Core Strategy Policy CS7 Single Issue Review - Issues and Options (Regulation 18) Consultation 2012

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Introduction and background to the Core Strategy and Single

Issue Review of Policy CS7

View Comments (28) (28) 1.1 This section considers the development of the Forest Heath Core Strategy and sets the context for this Single Issue Review of Policy CS7.

1.2 The Core Strategy is part of Forest Heath's Local Plan, a suite of planning documents that will eventually replace the Council's Local Plan 1995 and its 'saved polices', in accordance with the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), March 2012. The Core Strategy is the principal document which seeks to provide the overall vision for the growth of Forest Heath. Guided by principles of sustainable development, the Core Strategy should define a spatial vision for the provision of housing within the District.

1.3 The following table sets out the steps undertaken so far toward the preparation of the Core Strategy, as expanded upon in the following paragraphs.

Table 1: The Core Strategy and Single Issue Review 'Time-line'

Date

Stage in Core Strategy Preparation

September - October 2005

Issues and Options Consultation

October - December 2006

Preferred Options Consultation

August - September 2008

Final Policy Option Consultation

March - June 2009

Proposed Submission Document Publication Period

August 2009

Submission of Core Strategy to the Secretary of State

December 2009 - January 2010

Examination in Public, (EiP), into the soundness of the Core Strategy DPD

April 2010 Inspectors report on EiP received with Core Strategy DPD being found 'Sound'.

May 2010

Adoption of Core Strategy DPD by Full Council.

June 2010

Challenge to the adopted Core Strategy DPD lodged with the High Court.

February 2011

High Court Hearing in London

March 2011

Outcome of High Court Challenge - Challenge successful and the majority of Policy CS7 is revoked with conse- quential amendments made to Policy CS1 & CS13. Ruling prompts a 'Single Issue Review'.
Ongoing

Single Issue Review of Core Strategy Policy CS7.

1.4 The Core Strategy, as adopted in May 2010, was challenged in the High Court by an aggrieved party on two separate grounds:

  1. That there had been a failure to comply with the legal requirement for Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment in respect of the proposals for North East Newmarket and,
  2. That the Public Consultation was flawed in that supporting documents were not available throughout the relevant period,

1.5 The judgment of the High Court was delivered on 25thMarch 2011 and found the challenge successful on the first claim but not on the second. The Judge concluded that although the Council had followed the procedural stages for Strategic Environmental Assessment, (SEA), the Council had failed to provide adequate information and explanation of the choices made so as to demonstrate that it had tested all reasonable alternatives for residential growth in relation to a broad location for such growth at North East Newmarket.

1.6 The judgment ordered the quashing of certain parts of Policy CS7, with consequential amendments to Policies CS1 and CS13.

1.7 Therefore following the High Court ruling the current Development Plan for

Forest Heath currently consists of:

  • The Forest Heath District Local Plan 1995, as 'saved' by the Secretary of State in September 2007, and as subsequently amended by the adoption of the Forest Heath Core Strategy in May 2010, and,
  • The Forest Heath Core Strategy adopted in May 2010, as amended following the High Court Order. As mentioned above, the Order quashed the majority of Policy CS7 and made consequential amendments to Policies CS1 and CS13, although the remainder of the Core Strategy, as adopted in May 2010, remains.
  • The Regional Spatial Strategy 2008 (RSS). This was prepared by the former East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) and after examination at an Examination in Public was published in its final approved form by the Secretary of State in May 2008. The current Secretary of State has announced an intention to revoke the RSS and all other Regional Strategies but this action is dependent on the outcome of SEA into the effects of revocation.

1.8 Essentially, the High Court Order has removed the spatial distribution of housing numbers and phasing of delivery across the District although the overall housing requirement remains in place for the time-being. This has left the Council with, at present, an overall number of new dwellings that it needs to provide land for, but no spatial distribution of where these dwellings should be located, in general terms.

1.9 As a result the Council has resolved to revisit those parts of the Core Strategy that were 'quashed' by the High Court ruling in order to reconsider the most appropriate general locations for housing growth throughout the District. This is termed a 'Single Issue Review' and requires the Council to follow all of the relevant legislative processes and procedures as identified within the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012, from the first 'Issues and Options' stage, (Regulation 18). In seeking to do this the Council is also intending to review the evidence supporting the overall number of homes that it should provide within this District, to see whether the previously established figure is too high, too low, or about right.

1.10 The Regional Spatial Strategy 2008 (RSS), Policy H1 set a minimum housing requirement for the District for 2001-2021 of 6400 homes (320 dwellings per annum). The Council's Core Strategy had to make continued provision for housing beyond 2021 in accordance with the then National Guidance (PPS3: 'Housing') which required the delivery of housing for at least 15 years from the date of adoption (2010). The minimum period therefore was to 2025. However, the Council chose to make provision to 2031 to achieve alignment with a then emerging review of the RSS. The requirement for the period 2021-2031 totals 3700 homes (370 dwellings per annum). Adopted Core Strategy Policy CS7 makes overall housing provision for a minimum of 10,100 dwellings.

1.11 One significant advantage of the review is that the Government's Localism Act 2011 has recently received Royal Assent, (November 2011). This has enabled the Council to capture changes to the Local Plan process that the Localism Act 2011 has introduced. The provision of the Act allowing the Secretary of State to make an order revoking the Regional Spatial Strategy could soon come into force (subject to the outcome of SEA of the consequences of revocation) and if a revocation order is then made, at that point the Council would no longer be bound by the Regional housing requirement, and would be able to determine its housing requirements at the 'local level', i.e. what is seen by many observers as a 'top-up' approach rather than 'top-down' approach.

1.12 The High Court has held (R (Stevenage Borough Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2011] EWHC 3136 (Admin)) that a plan- making authority can anticipate the potential revocation of a RSS in the preparatory stages of producing a Development Plan Document (DPD) but will need to satisfy the current statutory requirement for its DPD to be in general conformity with the RSS when the DPD is submitted to the Secretary of State for examination, for as long as that statutory requirement remains. In other words, this Single Issue Review will have the scope, if the evidence justifies such, to consider whether to deviate from the RSS and in particular its prescribed housing targets as one of its options at this preparatory stage. Whether that option (if otherwise appropriate) could continue to be put forward at the submission stage would need to be reviewed in the light of the progress of the Government�s plans for revocation of the RSS. On the current timetable, the Single Issue Review is likely to be ready for submission to the Secretary of State in June 2013, so there is potentially almost a year of plan- preparation during which revocation of the RSS could take place.

1.13 In announcing its intention to revoke Regional Spatial Strategies the Government has made it clear that it was for each Local Authority to determine the right level of housing for their area. The NPPF says Local Planning Authorities should:

'..use their evidence base to ensure that their 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 policies set out in the Framework, including identifying key sites which are critical to the delivery of the housing strategy over the plan period' (NPPF para. 47)

1.14 The NPPF also gives advice on Local Plans and in relation to housing it refers to a need for authorities to prepare a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) "to assess their full housing needs, working with neighbouring authorities where housing market areas cross administrative boundaries. The Strategic Housing Market Assessment should identify the scale and mix of housing and the range of tenures that the local population is likely to need over the plan period which:

  • meets household and population projections, taking account of migration and demographic change;
  • addresses the need for all types of housing, including affordable housing and the needs of different groups in the community (such as, but not limited to, families with children, older people, people with disabilities, service families and people wishing to build their own homes;
  • caters for housing demand and the scale of housing necessary to meet this demand." (NPPF para 159)

1.15 It is for this reason that this Single Issue Review Consultation will present and consider all future options for the overall requirement, as well as the distribution and phasing of housing across the District. It should be noted that to 'revisit' the evidence that underpins the previously used housing figures does not necessarily mean increasing or reducing the overall housing requirement that was specified within the RSS or the old Policy CS7. Rather, any changes will need to be robust and justified and will ultimately be subject to formal scrutiny at the examination stage.

Table 2: Anticipated Timetable for the Single Issue Review (SIR)

Approximate Timetable Regulation No.
Stage in Single Issue Review

July-September 2012

18 Issues and Options Consultation.

January-March 2013

19/20

Proposed (Draft) Submission Document Consultation.

June 2013

22

Submission of SIR Document to the Secretary of State.

October 2013

24 Examination in Public into 'Soundness' of the SIR Document.

January 2014

25

Inspector's Report expected

April 2014

26

Adoption of SIR Document by the Council and incorporation into the Development Plan for the District.

The timetable above is provisional and subject to change.

The Challenge Now

1.16 The challenge for the Council if, as expected, the Regional Spatial Strategy, (and namely Policy H1), is revoked is two-fold. The Council are still required to have evidence to support its housing numbers when agreeing sub-regional numbers with neighbouring authorities, whilst they must also have a housing numbers target that is appropriate to the locality and meets identified local need in full so far as consistent with the policies in the NPPF.

1.17 Therefore, in response, this document will:

  1. Consider the evidence base that underpinned the RSS housing requirement figures for the District and assess, with the best available and up to date evidence, whether or not this level of growth remainsappropriate,
  2. Consider a number of scenarios that may help the Council to establish what might be an appropriate level of housing supply for the District,
  3. Consider the distribution and phasing for delivering any identified level of housing given the inherent constraints to growth that exist across the District.

View Comments (1) (1) 1.18 There are a number of questions contained within the document where the Council are inviting your comments and views that will enable us to further develop and refine our 'Issues and Options' as they relate to housing development in the District. These comments will inform the development of this Single Issue Review document as we progress through the various rounds of consultation and prior to adoption of the document, currently anticipated for 2014.

Please make comments

We ask that representations are made electronically using the online software:

http://forest-heath.jdi-consult.net/ldf/

Alternatively, residents of Forest Heath who do not have access to the internet can make representations in writing and post to:

Planning Policy Team, Forest Heath District Council, District Offices, College Heath Road, Mildenhall, Suffolk, IP28 7EY.

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