1. What is the Spatial Options consultation about?
The Council is in the process of preparing a new Local Plan to set a new strategy for Rochford District up to 2040.
The Spatial Options consultation is the latest stage in the new Local Plan, setting out a range of options for how different issues could be addressed. The types of issues addressed in the consultation include infrastructure, housing, jobs, the environment, climate change, heritage and place-making.
Consultations on Local Plans take place in stages with each stage getting more detailed about what the Local Plan will contain. The Spatial Options consultation is the second stage of an expected four in the preparation of the new Local Plan. At this stage, the options identified in the document are just options and no final decisions have been made.
By responding to the consultation you can help to ensure that your views are taken into account when those decisions are made.
2. What is the new Local Plan?
The new Local Plan is a document that will set a strategy for Rochford District up to 2040. Once adopted, it will replace the Council’s current local (development) plan, which consists of a Core Strategy, Allocations Plan, Development Management Plan and four Area Action Plans.
Local Plans are the documents that dictate where new development will and will not be allowed and what infrastructure is required to support new development. Local Plans also contain the detailed ‘policies’ that all planning applications are assessed against, from small extensions up to a development of hundreds of homes.
3. How do I respond to the consultation?
The quickest and simplest way of accessing the documents and making comments is by using our online consultation portal. You will need to create a profile in order to leave comments.
If you are unable to use the online portal, you can also view a physical copy of the document in local libraries and Council offices when open. Please note these locations may have restricted operating ours due to ongoing Coronavirus restrictions.
You can also send in comments by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by letter to Planning Policy, Council Offices, South Street, Rochford, SS4 1BW.
Please note we are not able to accept anonymous, defamatory or discriminatory comments.
4. Why do we have to plan for new development?
Government policy requires all local authorities to prepare Local Plans for their area. These Local Plans need to pass certain tests in order to be approved.
One of these tests requires a Local Plan to meet the needs of the area. The Government has published a formula for calculating how many homes are needed in an area. Using this formula, Rochford District is estimated to need around 360 homes per year, or 7,200 homes over the next 20 years.
We also need to plan for other forms of development such as new jobs and services to ensure both existing and future communities are economically and socially healthy.
5. What are the risks of not planning for new development?
Not planning for new development has a number of risks.
Firstly, not building enough housing in an area means local housing is very unaffordable, particularly for first time buyers. This has a number of consequences including cramped and concealed households (e.g. younger people having to live at home for far longer than they would like), homelessness and first-time buyers being forced to move out of the District.
Secondly, development is one of the key drivers of economic growth. The new Local Plan can help provide new high quality business space that is not being met by current premises. If this is not planned for, we may find businesses choosing the leave the District to locate in higher-quality business premises being built elsewhere. This may in turn reduce the number of jobs available for local people.
Thirdly, the planning system allows developers to appeal to a Government Inspector if their development is not approved by the Council. This appeal is unlikely to be successful where the Council is meeting local housing needs. However, through this appeal process, it may be possible for a developer to receive planning permission for a site that neither the Council nor local people want, if local housing needs are not being met. By preparing a new Local Plan, we can make sure that we remain in control over how and where development comes forward in our District.
6. Where will new development go?
We are still at an early stage of preparing our new Local Plan and no decisions have been made about where future development will go. This is why it is important that as many people have their say at this stage, to ensure their views are taken into account when decisions are made.
As part of our consultation, we have identified four main ways in which our housing needs could be met in our new Local Plan. These are:
- To maximise the capacity of our urban areas
- To build homes next to our main towns and/or villages
- To build all our housing in one location
- To build homes in a combination of the above 3
Our consultation document sets out the pros and cons of each of these options and allows you to tell us both which of the above options you’d choose.
Our consultation document also includes sections on each of our towns and villages which include questions on the sites you think should be developed or protected. The easiest way to look at these sites is using our new interactive map. The sites available for development are shown as blue shapes. Double clicking on a site will provide you with a link to have your say on that site.
7. How is infrastructure capacity taken into account through the new Local Plan?
The Council has not made any decisions about where development should be located through the new Local Plan. The ideas set out in the consultation are simply options.
The Council plans to prepare a document called an Infrastructure Delivery Plan. This document will allow us to consider how potential locations for new development relate back to infrastructure capacity.
The capacity of roads, schools, doctors surgeries and more will be taken into account when decisions are made about the location of new development. It may be that there are some areas, such as villages, where limited development can help to sustain existing services which might be under-capacity. In other areas, it may be that development can help fund extensions to existing services to allow these to cope with increased use. In some areas, it may even be possible for development to deliver brand new infrastructure.
A New Local plan needs to be sustainable and an important part of this will be the ability to improve infrastructure capacity across Rochford District.
8. Will the new Local Plan deliver new infrastructure?
One of the most effective ways of delivering new infrastructure is through the planning system.
When developers build new houses or business premises, they are required to make financial contributions towards local infrastructure. The larger the development, the larger these financial contributions will be. By making sure we get the strategy of our new Local Plan right, we can make sure that we locate new development in the locations where the best outcomes for infrastructure can be achieved.
For example, one option considered in the consultation document would be to build a lot of houses in one location (as opposed to spreading development around). The advantage of this strategy is that the amount of funding the developer will be required to pay would be sufficient to deliver brand new infrastructure, such as schools, link roads and open spaces. Alternative strategies would be spread new housing across the District which would reduce the infrastructure impact in any one location but would also reduce the amount of infrastructure funding available in any one location.
The other key way the Local Plan can deliver new infrastructure is through Government funding. The Government has a clear ambition to increase the number of houses being built across the country. The Government makes funding available to local authorities who are planning positively for these houses, where needed to make them sustainable. It may therefore be possible for the Council to make a case to Government for transformational infrastructure investment. The types of project that Government would tend to help fund may include new roads or public transport networks.
9. What do the ‘promoted sites’ shaded in blue on the map mean? Is development going to take place on all these plots?
A ‘promoted’ site on our map is one which has been submitted for consideration in the future Local Plan (running from 2025-2040) by a developer, landowner or land promoter. 277 sites across the District were submitted to us, and only a small fraction of these are likely to be needed. The Council has not made any decisions about where development should go, and no particular sites are being favoured. Whether any particular site is deemed suitable depends on which Spatial Strategy Option is chosen to guide future development needs. It also depends on a wide range of factors explored in the appraisal for each site, which may make a site more or less suitable. These include site access, flooding and drainage risks, harm to the Green Belt, impact on natural habitats, proximity to public transport, open space and amenities, and impact on agricultural land. For further details, please see the Site Appraisal Paper.
10. How can I have my say on a particular site?
The Spatial Options consultation includes a number of settlement profiles which include questions asking you if any particular sites should be developed or protected.
One of the simplest ways of accessing information is by using our new interactive map.
By double-clicking on a promoted site (blue shapes), you will be presented with a link to “Have Your Say on This Site”. This will take you to the most relevant question in the consultation for that site.
11. Will you be holding any consultation events?
The Council’s Strategic Planning team intends to hold a number of consultation events to provide more information for interested people. These will include outdoor “drop by” sessions, as well as online Q&A sessions.
The details of these events are being finalised but will be published on the Council’s website shortly.
The online Q&A sessions will be recorded so those unable to watch live can watch back at a later time or date.
12. Is the consultation related to the Asset Programme?
This consultation is not related to the Asset Programme.
13. What happens next?
Once the consultation has closed we will consider all comments received and publish a feedback report providing an initial response to the main issues.
We then hope to progress to the next stage of our new Local Plan (the Preferred Options stage) in Spring 2022. The new Local Plan will be adopted before the end of 2023.