What is the ‘new Local Plan’?
A Local Plan is a document that the Council is required to prepare which sets out a district-wide approach to addressing issues such as housing, jobs, infrastructure, the environment, community facilities etc., as well as the detailed planning policies that planning applications will be assessed against.
The Council’s current Local Plan was adopted in 2011 and runs up to 2025. The Council has now started work on preparing a new Local Plan, which it aims to adopt in 2021, and which will have a plan period up to 2037.
How many homes is the Council planning to deliver in the next 20 years?
The Council’s latest evidence suggests that a total of between 7,200 and 7,800 homes would need to be built over the next 20 years if the District was to meet its full, objectively assessed, housing needs.
Sites that are already allocated for housing development, from adopted plans, are expected to provide around 2,600 new homes by 2025. This includes allocated sites that are currently being built out (such as Hall Road Rochford), allocated sites that have planning permission but are yet to start building (such as West Rayleigh), and allocated sites which are yet to receive planning permission (such as South East Ashingdon).
The Council’s latest monitoring also suggests that planning permission exists for around 500 further homes on non-allocated sites, however, the Council has less certainty over the timescales and likelihood of these homes being built.
Nevertheless, any homes that are built contribute towards meeting the district’s housing needs, whether they result in a net increase of 1 home or 500 homes. What this means is that the homes currently being built or which have permission to be built contribute towards meeting the district’s objectively assessed housing needs of between 7,200 and 7,800 homes. Including only allocated sites, the latest evidence suggests the district’s outstanding housing need is around a further 4,600 to 5,200 homes by 2037, although this figure could be subject to change as new evidence and policy emerges. Any additional homes built on non-allocated sites by 2037 will also contribute towards these figures.
It should also be noted that the district’s housing need of between 7,200 and 7,800 homes is an unconstrained housing need figure. What this means is that it does not take into account the constraints within the district, such as the capacity of its infrastructure, the need to protect its environmentally sensitive areas, flood risk and more.
One of the purposes of preparing a Local Plan is to work out how many homes can actually be delivered or accommodated sustainably over the next 20 years, given all of these constraints. The number of homes that can be delivered becomes the district’s actual ‘housing target’, which will be set out in the new Local Plan, following a number of stages of public consultation and independent examination in public on the ‘soundness’ of the plan by a government Planning Inspector.
How does the Council work out its housing target?
The Council is at the early stages of preparing a new Local Plan for the district. Some of the key requirements of preparing this Local Plan is to examine and take account of available evidence, take on board the views of key stakeholders (such as Essex County Council, the NHS, utility providers etc.) as well as the outcomes of extensive public consultation, and understand how many homes can be delivered sustainably in the District, including when these should be built and where these should go.
You can have your say on how you think the Council’s new Local Plan should approach housing delivery by responding to our current Issues and Options Public Consultation. You can find out more here.
What is the ‘Call for Sites’?
In 2014, the Council adopted a plan, which allocated a number of sites across the district for new homes – some of which have been or are being built out. These sites are expected to deliver around 250 homes a year up to 2025. For detailed information on these allocations, please refer to the ‘Allocations Plan’, which is available at this link
To help identify potential sites that may be capable of delivering homes across the district after 2025, the Council undertook a 'Call for Sites’ where landowners and/or agents were able to put their land forward for consideration. The Council has given an initial assessment of all these sites as part of its ‘Strategic Housing and Employment Land Availability Assessment 2017’ . You may have seen maps taken from this assessment online – these simply show the outlines of all the sites included in the assessment, including those sites which are considered unsuitable for development. This evidence base document does not set policy or allocate land and there are no sites proposed in the Issues and Options Local Plan.
Most of the sites included were not considered to be suitable for development as part of the assessment, owing to falling within the Green Belt or other areas where development is constrained or restricted. However, as part of its new Local Plan process, the Council will need to look at whether any sites have potential to deliver homes in the medium to long term. This may include looking to see whether any sites should potentially be released from the Green Belt in order to deliver new homes and jobs in the future to seek to meet identified need.
In order to answer that question, the Council needs to undertake further evidence base studies, including a detailed assessment of its Green Belt as well as transport modelling; it will also need to undertake further public consultation. You can have your say on how you think the Council’s new Local Plan should approach housing delivery by responding to our current Issues and Options Public Consultation. You can find out more at this link
What is infrastructure and how is it planned for?
Infrastructure is a general term for the structures, facilities and services that help support everyday life. It includes things such as the road and transport networks, healthcare institutions, schools and the utilities for example.
Not all planned infrastructure is controlled or delivered by Rochford District Council. For example, Essex County Council is responsible for the road network, public transport and schools, whilst the NHS is responsible for healthcare institutions.
Rochford District Council works alongside the providers of infrastructure throughout the planning process, including when drawing up policies, considering sites for development and determining planning applications. These providers help identify what infrastructure would be needed to support new developments, and may request financial or physical contributions from developers (through a legal agreement) in order to provide improvements to existing infrastructure or, in some cases, brand new infrastructure to help support these developments. The level of infrastructure improvements required will reflect the capacity of existing infrastructure (such as the number of surplus school places in the area, capacity at GPs surgeries etc.) and the number of new residents who would need to use that existing infrastructure. In some cases, there may be enough capacity in the existing infrastructure to accommodate these new residents. As a result, the amount of new/improved infrastructure provided by a development does not only depend on the size of the development but also on the capacity of existing infrastructure at that time.
The Council is required to produce an Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) alongside its new Local Plan, to set out what infrastructure will be needed to sustainably support planned new development and how this is expected to be funded. The Council has recently produced an initial Infrastructure Delivery Topic Paper, which is available here.
For more detailed information on the processes through which new infrastructure is delivered, please read the FAQ below.
How and when is new infrastructure delivered? What are Section 106 agreements?
As discussed above, major developments may be required to provide infrastructure improvements to support the new development. The way that this is usually done is through a legal agreement (called a Section 106 agreement) between the landowner/developer, Rochford District Council and other infrastructure providers. This legal agreement will set out the amounts of money or physical infrastructure (“contributions”) that will need to be provided by the landowner/developer and when these need to be provided. The Section 106 agreement is a legally binding document and failure to follow it may invalidate the planning permission.
Contributions will normally need to be paid or provided before reaching a particular stage in the development. For example, a healthcare contribution may need to be paid to the NHS before any homes on a site can be lived in. The stage at which a contribution towards infrastructure is due will be set out in that particular development’s Section 106 agreement and will need to be agreed by both the developer and the relevant infrastructure provider.
Once paid, the way in which any financial contributions are spent is generally at the discretion of the infrastructure provider. As an example, a developer may be required to provide a financial contribution to the NHS in order to provide healthcare facilities for the residents of a new development they are building. How this money is spent, e.g. to provide a new GP surgery or to increase capacity at an existing GP surgery, is for the NHS to decide, but any financial contribution must be spent in relation with the development to which it is tied.
A Section 106 agreement is not the only way in which new or improved infrastructure is provided. Infrastructure providers will typically have their own ambitions and plans to improve their services, which might include road and junction improvement schemes, plans to expand a hospital, plans to expand a school and so on. Rochford District Council works alongside infrastructure providers to ensure that these ambitions and plans align with the local planning work of the Council, and these plans will generally be funded by the infrastructure providers themselves, or through grant funding from the government, and not through legal agreements with developers. For more detailed information on the future plans of these infrastructure providers, you are encouraged to contact the relevant provider.
For more information on how the Council plans for infrastructure, please visit this link
For more information on the Council’s current Section 106 agreements, please view the spreadsheet at this link.
What is the role of the government?
Once the Council has produced a draft new Local Plan, it will need to submit this draft Local Plan to a government agency called the Planning Inspectorate who will check its soundness in a process called an independent examination in public. This includes making sure it is in accordance with government regulations and policies and is based on robust evidence as well as being deliverable. The Council intends to submit its draft Local Plan for examination in 2020, and will not be able to adopt it until it has been approved or been found ‘sound’ through this process and adopted by the Council.
What happens if the Council does not produce a new Local Plan?
If the Council does not produce a new Local Plan, or its plan is found to be unsound at independent examination, there is a risk that the Council’s current local plan could become ‘out of date’ and may not be able to be used to make planning decisions. The Council would then need to rely on general government-produced planning policy (including the National Planning Policy Framework, and Planning Practice Guidance) and could have less control over the development that goes ahead.