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Another View – What Could Really Happen to Our Green Belt?

November 2, 2012 by  

Houses
Photo by bangli 1

The Liberal Democrat Group in Rochford has published an interesting article called “What Could Really Happen In Our Green Belt” at http://onlinefocus.org/?p=11420  “OnlineFOCUS – News and Stuff For Rochford District”.

OnlineFOCUS said that the latest new housing allocation document says these are only minimum figures, the Council may allow more housing if required to meet our Five Year Housing Supply.  The five year supply is a rolling figure (5 X 250 houses per year) that is assessed and the result published annually each December.  OnlineFOCUS concluded that if houses don’t get built in one Preferred Location they may get built in another!

The new ‘maximums’ are substantially higher and create uncertainty and concern for residents.

What we hope will become clear in our Article is that the RDC policy on housing development is multi layered and not as transparent as we would expect to be presented to residents.

But the Lib Dems helpfully published a list of Preferred General Locations and the extra numbers of houses each could get based on the published Maximums.

 – North of London Road: maximum of 1019 compared with the policy figure of   550

– West Rochford: maximum of 748 compared with the policy figure of 600

– South Hawkwell: maximum of 252 compared with the policy figure of 175

– East Ashingdon: maximum of 144 compared with the policy figure of 100

– South West Hullbridge: maximum of 614 compared with the policy figure of 500

– South East Ashingdon: maximum of 617 compared with the policy figure of 500

– West Great Wakering: maximum of 341 compared with the policy figure of 250

The total increase which could be allowed is 1060 which would have alarmed many residents. The percentage increases range in each Preferred Location varies from 122% to 185%.

But I understand from one of our Planning Officers that restrictions were recommended at the LDF Sub Committee.

“The Allocations of Sites document recommends exactly where the Minimum houses will be built. Whilst a higher maximum was proposed for each General Location Members of the LDF Sub-Committee on 30 October recommended to the Council that the Allocations DPD restrict the quantum of development within each of the new residential allocations that are on land currently allocated as Green Belt to the figure specified in the Core Strategy as a maximum, but that this figure could be increased by up to 5% subject to the following criteria:”

 ·         “The additional number of dwellings are required to maintain a five year-land supply;”

 ·         “The additional number of dwellings to be provided on the site is required to compensate for a shortfall of dwellings that had been projected to be delivered within the settlement.” 

This would appear to be good news as the Maximum is not to be used.

However the question remains then why was there a Maximum in each Preferred General Location?

I will try to explain where we Independents think the Maxima will come into play.  We said earlier that the RDC Policy on housing development was complex and multi layered.

Read on………….This is obviously a sensitive political issue which might upset the peoples’ voting intentions if the implications were to be told in one place at one time.

I will have a go………………….I estimate that I am attempting to summarise the 2000 pages Councillors are expected to read and understand in just 3 ½ pages of A4.

So let us look beyond all that “smoke and mirrors”.

The Core Strategy (CS) was adopted in December 2011 for delivery of 250 new dwellings per year over the years to 2025. This is the main policy document that provides a future new housing development framework for our area; generally the release of Green Belt for new housing. The Council had hoped that promises to change Government Policy following the General Election would permit only 190 per year. This did not happen and the total number remained unchanged in the CS but only stretched to 2025.  I believe that this means that the total number allocated to sites runs out in 2025 against a required extension to 2031.

This implies to me the need for additional sites for 6 times 250 or 1500 new dwellings to be planned for at some point.

In July the Council published a document of around 400 or more pages called the SHLAA. This is the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment 2012 – SHLAA Review.

Did anyone else read this?

What was it for?

“The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published in March 2012 by the Government requires each local planning authority to carry out a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) to assess their full housing needs and to establish realistic assumptions about the viability of land to meet the identified need for housing over the plan period. It also provides some key changes to housing policy, differing from the previous Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3).”

“A comprehensive review on the SHLAA is therefore necessary to provide more up-to-date information on the sites previously included in the SHLAA and any new sites that have emerged since the previous assessment. The findings will be used to inform the preparation of Local Development Framework documents.”

Two Options were recommended in order to proceed to identify where any additional houses need could potentially be built.

At the time of adoption of the Core Strategy in December 2011, the shortfall carried forward from 2006-2011 was already 402.

Option A is to allow a greater quantum of development through the ALL of the Preferred General Locations identified in the Core Strategy.

See the OnlineFOCUS list above for where the Preferred General Locations are in our District.

Option B is to make up the historic shortfall of 402 through the review of the Core Strategy. This will be dependent on the nature of the Core Strategy review.  One way to make up this shortfall of 402 – as discussed at the LDF Sub-committee in March – would be through the review of Core Strategy policies for housing 2021-2031 – a review which the Government Inspector’s required as a condition of adoption, given the delays.  The shortfall could then be made up over this period. However, in the March LDF sub-committee Members expressed a preference for a review of the Core Strategy which focussed on Policy H3 – only the Preferred General Locations for Housing post-2021.

In other words rather than look at the area as a whole again the Council will most likely only look at those sites that land owners have already put forward for development and have been assessed already.

It could be, of course, that the 402 shortfall might be cancelled out by small building developments over the period to 2025 or even 2021.

But spare a thought for the following areas which are scheduled for development post 2021.

If this shortfall is not made up these areas that follow will have to take the 402.

 – South West Hullbridge: maximum of 614 compared with the policy figure of 500

– South East Ashingdon: maximum of 617 compared with the policy figure of 500

– West Great Wakering: maximum of 341 compared with the policy figure of 250

But if we ONLY needed 1500 more houses from 2025 to 2031 this would still give only 322!!

So Option A would be to allow a greater number of dwellings through the ALL of the Preferred General Locations identified in the Core Strategy.

So expect the other Maxima to be used perhaps;

– North of London Road: maximum of 1019 compared with the policy figure of 550

– West Rochford: maximum of 748 compared with the policy figure of 600

– South Hawkwell: maximum of 252 compared with the policy figure of 175

– East Ashingdon: maximum of 144 compared with the policy figure of 100

Another 738! Now making only 1060!! 1500 needed. (plus 402?) Oh Dear. But there could well be additional sites in the SHLAA 2012 which could provide additional dwellings.

Where could the1060 actually be built?  I believe that the additional alternative sites not already chosen in the Allocation of Sites or those in the SHLAA would come into play.

Take a good look at these now because if you do not object at the outset there will be NO CHANCE of changing things.

 You might like to think about this when the Public Consultation on the Allocation of Sites takes place.

The sites currently rejected might well come back later, if the scenario of Option A  above comes into play, which we believe it might.  If you object to any of them say so now before it is too late.

The dates for the Public Consultation are yet to be agreed by the Council but it will be finalised at a Council Meeting on 27 November.  It is likely to be for 6/8 weeks from mid December.  Watch this web site for details later. 

Other looming pressures on the District might mean that new Laws could compel Rochford District to take on house targets from Southend, Castle Point, Basildon or even Maldon!!

The SHMAA was last reviewed in 2010.  Expect a new one early in 2012.

What is it?

The Thames Gateway South Essex Strategic Housing Market Assessment

The study is likely to tell us how many Affordable Houses we need to provide in our District and being a standard 35% of each new development this might mean we need many more houses just to meet this target for the homeless and population growth and migration to our District.

As Independents we try to tell residents about what is happening about Green Belt and New Housing, warn and suggest what you can do before it might be too late.

Our message is to have your say in the upcoming Public Consultation on the Allocation of Sites. 

Comment on all of them not just the one chosen to meet the Minimum in your area but also the Maximum for that site or Preferred General Location which we believe will inevitably be coming later. 

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