Local authorities don’t tend to blog about their latest thinking or emerging ideas and, instead, we have to rely on drier documents, such as reports to committee, to get a glimpse of where planning and policy making is going.
Yesterday, I spent some time reading through the latest reports to the Central Lincolnshire Joint Planning Unit’s committee and it actually proved to be quite an interesting read.
The report presents draft “growth” related policies as part of the emerging core strategy and I suppose the first thing to say is that there are no real surprises in terms of how development is to be apportioned across the three districts:
- Lincoln (principle urban area): 44% of housing growth (18,800 homes)
- Gainborough: 23% of housing growth (10,000 homes)
- Sleaford: 10% of housing growth (4,500 homes)
- Smaller towns and rural settlements: 22% of housing growth (9,500 homes)
Those of you who read my post on the Sustainable Future’s project will know that I was pleasantly surprised by the outputs of that project to date and optimistic about its use in helping to inform the development strategy for Central Lincolnshire. So I was pleased to see that the settlement roles, descriptions and objectives will find their way in to the Core Strategy document. Though, at first, I was surprised to learn that it is not proposed for this settlement “typology” to be covered in a specific policy, but for it to be addressed in the supporting text to the policy that sets out the distribution of growth. And, I found it even more surprising that settlement roles and growth targets will be reviewed and defined as part of the preparation of the allocations DPD and, therefore, will not be clarified in the core strategy. A bit of further reading of the report and some deeper thinking about this has, however, led me to the view that, actually, this is all very sensible. I’ll attempt to explain why:
If neighbourhood plans have to conform with the core strategy (a specific requirement of one of the draft core strategy policies), but the core strategy makes prescriptive statements about how individual settlements can or can’t evolve then that leaves very little for the neighbourhood planning process to test, explore or challenge. What this approach does is make – not very obviously – it apparent how important it is for communities in Central Lincolnshire that are hoping to grasp the opportunity to do some neighbourhood planning to do so now, and certainly alongside the drafting of the allocations document. For the developer/landowner community that we also represent, it flags up the need to make sure that they engage with this process too if the development potential that they have earmarked so far in some of the villages across the area is to come to fruition.
In terms of affordable housing contribution, draft policies require 40% on sites of 3 or more dwellings. To my mind, that seems a fairly ambitious and I’d be interested to see what the evidence and justification for this being realistically achievable is. Whilst there is a bit of a caveat in that it will be open to negotiation, it still appears overly aspirational to me. The nod towards policy set out in the draft NPPF which advocates an allowance for some market housing on exception sites to cross subsidise the affordable is, however, more positive.
We have to wait until the January committee before we learn of the full set of core strategy policies and the public consultation is expected to commence 20th January. For now though, taking the information in the individual reports collectively (which includes core strategy policies, economy, housing and infrastructure strategies, green infrastructure plan and low carbon energy) means we are, finally, able to start to paint a picture of how the planning agenda for this part of the country is shaping up.