Local Plan – The Final Chapter

Chichester’s Draft Local Plan

Following protracted hearings during the autumn of 2014, dissecting and reviewing the District Council’s draft Local Plan, Sue Turner, the Planning Inspector for the Examination in Public (EiP), delivered her report which is available on the CDC website.

She has approved CDC’s Plan on condition that numerous amendments are added.

Here is the Society’s take on the result:

  1. Overview The Local Plan has to sit within the bounds set down by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)[1] which is created by central Government and underlies the entire plan-making process. Subject to the amendments mentioned above, the Inspector found that the Local Plan is indeed aligned with the NPPF.
  1. ‘Duty to Co-operate’ Draft Local Plans fail if they are not created as a result of co-operation and consultation between adjoining councils, public agencies and other stakeholders[2]. The Society argued at the EiP hearings that CDC had not met this requirement. The Inspector disagreed. She decided: ‘in preparing the Plan the Council has … engaged effectively with prescribed bodies to address strategic matters. It has therefore met the duty set out in section 33A of the 2004 Act’ (page 5, paragraph 11)
  1. ‘Soundness’: ‘Soundness’ is fundamental when assessing whether a Draft Local Plan is fit for purpose[3].In assessing soundness, the Inspector framed the EiP hearings around nine ‘issues’, asking whether the Plan:
    • Is a ‘robust strategy’
    • Is supported by ‘robust infrastructure planning’
    • Identifies ‘objectively’ the need for market and affordable housing
    • Maximises housing delivery
    • Provides for a ‘thriving local economy’
    • Allocates strategic development sites based on ‘robust evidence’
    • Identifies development sites through Neighbourhood Plans
    • Has environmental policies that are ‘soundly based’
    • Has effective built-in monitoring and delivery

Sue Turner concluded(page 27, paragraph 132) ‘that with the recommended main modifications set out in the Appendix the Chichester Local Plan satisfies the requirements of Section 20(5) of the 2004 act and meets the criteria for soundness in the National Planning Policy Framework’.

  1. A closer look at the Inspector’s opinions: the following comments focus on a few of the EiP report’s themes likely to be of interest to the Society’s members. The abbreviation “MM” signifies “Main Modification” (as listed in the appendix to the Inspector’s Report).
  • A ‘robust strategy’: the Inspector accepted the Plan’s intention to focus new development in an ‘East-West Corridor’ (para 15) after receiving CDC amendments which include:

‘The East-West Corridor is the main focus for new development proposed in the Local Plan…The Plan seeks to accommodate new growth within and around the city and to enhance its role as a sub-regional centre and visitor destination. However it is recognised that new development needs to be planned sensitively with special regard to the city’s historic environment and setting, whilst also addressing key infrastructure constraints, particularly in terms of wastewater treatment capacity and transport….’ (MM26).

  • Infrastructure planning: this technical section includes CDC amendments (MM22) about cycling and pedestrian infrastructure design; and about Apuldram Wastewater Catchment Area (MM 35). The Inspector observes ‘the Plan takes account of the need for strategic infrastructure and demonstrates that it can realistically be provided to ensure that the level of development that is proposed can be delivered’ (para 37).
  • Housing need estimates: CDC has increased its estimates for new homes required each year (MM7) to 505, excluding the National Park. The Inspector concurs (para 42).
  • Maximising housing delivery: the report identifies a mismatch between data on new homes needed, averaging 505 a year, and supply averaging 415. The reason relates to constraints in infrastructure such as A27 road works and wastewater drainage. This conundrum has been resolved for the present by CDC submitting an amendment (MM9) that acknowledges the supply gap:

‘For this reason the Council will review the Local Plan within five years to ensure that OAN (Objectively Assessed Need) is met…’.

The Inspector: ‘For these reasons I conclude that the Plan should be adopted now, subject to a commitment to a review to be completed within five years….(para 56).

  • Four strategic development sites:
    • West of Chi: target numbers during the Plan period increased from 1,000 to 1,250 (para 83). The Inspector notes local concern and uncertainty about sewerage treatment routes to Tangmere WwTW and proposals for an on-site treatment facility; but because the Plan is a strategic document detailed proposals are ‘not appropriate’ at this stage. ‘In these circumstances the provision of wastewater treatment facilities does not prevent a barrier to developing the West of Chichester’ (para 85).
    • Westhampnett/NE Chi: ‘I am satisfied that the Plan’s flexible and pragmatic approach to addressing the buffer between Goodwood and new housing development is appropriate and effective’ (para 93).
    • Shopwyke Lakes & Tangmere: are ’soundly based and deliverable.’ (paras 89 & 102).
  • Environment policies – protecting heritage assets: English Heritage was concerned and the outcome is six amendments to the Plan (MM100-105). The Inspector is satisfied ‘that the Plan includes an effective strategy to ensure the District’s heritage assets can be protected and which is consistent with the NPPF’.
  1. The ChiSoc view: The inspector’s conclusions are disappointing. On a number of points we felt that the evidence demonstrated failure of the Local Plan. The inspector concluded otherwise. On the issue of the duty to co-operate, we felt we had provided evidence of inadequate co-operation with Havant BC. The inspector concluded that there had been sufficient co-operation. On West of Chichester Strategic Development Location (SDL), despite numerous objections concerning inadequate transport infrastructure and wastewater treatment, which would make the site an unsuitable SDL, the inspector decided that these major difficulties were not a matter for the Local Plan but for resolution during the detailed planning process.

[1] The NPPF can be viewed at www. gov.uk  Plan-making processes and policies are described from page 37

[2] NPPF, pages 42-43, paragraphs 178-181

[3] NPPF, page 43, paragraph 182