Site Allocations Local Plan - Preferred Options (Regulation 18 Stage)

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2. Planning policy context

National and local policy context

2.1 Wide ranging national policies were considered in the selection of sites for inclusion in this document. The council must take account of the National Planning Policy Framework NPPF, March 2012 and its accompanying suite of Planning Practice Guidance (PPG).

2.2 Paragraph 154 of the NPPF specifies that Local Plan documents should be prepared with the objective of contributing to the achievement of sustainable development and that they should set out the opportunities for development and clear policies on what will, or will not, be permitted and where.

2.3 Paragraph 158 of the NPPF also states that the local planning authorities should ensure that their local plans are based on adequate, up-to-date and relevant evidence about the economic, social and environmental characteristics and prospects of their area.

Local policy context

2.4 The Local Plan, formerly known as the Local Development Framework (LDF), consists of a group of different documents as illustrated below. It will eventually replace the existing Local Plan which was adopted in 1995.

Forest Heath LP Docs

2.5 In 2011 a High Court Order required that one aspect of the adopted 2010 Core Strategy be reviewed. For this reason a Core Strategy Single Issue Review (SIR) is underway to review the overall housing numbers and distribution across the district. This SALP has been prepared in parallel with the SIR, and both documents are at the Preferred Options stage. The Core Strategy Single Issue Review consultation documents are available for comment at http://westsuffolk.jdi-consult.net/localplan.

View Comments (2) (2) Housing growth and distribution

2.6 The Core Strategy is the principal Local Plan document, providing the overall strategic vision for Forest Heath to 2026 and looking ahead to 2031 for residential growth. This SALP must, ultimately, identify appropriate and adequate sites to deliver the number, distribution and phasing (of delivery), of new homes as identified in the emerging SIR document.

2.7 The Core Strategy identifies a settlement hierarchy in Policy CS1. This policy requires that most development will take place in the market towns, followed by the key service centres. In line with national and local planning policy, these settlements are considered to be the most sustainable locations for new development, since they provide a range of existing services, facilities, shops and employment opportunities, and serve as public transport hubs.

2.8 Primary villages are also identified within the Core Strategy as being capable of small scale housing growth to meet local housing needs and for maintaining and enhancing the services in rural areas. This document will include potential sites for allocation in these settlements.

2.9 The council is not putting forward any site allocations for housing within the secondary villages or small settlements, although the settlement boundaries of the secondary villages have been the subject of review during this stage of work and this is set out in Section 15 of this document, for comment.

2.10 The sites identified in this consultation document, are the council's preferred sites to deliver the growth necessary in the district to 2031, and therefore meet Option 1, the council's preferred housing distribution option in the SIR.

2.11 The following table is from the SIR Preferred Options consultation document, which is available for comment on the council's website: http://westsuffolk.jdi-consult.net/localplan.

2.12 This sets out the existing commitments (i.e. planning permissions) and completions in the period 2011 to 2015, and the additional provision that needs to be made to meet the overall housing need and preferred option of focussing growth in Mildenhall, Newmarket, Lakenheath and Red Lodge (with the highest growth in Mildenhall). The table notes the total for each settlement, and the percentage of the total distribution that this represents for that settlement or group of settlements.

Distribution Option 1: Higher growth at Mildenhall and Red Lodge and Primary Villages,
and lower growth at Newmarket (council's Regulation 18 preferred option)

Settlement Existing commitments
and completions
(2011-2015)
Additional provision Windfall Totals Percentage distribution

Brandon

55

70

125

2%

Mildenhall

177

1350

1527

22%

Newmarket

288

680

968

14%

Lakenheath

76

800

876

13%

Red Lodge

704

950

1654

24%

Primary villages

596

750

1346

20%

Other potential *

92

220

312

5%

TOTALS

1988

4600

220

6808

100%

*Other potential includes rural completions and commitments and windfall

Economy and jobs

2.13 Core Strategy Policy CS6 identifies a minimum requirement of 16 hectares of additional employment land to be allocated between 2006 and 2026. However, this policy covers a different plan period to this document, and is based on historic evidence. Section 16 sets out new evidence, including the updated Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) and a 2015 study on the Economic Growth Potential of the A11 Corridor, and other factors such as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requirement for councils to plan to achieve a balance between planned homes and jobs, the planned closure of the USAFE airbase at Mildenhall, and access to trunk roads.

2.14 Section 16 also sets out the council's preferred options for proposed employment allocations (Policy EM1) with sites at Mildenhall, Newmarket and Red Lodge. In addition, there are proposed mixed use site allocations in Mildenhall, Newmarket, and Lakenheath, and existing general employment areas are protected in Policy EM2. Existing employment sites are also protected through the Joint Development Management Policy DM30: Appropriate Employment Uses and Protection of Employment Land and Existing Businesses.

Town centres and retail

2.15 Section 17 sets out the up-to-date position on the provision of retail floorspace in the district which shows that the overall level of convenience shopping planned to 2021 has been met through existing planning permissions. To provide for additional comparison provision to 2031 a masterplan approach is set out in Policy MP1.

View Comments (1) (1) The built and natural environment

2.16 The impact of development on the environment is an important factor for consideration in Forest Heath, as almost 50% of the district is designated for nature conservation value, with three sites designated at the European level, 27 nationally important Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and over 70 County Wildlife Sites (CWS). The international sites include the Breckland Special Protection Area (SPA), and Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Breckland is also recognised for its landscape character which is particular to this area. Both the NPPF and the Core Strategy require the protection of important landscape, biodiversity and geo-diversity assets. The NPPF seeks to conserve, restore and re-establish habitats and create wildlife corridors.

2.17 As Forest Heath contains sites of European importance, it was necessary to carry out a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA), of the 2010 Core Strategy, to assess any likely adverse impacts on these sites. This assessment concluded that in order to ensure that the policies within the Core Strategy did not result in significant adverse effects on European sites, the following mitigation/avoidance measures should be included within the Local Plan:

  • development within 1500m of SPA components which are designated for stone curlew will require a project level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) to determine whether the development will have an impact on the stone curlew. Development which is likely to lead to an adverse effect on the integrity of the SPA will not be allowed;
  • development proposed within 400m of SPA components (SSSI sites), which are designated for woodlark and/or nightjar will require a project level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA). Development which is likely to lead to an adverse effect on the integrity of the SPA will not be allowed;
  • no new road development or road improvements will be allowed within 200m of any Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) sites;
  • new development will also be restricted within 1500m of any 1km grid square which has supported five or more nesting attempts by stone curlew since 1995. Proposals for development within these areas will require a project level HRA. Development which is likely to lead to an adverse effect on the integrity of the SPA will not be allowed.

2.18 The requirement for a project level HRA in these circumstances means that developers will need to produce information to demonstrate that the development has no likely significant effects or that it will not impact on the integrity of the European site. The conclusions of any such assessment must be agreed with Natural England before any development can be considered.

2.19 There are also many features of geological, archaeological and historic interest which contribute to the character of the district and should be protected from damage where development takes place. The potential impact of development on the landscape and heritage assets of the district has been considered, and a topic paper has been prepared that examines the main landscape and heritage constraints in each of the settlements where growth is planned.

2.20 In addition, large areas of land in the district fall within Flood Zones 2 and 3 and there are aircraft noise constraints (based on 1994 data) due to the large American airbases at RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath. However, it is important to note that flightpaths may change as a result of the announcement to close RAF Mildenhall, and restructure activities at RAF Lakenheath, over the next 5-7 years. Maps showing the key constraints for the towns, key service centres and primary villages are set out at the beginning of each settlement section.

What we have learnt from the evidence base

2.21 A summary of the key parts of the evidence base, including the built and natural environment constraints, can be seen in the 'Local Plan Evidence Base' report which is available to view online at http://westsuffolk.jdi-consult.net/localplan. The evidence has helped us move forward to this third Regulation 18 consultation stage and to confirm the existing key constraints in each settlement which, along with the consultation responses, have helped inform the selection of the preferred sites for consultation.

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