The Panel received an update on progress with the Delivery Study, a critical piece of the evidence base for the emerging District Plan as it would determine whether or not the development strategy set out in the Preferred Options District Plan can be delivered. The Study could result in material changes to the Draft Plan, and important decisions might be needed in terms of the scale of developer contributions to meet wider policy objectives (such as affordable housing) and support for the infrastructure needed to deliver the growth.
It was noted that Peter Brett Associates (PBA) had been appointed to undertake the Study and the Panel Chairman referred to their role as a critical friend. Officers highlighted their initial advice around the calculation of the housing requirement, the duty to cooperate and the importance of transport modelling in managing congestion.
Councillor G Jones questioned why the rise in the buffer requirement from 5% to 20% proposed by PBA had not been recognised earlier. Officers acknowledged that the rise was significant and could require additional sites to be brought forward, or existing sites to be brought forward earlier in order to achieve the 5-year housing land supply. The publication of new government guidance, and new evidence of the Planning Inspectorate’s tough stance, had become available since the 5% proposal in the draft Plan. PBA had been appointed to challenge the Council as a critical friend so as to help achieve a sound plan by the time of Examination.
Councillor G Jones commented on PBA’s recognition of the gap in the evidence around the cumulative impact of growth. Officers explained that further transport modelling was being undertaken to look at this, and PBA would be providing further advice as part of the commission. Councillor T Page further questioned the impact of development in north-west Essex on parts of East Herts. Officers replied that the Council would be represented at the Examination hearings into the Uttlesford Local Plan, and this issue would be given attention by the Planning Inspector.
Councillor T Page asked how ‘severe’ transport impacts could be defined, and how this would apply to the District Plan proposals. Officers explained that both PBA and ATLAS were looking into this further. However, initial indications were that the Planning Inspectorate did not view worsening congestion as a reason to fail to meet to housing needs. This position was being kept under careful review in relation to the site options and the cumulative impacts, and the scope for putting in place specific transport strategies and mitigation measures would be considered further.
Councillor E Buckmaster asked what the situation would be if limited or no mitigation measures could be identified. Officers replied that this was a difficult question in light of the initial advice from PBA and all possible solutions would be carefully investigated. Further advice would be sought from PBA.
Councillor G Jones pointed to the ATLAS advice about development embargoes unless adequate infrastructure was forthcoming. Officers commented that the ATLAS advice pointed to the importance of getting a plan in place, because such requirements would be embedded in policies within the adopted plan.
The Panel supported the recommendation as now detailed.
RECOMMENDED – that the District Plan Delivery Study Briefing Note from Peter Brett Associates, including the implications for the District Plan timeline, and the updated ATLAS Deliverability Advice Note, contained at Essential Reference Papers B and C of the report submitted, be noted.