Report of the Cabinet Member for Planning.
Members were given an explanation of the background behind the development of the Local Plan to date, including a general outline of the proposed Main Modifications of the report. The Main Modifications had been recommended in consultation by the independent Inspector. In order for the Local Plan to be assessed as sound by the Inspector, and thereby adopted by the Council, the Main Modifications were a requirement. If the recommendations were to be rejected, the Council would need to start on the production of a new Local Plan.
The Committee were then invited to make comments relating to the proposed Main Modifications, which would be taken into consideration by Cabinet at its meeting on 10 September 2019. A summary of the comments can be found below:
· Concerns were raised from Members with regard to the Main Modification requesting an amendment to Policy H2 on affordable housing (pg. 12 of Schedule of Proposed Main Modifications). Members expressed concerns that reducing the Affordable Housing requirement in the urban area of Grantham to 20% may adversely affect potential residents of lower income households. Although it was confirmed that this Main Modification had been put forward by the Inspector due to independently produced evidence submitted with the Plan, Members requested a more in-depth explanation of why this Modification was needed.
The Assistant Director of Housing confirmed that the Modification related primarily to how the Plan would be deliverable in practical terms. The reduction in the percentage of affordable housing required could potentially increase the number of schemes desiring to develop in the area, thereby also increasing the number of affordable homes available overall. If this percentage were to remain at 30%, it was anticipated that there would not be enough schemes to allow for a deliverable Plan. Work had been independently carried out to inform this decision. Members considered the explanation to address their concerns. It was also noted by Members that the Affordable Housing requirement includes social housing.
· Members discussed their concerns relating to the Main Modification to amend policy H1 (pgs. 10 & 11 of the Schedule of Proposed Main Modifications) to increase the indicative number of units in a number of areas. Members considered there to be a significant increase in the number of units in the market towns and villages such as Barrowby and Ancaster. Members expressed their concern surrounding the impact that these developments would have on local residents, including a number of Members’ Ward Constituents and queried whether the development of other areas could have relieved some of this pressure. It was acknowledged, however, that the intention of considering the report was not to scrutinise the original principles included in the Plan (including the proposed areas for development), as these were approved at Full Council on 24th May 2018. Explanation was given that the Inspector had increased the capacity of some of the village sites discussed for transparency, as some of the sites had gained planning permission or developers had indicated through the Examination that the site could yield a higher capacity.
The broader concern of how the need for increased growth in the District could conflict with the wellbeing of residents was also mentioned, including the possible reduction in green spaces and the impact of increased traffic on air quality. Officers related that the Council’s HRA Business Plan would support the sustainability of the development of our own housing stock, taking these factors into consideration.
· The Main Modification to amend the text of paragraphs 2.16-2.18 of MM reference MM15 (Pgs. 7 – 10 of Schedule of Proposed Main Modifications) was raised, with one Member questioning the allowance for windfall sites within the Plan. Officers confirmed that the inclusion of a windfall allowance is commonplace as policy compliant sites which are not specifically identified in the plan will continue to come forward. Also commonplace in Local Plans is a housing land buffer, to provide choice and contingency but it was noted that the communication of the ‘buffer’ could be clarified.
· Members of the Committee thanked the officers involved in the development of the Local Plan, acknowledging the level of work and time that had been invested to date. During discussion, Members considered the implications of rejecting the Main Modifications at this stage in the process. Officers explained that if the Main Modifications were not approved, the Inspector would be unable to declare the Plan sound, and the Council would not have an up-to-date development plan for the Development Management Committee to use to inform their consideration of planning applications. One Member expressed the importance of having a Local Plan, in order for the Council to continue to have influence over how and where areas of land are developed in the South Kesteven area. It was noted that without a Local Plan, National Government Policy would apply, including presumption in favour of sustainable development, which would essentially prevent the Council from shaping the way our District is developed.
Members were then advised of the next stage in the process, should the Main Modifications be approved by Cabinet at its meeting on 10 September 2019. There would be a six week public consultation starting on 30 September 2019. The process for this would be guided by the Statement of Community Involvement, with the details being available on the Council website, at its offices and in district libraries. Public responses made to the consultation would be forwarded to the Inspector, who would then provide a final report.
Members requested that a record of the Committee’s comments be circulated for reference before they were forwarded to Cabinet for consideration.
Ø The record of comments relating to the Local Plan item to be circulated to Committee Members prior to Cabinet’s meeting on 10 September 2019