Update on matters relating to the Local Plan
Key questions & answers
1. What has happened to the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy (WMRSS)?
It was revoked on 6 July 2010 under S79 (6) of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009. It was abolished in November 2011 through the 'Localism Bill'.
2. What happens to the regional draft policies?
They will not be used and carry no weight in decision-making.
3. What about the evidence that was used to develop the WMRSS?
Some of this may still be of relevance: this now has to be decided locally and in light of any other evidence available.
4. Should Local Plan (was called Local Development Framework) documents still be prepared?
Yes. The government recommends that 'local planning authorities should continue to develop Local Plan Core Strategies and other Development Plan Documents, reflecting local peoples aspirations and decisions on important issues such as climate change, housing and economic development. These local plans will guide development in their areas and provide certainty for investors and communities. Local Authorities may wish to review their plans following the revocation of regional strategies. We recommend reviews should be undertaken as quickly as possible'. The guidance goes on to state 'When undertaking consultation and sustainability appraisal on their draft policies, authorities should take an approach that considers the stage reached, the extent of work already undertaken and the scope of the policy changes they are making'.
5. Will the process of preparing and adopting local planning policy be the same?
There may be some changes, but at the moment the process is still the same, and Development Plan Documents will still require robust, relevant and sound evidence and will go through the process of an Examination in Public.
6. Who determines housing numbers now there are no regional targets?
These are to be agreed locally and be underpinned as with all policies by a clear evidence base.
7. Will housing numbers still need to be justified?
Yes. Local authorities need to continue to collect and use reliable information to justify housing supply policies and defend them during the LDF examination process. This should be in line with current policy contained within national Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS 3) 'Housing' and can draw on household projection data and locally derived Strategic Housing Market Assessments.
8. Do Authorities still have to maintain a 5-year housing land supply?
Yes. Plans need to identify sufficient sites and broad areas for development to deliver an Authority's housing ambitions for at least 15 years from the date the plan is adopted and as part of this constantly maintain at least a 5-year housing supply. This will relate to the annual housing target determined locally.
9. Is housing delivery to be incentivised?
Yes. Further details are awaited with the broad principles of an incentivisation scheme due to be published in the summer of this year. This will provide Authorities with financial incentives to accommodate growth in their areas. Any detailed guidance is likely to follow the Government's spending review in October 2010.
10. Will there be changes to Green Belt policy?
Not as a consequence of the revocation of RSS. Local Planning authorities should continue to apply policies in national policy PPS 2 (Green Belt). Any changes would need to be agreed locally as part of the preparation of Development Plan Documents.
11. How will the changes affect planning applications?
Local Planning Authorities must still have regard to the statutory Development Plan. In Lichfield District this relates to the Saved Policies of the Structure Plan (2001), the Local Plan (1998) and where relevant County Minerals and Waste Local Plans until these documents are replaced by Core Strategies and other Development Plan documents.
12. Do national policies continue to apply?
Yes, until they are replaced by the National Planning Framework. The National Planning Framework is likely to be progressed alongside the Localism Bill.
14. How do we determine the level of provision for travellers' sites?
Local councils are best placed to assess the needs of travellers. The abolition of Regional Strategies means that local authorities will be responsible for determining the appropriate level of site provision, reflecting local need and historic demand, and for bringing forward land in DPDs. A Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessments (GTAAs) has been undertaken by southern staffordshire authorities which provides a locally derived evidence base. Relevant regulations and guidance on this matter will be reviewed in due course.
15. How do we establish the need for minerals and aggregates supply without Regional Strategy targets?
Staffordshire County Council, as the minerals planning authority, will have responsibility for continuing to plan for a steady and adequate supply of aggregate minerals to support economic growth. They should do this within the longstanding arrangements for minerals planning. Technical advice provided by the Aggregate Working Parties, including their current work in sub-apportioning the CLG guidelines for 2005-2020 to planning authority level will assist with this.
Planning authorities can choose to use alternative figures for their planning purposes if they have new or different information and a robust evidence base. The Government will work with the minerals industry and local government to agree how minerals planning arrangements should operate in the longer term.
16. How do we establish the need for waste management without Regional Strategy targets?
Planning Authorities should continue to press ahead with their waste plans, and provide enough land for waste management facilities to support the sustainable management of waste (including the move away from disposal of waste by landfill).
17. Does the abolition of the hierarchy of strategic centres mean the end of policies on town centres?
No. Local authorities must continue to have regard to PPS 4: Planning for Sustainable Economic Growth in preparing LDFs and, where relevant, take it into account in determining planning applications for retail, leisure and other main town centre uses.
In assessing any planning applications proposing unplanned growth in out of town shopping centres, particularly those over 5,000 sqm gross retail floor area, local authorities should take account of the potential impacts of the development on centres in the catchment area of the proposal.
18. What about regional policies on the natural environment?
Local authorities should continue to work together, and with communities, on conservation, restoration and enhancement of the natural environment - including biodiversity, geo-diversity and landscape interests. Authorities should continue to draw on available information, including data from partners, to address cross boundary issues such as the provision of green infrastructure and wildlife corridors.
19. What about regional policies on Flooding?
Local authorities should continue to work together across administrative boundaries to plan development that addresses flooding. For flooding matters local authorities already have a duty to co-operate under the Floods and Water Management Act. The Environment Agency will continue to work with local authorities individually and/or jointly to provide technical support on these matters. The Coalition agreement is clear that we should prevent unnecessary building in areas of high flood risk.
20. What about regional policies on Renewable and Low Carbon Energy?
Through the LDF process, authorities should contribute towards the move to a low carbon economy, cut greenhouse gas emissions, help secure more renewable and low carbon energy to meet national targets, and to adapt to the impacts arising from climate change. In doing so, planning authorities may find it useful to draw on data that was collected by the West Midlands Leaders' Board (now West Midlands Council's) and more recent work, including assessments of the potential for renewable and low carbon energy.
21. What about regional policies on Transport?
Local authorities should continue to ensure their land use and local transport plans are mutually consistent, and deliver the most effective and sustainable development for their area. Local authorities should work with each other and with businesses and communities to consider strategic transport priorities and cross boundary issues.