with the latest mid-year estimates to 2011. Adjustments were made to the Baseline projections for education. This is because the education sector in Oxfordshire is thought to have particular characteristics that mean that benchmarking all its growth against the South East or UK is not appropriate going forward.
** The alternative population projections are thought to give a more likely picture of population growth in the future and represent the direct impact on employment that we might expect due to new policy and planned investment
***The direct additional employment by sector from the alternative population projection are added to the employment from the adjusted population-based projections and the model run to create the planned economic growth forecast with direct and indirect impacts.

The ‘planned economic growth’ scenario projects employment growth in the Vale of 23,000 during the period 2011-2031 and it was this scenario that was taken forward to inform the Oxfordshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA). The Local Plan will therefore need to plan for 23,000 jobs to accommodate the additional growth in population during the period 2011-2031.

The Cambridge Econometrics report can be accessed on the Vale website at: http://www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/services-and-advice/planning-and-building/planning-policy/new-local-plan-2031/evidence-base/oxfordsh

The CE report anticipates that most of the future employment in the Vale will take place in the South-East of the district. Of the 10,200 above trend jobs (over and above what is ‘normally’ expected to happen) projected for Vale, 5,400 are projected for the Enterprise Zone with 2,500 projected for the Satellite technology industry. For details of those sectors we would expect to see ‘above trend’ growth in, please see Appendix A (attached).

The Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) assumes that commuting patterns will remain consistent in relative terms with a 4% net flow out of the district to work. This is consistent with the 2001 Census and takes account of the district’s proximity to larger employment centres such as Oxford and Swindon.

The council is currently not investigating rail capacity directly, but is working closely with the Highway Authority and has regular dialogue with Network Rail. The Highway Authority and Network Rail are also both formal consultees of the council’s consultation.

We have started dialogue with Network Rail to investigate the long term potential of introducing a new stopper service on the railway line west of Didcot.

Network Rail is responsible for planning for rail capacity and set this out in their strategy documents. The electrification of the main line between Bristol and Paddington is designed to increase both speeds and capacity.

Detailed traffic modelling work is ongoing in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council. Information is available from:

http://www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/services-and-advice/planning-and-building/planning-policy/local-development-framework/core-strateg-6

Broadly speaking, our current transport assessment work shows that the proposed development is likely to lead to increased congestion at junctions in Wantage on the A417, and increased traffic along the A417 east of Wantage. Our currently modelling indicates the road network is within capacity west of Wantage. The next stage of the transport assessment work will include testing mitigation measures to help address traffic impacts.

OCC are currently developing an A417 strategy, although this is focused on Wantage to Blewbury. Our current modelling indicates the road network is within capacity west of Wantage.

In principle, yes it is possible to adopt a Neighbourhood Plan (NP) at the same time as the Local Plan Part 1 (LPP1), but it might be easier if it followed closely behind the LPP1, otherwise it may be difficult for an inspector to make decisions / judgements. This is particularly true if the Neighbourhood Plan is seeking to allocate sites.

Our current LPP1 timetable is for adoption in Summer 2015 (i.e. Q3 2015). We will need to work closely together to ensure conformity, as this approach would be likely to lead to LPP1 examination and NP examination at similar times. We will need to consider some of the practical implications of this.

This approach would also be subject to detailed project planning: it is important to note that the district council will not be running any referenda between January and June 2015. We would be happy to meet to discuss a draft Project Plan once this is available.

Our Local Plan Part 1 will not identify specific numbers for each village to provide, so we don’t currently have an answer to this question.

It is important to remember that a Neighbourhood Plan is not about stopping development. In our Local Plan we are proposing that there should be a presumption in favour of sustainable development within the existing built area of the village, so we wouldn’t be setting a ‘maximum’ level of houses for the village.

We do not currently have a five year housing land supply in the Vale, and this means that we cannot give full weight to our Local Plan 2011 policies in relation to housing.

Once our new Local Plan is in place, we will be able to demonstrate a five year housing land supply, and will therefore be in a position to refuse applications where these don’t meet Local Plan housing policies.

We cannot confirm this.

The SHLAA report is an evidence base document which informs the Local Plan. The inclusion of sites within the deliverable or developable supply of this study should not be taken to imply that the council will allocate them for housing development, nor that they would be approved if submitted as a planning application. Conversely, the exclusion of a site from this supply does not mean that it could not come forward, providing that the constraints identified could be satisfactorily overcome.

The district council has to determine all planning applications submitted to it, and hence will need to determine the application submitted for the Horsecroft site. However, the NPSG could contact landowner and initiate discussions of this nature.

Pre-application discussions are confidential, and we are not therefore in a position to share details with the NPSC unless we have agreement from the parties concerned. We can however refer to the emerging NP, where relevant, when responding to pre-application enquiries.

a) We considered this site as part of our site selection process for the current Local Plan consultation. Details of all the sites we assessed across the district are set out in our Housing Delivery Update Supporting Paper (February 2014), which is available on our website. We considered two sites in Stanford in the Vale: land west of Faringdon Road (site 38) and land north of Cottage Road (site 32).

We have not proposed land north of Cottage Road for allocation in our current consultation , because our Landscape Capacity Study indicated that the majority of the site would be unsuitable for development due to landscape impacts: the rural approach to and setting of the village and the Conservation Area would be impacted by development of the site.

We therefore consider that land west of Faringdon Road is a preferable site for development in Stanford in the Vale, and are currently proposing to allocate this in the Local Plan.

If a planning application was submitted at the current time, we would have to consider this against the National Planning Policy Framework, as we do not have a five year housing land supply. However, once the new Local Plan is adopted, we will have a five year housing land supply, and we would therefore be able to apply Local Plan policies. The emerging Local Plan can also gain weight as we progress through the plan preparation process.

Our current proposed Local Plan policies are to allocate land to the West of Faringdon Road for housing, and to support applications for sustainable development within the existing built area of the village. Any development outside the existing built area of the village would need to be allocated through either the Neighbourhood Plan or through LPP2 (once the plan is adopted).

As noted above, our proposed Local Plan policies may be subject to change.

b) We would need to review this situation if it arose, including careful consideration of any cumulative impact.

a) Yes.

b) An NP can allocate sites if it wishes to, but we cannot necessarily confirm that these can replace sites that may be proposed through the LPP1 or 2.

c) We are currently not proposing to identify minimum growth figures for individual villages (see answer to Q9 above).

a) Yes

b) We have published draft site templates alongside our current consultation: these set out the key infrastructure requirements for each proposed site. Examples of our proposed requirements for the site West of Faringdon Road include contributions to bus services, a network of footpaths/cycleways within the site to connect to wider network, and additional planting along the A417. We would welcome any feedback on our draft site templates as part of your responses to the current ‘Housing Delivery Update’ consultation.

There are no set criteria for how a NP policy should be written, but it is important to remember that the plan should be positively prepared, and shouldn’t be used to stop development. It will need to be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the local plan and national policy and guidance.

The Vale is in the process of commissioning consultants who will be preparing a new and updated Design Guide for the Vale with a particular emphasis on local distinctiveness. It is intended that the new Design Guide is developed as a Supplementary Design Guide. Any design related policies in the neighbourhood plan must therefore be in conformity with the emerging Design Guide for the Vale.

In principle, the Neighbourhood Plan could identify a Settlement Boundary. However, this is not the approach we have taken in the Vale historically, partly because drawing a line on a map might encourage development to ‘fill in’ up to the line, whereas a more flexible policy approach gives flexibility to oppose unsuitable applications.

Planning officers can attend meetings of the NP Steering Group at key stages. Anna is the first point of contact for the Group with the Council, and can pass draft policies and content to other colleagues for feedback and comment.

In terms of using the emerging NP when considering applications, the emerging NP can only carry limited weight in the early stages of preparation. Emerging NPs can start to gather more weight as they move through the consultation process, e.g. after the 6 week consultation period run by the LA (just before the examination). At this stage the amount of weight to be given to the plan will depend on the level of outstanding objections.

It is possible to vary S106 agreements but this would need to be undertaken through a legal process, and is not likely to be easy.

The requirement for 40% affordable housing is based on addressing the district-wide need, and therefore we would not be likely to want a situation where some of the affordable housing is restricted in perpetuity for those with a strong local connection only. Rural Exception Sites will always provide local priority in perpetuity.

Our new allocations policy enables 20% of all new build affordable housing units to be allocated to people with a strong local connection. This should be very helpful to housing register applicants in the rural areas. For example, a site with a total of 75 units would deliver 30 affordable homes, of which 6 would be allocated to people with defined local connection. Order of priority of housing need would still apply amongst local people, but for that 20% someone with the local connection could effectively be allocated the home above someone with a greater housing need but who does not have the local connection.

Whilst a local connection criterion is beneficial for local people who may not have the highest housing need, if this is more widely introduced than the use of the 20% allocations policy plus any rural exception sites, then those without any local connection to specific sites/villages will be adversely affected.

If Stanford in the Vale wishes to have affordable housing that is retained for local people in perpetuity then a Rural Exception site will be very appropriate and could also be delivered through a Community Land Trust.

Affordable housing need is calculated across the district as a whole. Our proposed policy approach is to require 40% affordable housing on all sites of three of more dwellings, subject to viability.

There is no simple answer to this, as requirements are calculated on a site by site basis. The way it works is that we require a financial contribution per home. This contribution may be for on site or off site provision, depending on what the needs are. It could be towards a new Green Space, or could be a contribution to improve an existing facility.

Development would be expected to make appropriate provision for open space and recreational facilities, as outlined in the council’s Leisure and Sports Facilities Strategy and the Open Space, Sport and Recreation Future Provision SPD.

The Leisure and Sports Facilities Strategy can be accessed at: http://www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/services-and-advice/planning-and-building/planning-policy/local-development-framework/core-strateg-6 The Open Space, Sport and Recreation Future Provision SPD can be accessed at: http://www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/services-and-advice/planning-and-building/planning-policy/local-development-framework/supplementary-

a) We are working closely with Oxfordshire County Council in order to ensure that an appropriate school solution is found to accommodate the growth proposed at Stanford in the Vale. The County Council is aware of the parish council’s desire to expand the existing, or build a new, primary school, and discussion of this will be part of the county council’s response to our current consultation. The appropriate school solution is still being considered, and hence we do not yet know whether the county council would support a new Primary School, or how this would be funded.

b) An appropriate location for a new School would need to be discussed with Oxfordshire County Council. We do not currently have a view on the most suitable location, if a new school is the most appropriate solution.

c) Our new proposed Local Plan includes a presumption in favour of sustainable development within the existing built area of the village. This policy therefore supports the principle of redevelopment of the school site. The school site is located within the Conservation Area, and any proposal would therefore need to avoid adverse impact on the Conservation Area.

Much of what is mentioned in this particular question is outside the scope of the Vale local authority and is controlled at a national level. One of the main roles of the planning authority is to provide for a sufficient number of housing units to meet the objectively assessed need of the district over the period of the plan, as determined by the most up to date evidence base which, in this instance is the Oxfordshire SHMA.

Any proposals in the neighbourhood plan must be sufficiently backed up by evidence. There is a presumption in favour of sustainable development in the National Planning Policy Framework which, for plan-making purposes means that local planning authorities should positively seek opportunities to meet the development needs of their area.

This principle should also be applied to neighbourhood plans. Therefore to limit development as set out in the question above would be restrictive and not in accordance with the principles of the NPPF. It would also be likely to conflict with the proposed core policy 3 of the emerging Vale Local Plan, which includes a presumption in favour of sustainable development within the existing built area of the village.

The Vale currently does not have a five year housing land supply. In order for the five year housing land supply to be restored, the Vale must identify sites capable of delivering 4,025 homes within the first five years of the plan (2014-2019). This includes a 20% buffer to meet the NPPF requirements which reflects the Vale’s past under delivery of housing. A new town would not solve the housing problems in the Vale in the shorter term as the associated infrastructure required would not be deliverable within the first five years.

The Vale is currently in the process of commissioning consultants to prepare new Design Guidelines for the Vale district, with a particular emphasis on local distinctiveness, in order to address this issue. It is the intention that public consultation on a draft of the new guidelines will take place in August 2014, alongside the consultation on the pre-submission LPP1.

Our proposed affordable housing policy seeks to deliver affordable housing to meet a district-wide need, not just the need for the locality as suggested by the 2012 Housing Survey for SITV.

It is not the role of the planning authority to ‘play landowners off against each other’. The planning authority seeks to provide for the objectively assessed need for housing in the district in line with the most up to date evidence available.

As referred to above, the Vale needs to be in a position to identify sites capable of delivering 4,025 homes during the period 2014-2019 in order to ensure that a five year housing land supply is restored. Part of our criteria behind the identification of sites for the Local Plan Part 1 was that sites must be capable of accommodating at least 200 units. No brownfield site was found to meet this criterion and so we had to consider greenfield land.

As part of the plan making process we must undertake consultation exercises. We go through all representations received and subsequently recommend the most appropriate amendments to plans having regard to these. The Local Plan will be examined by an independent inspector whose roles is to assess whether the plan has been prepared in accordance with the Duty to Cooperate, legal and procedural requirements, and whether it is sound. In this regard the plan must be positively prepared, justified, effective and consistent with national policy. Any changes to the Plan arising due to representations received will therefore be carefully examined at examination stage.