North Somerset Council
Suggested Recommendations to the Executive:
1) That the council:
Ø introduces carbon-neutral developments from 2011 rather than 2016.
Ø insists that permeable surfaces are put in at an early stage.
Ø introduces locally based combined heat and power plants using waste materials in the two urban extensions.
Ø takes extra care to ensure our urban design provides a high quality design with excellent public space and adequate car parking designed so it doesn’t dominating the street scene.
Ø considers providing “Lifetime Homes”, dwellings that can be altered to meet people’s needs throughout life.
2) That officers’ suggestion for North Somerset’s settlement hierarchy and visions for the area’s towns are endorsed with the following additions:
For Weston super Mare:
Ø that future development is not only employment led, but also “infrastructure led”
Ø an aim to ‘beautify’ the town, particularly around the gateway to the town centre (around Weston super Mare train station)
Ø an aim to establish the town as a vibrant and welcoming cultural centre – that we focus on cultural development in addition to increasing employment opportunities
Ø that we consider choosing and developing an iconic area to help shape the town’s character, for example the sea front.
Ø that in the short-to-medium term future, the residents will have access to appropriate infrastructure, including rail.
Ø an aim to develop the place into a market town, providing something different to our costal towns (Portishead, Clevedon and Weston super Mare).
3) That the working group’s concerns about the future possibilities of increasing railway capacity are noted.
1. Summary of Report
The working group submitted its first interim report in October 2008. This second report supplements the first by looking at additional aspects of the urban extensions, as well as parts of the core strategy dealing with other aspects of future development in North Somerset, such as settlement hierarchy and visions for the area.
The Core Strategy will clarify the Council’s approach to the two extensions by setting out:
· Objectives and strategies for the conservation and development of North Somerset up until 2026.
· The spatial vision and objectives; policies; and a monitoring and implementation framework for North Somerset.
The Strategy is general in scope and does not include site specific plans – masterplans and area action plans will do this for the two urban extensions.
The Executive will be considering the preferred option for the Core Strategy in February 2009.
3. SCRUTINY PROCESS
Since the first interim report, the working group has met with
1) Natural England
2) Network Rail
3) First Great Western
4) Severnside Community Rail Partnership
5) North Somerset Council’s Planning Policy Manager, Local Plan Team Leader, and Transport Planning Manager.
The Core Strategy and the Regional Spatial Strategy
The Core Strategy is starting to take shape but will be delayed because the approval of the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) has been postponed until April/May 2009.
The working group wishes to iterate its concern expressed in the first interim report about the high number of housing units allocated to North Somerset.
The group is also concerned about:
· the encroachment of the green belt around Yanley.
· the potential scenario of further development in Weston super Mare without the necessary infrastructure to and employment opportunities to support it.
After consulting local stakeholders including district councillors, officers suggest the following classification of North Somerset’s towns and villages:
· Weston super Mare is a “Strategically Significant Town” and the primary focus for development in North Somerset – along with Yanley (an area close to Bristol, a strategically significant city).
· Portishead, Clevedon and Nailsea are “Market and Coastal Towns”. Provision will be made for housing, employment, shopping and other services that increase the towns’ self-containment and raise their roles as service centres.
· Backwell, Banwell, Congresbury, Churchill, Hutton, Locking, Long Ashton, Pill, Uphill, Winscombe, Wrington and Yatton are “Small Towns and Villages”. Targeted small scale housing development can take place if it clearly relates to an identified local need.
· The working group agrees with this classification. The group also agrees that there is some potential to further intensify the development within small towns and villages, particularly around Weston super Mare, but this must be within existing boundaries in order to preserve the villages.
North Somerset Council Officers have presented the working group with draft visions. The working group was impressed by this work, and added the recommendations above for Weston super Mare, Portishead and Nailsea. The visions for Yanley are still to be developed. The working group supported the visions for Clevedon and small towns and villages.
· Although government policies prescribe carbon-neutral developments from 2016 only, North Somerset should seek to impose this standard from the start of any future developments. The working group would find it problematic if the first units did not contribute towards this aim.
· Plans for permeable surfaces must be put in at an early stage.
· Local combined heat and power plants have been implemented successfully in a number of new developments across the country, for example in Peterborough City Centre. Some use anaerobic materials/waste instead of woodchip – it depends on availability of different materials.
Building to high densities need not be problematic, but they must be designed carefully:
· High density brings many benefits such as a better basis for amenities, varied housing supply and transportation as well as less use of green field areas to accommodate developments.
· Areas with a high number of dwellings per hectare (dph) do not necessarily appear dense – it depends on the design and size of the dwellings. An area with large houses at 30 dph can appear denser than an area with various sized flats at 60 dph.
· But when you build towards high densities, it is crucial to provide a high quality design with excellent public space and adequate car parking that doesn’t dominating the street scene. A robust design code can help local authorities achieve this.
If carefully designed, dwellings can be homes for a lifetime. For example, by leaving a room in the loft for a future extension, and by using internal walls with light steel frame infill and moveable partitions, dwellings can be altered to meet people’s needs as they change through life.
For the extension to Weston super Mare and the new development in Yanley to be successful, the infrastructure has to be appropriate and ready to meet the needs of about 40,000 new residents. The railway has a major role to play, but is it possible to increase the current capacity? The working group has made the following observations:
5. AREAS THE WORKING GROUP STILL NEEDS TO ASSESS
The working group still needs to consider the detailed policies that will form part of the Local Development Framework, including:
1) Living within Environmental Limits
2) Developing Strong and Inclusive Communities
3) Developing a Prosperous Economy and Enterprising Community
4) Ensuring Safer Communities/Improving Health and Wellbeing
5) (Developing and Retaining Healthy and Safe Communities)
The Working Group decided not to carry out consultations with residents, as this they would be very likely to duplicate the consultations, which council officers have carried out from the beginning of the project.
7. Financial Implications
Future developments in North Somerset have substantial financial implications for North Somerset. These could be positive as well as negative depending on aspects such as
· the quality of the urban design and how successful this is in generating employment opportunities and economic growth
· the outcome of the negotiations with our developers
· the ability to raise additional funding for facilities and infrastructure.
8. RISK MANAGEMENT
See officers’ report.
9. Equality Implications
The design and delivery of urban extensions and other developments in North Somerset have immense impact on how equal residents and employees will be. For example,
· will the new areas provide housing for all ages, physical needs and incomes?
· will all residents have access to nearby green space, facilities and local shops?
· will there be leisure facilities for all age groups, including young people?
· will the developments cater for those who are unable or unwilling to drive private cars by ensuring that everyone has access to alternative ways of transport?
· will everyone have access to sustainable housing, where carbon-neutral designs allow heating and energy bills to be at a manageable level?
· will all new employment sites be accessible for people with physical disabilities?
10. Corporate Implications
New developments and particularly large urban extensions have implications for the council’s service delivery.
11. Options considered
The Working Group has considered adopting a more traditional approach to urban extensions, but rejects this option as it would lead to
· more car traffic and congestion
· more dormitory suburban developments with little public space and social cohesion
· large, negative impacts on our environment
· unfortunate divisions of affordable and private market housing.
Working group membership:
Cllr Clive Webb (chairman)
Cllr Tony Moulin
Cllr David Pasley
Cllr Dr Mike Kellaway-Marriott
Cllr Bob Cook
Scrutiny and performance Officer
( 01275 88 4282
 “Rush hour” is defined as the three hours between 7am and 10am.