(a) To consider progress on the North Weald Airfield Masterplan (report to follow);
(b) To consider the attached report on the progress of the emerging Local Plan and Government White Paper - Planning for the Future.
(a) Progress on the emerging Local Plan
The Interim Assistant Director (Planning Policy and Implementation), A Blom-Cooper, had provided the short report to update members on the progress of the emerging Local Plan.The Council’s response to the Inspector in April 2020 set out the high-level programme for progressing to the Main Modifications (MMs) consultation and the adoption of the Local Plan. This detailed the Council’s approach to matters that related to the Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) and updated the Infrastructure Delivery Plan and viability documents supporting the Local Plan. The Council submitted the third tranche of MMs in June 2020 and the final tranche in mid-September 2020 for the Inspector to consider and consultation on the MMs was anticipated to start from the end of October 2020.
Further information submitted to the Inspector included the revised mapping in relation to changes of the Local Plan and the draft green and blue infrastructure strategy. The Council submitted further information last week and the sustainability appraisal was also due to go to the Inspector. An updated Habitats Regulations Assessment and Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy was being finalised to take account of initial comments received from Natural England and the Conservators of Epping Forest that would be part of the MM consultation later this year. The Council was expecting the Inspector’s timetable next week. However, the schedule for the main plan documentation was some 300 pages, and other documents also numbered over 300 pages.
(b) Government White Paper: Planning for the Future
The Government published this White Paper on 6 August 2020. A report on the Council’s proposed response would be considered by Cabinet on 19 October 2020. It would significantly change the current planning system for both the nature and content of Local Plans, and the operation of the development management process. If implemented, the White Paper would introduce new planning legislation into the system to streamline the plan making process. The White Paper was proposing a zonal system where local plans designate land into three categories of land to be identified as growth areas (suitable for development in new settlements and urban extensions); renewal areas (urban and brownfield sites); and protected areas restricted areas in the green belt, conservation areas and wildlife sites etc). Local plans should state clear rules rather than general development policies,provide for greater public engagement in plan making, be subject to a single statutory “sustainable development” test and a statutory 30-month timetable for the production of local plans for local authorities and the planning inspectorate. A standard methodology for housing figures was proposed but there was also a separate consultation to amend the existing one to include affordability changes over time. Green belt constraint would be factored it but if was difficult to know how this would be mitigated.
Councillor R Bassett asked about the Office of National Statistics housing numbers and was there any difference? The Interim Assistant Director replied that the Inspector had written to the Council about its household projections and their impact on the merging Local Plan. This had resulted in an additional work project being commissioned to provide an update, but the numbers were giving 858 compared to 518 in our Local Plan. When all the other factors and issues were taken into account, the work concluded that there was no meaningful change in the projection and was also published on the Council’s website.
Councillor R Bassett asked if there would be a member briefing on the White Paper? The Planning and Sustainability Portfolio Holder, Councillor N Bedford, suggested members read the White Paper and send in any comments to the Planning Policy and Implementation Team to collate. The Interim Assistant Director also said that the Cabinet report was very detailed.
Councillor S Heap are how many MMs were there? It was also too soon to have a briefing on the White Paper. Also, what we should be trying to encourage in terms of land banking was to grant a developer an option not the land an option to develop and that would encourage developers to either develop the land in three years or not because their revenue would diminish quite dramatically.
That the Committee noted the progress report on the emerging Local Plan.