Supporting Documents to Main Modifications (for comment)

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Supporting Documents to Main Modifications (for comment)

Sustainability Appraisal of the Main Modifications, October 2020

Representation ID: 10499

Received: 21/01/2021

Respondent: Hallam Land Management

Agent: Pegasus Group (East Midlands Office)

Representation:

3.8 The SA has now been updated to appraise the proposed modified strategy (and MMs generally). The October 2020 version of the SA purports7 to use the same methodology and framework for the appraisal process as that used at all earlier stages in the process. A table is provided above paragraph 4.2.3 of the document, summarising the conclusions of the assessment of the Reg 19 and the MM version of the policy, against SA objectives. The scores for both are (surprisingly and illogically) identical. This begs the question whether MMs are necessary to render the Plan sound. Indeed, the text that follows8 does not appear to reflect the proposition that the modified policy would result in a change to where development is likely to occur (i.e. less to Level 1; greater focus on Level 2 and the countryside). The approach of the modified policy is simply summarised as focussing new development to the Level 1 and 2 settlements and the strategic sites. Overall, the updated SA concludes9 in relation to policy SS2 "the identified SA impacts of these policies would not change as a result of these modifications".

3.9 In the context of the substantive changes to draft policy SS2, we find the SA's analysis and conclusions difficult to comprehend.

Full text:

1.0 Introduction and Background

1.1 This submission is made on behalf of Hallam Land Management Ltd who has land interests in North East Derbyshire and who would be prejudiced by the adoption of the Plan as presently proposed to be modified.

1.2 The Main Modifications (MMs) Consultation seeks to address those modifications identified by the Inspector following the Hearing Sessions as being required in order for the Plan to be found sound. There has been extensive correspondence between the Inspector and the Council over the course of the examination process to ascertain clarity on the Inspector’s initial findings, such that there is no comprehensive letter or report identifying all of the main modifications required by the Inspector.

1.3 The submission focuses on the MMs to Policy SS2 (MM/009) and the accompanying Sustainability Appraisal of the MMs (October 2020), particularly in in relation to changes to the overall spatial strategy.

1.4 As recognised by the Council in its correspondence with the Inspector1, there are concerns with the MMs recommended by the Inspector with regard to Green Belt and housing land supply over the plan period. We share those concerns and are firmly of the view that the Plan would fail a number of soundness tests should it proceed to adoption with the presently proposed modifications. The following sets out our reasons for reaching that conclusion under the following headings:

• A Plan now for only 13 years – not positively prepared

• A new spatial strategy, unsupported by the evidence
1 ED76

2.0 A Plan now for only 13 years – not positively prepared

2.1 With the passage of time since the hearing sessions back in 2018, the date of adoption of the Plan is still uncertain. The Local Development Scheme (LDS) Update of September 2018 set out an expected adoption date of February 2019; the LDS will clearly need to be updated, but adoption is now likely to be sometime in 2021 at the earliest. The Plan seeks to plan until 2034, such that the Plan would no longer “be drawn up over an appropriate time scale, preferably a 15-year time horizon, take account of longer term requirements, and be kept up to date.”2

2.2 The Plan would thus no longer be positively prepared and would fail this test of soundness. This failing is compounded by the need for early review as set out below.
2 NPPF 2012 para157

3.0 A new spatial strategy, unsupported by the evidence

3.1 MMs MM/009 and MM/010 (Housing Distribution Table 4.3) would fundamentally change the spatial strategy of the Plan. As submitted, the Plan was underpinned by a spatial strategy that directed more than half of new housing development to the four Level 1 settlements (the towns) and the two strategic sites. The Local Plan is underpinned by a Sustainability Appraisal (SA), an interrogation of which highlights how the submitted spatial strategy was formulated and how the subsequent updated SA fails to justify the MMs.

3.2 In assessing a range of reasonable alternatives, the purpose of the Sustainability Appraisal3 (SA) is to inform and test the plan's content. Evidentially, it should form the bedrock of the Council's proposed strategic approach. The SA's identification, description and evaluation of the likely significant effects of the Local Plan and its explanation as to how options were identified, rejected and selected is fundamental.

3.3 The Reg 19 SA's conclusion that there are a limited number of residual4 adverse impacts anticipated5 is predicated on policies within the Local Plan being designed to help mitigate certain adverse impacts of development on sustainability.

3.4 The Reg 19 Local Plan SA (February 2018) explains in some detail the process the Council went through in formulating its preferred spatial strategy, having considered various options going back to 2009. The Council thus considered a number of reasonable alternatives as part of the SA process, Table 2.5 of the 2018 SA summarises the distribution of five options and identifies that Spatial Option 1 (SO1) would score more positively than the other options, as set out in Table 2.6. In concluding SO1 to be the preferred option, the SA identifies at paragraph 2.4.15 that “Overall, spatial options 2 and 4 would result in very little development in Level 1 settlements over a 20 year period and would therefore be considered to be directing new development in the district away from the most sustainable locations. Spatial options 2 and 4 would therefore be more likely to have adverse sustainability impacts, or less likely to have positive impacts, on various SA objectives, including climate change mitigation, natural resources and rural barriers”.
3See Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. It is understood the SA which incorporates the requirements of SEA, the latter required by the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004.
4cumulative
5See eg p12 of the SA Reg 19 Report Sub D3a

3.5 The submitted local plan strategy was thus based upon the SA's conclusion that the four main towns (Level 1 settlements) of Eckington, Dronfield, Killamarsh and Clay Cross are considered to be the most sustainable locations for new development in the District. The Council’s justification to adopt a strategy in line with SO1 is set out at paragraph 2.7.3 of the Reg 19 SA: “The Council’s preferred distribution strategy is to focus the majority (over 50%) of new housing development on the four towns of Clay Cross, Dronfield, Eckington and Killamarsh and on the Avenue and Former Biwaters Strategic Sites. The towns are considered to be the most sustainable locations for new development in terms of the range of services and facilities they provide and support and because they generate the greatest needs for new housing, jobs, services and facilities. It is logical and reasonable therefore that the Council should look to these towns to maintain their important and prominence and to seek to provide for a significant proportion of the District’s housing growth requirements, to accommodate any required retail growth within their town centres and provide a focus for new employment growth”.

3.6 Despite the content and conclusions in the SA, the Inspector has proposed6 that the spatial strategy set out in draft policy SS2 be modified, to be less prescriptive. The recommeded approach would delete reference to 50% of new housing development being focussed in the four Level 1 towns and strategic sites. Whilst identifying them as "priority locations", the modification would delete the reference to a numerical minimum and include Level 2 settlements on an equal footing. This would detract from applying a level of precision to the application of the policy, leading to greater scope for interpretation. The policy as originally worded placed Level 2 settlements in a secondary category. It would clearly be a substantive change. Indeed, that is the only logical conclusion from the fact that without the modification the Inspector considers the draft plan unsound.
6See eg paragraph 5 of ED65

3.7 Consequently, the modified policy is required to be assessed through a reconsideration of the SA. This includes the other MMs. It is clear that the proposed deletion of sites which were to be released from the Green Belt in the Level 1 settlements would give rise to development pressures and resultant impacts elsewhere in the district, which must be assessed.

3.8 The SA has now been updated to appraise the proposed modified strategy (and MMs generally). The October 2020 version of the SA purports7 to use the same methodology and framework for the appraisal process as that used at all earlier stages in the process. A table is provided above paragraph 4.2.3 of the document, summarising the conclusions of the assessment of the Reg 19 and the MM version of the policy, against SA objectives. The scores for both are (surprisingly and illogically) identical. This begs the question whether MMs are necessary to render the Plan sound. Indeed, the text that follows8 does not appear to reflect the proposition that the modified policy would result in a change to where development is likely to occur (i.e. less to Level 1; greater focus on Level 2 and the countryside). The approach of the modified policy is simply summarised as focussing new development to the Level 1 and 2 settlements and the strategic sites. Overall, the updated SA concludes9 in relation to policy SS2 "the identified SA impacts of these policies would not change as a result of these modifications".

3.9 In the context of the substantive changes to draft policy SS2, we find the SA's analysis and conclusions difficult to comprehend.
7Paragraph N3 and 1.2.2
8Eg para 4.2.5 states " Development is focussed towards the four towns of Clay Cross, Dronfield, Eckington and Killamarsh, the strategic sites and the Level 2 settlements. The majority of new residents and employees at these locations would be expected to have good road and pedestrian access as well as good access to sustainable transport modes (SA Objective 3)". Paragraph 4.2.8 states "By focussing new development in the Level 1 and 2 settlements and the strategic sites, most residents will not face barriers traditionally faced by rural residents. Enough development has been directed towards other settlements to ensure their continued vitality and validity (SA Objective 6)".
9Paragraph 5.1.3

3.10 Below is a summary of the spatial distribution of dwellings of SO1 and SO2 in the 2018 SA compared to the Reg 19 Local Plan distribution and the one that would now be delivered with the MMs, taking account of the changes resulting from MM/010:
Level 1 Strategic Level 2 Level 3
Sites &below
Spatial Option 1 2,023 1,541 2,497 539
Spatial Option 2 1,048 1,541 3,475 539
Reg 19 Local Plan 2,034 1,541 2,517 539
Main Mods 1,540 1,556 2,712 903

3.11 It is thus evident that the Reg 19 Local Plan closely followed the SO1 distribution as being the most sustainable option as identified in the SA. The spatial distribution that now flows from the MMs is materially different from the Reg 19/SO1 strategy, with a 24% reduction in dwellings being provided in Level 1 settlements and 559 more dwellings in Levels 2 settlements and below. It is equally evident that this distribution is materially less sustainable than the Reg 19 distribution, as evidenced in findings of the 2018 Reg 19 SA and as summarised above.

3.12 Accordingly, MM/009 and MM/010 change the spatial strategy of the Plan with negative sustainable development implications that have failed to be acknowledged in the SA. The Inspector’s selective removal of Reg 19 housing allocations from Level 1 settlements, together with the passage of yet more time and the granting of further planning permissions by the Council in that period for more dwellings in less sustainable locations, has resulted in a far less sustainable spatial strategy that has not been justified.

3.13 There is a further implication arising from MM/009 that impacts on the soundness of the Plan; even by the Council’s own calculations, the plan will not be able to deliver a rolling 5 year supply of housing from year 610. Given this is only actually four years away now, it is highly unlikely that a local plan review will have been completed by then, such that the application of the NPPF presumption in favour of sustainable development can be expected from 2025. MM/009, in putting development at Level 2 settlements in the same hierarchy of Level 1 settlements, will only serve to increase a spatial distribution of housing development away from the Level 1 towns, three of which are constrained by tightly drawn Green Belt boundaries, in less sustainable locations. MM/009 will thus result in less sustainable patterns of development from 2025, unless the Local Plan review has been completed by then.
10Rolling Five Year Supply Table, April 2020

4.0 Summary and Conclusions

4.1 The Plan is no longer positively prepared in extending to only 13 years and with the Council unable to demonstrate a five year supply of housing as early as April 2025.

4.2 MM/009 fundamentally changes the spatial strategy of the Plan with negative sustainable development implications that have failed to be acknowledged. The Inspector’s selective removal of housing allocations from Level 1 settlements, together with the passage of yet more time and the granting of planning permissions by the Council in that period for more dwellings in less sustainable locations, has resulted in a less sustainable spatial strategy that has not been justified having regard to the SA.

4.3 The Plan with MMs fails the tests of soundness and should not be adopted.

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