Targeting the countryside
New research commissioned by CPRE shows that a
loophole in national planning guidance is allowing
developers to bypass local democracy and gain planning
permission for large housing developments in the countryside.
The research was undertaken to address the impact of the
National Planning Policy Framework’s (NPPF) emphasis on the need
to ‘significantly boost housing supply.’ The NPPF puts greenfield
sites at risk by forcing local authorities to demonstrate that they
can meet market demand for the next five years. However, local
authorities can only make land available for housing; they rely on
private developers to actually build the homes at the required rate.
If developers fail to deliver enough homes, it is the local authorities
who are required to address the shortfall by allocating even more
land for housing – often on less sustainable, but more profitable,
Since the NPPF was implemented only 17.6% of authorities have
had their local plan approved by the Government. Without a plan
in place, local authority decisions to reject housing on greenfield
sites can be overturned by a Government Inspector, undermining
local decision making. A local plan can also be disregarded if it
doesn’t show ‘a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to
provide five years’ worth of housing.’ The consequences are proving
catastrophic for the countryside; in the past two years 26,840
houses on greenfield sites have been given planning permission
at appeal when the local authority was not found to have enough
housing land supply to meet requirements.
Our new research
The results of our research drew on an analysis of 309 planning
appeal decisions for residential applications on greenfield land,
and confirmed that NPPF policies are resulting in a large number
of appeals overturning local decisions. If the application is for a
major housing development, and the local planning authority does
not have a five year land supply, the success rate at appeal is 72%
(compared with 35% overall). The research also found that even
where the local planning authority did have a five year supply, one
in six of the appeals were still approved.
It is clear that the NPPF is making the five year land supply the
major factor in deciding planning applications. Yet the research
found that current policy – and a lack of detailed guidance – is
making it very difficult for local planning authorities to prove that
they have a five year supply. There are a number of contributing
reasons for this. An inflexible focus on short-term housing targets
makes it difficult for councils to plan effectively for large sites
which may have long lead-in times, while current policy requires
that ‘under delivery’ of housing in the past must be accommodated
in the next five years. In many cases, past ‘under delivery’ was a
result of regional planning policies – agreed by local authorities and approved by Government – quite correctly sought to direct
new housing away from greenfield land and towards brownfield sites in urban areas. Pressure from five year supply requirements means greenfield land is increasingly being earmarked for housing, while viable, deliverable and sustainable sites with local support are overlooked. Perversely, this situation is often exacerbated as councils who have struggled to meet housing targets are required by the NPPF to increase their five year supply by 20%, as a ‘buffer’ to ‘ensure choice and competition in the market for land.’ The five year supply numbers are often based on housing requirements which are calculated with very little guidance, but which place an emphasis on meeting housing demand regardless of the consequences.
Our research found that the level of five year
supply is regularly being decided, ad hoc, during
planning appeals by Government Planning
Inspectors, rather than through the more
considered and democratically accountable local
planning process. This ‘moving of the goalposts’
has created huge uncertainty over the reliability
of housing requirements for local planning
authorities, communities and developers..
Planning appeal case studies
A typical example was an appeal for 154 dwellings on a greenfield site outside the development boundary of Calne in Wiltshire; the appeal was allowed when the Inspector concluded that significant weight must be given to the NPPF’s presumption in favour of sustainable development and its objective to considerably boost the supply of housing.
This case reflects the vast majority of appeal decisions that were analysed, in which the requirement for a five year housing supply and the need to find developable sites is prevailing over policies restricting development on open countryside or existing greenfield sites.
Although our research highlights that planning appeals are three times as likely to be decided in the developers favour, we did find notable exceptions where appeals were rejected. These were often because environmental policies were given proper weight. An application for 53 homes in Sutton-in-Craven, North Yorkshire was dismissed at appeal after the Inspector cited the NPPF in concluding that the impacts of the development on the character and identity of the area outweighed the benefits of the new housing.
The Secretary of State refused permission for 165 dwellings in Thundersley, Essex against the Inspector’s recommendations, because it would result in the loss of Green Belt and undermine national Green Belt policy. He also dismissed an appeal for 1,420 homes on greenfield land separating two settlements in north west Leicestershire, agreeing with the Inspector’s conclusions that the adverse impacts on the landscape and air quality, and the loss of high quality agricultural land, outweighed the benefits of the housing.
Unfortunately, these successful outcomes represent a small minority of the cases. They indicate, however, that appropriate outcomes from planning decisions are possible without a radical overhaul of the current system. Insteadwe are suggesting that relatively small changes to current policy and guidance would ensure that environmental sustainability carries the appropriate level of importance in all planning decisions.
To address the issues identified in the research,
CPRE is calling on the Government to make a
number of important policy changes which can be
achieved through simple amendments to the NPPF.
We would like to see paragraph 49 altered so that
there is not an automatic presumption in favour
of granting planning permission where the local
authority is unable to demonstrate a five year land
supply. It should also be made clear in these cases
that developers should still be expected to meet
local policy objectives, such as using brownfield
sites before greenfield.
The NPPF requirement that local planning
authorities must allocate an additional
20% ‘buffer’ of ‘deliverable’ housing sites
is exacerbating already unrealistic housing
requirements and should be suspended
immediately. Paragraph 14 should be amended
so that meeting housing demand does not have
greater weight than environmental and social
sustainability in plan making and decision taking.
The NPPF must also allow for a flexible approach to
five year housing supply in local authorities that
can demonstrate they are promoting large scale,
sustainable developments which will meet housing
need in the longer term. Crucially, it must be
amended to ensure that where an up to date Local
or Neighbourhood Plan is in place, development
of inappropriate and unallocated sites will not be
permitted at appeal.
Find out more: Read our full recommendations
and the original research commissioned from
respected consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff
at cpre.org.uk/housingsupply and see CPRE
Lancashire’s new report on the impact of the five
year housing land supply rule on their county at
Editor: Oliver Hilliam
WEST DORSET DISTRICT COUNCIL – LOCAL PLANNING – INSPECTORS HEARING NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2014
SUBMISSION BY Barry Bates on behalf of ID 3517: ADVEARSE
4.0 BRIDPORT ISSUES FOR THE HEARING
4.1 The issues identified by the Inspector for the Hearing are:
(i) Has adequate consideration been given to infrastructure requirements to service the development at Vearse Farm (BRID1) and how its impact on the AONB can be mitigated?
We have taken account of the National Planning Policy Framework and the West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland Infrastructure Delivery Plan. (Elsewhere we use the initials WDIDP to refer to this plan.) These need however to be applied to the context of the individual town and ‘its needs, size, and roles’
There are two issues about which any discussion about the infrastructure requirements of Vearse Farm must take account.
a) This is not a large scale development on a purpose designed site like Cranbrook at Exeter or the development taking place just outside Taunton. The latter can be accommodated into the infrastructure of a large county town with excellent motorway and train links, employment possibilities. Bridport is a small market town of 8,500 people whose infrastructure has developed over the centuries.
b) It is further complicated by the fact that the summer holiday population puts massive pressure on the existing structure. Bridport simply cannot take the massive demands which an increase of an estimated 20% population from the extra 760 houses would create in such a small timescale. (We will use ‘760 houses’ in this submission although we know that there is no longer an upper limit.)
c) The road networks in town are shaped by the river crossings which continue to impact on the infrastructure.
d) We have recently initiated an on line petition which states ‘ we , the undersigned, call on West Dorset District Council to recognise the widespread opposition to the construction of 760+ houses at Vearse farm and to remove the proposal from the Local Plan. ‘The petition gives those signing the opportunity to comment. Most of the comments refer to the fact that this is development will overwhelm the current infrastructure of the town.
In the recent past we might have put faith in what was known as ‘106 money ‘whereby the developers were forced to put money into schemes to improve the infrastructure as part of a major development. As we know from elsewhere in the country e.g. . Seaton in Devon that developers are increasingly finding ways of avoiding these obligations. Vearse Farm will have knock on effects to the infrastructure of the whole town. We have no confidence that sufficient funds will be made available to address the issues we highlight below. There is some expectation in the Local Plan that these can be addressed in collaboration with the developers. We know that this is naive. Vearse Farm is likely to be to the detriment of the town as a whole.
Our conclusion is that the Local Plan has highlighted a number of the key infrastructure requirements but there is inadequate detail as to whether and how these requirements can be adequately addressed. The WDIDP would indicate that no such detailed planning has occurred.
Bridport is 15 miles from the nearest railway. Bus services are being cut and this presents challenges for those who live in Bridport but who have to commute to their place of work.. Road access is difficult from the North and the one trunk road (the A35) running east to west is badly affected by holiday traffic and its accident record is horrendous.
It is unlikely that the local economy will provide jobs for those living in the 760 houses. The Local Plan fails to explain how the provision of houses will be matched by a provision of employment opportunities.
a) The delivery plan is heavily concentrated on Weymouth and Dorchester. It would pay the reader of this submission to take a cursory glance at the Appendix 2. You would be hardly aware that a major development was taking place at Vearse Farm . References to Bridport are strong for cycleways even a skate park. The school investment is a merely the replacement for St Mary’s school. The current school is relatively modern and the replacement is based on housing issues rather than inadequacy of building.
b) We will refer later to the inadequacy of references to the key issues of flooding and traffic management.
Vearse Farm already floods. The River Simene has in the past 3 years flooded very quickly in periods of heavy rain. We have attached pictures in Appendix A .The run-off from the new houses will increase both the number of times the area floods and the severity of the flooding episodes. It will be argued that the developers will take measures to mitigate against this threat. To this point we would make the following comments
a) THE NATIONAL PLANNING POLICY FRAMEWORK states
’ Inappropriate development in areas at risk of flooding should be avoided by directing development away from areas at highest risk, but where development is necessary, making it safe without increasing flood risk elsewhere.19 Local Plans should be supported by Strategic Flood Risk Assessment and develop policies to manage flood risk from all sources, taking account of advice from the Environment Agency and other relevant flood risk management bodies, such as lead local flood authorities and internal drainage boards.
The Framework also highlights the need to take account of climate change.
b) It could be argued that the water from Vearse Farm can be held in water meadows beyond the development or in subterranean tanks on it.. In some areas of the country that might be true but immediately below Vearse Farm is the west side of Bridport and West Bay Road. Both areas suffered flood damage in each of the past 3 years. Vearse Farm is just 3 miles from the sea. At periods of high tide the sea gates are shut thus preventing the efficient draining of the River Brit especially in spate. As on the Somerset levels with the situation on the River Parrett there is simply no where for the water to go. Flooding is inevitable and this will affect the businesses which lie at risk.
c) The dangers of flooding on this site are well known. We would expect that the Environment Agency be asked to produce a Strategic Flood Risk Assessment before any Local Plan condones the development at Vearse Farm.
d) The WDIDP has a whole section on Flooding Risk – section 9. There is no reference to Bridport except 9.2.4 which talks about West Bay
e) HOW CAN WDDC argue that ‘adequate consideration has been given to this key infrastructure issue and one which the NPPF would require it to address?
a) The current plan sees the main entrance to the development being on West Road. 760 houses plus the industrial units will create significant extra traffic. The bypass was constructed to alleviate the road from an inappropriate level of traffic. The West Road footpaths are narrow and are used to gain pedestrian access to the Medical Centre.
b) Our conclusion is that the proposed service road has been wrongly located and designed.
c) The traffic going out of town from Vearse Farm will spill onto the A35 at Miles Cross. The road is already frequently clogged with traffic in summer weekends. The additional traffic caused by the waste transfer station currently under construction will create further times of congestion. This will inevitably create a rat run through town, the Skilling residential estate and West Road. ( see previous note about river crossings) The Miles Cross junction is an accident black spot and major work there will be essential. This will add to the costs mentioned under flooding. National Trust landholding at Chideock would further inhibit the options for improving the traffic problems.
d) The WDIDP
5.3.8 States ‘Traffic in Dorchester is now at the level experienced before the by-pass was opened and residents and those visiting and working in the centre are, as a consequence, facing severance through high volumes of traffic. There are also difficulties for pedestrians at junctions and on narrow pavements due to the high traffic volumes in historic areas; as a result they are unable to enjoy the qualities and attributes of the central parts of the town. The situation is exacerbated on market days due to increased traffic and higher levels of pedestrian activity. ‘
These are precisely the points which could be made about the impact on Bridport. Yet by comparison the impact of Vearse Farm on Bridport is given short shrift .We quote…
5.3.2 In Bridport, junction improvements between West Road and the A35 at Miles Cross together with more localised traffic management in West Allington will be required as a result of development at Vearse Farm
WDDC has totally failed to recognise the major traffic issues involved here. No provision has been made in the planning. If significant investment is not identified at this stage it is unlikely that finances will be found once the inevitable crises occur. As now at Miles Cross we can anticipate the costs of lost lives on our roads.
It can be argued that a number of facilities required in the infrastructure will be strengthened by the additional housing – retail, arts venues, schools and the Leisure Centre. We note that these have been picked up in WDIDP .
In two respects we have major concerns. Car parking is already an issue in holiday periods and Saturdays . WDIDP makes no comment on these issues.
The Bridport Medical Centre appears to be running at capacity. WDIDP appears to confirm this – stating in 7.2.1 there is spare capacity for GP services in Lyme but shortfalls in provision elsewhere. Where is the provision for additional GP provision ?
Has any assessment been made of the school places required by 750 houses ?
The Town Council has itself expressed concern about whether a development of this size can be assimilated into the town in such a short timescale.
The West Dorset economy relies on tourism . Is West Dorset Council seriously planning to kill the golden egg by destroying the character of one of its key towns and choking its roads with overdevelopment ?
The Local Plan provides for a massive housing development but does not demonstrate where its residents will find work. Certainly there will be little in the town itself.
Q. What justification is there for the industrial land included for Vearse farm ?
There are plenty of brown field sites within town. The Inspector will be aware of the long standing debate about the use of St Michael’s Estate. What justification can there be for forcing long established businesses to move ?
Our key question here is –‘If it is acknowledged that there is impact here on an area of outstanding natural beauty, why is it being selected in the first place?
(Paragraph: 005 References ID: 8-005-20140306)
Again we quote from the NPPF
Q. Can WDDC produce a compelling argument to build on this green field site? It is simply a highly convenient place to place 760 houses with compliant landowners and the support of speculative builders.
5. CLOSING STATEMENT
We have set out to answer the questions posed by the Inspector but would wish to close with the following statement and questions
a) Sustainable development
The government has a presumption in favour of ‘sustainable development’. West Dorset District Council has set out its strategic approach to the achievement of sustainable development . In summary it states
|In the period 2011-2028, development should help deliver a steady supply of employment and housing land to meet the objectively assessed needs (about 60ha of employment land and about 13,175 new homes across the plan area). The distribution of development will be influenced by: – the needs, size, and roles of the area’s settlements, taking into account any current imbalances of housing or jobs
– the benefits of concentrating most development in locations where homes, jobs and facilities will be easily accessible to each other and there is a choice of transport modes,
– the availability of land, and whether it has been previously developed (brownfield); and
– the environmental constraints of the plan area,
Question One Who can argue other than WDDC has failed to reflect these key influences in the proposals in its Local Plan for Bridport ?
b) Housing demand
We accept the national need for a house building programme. We accept the need for sustainable development in Bridport most especially the provision of affordable houses for local people.
The NPPF states that Local Plans should meet an ‘objectively assessed need ‘. We remain adamant that there is no need for such a large development in Bridport. Dorset County Council Research Matters August 2013 gives details of population growth in Dorset as themed year estimates. Overall growth was up just 0.4 % with the majority in the Bournemouth area.
The town has been given this allocation by national and West Dorset politicians to meet their own targets encouraged by speculative builders. It would seem that West Dorset District Council has heeded protests about housing development in other areas such as Dorchester, Sherborne and Crossways. These have carried more weight than their duty to protect the AONB which Bridport is part of and surrounded by.
Questions two and three
c) An inappropriate scale of development for the town as a whole
The scale of the development is wholly inappropriate for a town of the size and location of Bridport. (To quote WDDC ‘the needs, size and roles of the town) We have seen no convincing argument why Bridport should be expected to accept this allocation. Finally the chosen site Vearse Farm seems wholly inappropriate for the reasons we have outlined.
d) Vearse Farm is an inappropriate site
This submission has argued that in 3 major respects the proposed site contravenes national and local planning guidelines
Our recent work on the petition has confirmed two key points .Firstly although West Dorset District Council carried out a consultation process, local people do not feel either consulted or informed about the development. Concerns about the consultation process are shared by the Bridport Town Council. Secondly our opposition to the scheme is shared by many others.
We urge the Inspector to find the part of the Local Plan relating to Bridport as a whole and Vearse Farm in particular ‘unsound’.
Barry Bates 30 October 2014
ADVEARSE APPENDIX A –
ADVEARSE APPENDIX A
ADVEARSE APPENDIX A
A 3,000 word document has been sent to WDDC indicating our objection to the development at Vearse Farm.
This precedes the meeting with the Inspector at South Parks House , Dorchester on 4th December at 10.00.
If you would like to attend as an audience member, please register with Christine Self on [email protected]
WEST DORSET, WEYMOUTH & PORTLAND LOCAL PLAN EXAMINATION
The Hearings relating to the West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland Local Plan Examination are due to commence on Tuesday 25th November and will last for three weeks.
The Hearings will take place in Committee Rooms A & B, West Dorset District Council Offices, South Walks House, South Walks Road, Dorchester, Dorset, DT1 1UZ
The sitting times are Tuesday to Thursday from 10am-1pm and from 2pm-5pm and on Friday from 10am to 1pm.
Details of the Draft Programme showing the Matters and Issues identified for discussion by the Inspector and Guidance Notes explaining the Examination process are available to download online at Draft Examination Programme in…….https://www.dorsetforyou.com/localplanexamination/west/weymouth.
“The public examination gets underway on the 25th November. The Petition of Advearse sets out the concerns and fears of many townspeople and others with regard to the potential development of a vast number of homes at Vearse Farm, concerns and fears which I share.
We are all too aware of the floods in the recent past and, coupled with the pending development of the Waste Transfer station at Broomhills, will only put even more pressure on the inadequate road structure.
Moreover, it is Central Government policy not to build on green land but to concentrate on brown land sites”.
A successful morning in Bucky Doo Square, Bridport was experienced by ADVEARSE members, on Saturday 25th October. The two combined petitions now currently total 1,290 signatures, opposing the housing development at Vearse Farm, West Road, Bridport ! More signatures are still expected to be submitted.
Thank you to all the local residents and visitors to the Town, who kindly signed our petition !
If you have missed today’s opportunity to sign up, please go to our electronic petition on …..