Planning Inspectors endorse Council's plans for the future
Planning Inspectors have largely endorsed Winchester City Council's plans for the district up to 2011 and agree that most development should take place in existing towns and villages.
They support the sustainable principles upon which the Local Plan has been based, concentrating development within the main built-up areas in general and on previously developed land in particular.
But the Inspectors raised concerns about allowing frontage development in the smaller settlements and did not fully support the Council's plans to increase affordable housing provision on smaller sites.
The City Council's Portfolio Holder for Planning, Cllr John Beveridge, has generally welcomed the Inspectors' Report but said he was disappointed that the Inspectors were not able to support changes to affordable housing policies fully, given the clear need for more affordable housing in the District.
"The District has to balance providing for economic prosperity and social well-being with the necessary homes, jobs and local facilities, against the need to maintain the attractive environment of the towns, villages and surrounding countryside, which bring many visitors to the area.
"There will be people who will be disappointed with the conclusions reached by the Inspectors, either because they have not recommended their sites for development, or because the Inspectors have not recommended the deletion of specific sites," he said.
"However, I think the Council has achieved a reasonable balance in the Local Plan, which is in conformity with the Hampshire Structure Plan, and although the Inspectors have recommended some changes to the Local Plan, to introduce a little more flexibility, I am pleased that their Report endorses the Council's overall approach," he added.
Cllr Beveridge said the Council will be considering the Inspectors' conclusions and recommendations very carefully over the coming months through meetings of the Local Plan Committee. This Committee will recommend Proposed Modifications to the Local Plan to Cabinet this December, for approval by full Council in January next year.
Planning Inspectors Eddie Grace and Martin Andrews, who held a public local inquiry from June last year to March this year, produced their report on objections made to the Council's Local Plan Review.
The Inspectors have supported the Council's approach on providing for housing in the District and in their covering letter they also consider that "in view of the relative compactness of the settlements and the rural nature of the District, it has been a necessary part of the strategy to allocate urban extensions on greenfield sites at West of Waterlooville and Winchester City (North) to meet the Baseline and Reserve housing provision respectively…."
The locations of the Reserve sites at West of Waterlooville and Winchester City (North) were controversial issues at the Inquiry, but the Inspectors conclude that "as we have found no preferable alternative substitute for either in the Winchester or Waterlooville localities, we have recommended their retention."
The promoters of the Reserve site at Winchester City (North) also sought to bring forward its development by altering its status to a Baseline allocation, but the Inspectors have agreed with the Council that this decision should be made at strategic level through the monitoring of house building rates, "rather than an 'ad hoc' decision arising from the Local Plan Review Inquiry".
Whilst the Report concludes that no additional housing sites will be needed in the short term, it recommends that the Council should allocate four sites to be held as "local reserve sites" adjoining the main settlements of Winchester, New Alresford and Denmead, in case insufficient development comes forward within the towns and villages or the Waterlooville MDA.
Together these sites could provide about 400 new homes and they include:
- Land at Pitt Manor and Worthy Road / Francis Gardens, Winchester;
- Land adjacent to Spring Gardens, New Alresford; and
- Land at Little Frenchies Field, Denmead
This would only be released if the Council decided that it was necessary for any of the sites to be released, as a result of the annual housing monitoring process. The Report recommends that Supplementary Planning Guidance should be prepared to explain how the Council will operate this process.
In agreeing that most development should be focused on the District's main settlements, the Inspectors raised concerns about allowing frontage development in the smaller settlements.
They feel that "this no longer reflects the underlying principles of the Plan which seek to concentrate development in sustainable locations" and recommend its replacement with a criteria-based infill policy to limit the amount of housing to only those locations "where they would best support local communities".
On affordable housing, whilst the Inspectors do not support the Council's proposal to seek a proportion of affordable housing on smaller housing sites, they recommend an increase in the proportion of affordable housing sought.
They recommend an overall target average of 35% affordable housing, with 40% within the Winchester urban area and within both Major Development Areas. Thirty-five per cent is the proportion recommended for the "local reserve" sites, and 30% would be retained elsewhere.
The Report supports the Plan's approach to design and development, taking account of the need to accommodate development at higher densities. It also endorses the importance of the Strategic and Local Gaps and the need to protect the wider countryside from inappropriate development.
The Council is making the Report available for information only and comment is not being invited at this stage. However, meetings of the Local Plan Committee will be held in public and the Proposed Modifications that will be produced in response to the Inspectors' Report will be subject to a 6-week consultation period before the Local Plan Review is formally adopted, which should be in June or July 2006.
Copies of the report are available from the City Council's Development Services Reception in Avalon House, Chesil Street, Winchester, SO23 0HU (£30 plus £5 p&p) and can be viewed on the City Council's website, www.winchester.gov.uk