Written evidence rom South Worcestershire
Local Planning Authority (ARSS 75)|
1.1 The local planning authorities for South
Worcestershire (Malvern Hills District, Wychavon District and
Worcester City) welcome the opportunity to jointly respond to
the call for evidence. The following evidence is submitted by
Malvern Hills District Council and whilst it has not been formally
approved by the three Councils it is consist with the views of
the three Councils expressed in response to the recent West Midlands
RSS partial review, the West Midlands Regional Committee (Planning
for the Futurereported April 2010) and other national consultations.
1.2 Our non-technical evidence relates to:
The need to enable a smooth transition from top-down
RSS driven growth requirements to locally developed housing aspirations
following revocation of RSS and for this transition not to be
undermined by "planning by appeal".
An urgent need for interim guidance to address LDF
production and land supply issues during the transition period.
A need to consider how regional policy gaps created
by the revocation of RSS are addressed (such as High Technology
Corridors, waste and minerals).
The revocation establishes a significant shift in
resource and expertise demands to the sub-regional level which
needs to be addressed.
The need for any incentive scheme for housing growth
to enable the front loading of infrastructure provision.
Any scheme should be a genuine incentive scheme and
not simply reward housing delivery that would have happened anyhow
or is already in the pipeline.
Concerns regarding how regional transportation issues
will be addressed and integrated with the land use process in
the absence of RSS.
Local Enterprise Partnerships are a positive initiative
and will have a major role in setting out sub-regional infrastructure
requirements and priorities. But given the range and size of models
currently being put forward it is premature to propose that they
should be given planning powers.
It is essential that the existing RSS evidence base
remains available (on-line) and arrangements should be made to
facilitate future regional research, monitoring and sharing of
2.1 The local authorities for South Worcestershire
in 2006 agreed to work jointly on the preparation of a South Worcestershire
Joint Core Strategy (SWJCS) which addresses the same timeframe
as the now revoked West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy Phase
Two Partial Review (WMRSS) ie up to the year 2026.
2.2 The need to address cross boundary issues
arising from the emerging WMRSS and specifically the future growth
of Worcester, has led to our decision to work on an informal joint
basis on LDF production for South Worcestershire.
2.3 This approach to joint working carried through
into the submission of joint representations on the WMRSS (phase
2 and 3 partial reviews) and the presentation of a single case
at the Phase 2 Examination in Public.
2.4 The South Worcestershire Authorities generally
supported the WMRSS review process and the overall direction adopted
by the emerging strategy. However, this support has always been
subject to a number of major caveats related to WMRSS growth figures
for South Worcestershire, specifically the handling of migration
requirements, the funding and delivery of essential infrastructure
and windfall allowances.
2.5 In the light of the recent revocation of
RSS the South Worcestershire authorities have publicly re-affirmed
their intention to produce a joint core strategy for South Worcestershire.
However, the revocation process has enabled a major rethink of
the emerging strategy for South Worcestershire and the authorities
have indicated a wish to develop a strategy which is economic
prosperity led, not housing led, and enables our concerns regarding
the appropriateness of WMRSS growth levels and infrastructure
provision to be addressed.
"The implications of the abolition of regional
house building targets for levels of housing development?"
3.1 Transition period and essential guidance
3.2 The South Worcestershire Authorities have
generally welcomed the opportunity to fundamentally review the
growth requirements set by the emerging WMRSS and engage with
local communities and stakeholders over the scope and content
of a revised Strategy for South Worcestershire.
3.3 However, whilst much of the work undertaken
to date in responding to the RSS process and developing a Core
Strategy for South Worcestershire can be "banked" to
support the review process there is a need to commission additional
evidence and undertake additional community engagement. This will
take time and additional resources not previously built into the
Local Development Scheme.
3.4 The South Worcestershire authorities are
concerned that whilst the RSS has been revoked much of the national
policy framework regarding the delivery of housing remains in
place and may serve to place continuing pressure on those local
authorities genuinely wishing to now re-engage with local communities
over the development of local housing aspirations (as opposed
to previously holding a debate over the appropriateness and status
of imposed RSS housing targets).
3.5 We are conscious that whilst we are commissioning
additional evidence such as a sub-regional review of the RSS evidence
base, revisiting the Local Development Scheme, undertaking additional
public engagement and necessarily undertaking an additional Preferred
Options consultation into our Core Strategy there is an apparent
"policy vacuum" at the local and sub-regional level.
3.6 Given the Government's intentions regarding
empowering local communities to set local housing aspirations
it would therefore be inappropriate for the development industry
to be enabled to circumvent the review process by encouraging
planning inspectors at appeal to simply roll forward assumptions
about previous and "locally unpopular" regional housing
requirements as the local authorities have not been able to complete
the review process.
3.7 We accept that the review process should
not be a charter for inactivity or standing in the way of meeting
housing need, but in areas such as South Worcestershire, where
a significant level of RSS housing requirements were previously
based upon demand as opposed to local need, sufficient time must
be allowed to enable the review and community engagement process
to be completed.
3.8 It is the suggestion of the South Worcestershire
authorities that interim national guidance is urgently required
to enable local authorities to take the opportunity to genuinely
bring forward local housing aspirations. The South Worcestershire
authorities wish to complete this process as quickly as possible
however, we are locked into the LDF process which remains unchanged
and just as lengthy.
3.9 Interim guidance would also serve to give
local communities the confidence that engaging in the review process
will be meaningful and not undermined by planning by appeal. In
South Worcestershire it is a significant concern that the requirement
to bring the Core Strategy and Site Allocations and Policies DPD
(SAPDPD) to Examination in Public sequentially will add 12 months
to the adoption date of the SAPDPD which will simply extend the
period of uncertainty for rural communities and leave rural sites
at risk from planning by appeal for an unacceptable period.
3.10 In addition to dealing with issues such
as interpretation of five and 15 year housing land requirements,
where a local review is being undertaken, national guidance could
significantly improve understanding of the appropriate methodologies
to be taken into account in developing local housing aspirations.
As a model we are conscious that guidance was issued with respect
to developing Housing Market Assessments and this could reasonably
be extended to setting out a process for Housing Aspiration development.
Guidance could include the technical evidential process, the weight,
if any, to be afforded to previous statements, such as Section
4(4) advice and the related community engagement process.
3.11 Significant Policy Gaps
3.12 Much attention has been given to the revocation
of unpopular housing requirements and little attention afforded
to the implications of the revocation process on regional (RSS)
land use policies which were working well and which were generally
3.13 The South Worcestershire authorities would
wish the Committee to consider the implications for the wider
strategy process and role of Core Strategies with respect to how
this gap can be plugged.
3.14 Advice to local authorities preparing Core
Strategies and related DPD has been not to restate national or
regional policy where this could simply be relied upon.
3.15 The South Worcestershire authorities have
followed this advice but now recognise that key land use policies
which previously complimented other regional economic development,
regeneration, infrastructure or environmental strategies may now
not be set out in an appropriate land use policy unless this role
is now fulfilled by the Core Strategy.
3.16 A specific example of this process is the
definition and protection of High Technology Corridors (Central
Technology BeltCTB) in the West Midlands. The CTB remains
an active economic development initiative for the West Midlands
but now has no corresponding regional land use definition or related
3.17 The South Worcestershire authorities suggest
that the Committee may wish to consider the role and weight to
be afforded to other regional and sub-regional strategies (LEP/LIP/Sustainable
Community Strategies etc) in dealing with such cross boundary
policy issues and guiding Core Strategy policy development where
they have spatial dimension.
3.19 Whilst the South Worcestershire authorities
welcome the opportunity to revisit RSS housing requirements and
increasingly see the benefits of strong sub-regional alliances
on planning issues, we are conscious that the stripping out of
the regional tier and the loss of the County Structure Plan function
has served to remove a significant amount of capacity and important
expertise with respect to evidence gathering and policy development
on strategic issues. This is particularly so in Malvern Hills,
which as a second tier authority, in planning terms we have relied
heavily on the Structure Plan policies. Sub-regional groupings,
such as that which exists in South Worcestershire, are willing
to undertake such work sub-regionally and work with strategic
partners such as Worcestershire County Council however, consideration
should be given to the resource and expertise demands that this
shift in responsibility creates.
"The likely effectiveness of the Government's
plan to incentivise local authorities to accept new housing development
and the nature and level of the incentives that will need to be
put in place to ensure an adequate long-term of housing"
3.20 The South Worcestershire authorities generally
welcome the outline proposals to provide an incentive based around
the retention of Council tax receipts for new housing completed
for up to six years. With respect to areas where strategic levels
of growth are required such receipts could be significant and
have a significant bearing upon enabling development to be assimilated
alongside existing communities and to address infrastructure concerns
3.21 However, we have a number of concerns and
queries which the Committee is invited to consider.
3.22 Timing and infrastructure provision
3.23 Incentive payments may be used to support
community and physical infrastructure provision however such incentive
payments will only come forward once development has been delivered
(i.e. completed and occupied). In the case of South Worcestershire
it has been an ongoing concern of the three local authorities
that key infrastructure needs to be provided "up front"
to enable strategic developments to go ahead and the identified
scale of infrastructure requirements are such that developer contributions
alone will not secure the provision of minimum levels of essential
3.24 Furthermore, if the Community Infrastructure
Levy does come forward this is dependent upon having an adopted
Core Strategy policy which also puts back the gathering of contributions
for essential infrastructure to later in the development process
and risks some early or "off-plan" developments, which
may be significant, not contributing to CIL.
3.25 Given this situation the only apparent way
forward would be local authorities to consider borrowing "up-front"
in lieu of incentive payments. In South Worcestershire the scale
of the apparent infrastructure funding gap, when linked to the
possibility of a 20 year delivery profile for housing, questions
marks over other sources of public match funding (such as RFA),
and development viability issues mean that borrowing at this level
is unlikely to be a viable option for district councils.
3.26 There is a pressing need to consider creative
options for the range of agencies and government departments involved
in the formulation and delivery of Infrastructure Delivery Plans
(IDPs - such as the South Worcestershire IDP which is being piloted
with PAS involvement) to work collectively on the infrastructure
funding and delivery in the light of the receipt of longer term
3.27 Timing of incentive payments/genuine incentive
3.28 As stated above the delivery of strategic
levels of housing and individual sites may involve a significant
lead-in period and lag between the decision to bring forward housing
and its delivery on the ground. Local authorities need to have
some certainty regarding the longevity of the scheme and that
the incentives will ultimately be forthcoming, and not be subject
to a further change in legislation before housing is delivered.
3.29 Additionally, we are conscious that an incentive
scheme (such as the previous HPDG scheme) could simply reward
housing delivery which is already in the pipeline and would have
happened regardless of the incentive scheme.
3.30 We are also conscious that the development
industry may view such incentive payments as an automatic development
subsidy payment which could be argued to reduce developer contributions
for essential "up-front infrastructure".
3.31 Probity/Commitment to Plan based delivery
3.32 Given existing national Government guidance
regarding the delivery of housing there will be circumstances
where local authorities will wish to consider expediting the release
of land for housing in order to remedy a shortfall in housing
land supply however, measured. This could reasonably be achieved
outside of the LDF process.
3.33 However, local communities need to be assured
through the processes involved and codes of conduct that there
can be no perception of local authorities selling permissions
in lieu of significant incentive payments and that those authorities
which commit to the delivery of housing through the plan led process
will not ultimately lose out in the incentive based system.
3.34 Cross Boundary issues
3.35 We have already stated above that there
will be a need for agencies and government departments to work
collectively over IDP implementation having regard to the possibility
of incentive payments. Given the existence of situations where
Council Tax receipts may be collected for new development in an
adjacent local authority area to the host urban centre there would
appear to be a need for guidance or recommendations regarding
joint working and how much income will be retained by District
Council sin two tier authority areas.
"The arrangements which should be put in
place to ensure appropriate co-operation between local planning
authorities on matters formally covered by regional spatial strategies"
3.36 We have already suggested that consideration
should be given to the role and weight to be afforded to other
regional and sub-regional strategies in the absence of RSS (paragraphs
3.11 to 3.17 refer).
3.37 Across the West Midlands the 33 local authorities
have agreed to continue co-operation through the West Midlands
Councils organisation. This should provide a basis to broker cross
boundary arrangements and share best practice, particularly in
specialists areas of policy previously covered by RSS where no
one authority has all the necessary expertise.
3.38 As stated above the provision of adequate
community and physical infrastructure is a critical issue for
South Worcestershire, particularly transportation infrastructure.
We are conscious that local infrastructure requirements can be
of national and regional importance where they have a bearing
upon investment decisions and provision on the wider network,
such as the motorway and rail networks. Clearly, the RSS by integrating
with the RTS provided a mechanism for addressing both wider and
local network demands which were articulated in the associated
Implementation Plan. Whilst other strategies and plans may have
a role in setting out sub-regional intentions regarding infrastructure
provision it remains unclear, in the absence of RSS, how and where
competing demands and priorities will be resolved for the region
wide transportation network whilst allowing local input.
"The adequacy of proposals already put forward
by Government, including a proposed duty to co-operate and the
suggestion that Local Enterprise Partnerships may fulfil a planning
3.39 The South Worcestershire authorities have
supported proposals for the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership
and await a response to our submission. We consider there is a
significant role for such partnerships in establishing sub-regional
priorities and proposals, particularly in relation to infrastructure
provision. However, we understand that various models for the
composition of partnerships are being proposed around the country
and it would be premature to suggest at this time that partnerships
universally should have a planning role. Furthermore, care should
be taken, given the various models proposed and areas covered,
not to undermine the intentions to enable local growth agendas
to be developed by attributing over riding planning functions
to new major sub-regional/regional groupings.
"How the data and research collated by the
now-abolished Regional Authority Leaders' Board should be made
available to local authorities and what arrangements should be
put in place to ensure effective updating of that research and
collection of further research on matters crossing local authority
3.40 Given recent advice that RSS evidence remains
a material consideration in the preparation of LDF documents and
the development of local housing aspirations it is essential that
this evidence continues to be made available to local authorities
in a free and accessible form. It is accepted that the West Midlands
Councils organisation does not have the resources to assist in
accessing data or its interpretation. However, as a minimum, data
sets and related reports produced by regional bodies up to their
demise should be made available on-line, along with evidence submitted
by third parties to any associated Examination in Public.
3.41 In paragraph 3.19 we have already raised
concerns over the shifting of research and policy development
requirements from the regional level to the sub-regional level
without consideration being given to the additional demands this
creates for resources and specialist expertise.
3.42 Whilst there have been misgivings regarding
certain aspects of the RSS process, the West Midlands has displayed
a positive and strong track record over a number of years with
respect to gathering data, monitoring and sharing information.
This has resulted in a wealth of evidence to support understanding
of past regional performance, projections of likely activity and
the identification of both regional and sub-regional issues. It
would be to the detriment of LDF work and wider strategy work
if this resource was not maintained and carried forward, albeit
in a stream-lined form to reflect resource constraints. The Government
should be invited to consider how it can support this process.
The issue is pressing. Whilst interim arrangements have been put
in place in the West Midlands failure to secure a sustainable
research and monitoring mechanism will hamper the continuity of
regional data and gathering of essential local data to feed the