The Planning Policy Manager introduced a report regarding the Regulation 18 consultation in respect of the Local Plan: Development Management Policies and gave an explanatory supporting presentation.
The report explained that the Development Management Policies (known as the draft Local Plan) formed the second part of Borough’s Local Plan. Once adopted the draft Local Plan would, together with the recently adopted Local Plan: Strategy and Sites document (LPSS), fully supersede the existing Local Plan 2003 to form part of the Council’s Development Plan. The draft Local Plan provided the more detailed policies to be used by Development Management in the determination of planning applications and supplemented the small number of development management policies included in the LPSS where these were necessary in implementing the strategic policies, for example in relation to the Green Belt, employment and retail.
The structure of the draft Local Plan was consistent with that of the LPSS. The chapters therefore consisted of: Housing, Protecting, Economy, Design, and Infrastructure and Delivery. A list of all the proposed policies and a brief summary as to their aims and how they sought to achieve those aims were contained in Appendix 1.
The Regulation 18 consultation included both issues and options and proceeded to suggest a preferred option for each policy. This approach was designed to generate meaningful comments and concerns that would enable the Council to move directly to a Regulation 19 proposed submission document. This in turn would increase the possibility of being able to progress the plan to Examination stage without the need for main modifications and a further round of consultation. The consultation period would run for seven weeks from 20 April until 8 June 2020.
At its meeting on 24 March 2020, the Executive would also consider this matter, taking into consideration any comments from this Board before being asked to recommend to Full Council on 7 April 2020 that the draft Local Plan, incorporating any recommended changes, be approved for Regulation 18 public consultation for a seven-week period beginning on 20 April 2020. The Executive would also be asked to resolve that the Director of Strategic Services be authorised, in consultation with the relevant Lead Councillor, to make such minor alterations to improve the clarity of the document.
The reasons for recommendations were to encourage the Council to enable the draft Local Plan to be published for public consultation and to allow officers to undertake public consultation.
Undertaking a public consultation in respect of the draft Local Plan was a statutory requirement placed on Local Planning Authorities under Regulation 18 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 and would enable the Council to move closer to adopting this second part of the Local Plan.
The presentation covered the hierarchy of policy / guidance, draft Local Plan Development Management Policies, stages of preparing a local plan, preparing the Borough’s draft Local Plan, structure of the draft Local Plan, overall thoughts in respect of the draft Local Plan, next steps and EAB recommendations to the Executive.
The hierarchy of policy / guidance featured the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and National Planning Practice Guidance which fed into the South East Plan Policy NRM6 which related to new residential development close to the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area, and then into the Development Plan which consisted of Local Plan 2003 (extant policies to be replaced by the draft Local Plan), Local Plan: Strategy and Sites 2019, Surrey Minerals and Waste Plans, and adopted and emerging Neighbourhood Plans. Finally, the Development Plan fed into adopted and emerging Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs).
The presentation described a Local Plan as being a development plan document which formed part of the Development Plan, as creating policy and as guiding planning decisions which must be taken in line with it unless material considerations indicated otherwise. The associated consultation period was a minimum of 6 weeks and a draft Local Plan needed to undergo examination in public by an independent planning inspector appointed by the Secretary of State and be adopted by full Council. From past experience the production of a Local Plan in Guildford was likely to take a minimum of three years.
There were three stages to the preparation a local plan. The first stage consisted of research, early consultation and the preparation of issues, options and preferred options for consultation under Regulation 18 which would take place in April 2020. The second stage considered comments from the issues, options and preferred options and prepared a Proposed Submission Local Plan: Development Management Policies for consultation under Regulation 19. The third and final stage featured consideration of comments from the Proposed Submission Local Plan consultation and preparation of the Submission Local Plan: Development Management Policies for submission with the Regulation 19 representations to the Secretary of State for independent examination. Following publication of the Inspector’s report, his/her main modifications would be accepted and the Local Plan: Development Management Policies adopted in Autumn 2022.
Preparing the draft Local Plan featured review of the NPPF, the still extant parts of the 2003 Local Plan, the Local Plan: Strategy and Sites and Topic Papers and consultation feedback / engagement with councillors. Internal consultation with Development Management had taken place to identify any gaps. The Planning Policy, Design & Conservation Team, colleagues across the Council, external partners and the cross-party Local Plan Panel had been involved. Future involvement would include the Executive, full Council, residents, developers, statutory consultees etc.
The draft Local Plan was structured into chapters in respect of Housing, Employment, Protecting, Design and Infrastructure, details of which were provided in the presentation.
Overall thoughts were that the draft Local Plan consisted of 38 proposed policies, many of which were subject to a fast changing agenda with ambitious policy requirements that would be challenged and need to be justified with robust evidence. Whole plan viability testing would take place ahead of the Regulation 19 consultation version and careful consideration would be given to the consultation responses received to assess their justification.
The next steps were as follows:
o Full Council approval – 7 April 2020.
o Seven-week Regulation 18 consultation 20 April – 8 June.
o Process and analyse comments received.
o Timetable dependent upon scale and complexity of issues raised that need to be considered.
o Local Plan Policies created.
o Full committee process (to full Council to agree consultation).
o Minimum six-week Regulation 19 consultation.
o Submission to Secretary of State – independent inspector appointed.
o Examination in public (including hearing sessions) and further consultation in respect of the main modifications.
o Inspector’s final report published and full Council adoption.
The following points and comments arose from related questions and discussion:
· A councillor expressed the view that the wording in the Issues and Preferred Options consultation document attached to the report at Appendix 2 was likely to cause confusion amongst residents and consultees who were keen to see the Green Belt protected and it may attract objections. Further consideration would be given to the engagement strategy to ensure the consultation was accessible.
· The draft Local Plan included necessary policies such as that to protect public houses under threat. Promoting the consultation document in a positive fashion to highlight its strengths such as measures to tackle climate change included in policies was welcomed.
· Policy E10: Rural development (including agricultural diversification) made no reference to climate change leading to an intensification of vineyards, which were also tourist attractions. However, vineyards were considered to be an acceptable agricultural use and did not require any specific permissions. Buildings supporting agricultural use in the Green Belt were generally acceptable.
· The Government’s Future Homes policy was currently subject to consultation. Any changes to the draft Local Plan required as a result of this policy could be accommodated before the Regulation 19 consultation stage.
· It was felt that the definition of high quality design should be expanded and examples given to clarify what was expected. The Board was advised that the relevant SPD would contain photographic material to depict high quality design and the principles of good design, which were contained in Policy D4, would be used and interpreted in the determination of planning applications. The spatial design of larger development sites would be a consideration.
· The relevant SPD addressed sustainability and transport issues with a view to achieving a carbon neutral position in the future.
· Biodiversity was measured through examining and valuing habitats both pre and post development using a DEFRA matrix with the aim of increasing levels by 20% after developments. Habitats included soil and ancient woodland and those for native species were favoured over those for foreign creatures.
· New houses should be constructed to enable future adaptations to secure increased carbon reduction. The Government was proposing that the use of gas in new homes would be banned from 2025.
· Planning policies would have full weight following adoption.
· The scope of the proposed policies and the strength of their links to issues related to climate change, biodiversity and protection were supported.
The Chairman summarised the main views expressed by the Board which were as follows:
· The scope of the proposed policies and the strength of their links to issues related to climate change, biodiversity and protection were strongly supported.
· The Board felt that the document as a whole was not easy for a resident to read and understand and asked that every effort be made to provide explanations in plain English to help residents understand what the document was, how it related to the existing Local Plan and what it sought to achieve.
· The addition of an explanation regarding what the plan could and could not do, especially in relation to climate change, was sought.
· The rural development policy needed a reference to vineyards in the text in terms of the opportunities they created to contribute to the rural economy, including through tourism.
· Examples of high-quality design would greatly improve understanding of the document.