Agenda item

Publication Draft South East Lincolnshire Local Plan

To consider the contents of the Publication Draft Local Plan, receive information with regard to the statutory public consultation stage, and approve the delegation of the Submission of the Plan to the Secretary of State (report of the Deputy Joint Policy Unit Manager enclosed).

Minutes:

The Deputy Joint Policy Unit Manager introduced his report by listing its main headings. The first of these concerned the three ‘Key Issues’ that the ‘Publication Draft’ sought to address. He provided some background to each of the following issues: meeting objectively-assessed housing needs; meeting the arising infrastructure needs; and meeting the challenges of flood risk.

 

He then summarised the contents of the Publication Draft by providing a brief background to each of the thirty-one policies.

 

In respect of Policy 16: Rural Exception Sites, Councillor Gambba-Jones raised concerns relating to the ‘viability card’ being played. He suggested that an application for housing under this policy could be submitted and approved, but then followed by a request to reduce the affordable housing element of the scheme because of an updated assessment of viability.

 

The Deputy Joint Policy Unit Manager responded by saying he thought such a situation would be unlikely given the detailed consideration that would have informed the original decision, but if it were to arise then he considered that the whole proposal would have to be revisited.

 

Councillor Alcock enquired as to whether there was any guidance on how such a matter could be progressed to a satisfactory conclusion, to which the Deputy Joint Policy Unit Manager responded by suggesting suitable local guidance could be incorporated into the preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan.

 

Councillor Austin expressed disappointment at the absence of a policy governing the implementation of agricultural-occupancy conditions. The Deputy Joint Policy Unit Manager responded that this matter had been addressed in the Draft for Public Consultation document but following a review it was decided to delete this policy on the basis that the issues were adequately addressed in the National Planning Policy Framework.

 

Councillor Alcock expressed some disappointment that the only additional retail floor space proposed in the Publication Draft was at Springfields, and wondered why additional sites had not been promoted. The Deputy Joint Policy Unit Manager responded that other sites had been investigated, including with Spalding town centre, but were deemed to be unsuitable. He reaffirmed the officer view that the Springfields proposal was currently the most appropriate way forward in the circumstances.

 

The Executive Manager for Growth considered that evidence to support the promotion of other sites that would aid the regeneration of Spalding should be forthcoming at some point in the future, but recognised the need to be more proactive in this regard.

 

Councillor Alcock mentioned that internet shopping did help to create additional commercial floor space in the long run as distribution sites would be required.

 

Councillor Austin enquired as to whether there was any specific policy provision concerning the development of solar panel schemes in the countryside. The Deputy Joint Policy Unit Manager accepted that such proposals could prove controversial and that whilst there was no detailed policy provision regarding this matter in the Publication Draft, there was Government Planning Practice Guidance on this subject to assist decision making.

 

The Forward Planning Officer advised that Policy 27 (section B, point 4.)  provided a basis for addressing the adverse impacts of solar-panel schemes.

 

Councillor Austin asked why there was no Boston equivalent to the policy dealing with the Spalding Transport Strategy.

 

The Deputy Joint Policy Unit Manager explained that this was mainly because the Boston Transport Strategy had only recently been finalised and that there hadn’t been sufficient time to consider how the emerging Local Plan should address its contents.

 

Councillor Brookes also expressed support for a policy relating to the Boston Transport Strategy.

 

The Joint Policy Unit Manager added that both policies were referenced in the reasoned justification to Policy 29: Delivering a More Sustainable Transport Network.

 

Councillor Gambba-Jones stated that the emerging Local Plan had not been based on transport strategies, and reiterated the concern about the recent completion of the Boston Transport Strategy. He supported the officer approach to this matter but added that it would probably be the subject of discussions at the Local Plan ‘examination’.

 

Councillor Alcock asked if there was mention of the Fens Waterways Project in the Local Plan. The Deputy Joint Policy Unit Manager informed him that reference was made to it in the Natural Environment section, but that whilst it was still a live project there was insufficient evidence to justify a more proactive approach to it in the Local Plan. He considered the project to be a benefit to the area but of no great planning significance at the present time. If it were to gain more momentum then its profile in the Local Plan could be raised.

 

Council Bedford added that dredging work at Blackhole Drove had been carried out recently, which would enable boats to progress as far as Donington.

 

In the absence of any further comments on the Publication Draft, Councillor Gambba-Jones thanked the officers for the amount of work that had been undertaken on the Local Plan to date and commented that the preparation of the South Holland Local Plan was a pale imitation in comparison. Given the limited staff resources available, it had been an extraordinary effort by officers to interpret often vague concerns into a robust set of proposals.

 

The Deputy Joint Policy Unit Manager then itemised the next steps in the plan-preparation process and specified the aim of submitting the Local Plan documentation to the Planning Inspectorate in the week commencing 19 June 2017. He noted that, following submission, the examination process was subject to the Planning Inspectorate’s timetable.

 

Councillor Brookes then enquired about the proposed 300 additional dwellings in Sutterton and whether there was a master plan available to guide infrastructure provision, as he had thought that individual sites were to be discussed at the meeting. The Deputy Joint Policy Unit Manager explained that this matter would need to be given consideration once the Local Plan had been adopted.

 

Councillor Gambba-Jones added that the message that needed to be conveyed to developers of larger sites, such as that proposed at Sutterton, was that master plans would be an integral part of the planning application documentation. He suggested that once there was certainty about housing allocations, officers and members would need to identify which sites warranted  a ‘master-planning approach’.

 

Councillor Biggadike opined that an ‘army of accountants’ would be required to ensure that the promised financial contributions from developers were delivered and not lost following viability concerns. The Deputy Joint Policy Unit Manager made clear that such matters would be addressed in detail during the planning application stage and contributions secured through section 106 legal agreements.

 

AGREED:

 

That the recommendations be accepted.

Supporting documents: