Agenda item

Draft Borough Local Plan Consultation


Cabinet considered approval for a further round of public consultation on the draft Borough Local Plan (BLP) under Regulation 18 of the Local Planning Regulations 2012.


Cabinet was addressed by Diana Tombs who was representing the Ascot, Sunninghill and Sunningdale Neighbourhood Plan Delivery Group.

Ms Tombs asked the following questions:

How can Cabinet consider whether this Plan is robust and endorse it without any reassurance that the infrastructure that is essential to it can be funded and delivered?  We recognise that an Infrastructure Delivery Plan is not technically required for Regulation 18 consultation but the NPPF does require a Plan to ensure provision of infrastructure alongside homes and jobs. Without any information on what infrastructure is needed and, crucially, how it will be funded. How can you face local residents and reassure them their quality of life and place will be protected through this BLP?

The Statement of Community Involvement, adopted by this Council in October, allows 8 weeks for consultation of Development Plan Documents, which include this Regulation 18 BLP, when the consultation is held over Christmas. Why therefore is the consultation period allowed in the timetable in front of you only 6 weeks?


Ms Tombs commented that there was a concern at the number of homes being built in the area in relation to infrastructure. They had been told that funds would be found from CIL and S106 but historically this had gone to other parts of the borough. She asked Members to assure her that receipts from the sough of the borough would be allocated as a priority to the local area.


Cabinet was addressed by Patrick Griffin on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Ascot and the Environs. Mr Griffin asked the following question:


Several policies, defined as strategic in the BLP, reference Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) which will provide detailed guidance to how these policies should be implemented.  On matters where there may be a difference, in fact or interpretation, between Neighbourhood Plan policies and the SPD, which will take precedence?


Mr Griffin also expressed concern, in relation to neighbourhood plans in the process or being adopted or developed, that these SPDs referenced as they were in policies that were defined as strategic, would to such a degree override most policies as to make Neighbourhood plans redundant. He asked Members to ensure that the Design SPD in particular would make it clear that Neighbourhood Plan policies had precedence over these guidelines?


Cabinet was addressed by Peter Shaw on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Ascot and the Environs. Mr Shaw asked the following question:


The BLP draft identifies the objectively assessed needs (OAN) as required by the NPPF, as 14,240 new dwellings.  Please provide the number and percentage breakdown of this  total number of new dwellings by their proposed location on:


a)     Green Belt


b)     Previously Developed Land in Green Belt


c)    Brownfield


The Lead Member commented that the draft BLP had taken a lot of time and effort by a number of councillors and officers, who had all had input into the policies and direction. The Local Plans Working Group (LPWG) had had day-today involvement. The DCLG, the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) and a specialist planning barrister had reviewed the plan to ensure it was fit for consultation. The total number of dwellings envisaged over the plan period was 14,240. If the plan was extended by 1 year to 2033 as proposed, this would enable the council to also provide a 5 year rolling housing supply. During discussions with DCLG and PINS it had become clear that the council would be in a far better position at examination if it were able to meet 100% of its Objectively Assessed Need (OAN) within the borough boundaries.


Members noted the timetable on page 43 of the report. All consultation responses would be taken to the next stage, Regulation 19, including publication of the plan and submission to the government inspector. Representations could still be made at that point. An examination in public was therefore anticipated in October 2017 with adoption by Full Council in December 2017.


The Lead Member responded to the questions from Ms Tombs as follows:


Cabinet was being asked to release the draft BLP for consultation so that the council could seek views from residents and stakeholders on the policies and proposals it contained.  Infrastructure work had been continuing since the council was examined on its Community Infrastructure Levy in March and adopted it from 1 September 2016.  The draft BLP included a section on infrastructure and the site pro formae identified where there was a specific infrastructure requirement.  As a result of the other evidence prepared to support the plan the team was constantly reviewing infrastructure  requirements and speaking to providers.  An Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) would accompany the Regulation 19 Publication of the BLP.  An IDP was a living document and would be updated throughout plan implementation.  This would be underpinned by work to be done on CIL Governance and the council would produce a CIL Investment Plan.  Residents and stakeholders would be able to see the bigger picture of what infrastructure would be required and how it would be funded together with when it was needed over the course of the plan.


In reference to paragraph 2.9 of the Council's October 2016 Statement of Community Involvement the Lead Member stated that he did consider this matter with the team before the timetable for the draft Borough Local Plan was set.  Although the SCI stated that two additional weeks would be added to the minimum consultation period when the consultation took place over the summer holidays or Christmas; legally there was no period set for regulation 18.  It was concluded that a 6 week period would be appropriate.


In relation to Ms Tombs’ third question, the Lead Member agreed to supply an answer in writing.


The Lead Member responded to the question from Mr Griffin as follows:


A made neighbourhood plan would form part of the Development Plan and was planning policy.  An adopted SPD was guidance to inform planning policy.  Planning Policy would take precedence.


The Lead Member responded to the question from Mr Shaw as follows:


The Objectively Assessed Need was taken from the evidence in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment jointly prepared by the Berkshire Authorities.  This should not be confused with allocations in the draft BLP to meet that need.  As the plan period was recommended to be extended a further year to encompass 20 years, the draft BLP was proposing 14,240 homes over the lifetime of the plan.  Broadly the draft BLP for consultation proposed that 65% of the homes proposed would be on urban and non Green Belt sites; leaving 5% of homes to be located on Previously Developed Sites in the Green Belt and 30% on greenfield Green Belt land.  It may be noted that this equated to using 1.7% of the existing Green Belt in the Borough. This figure included the large area of the Maidenhead Golf Course.


The Deputy Lead Member for Ascot Regeneration stated that as a Member of the LPWG he was delighted to have a plan that seemed to meet policy requirements. The infrastructure issue would come up time and time again. At the Overview and Scrutiny Panel he had suggested that at the same time as the IDP was published, a paper should be brought to Cabinet to explain funding and delivery. He asked if more context could be added to the plan in relation to Neighbourhood Plans as the council had committed great resources to the development of neighbourhood plans.


The Principal Member for Neighbourhood Planning and Ascot & the Sunnings commented that although the LPWG could not make decisions, it had spent many hours reviewing and making recommendations to Cabinet. The two key issues were protecting as much of the Green Belt as possible and also keeping to the allocation of housing for local people. If the level was not met the plan could be found unsound by the DCLG.


Councillor Jones commented that there had been much discussion about whether given the mitigating of such high level of Green Belt the council should be seeking to  achieve 100% of the target. Apparently other areas had successfully mitigated against the target yet we had been told that the borough’s plan would be unsound if it took that approach. Councillor Jones asked for clarification. She also commented that site allocation did not address off-site infrastructure and asked for a timescale for when that information would be accessible.


The Lead Member confirmed that of the  83% of the borough that was Green Belt, 1.7% would be allocated for housing therefore leaving 81.3%. The Chairman highlighted that the golf club would be a material element of the 1.7%.  The Lead Member explained that other authorities had been able to get away with a lower  percentile but this was because they had a more recent plan, post 2004. In the case of Reigate and Banstead the plan was delayed until the authority had found additional Green Belt sites for release. The borough’s plan was adopted in 1999 and was therefore too out of date. PINS had made it clear that the borough therefore needed to meet 100% of the OAN. He confirmed that the infrastructure information would be available in March 2017.


Councillor Beer commented that he had a number of editing comments that he would provide details of to the Lead Member; he hoped these could be dealt with under recommendation iii. He endorsed the comments about the amount of work undertaken and thanked officers involved. The late modification of an extra year had not been amended in numerous points in the report. References to rural connections referred to Great Western when many were linked to Southern Rail. The Overview and Scrutiny Panel had heard about the difficulties of finding staff as they could not afford to live in the borough. Councillor Beer therefore felt that the affordable housing element of the plan should be emphasised further.  The Leader referred Councillor Beer to the item later on the agenda in relation to affordable housing.


The Principal Member for Maidenhead Regeneration and Maidenhead commented that he represented the most rural ward in the borough. It would be easy to simply say there should be no development in the Green Belt, but this did not take into account the consequences. It the plan was found unsound as a result the council would be subject to the government imposing a plan and the council would have no say in the future. This was not a responsible approach for the council to take. One of the key aspects of the redevelopment of Maidenhead was to increase the number of people living in the town centre to revitalise the area, this would include 30% affordable housing.


The Lead Member for Adult Services and Health highlighted that Cabinet was not voting to approve the plan, but to go to consultation. It was important that residents commented and provided feedback.  The Lead Member for Highways and Transport commented that it would be  a mistake if the public were to think the council was pushing one way or another; the council wanted to hear from residents as to what they thought.  


The Lead Member for Finance commented that the administration had a clear commitment to protect the countryside across the borough. Some had belligerently refused all attempts to redevelop Green Belt sites, which would lead to a grave shortfall in housing for residents and their children to live in, fewer  opportunities to provide affordable housing, inadequate funding for facilities, an increasingly ageing population, a squeeze on the space available for businesses and employment and the ravenous objections of developers and neighbouring councils.  This slow, caustic erosion would be untenable. The council would likely be stripped of its authority to make decisions in the best interests of the residents. The plan as proposed had been developed by way of a rigorous analysis of each site and an objective regard to constraints. Residents were now invited to consider the evaluation an provide local insight.


The Chairman commented that a later report in the agenda identified £15m of borrowing to fund investment in infrastructure, which showed that the council was already spending money strategically. More would be invested following the realisation of land assets the council held.


The Lead Member agreed that Neighbourhood Plans were important and he would ensure a sheet explaining the relationship to the BLP was published.




      I.        Approve the plan period from 2013 to 2033 to require a total of 14,240 dwellings and adjust the draft Borough Local Plan to reflect this change as necessary;


    II.        Approve the Draft Borough Local Plan and associated Sustainability Appraisal (including SA/SEA/HRA) for public consultation under Regulation 18 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 for a six-week period from 2 December 2016 to 13 January 2017; and


 III.            Delegate authority to the Strategic Director of Corporate and Community Services in consultation with the Lead Member for Planning to make any final editorial and formatting amendments to the Draft Borough Local Plan and accompanying documents without altering the meaning of the Plan before consultation.

Supporting documents: