Spatial Development Strategy and Local Plan consultations
The Society has responded to a West of England Combined Authority (WECA) consultation on a Spatial Development Strategy (SDS), which considers the region’s strategic housing, planning and infrastructure needs. The SDS follows a Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) that was rejected by Examiners in 2019.
The consultation was in the form of a number of high-level survey questions. One of the questions introduced the concept of a 15-minute neighbourhood, and asked for views on what should be included in the concept. As well as responding to the survey, we submitted a statement of what we would like to see in the SDS.
What we would like to see in a SDS
- Review of the Green Belt
We think there is a case for a review of the Green Belt. The JSP that was rejected by Examiners showed that a spatial plan that prioritises avoiding development in the Green Belt leads to development in less sustainable locations.This might lead to green fingers/wedges on the edge of conurbations, in order to retain the advantages of green infrastructure. It might lead to de-designation of Green Belt along existing public transport corridors.
- A transport-focused approach
We propose a transport-focused approach to allocating housing development. Anything else leads to an excessive need for investment in transport capacity for the new housing sites, including road-building.We recognise that a transport-focused approach could mean denser development within our cities and towns. This has to be balanced against liveability considerations.
- An analysis of changes in direction
There are some major societal changes that will come through in the plan period. Some of these imply a step-change in thinking, and their impact needs to be addressed. These changes need to be brought together into a single vision.Although greater digital connectivity might suggest that a more diverse spatial development may be acceptable, there remain other reasons why a policy of prioritising new development in larger settlements with good transport links should continue to prevail.
- Rural villages
Rural villages should be allowed to grow slowly in order to accommodate local people who are otherwise forced out. A look at the statistics shows that the populations of many villages are growing steadily older since only the elderly have the cash necessary to purchase the restricted housing stock.
The 15 minute neighbourhood
We welcome the consideration of 15-minute neighbourhoods in this consultation. It helps to reinforce a transport-focused approach to spatial planning, including the importance of walkability at the local level.
We submitted the following list of what could be included in a 15-minute neighbourhood:
- shops for daily essentials (newsagent, bakery, supermarket, post office counter)
- primary school and pre-school/nursery
- primary health services and chemist
- local hospitality (pub, café, restaurant)
- community meeting space
- employment workspace
- high quality streets and spaces
- a children’s playground
- accessible green space
- seats for social interaction
Accessible routes to destinations
- attractive and safe walking routes
- attractive and safe cycling routes (segregated where on busy roads)
- bus/tram stop/mobility hub for good public transport to other essential facilities
North Somerset is not included in the West of England SDS as North Somerset is not a member of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA). North Somerset Council has consulted on its Local Plan, asking for views on four possible approaches to growth:
- Retain Green Belt
- Urban Focus – including major development by the South Bristol Link road
- Transport corridors – including major development by the South Bristol Link road
- Greater Dispersal
The Society responded to the online questionnaire, supporting options 2 and 3, and emphasising that the Green Belt needs to be reviewed if a sustainable approach is to be achieved.
More information about the Spatial Development Strategy can be found at: westofengland-ca.gov.uk/west-of-england-strategic-planning.
More information about North Somerset’s Local Plan can be fund at: http://www.n-somerset.gov.uk/my-services/planning-building-control/planning-policy/our-local-plan/local-plan-2038/choices-autumn-2020.