North Somerset Council
RECOMMENDATIONS and details
The Working Group has given officers advice on the content of the Core Strategy prior to consultation in accordance with the statutory process.
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 new development and how successful this is in generating prosperity, employment opportunities and economic growth
· ability to negotiate effectively with developers
· ability to fund and deliver facilities and infrastructure
· impact on future service delivery.
The design and delivery of urban extensions and other developments in North Somerset have immense impact on all residents of North Somerset. For example,
· will the new areas provide housing for all ages, physical needs and incomes?
· will all residents have easy access to nearby green space, facilities and a range of local shops?
· will there be leisure facilities for all age groups, physical needs and incomes, including young and old people?
· will the developments cater for those who are unable to drive private cars or wish to reduce car use by ensuring that everyone has access to alternative ways of transport?
· will everyone have access to sustainable housing, where carbon-neutral designs allow heating, energy and water bills to be at a manageable level?
· will all new employment sites be easily accessible for people with physical disabilities?
The Core Strategy reflects the aims and objectives of North Somerset’s Sustainable Community Strategy and will provide the spatial context for the delivery of the Council’s aims and priorities, such as protecting and improving the environment and enhancing health and well-being.
Large new developments will also lead to changes in geography, demography and demand for service provision.
The Working Group has considered different options for the Core Strategy’s policy areas. Our conclusions are in the attached report.
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
See appendix B to the attached report.
Suggested Recommendations to the Executive:
1) Core Strategy: General
We should avoid phrases such as “should, seek, aim for, strive, ought, aspire and try to” in the strategy. They should be replaced with “must, have to, need to, and required to”, to underline that good quality design; enhancement of the environment; mixed uses and local jobs, and good facilities and infrastructure from day one is a requirement – not an aim.
2) Core Strategy: Visions
The Core Strategy should incorporate the Working Group’s visions for North Somerset (see section 2.2 of the report).
3) Core Strategy: Key Policies
The policies should include the following:
3.1 Prosperous Economy
a) New developments must be mixed use, and to be truly walkable, new developments must include a local/neighbourhood centre for each 1000 residents with facilities such as retail, quality jobs, public houses/cafes and play- and sports-grounds.
b) Actual jobs must be provided before new houses are built.
3.2 High Quality Design and Place Making
(under Developing Strong and Inclusive Communities)
a) Any large development must have a design code to enable North Somerset Council to be in the driver’s seat.
b) Local distinctiveness and iconic aspects of the built and natural environment must be reflected in new developments.
c) New developments must have an intelligent highways design with natural traffic calming features, to ensure safe and inclusive roads, which appear less cluttered.
d) All new developments must adhere to the following principles for parking solutions:
· adequate provision
· parking solutions that remove cars from the street scene
· a road network that incorporates street parking in specific areas
· a road network that allows safe use by pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders .
e) To ensure an open and spacious feel, new high-density developments must have:
· A permeable road network
· Few solid walls
f) Characteristic buildings, workplaces and art must be provided from the outset of a new development to avoid conflict by introducing them after people have moved in.
3.3 Affordable Housing
(under Developing Strong and Inclusive Communities)
Affordable housing should be seamlessly integrated into new developments so they are indistinguishable from market housing, and limited to small groups (no more than six dwellings).
3.4 Living within Environmental Limits
a) A new development must enhance the natural environment through area biodiversity action plans.
b) Existing green infrastructure must be the starting point for all new developments and we must create wildlife corridors throughout.
c) Our Core Strategy should indicate the proportion between hard-surface sites and green space, which the council aims for within new developments. The Working Group believes we should aim for 1 ha of green space for every 2 ha of hard-surfaced sites.
d) Path network must link with green infrastructure where possible.
e) Public transport and a comprehensive, strategic path network must be provided throughout new developments from day one.
f) In light of their size and impact on the local carbon footprint, new major development schemes should be zero-carbon from day one.
3.5 Governance (not included in current draft policies)
New developments cannot take place without a management structure that clearly places responsibility for maintaining public spaces and facilities. There should be a plan for involving residents in the management structure.
4) Other Planning Documents
The working group recommends that the council considers whether supplementary planning documents are the best format for providing details for the developments. The working group have the view that area action plans might be better suited.
In this report the Core Strategy/Urban Extensions Working Group presents its final input to the development of North Somerset’s Core Strategy.
The group has examined developments around the UK to answer the question:
What should North Somerset’s Core Strategy look like in order to be a strong tool in our efforts to ensure that future developments in the area are of high quality and sustainable?
The Working Group finds that a high quality and sustainable development is a place with character; an inclusive community where people live and work – a place people are proud of.
To achieve this, the following six principles must be applied:
Ø Sensitivity to and enhancing the environment
Ø Thriving local economy and jobs
Ø Appropriate education, cultural, leisure and health facilities
Ø Good transport links – including cycle- and footpaths and space for horse riding
Ø Good quality design of individual buildings as well as the place as a whole
Ø Good governance with clear lines of responsibility for maintaining public facilities, buildings, roads, parks and open spaces.
The Core Strategy must include all six in order to be a strong tool in securing sustainability and high quality.
The Working Group has translated the six principles into more concrete recommendations, which the group urges the Executive to take on board when considering the final Core Strategy. Key findings are:
1) Any further residential development in North Somerset (and particularly Weston-super-Mare) must be employment led: the current transport network can not absorb large numbers of new commuters, and can not be expanded in the short- to medium term. Quality employment must also be provided on new development to reduce current transport network loading and take out-commuting vehicles off the M5 Motorway. New local employment opportunities are also the key to providing lively communities, which are environmentally sustainable.
2) A place will only develop into a lively community if there are spaces and facilities where people can meet and engage with each other, including green and open spaces, pubs and cafes, playing fields and other inclusive leisure facilities.
3) The infrastructure for a new community must be provided in step with new development, with an intelligent road and parking design, public transport and paths, which link the whole area together and provide easy access to neighbouring communities and the remainder of North Somerset.
The Core Strategy will help us achieve high
quality and sustainable developments by incorporating the Working Group’s
detailed translation of the six principles. The strategy needs to establish in no uncertain terms that the only
types of developments we will accept in North Somerset are those that will be
carried out according to these principles.
Since July 2008 the Core Strategy/Urban Extensions Working Group has examined:
How North Somerset Council can ensure that future developments in our area are of high quality and sustainable?
In this third and final report we focus on:
What North Somerset’s Core Strategy should look like in order to be a strong tool in our efforts to ensure that future developments in the area are of high quality and sustainable?
This report will answer this question by addressing the following issues:
1. What is the Core Strategy?
2. What is a high quality and sustainable development and what are the barriers to achieving them?
3. How can the Core Strategy help us achieve high quality and sustainable developments?
The Core Strategy is the first of a handful of documents comprising the council’s Local Development Framework, which replaces the Local Plan (see appendix D).
The Core Strategy sets out the spatial vision for North Somerset, and will be the starting point for making decisions on planning applications.
The strategy sets out the planning vision and framework for North Somerset up to 2026. It must reflect national and regional policy, such as the draft Regional Spatial Strategy, and will provide the context for more detailed development policies. It addresses the following key issues:
Ø The overall vision for North Somerset, including establishing local distinctiveness.
Ø Where we accommodate and how we deliver the 26,750 new dwellings, which the draft Regional Spatial Strategy has allocated to North Somerset for development by 2026, including settlement hierarchy and areas of restraint and of substantial growth (such as urban extensions and new settlements).
Ø Policies to establish:
- How we ensure development is environmentally sustainable, including transport and green infrastructure.
- How we develop strong and inclusive communities, including meeting housing needs of all sectors of the community.
- How we develop a prosperous economy, including a better homes/jobs balance and better quality jobs.
- How we develop safe and healthy communities, including leisure, education and health facilities.
Ø How we fund and deliver developments so they adhere to the principles of the Core Strategy, including phasing and developer contributions.
The Working Group has focused on
Ø Local distinctiveness – the visions for North Somerset as a whole, for the four key towns, the villages and our rural areas.
Ø How we accommodate 26,750 new dwellings, particularly the 18,000 which will be developed through 1) an urban extension to Weston-super-Mare and 2) a new settlement in Yanley/Ashton Vale southwest of Bristol (9,000 each).
Ø The key policies, which are relevant in relation to the urban extension/settlement as well as other, smaller scale developments.
Throughout, the Working Group’s aim has been to ensure that new developments are of high quality and sustainable.
A sustainable development is a place where people want to live and work, now and in the future – places that can endure the passage of time without losing their attractiveness and functionality. A widely-used and accepted international definition of sustainable development is:
'A development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'.
The Working Group has a vision for North Somerset: it would like to see
future developments – large and small – that have character; and that develop into places with lively and inclusive communities where a variety of people live and work. That they become places people are proud of living in.
The Working Group’s investigations have been driven by a wish to identify the components necessary to create such places. We want more than yet another commuter-town or bland neighbourhood with little character of its own.
One of our main findings is that high quality developments require more than well-designed houses built to a high specification. The sum of the buildings, uses, infrastructure, and public spaces must allow residents to live sustainable lives. Are the schools walkable and cyclable? Can you safely cycle to the nearest leisure facility? Do you meet other people on the streets? Can you shop nearby? Can you work locally? Is it possible to catch a reliable bus into the town centre? We have found that the following factors are crucial:
Figure 1. Six Principles of Good Quality and Sustainable Development
Providing these factors is not straightforward. Negotiating contributions towards infrastructure and facilities with developers is often a big challenge, but a more basic problem is that the six factors do not necessarily go hand in hand. Unless we find the right balance between them, they could cancel out each other. For example:
Even if you get the balance right, there is still no guarantee that the development will turn into a place with character. However, the Working Group has found that the right principles go a long way.
The six principles above can only be implemented in the context of a vision for the area. A design can be technically good, but if it is out of character for an area or very different to what people expected it’s unlikely to be a popular place to live. It’s therefore crucial that we have visions to guide the design, character of and types of use within new developments.
We need visions for
· North Somerset as a whole
· Existing settlements
· New settlements and urban extensions.
The Working Group would like to give North Somerset a stronger identity, setting it out from surrounding areas; to make it a place in and of itself; not just a collection of commuter-towns serving Bristol. We would like a vision that:
Ø Preserves North Somerset’s character of “coastal and market towns and villages in a rural setting”. Our green areas are a very important component of this identity, and as such we must oppose any development within green belts. North Somerset is a beautiful place to live and work.
Ø Emphasises that North Somerset is the part of Somerset which historically has been able to adapt quickly to innovation and attract high-tech manufacturers along with a highly skilled workforce. We need to resurrect this image with a large increase in local high quality employment opportunities, and a raised profile as a leading, cutting-edge tourist destination.
Our towns and villages
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. Our visions for these towns should include improved public transport, particularly for Portishead and Clevedon and between all the towns. We should also aim to raise their profile as tourist destinations and seek to improve Nailsea’s status as a market town.
For Weston-super-Mare, the Working Group recommends that our vision goes beyond the wish to improve employment opportunities. Although this is crucial, we should also look to improve Weston’s cultural life, and to ‘beautify’ the town. Indeed, this could be an integral part of the overall strategy to create more quality jobs.
There is also scope for improving the retail area, and to introduce a stronger identity for different zones within: the Town Centre; the beach; the current retail area from the High Street by Grove Park down to Dolphin Square; and the gateway area around the main train station and Locking Road car park. Currently, particularly the gateway to Weston lacks style and purpose. The vision for this area must go beyond “intensifying office and other developments”: we need to develop a vision that explains the purpose and future use of the gateway.
There should be very limited scope for further development within our villages and open countryside. A development should only be permitted if it meets a clearly demonstrated local need within a village, such as creating a greater variety of local housing options or enhancing local services. If developments do take place, their design must match the character of the existing development.
New settlements and urban extensions
The urban extension to Weston-super-Mare and the new settlement Yanley/Ashton Vale are opportunities to deliver high quality sustainable communities from day one. It is crucial however, that they reflect our visions for North Somerset and for the local areas in particular.
In Weston, the urban extension must supplement, not compete with, the existing Town Centre. The new developments should help readjust the existing imbalance between jobs and houses by delivering new high quality employment opportunities. Importantly, the current infrastructure must be improved.
The Yanley/Ashton Vale settlement must be part of North Somerset rather than a suburb to Bristol. It must be a new town in a rural setting, with its own town centre and Town Council, and with strong links to North Somerset’s history and design features.
The six principles above apply regardless of the size of a new development. But how do we flesh them out into something more tangible?
The Working Group has visited sites in Dorchester and Portishead, carried out literature reviews and met with organisations such as English Partnerships (now the Homes and Communities Agency), Network Rail and First, and Natural England to get a better picture of what principles such as ‘good infrastructure’ and ‘enhancing the natural environment’ look like in practice.
Below, the Working Group will translate the six principles above into advice on how to proceed in practice. We will also look at how the council can achieve a balance between the different principles and the barriers we might encounter as we do so.
The Working Group would like to see the observations and recommendations incorporated into the Core Strategy’s “key policies” for new developments.
Principle 1: Thriving local economy
A thriving local economy is part and parcel of a lively, characteristic place. Places where housing and commercial elements mix are more likely to develop into lively communities instead of suburban ghost-towns, abandoned during the day and quiet at night.
New settlements and extensions must have neighbourhood and district centres for retail, office and light industry use as well as entertainment, restaurants and public houses. The number of new centres depends on the development’s size. Based on experiences from Poundbury, the Working Group recommends that a neighbourhood centre serves in the region of 1,000 people, with a walking distance of 400-600 metres or less.
In addition to giving neighbourhoods character and life, local centres and jobs encourage access on foot or bicycle reducing the need to use a car (in so far as a strategic network of paths are provided – see principle 2). This supports the sustainable development principle of living within environmental limits.
In Weston-super-Mare it’s particularly important that new developments are mixed use. Although Weston has attracted many high-tech manufacturers in the past, there is now a lack of high quality jobs, and the town’s highly skilled residents now have to commute to jobs in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. Weston’s out-commuting is massive and takes place along insufficient infrastructure or highways not destined for such use as is the case of the M5 Motorway. Residents already struggle to get to or over the motorway in the morning – with 12-18,000 new commuters the traffic would literally come to a standstill morning and evening.
New large-scale developments and the redevelopment of Weston Town Centre must therefore be employment-led: actual jobs must be created before residential development can take place. To ensure this we need
Ø a strong Local Development Framework starting with the Core Strategy
Ø an excellent Planning Team to drive through this mantra with our developers
Ø a strong economic development strategy and team to attract labour-intensive, high-skill employers to the area.
Principle 2: Good transport links and intelligent road design
A sustainable development has:
Ø An intelligent road design – otherwise the principle of good public spaces, and of safety is compromised.
Ø An infrastructure that serves all road users – if not, it would compromise the principles of inclusion as well as living within environmental limits and enhancing the environment.
Ø Sufficient space for cars and car parking – otherwise cars will dangerously clutter the roads and public spaces, compromising an otherwise good design.
The Working Group was impressed by the road design in Poundbury, an urban extension to Dorchester. Here, highways engineers have used natural features such as road bends and the positioning of buildings to calm traffic instead of traffic lights and other street furniture. Similar ideas guided parts of the new developments in Portishead. As a result, different kinds of road users are able to use the roads at the same time safely. In addition, the roads feel less cluttered, making the distinction between roads and other public space less obvious, adding to Poundbury’s feel of open space.
The Working Group would like to see intelligent highways design mentioned in the Core Strategy’s section on high quality design and place-making. We should aim for ‘natural traffic calming’ in new developments.
Some of Poundbury’s parking solutions have been successful in removing cars from the street scene without compromising the amount of public space. Their parking courts were aesthetically pleasing and could be transformed into other uses during the day, as well as more permanently if in future sustainable transport options encourage households to rely less on private cars. This is also the case in Upton, an urban extension to Northampton. Here, courtyards are semi-public/private areas to be used by residents as communal outdoor space as well as secure cycle and car parking.
Furthermore, both Poundbury’s and Upton’s road design take into account that many people park on the roads. But to prevent cars from dominating the street scene, only parts of the roads are wide enough to accommodate parking.
The Working Group recommends that the Core Strategy’s section on urban design includes principles for parking solutions. These should include adequate provision; parking solutions that remove cars from the street scene; and a road network that incorporates street parking in specific areas.
Public transport links should be agreed prior to finalising the road design and should be running before any homes are occupied. This has been done elsewhere, for example in Dartford’s recent development The Bridge. Grampian (negative) conditions can be applied to secure early public transport provision.
Early provision will not only ensure that all people are connected to the surrounding areas regardless of whether they own a car. It’s also likely to lessen the dependency on cars, particularly if the public transport is reliable and fast. Fast track busways can be the link to success. They have been in Thames Gateway, Kent, where 19% of passengers have switched from using cars.
In other parts of the UK free public transport for a limited period has led to sharp increases in use. At Beaulieu Park in Chelmsford, s106 contributions funded a free travel package for new households. After two and half years, the enterprise has become commercially viable.
Public transport needs to be accessible. In Newcastle Great Park from 1998 no house is further than 400 meters from a bus stop. The council also had clear goals for how much they wanted to reduce reliance on private cars in the urban extension.
However, particularly for the extension to Weston-super-Mare, it is difficult to increase the existing public transport links. The trains are already running to full capacity during rush hour, and it takes 3-5 years to increase the provision. As it will take a couple of years before the new extension starts to take shape, 3-5 years could be sufficient. However, we can only access Network Rail’s funding when the new developments have progressed enough to show that there’s a definite need for further investments. As such, it will be very difficult to ensure that sufficient rail capacity for the new developments will be in place when people start moving in, which makes the provision of quality local jobs from day one even more necessary.
That being said, First Great Western does anticipate a 25-30% increase in capacity by 2016, as the Government releases new rolling stock. However,
· The passenger count for the stations in North Somerset 2008 showed that 6,428 passenger use the trains. If we assume that the trains ran at full capacity on that day, a 30% increase means the train can take an additional 1,928 passengers when the new stock is introduced – far from the new 10-15,000 residents who will need to travel to work, again indicating the need for local jobs.
· From 2000 to 2008 the overall increase in the number of train journeys in North Somerset has been 80%. If this trend continues, the 30% capacity increase will not even be able to swallow the regular growth, let alone the increased demand from 9,000 new dwellings (and the additional 3,000 planned for the existing parts of Weston-super-Mare).
The Working Group realises that the development of a new metro in Bristol could improve North Somerset’s links with the city substantially, and help increase capacity on our local trains. It is therefore important that the council fully support the metro, and puts pressure on regional government to initiate the project.
Buses could carry a substantial number of commuters, and as mentioned, fast-track lanes could make this an appealing alternative to private cars. But most local roads are single-carriageways and as such, there is little scope for reserving lanes for buses outside the new developments – unless we can persuade the Highways Agency to introduce them on the M5, which however is not intended as a commuter route. As such, unless there’s a substantial growth in employment opportunities within Weston, the new developments could lead to highly unsustainable levels of out-commuting by car.
More employment in Weston-super-Mare is crucial to accommodate new residents in more than one sense: not only will it lessen the need for residents in Weston to commute. People in the rest of North Somerset who currently commute to Bristol and South Gloucestershire could be tempted to apply for jobs in Weston instead. This will make the traffic flow on rails and roads more even, freeing up capacity on infrastructure running from south to north.
Providing an intelligent road design as well as paths throughout the new developments will enable people to undertake short journeys by foot or bicycle, particularly if shops and schools are provided in local neighbourhood and district centres. But people will only use paths if they are strategically placed and provide an exhaustive safe network that links all parts of the development and is connected with existing paths in the surrounding area. Half-hearted attempts to provide for example cycle-paths result in random and more or less useless pieces of disconnected path. For example, unless parents feel their children can cycle or walk all the way to school safely they will drive them, adding to the development’s carbon footprint as well as congestion.
Experience from the rest of the UK clearly demonstrates that path-networks that join green corridors and parks are extremely popular – indeed, our local ‘Strawberry Line’ is a prime example of this. Areas with path-systems alongside green infrastructure tend to also be very popular places to live in.
The Working Group therefore recommends that cycle-, horse-riding and walking paths are provided throughout new developments, linking with existing paths, and situated alongside green infrastructure wherever possible.
Principle 3: Living within Environmental Limits and Enhancing the Natural Environment
In new developments
Ø Existing and new green infrastructure must be the starting point for a new development, not just ‘an afterthought’.
Ø Buildings must be zero carbon.
Ø We should introduce local combined heat and power plants to absorb local waste.
Ø We must make best use of sun and shade, water and shelters against the wind.
Starting with the Green Infrastructure
Existing mature landscape should be used to give new developments form. Green corridors should run throughout the area, creating links from one habitat to another. Our Core Strategy should indicate the proportion between hard-surface sites and green space, which the council aims for within new developments. The Working Group believes this aim should be 1 ha of green space for every 2 ha of hard-surfaced sites and the latter should respect the requirements for permeability.
We should also improve the surrounding green areas to mitigate the effects new developments have on the environment and meet our NERC duty, for example by establishing new nature reserves. The Core Strategy should aim not only to conserve but also to enhance our natural environment.
We should aim for the highest rating within the Code for Sustainable Homes – level 6 (zero carbon) – see appendix C for an explanation of the Code.
Building to level 6 will be very challenging. The Government only requires level 6 from 2016, and at the moment it will cost developers between £10-20k more to build to this level compared to level 3, because the supply chain is under-developed. Add the current economic climate to the equation, and North Somerset is aiming very high by asking developers to build zero carbon houses. However, the economic benefits to residents over the lifetime of the houses provide more than adequate compensation for the higher initial cost.
Other local authorities have successfully provided homes to a better environmental standard than the minimum required by the Government, for example the Sherford development in Devon and Upton in Northampton. The Working Group can see no reason why North Somerset shouldn’t strive to do the same, at least within new large-scale extensions and settlements, which will otherwise add substantially to the area’s carbon footprint. With higher energy prices, the extra investment at the outset could be worth the developers’ while in the longer run.
Introduce Local Combined Heat and Power Plants
The UK’s existing centralised heat and power provision is highly inefficient. Approximately 2/3 of the usable energy inside the fossils we burn is lost at the power plants as waste heat, a by-product of electricity generation. The Working Group would like to see North Somerset provide an alternative to this.
By using small scale, local combined heat and power plants the heat that is normally wasted can be utilised. The heat is captured and piped around the district, making our use of resources much more efficient. The plants can be fuelled by waste (or biomass), which produce less CO2 than coal. It would enable us to dispose of waste where it is produced without generating methane, and as an additional bonus, we will save part of our landfill tax and LATS charges. Peterborough and other towns in the UK have successfully established local combined heat and power plants.
Making Best Use of Sun, Shade, Shelter and Water
Intelligent design uses natural features creatively and effectively. In Upton, Northampton, a key design feature is a sustainable urban drainage system, which not only allows for efficient drainage, but also enables rain water to be used in the houses, and provides green infrastructure throughout the development. As the urban extension to Weston-super-Mare will be next to large flood plains, Upton’s drainage system could potentially provide inspiration for the extension’s urban design.
Generally, houses should face south, particularly the rooms people tend to use most. The wind-direction must be considered, and shelters against the wind such as trees and hedges should be provided. Such measures will lower a building’s energy use substantially, making it easier to live within environmental limits.
Principle 4: Good Quality Design
In addition to a design code that reflects local character, good quality design needs to provide:
Ø A feeling of open-space
Ø Characteristic buildings and art
Ø Homes for life
Ø An integrated development where affordable and open market housing sit side by side.
A design code has two components: a three-dimensional plan of the development and written requirements to the buildings. The requirements take into account the local context, and prescribe the character of different parts of the development along with the types of buildings, streets, areas, open spaces and uses we would want to see in the new development. The requirements also prescribe building specifications such as heights, materials, and other details. Finally, the design code can also establish the future management arrangements for the area.
A design code will enable North Somerset to remain in the driver’s seat throughout the development phase, and the Working Group strongly recommends that we develop one for the urban extension in Weston-super-Mare and the new settlement in Yanley/Long Ashton.
It is easier for a landowner than local authorities to enforce a design code. However, we should use a design code as a starting point for a dialogue with our developers and their design teams. Through the dialogue we can highlight the benefits developers will reap from the code, such as higher house prices if the development is well designed. It also assures developers of the quality and character of sites adjacent to their own.
Feeling of Open Space
Good urban design gives a feeling of open space – even when they are built to high densities. By providing green areas, a permeable road structure, vistas, and by avoiding solid walls between houses even high density developments can appear open and spacious.
For example, although in places Poundbury is built to high densities with many three- and four-storey buildings, we never felt enclosed. Rather, the way the buildings relate to each other allows for viewpoints towards a wider landscape from almost every spot. This is enhanced by very few garages and solid walls between or in front of houses.
Sufficient car park provision and natural traffic calming features are also crucial to avoid cluttered street scenes dominated by cars (see above).
Characteristic Buildings and Art
In Poundbury a handful of key buildings set out the area from other parts of Dorchester – and from thousands of other housing developments around the country. In Portishead developers used green space and art to give Port Marine and the Fishing Village identity, drawing on Portishead’s character and history.
The characteristic buildings must be developed from the outset to avoid conflict by introducing large, unusual buildings in an area after people have moved in. This is also the case for industrial buildings and waste sites.
Homes for life
Homes for life are housing units that can be adapted to suit people’s changing needs throughout life. They make it possible for people to stay in their home, even if their situation changes. In addition to giving people the choice to stay in their home as they grow older, in the long run it could also have a positive effect on our social services budget, as the need for minor and major adaptations to houses would decrease.
The Working Group agrees with draft Core Strategy policy “Developing Strong and Inclusive Communities” that 50% of all new dwellings in developments of 10 or more homes must be ‘lifetime homes’.
Indistinguishable Affordable Housing
Large-scale affordable housing estates in particular parts of a town often divide communities, preventing inclusion and equal opportunities and increasing crime.
In successful urban extensions such as Upton in Northampton and Poundbury in Dorchester, affordable housing is pepperpotted throughout and indistinguishable from open market housing. The Working Group finds it imperative that North Somerset follows these examples.
The Core Strategy should establish that affordable housing must be indistinguishable from market housing and limited to small groups of no more than six dwellings. If the Core Strategy makes it possible for developers to avoid building affordable housing under certain circumstances, the criteria for such exceptions should be clearly spelled out.
Principle 5: Facilities
New developments must meet the education, leisure, and local shopping and entertainment needs of the new population. Facilities must be walkable and cyclable and provided in step with the new development.
Principle 6: Good Governance
Most people know a place, which was developed with the best intentions and provided good public spaces and green parks, but where the same parks were vandalised and facilities fell into disrepair over time. A permanent management structure needs to be put in place alongside new facilities to prevent this from happening.
The most successful new communities eventually take over the responsibility for their common areas and buildings. In Caterham Barracks, Surrey, a Community Trust manages the community facilities. The trust was set up with developer support funding (s106). The trust has representatives from the local authority, local businesses, as well as new and existing residents. Northampton has set up a similar company for Upton to manage the communal courtyards and the sustainable urban drainage system.
The Working Group recommends that the council works with developers and stakeholders in new and old communities to set up trusts or other governance bodies to take responsibility for the management and development of public spaces and facilities. This is particularly important in and around affordable housing units.
Good quality and sustainable developments don’t come easy. Clear strategies and development plans are not enough: a strong team of planners working with highways officers and the economic development team to drive hard bargains with developers is crucial.
The planning framework including the Core Strategy is the overarching documents that set the context for future negotiations with developers. The Core Strategy will be the background against which we formulate more detailed policies and guidance, and it is the starting point for making decisions on planning applications. And the Strategy must therefore be strong, clear and concise. The Working Group recommends that
Ø we avoid using phrases such as ‘seeking to ensure developments meet biodiversity targets’. They must meet these targets. Generally, we should replace “should, seek, aim for, strive to, ought to, aspire and try” with “must, have to, need to, and required to”. We must underline that good quality design; enhancement of the environment; mixed uses and local jobs, and good facilities and infrastructure from day one is a requirement – not an aim.
We also strongly recommend that
Ø the six principles we’ve spelled out above are included in the Core Strategy’s ‘Key Policies’ (see details under Recommendations).
Ø the Core Strategy includes Working Group visions for North Somerset and our existing towns and villages (see section 2.2).
Furthermore, through our investigations we learnt that area action plans are an effective tool during negotiations with developers. Area action plans are among the documents in the new Local Development Framework, which have development plan status (alongside the Core Strategy, Joint Waste Strategy and Proposals Map). Currently the council is planning to develop an Area Action Plan for the regeneration of Weston Town Centre and potentially one for Bristol International Airport.
At the moment, the council plans to provide the details for the urban extension and new settlement in supplementary planning documents. Supplementary planning documents spell out the details necessary to implement the high level policies we find the Core Strategy. They are easier and less time-consuming to develop than area action plans. This is crucial, as the council is under time pressure to demonstrate that land will be made available to provide a five-year housing supply. If the urban extension and new settlement are delayed, it could put the council under pressure to provide land elsewhere.
However, the flip-side of supplementary planning documents is that they don’t provide the same protection as area action plans. They are not as strong when negotiating the delivery of the principles above with developers. The Working Group has weighed the risk of delay to the housing supply against the detrimental effects it would have on North Somerset if the urban extension in Weston-super-Mare and the new settlement in Yanley/Ashton Vale were not built to the principles above. Considering, the scale and impact of the two developments, we recommend that the council considers producing Area Action Plans for both developments.
Nationally, a sustainable community is defined as:
Communities and Local Government and English Partnerships (2007): Carbon Challenge Standard Brief
Communities and Local Government (2008): Greener Homes for the Future
Department for Transport (2008): Building Sustainable Transport into New Developments
English Partnerships (2007): Urban Design Compendium 2
English Partnerships, Northampton Borough Council and The Princes Foundation (2008): Upton Site F&G Developer Information Pack
Greenpeace (2008): What Are We Waiting For? A Short Film about Decentralised Energy.
North Somerset Council: Draft key policies and draft Local Development Scheme (2008 and 2009)
TCPA (2008): Best Practice in Urban Extensions and New Settlements
Extracts from Communities and Local Government: Greener Homes for the Future (2008):
What is a Code Home?
Code homes are built to the standards set in the Code for Sustainable Homes (the Code). They are more energy and water efficient, produce fewer carbon emissions and are better for the environment.
Code homes also encourage their owners to live a more sustainable lifestyle and are built in a more efficient way, using materials from sustainable sources. This creates less waste and also means Code homes have lower running costs.
There are nine categories in the Code covering energy, water, the materials used in the home through to health and wellbeing and pollution with points assigned to each category.
When a builder chooses to incorporate a specific feature they are awarded points, which when added together, form the basis of a hotel-style star rating system.
The Code sets minimum standards for energy and water use at each level. The rating a home receives depends on how it measures up in nine categories:
How the Code works
The Code uses a 1 to 6 star rating system to communicate the overall sustainability performance of a new home. A home assessed as 6 stars will have achieved the highest sustainability rating. The results of the Code assessment are then recorded on a certificate assigned to the dwelling which can then be used as part of the Home Information Pack (HIP).
A Code assessment can only be carried out by a licensed and accredited Code assessor. This ensures the rating is independent and trustworthy. In order to build to the Code, a builder needs to hire the services of a Code assessor. They can advise what features need to be installed to achieve different levels of the Code.
The rating ranges from 1 to 6 stars:
Greener homes for the future
In 2006 the Government announced a 10-year timetable towards a target that all new homes from 2016 must be built to zero carbon standards, to be achieved through a step by step tightening of the Building Regulations.
Energy efficiency improvement of the dwelling compared to 2006 (Part
L Building Regulations)
Code level 3
Code level 4
Code level 6
From April 2008, all new social housing must be built to a minimum of Code
level 3. The Code is voluntary for privately built housing. However, also since
May 2008 all new homes are required to have a Code rating in the Home
Information Pack (HIP). This means that homes built to, and assessed against the Code, must include the Code certificate within the HIP.
Homes not assessed against the Code must include a nil-rated certificate of non-assessment in the HIP. These nil rated certificates are available for free from the HIPs website.
Extract from The Local Development Scheme (February 2009).
2. The Local Development Framework
2.1 The Local Development
Framework (LDF) will comprise a ‘folder’ of planning policy documents. These
are known as Local Development Documents
(LDDs) and include the following:
Development Plan Documents (DPDs)
These are the key documents in the LDF because they have ‘development plan’ status and are, therefore, the starting point for making decisions on planning applications. They are prepared with extensive community involvement and are subject to scrutiny by an independent inspector at a public examination.
Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs)
SPDs will be
prepared to provide detailed guidance to explain the policies in a DPD. SPDs do
not contain policies. They are prepared in consultation with stakeholders but
are not subject to public examination.
Statement of Community Involvement (SCI)
The SCI explains how the community and stakeholders will be consulted in the production of LDDs. The Council has already prepared its SCI (adopted February 2007) which is a separate document. It is available from the Council’s Local Planning Team or it can be viewed on the Council’s web-site; www.n-somerset.gov.uk.
2.2 Development Plan Documents are of
several types. For North Somerset the DPDs will include the following (see also
The Core Strategy
This will set out the key elements of the planning framework for the whole of the North Somerset area consistent with national, regional and other guidance. It sets the context for the preparation of the other development plan documents.
Strategy will set out the boundaries of the Urban extensions at Weston and
South West Bristol which have been proposed in the emerging Regional Spatial
Strategy (RSS). The programming of the Core Strategy will have to be aligned with
the adoption of the RSS to ensure that it reflects the scale of development
proposed for the District.
Area Action Plans
These will cover areas of significant change where there will be a focus on implementation. An Area Action Plan will be prepared for Weston-super-Mare Town Centre.
Joint Waste Core Strategy
The Joint Waste Core Strategy is being prepared jointly with Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset Councils.
This will show
the policies and proposals of DPDs that apply to specific parts of the North
The LDS sets out the priorities but it can also indicate what might be undertaken as future work as progress is made in reviewing the LDDs in the scheme. This applies to the North Somerset Waste DPD
While the Joint
Waste Core Strategy will set the strategic context for waste matters, there may
be some local issues which are not fully covered. Should this be the case these
local issues would be addressed in the North Somerset Waste DPD. Its scope will
depend on what issues are not covered in the emerging Joint Waste Core Strategy
and the need to include the North Somerset Waste DPD in the LDS will be
2.3 Supplementary Planning Documents will be prepared for a number of key issues including the new development areas proposed in the emerging RSS at Weston and Yanley/Ashton Vale.
 The Regional Spatial Strategic has not yet been adopted, and as such 26,750 is yet to be confirmed. The Working Group would like to see the figure reduced, but realises it’s likely to remain the same. This report is therefore based on the assumption that North Somerset has to accommodate 26,750 new dwellings by 2026.
 The Highways Agency doesn’t support short-distance commuting along motorways, such as journeys from North Somerset to Bristol and South Gloucestershire. As such, they are unlikely to increase capacity around the main junctions to ease the pressure on the slip-roads during rush hour.
 The trains do not run to full capacity throughout the day and as such, the actual additional capacity during a full day is likely to be higher than 1,928. However, the trains do run at full capacity during the mornings and afternoons. And as the number of rush hour passengers must be less than the 6,418 which is for a whole day, the additional capacity for commuters travelling from North Somerset to Bristol is actually likely to be less than 1,928.
 Based on the annual passenger counts North Somerset Council carries out every year. According to Severnside Community Rail Partnership, the growth for local services around Bristol is approaching 9% a year.
 According to English Partnerships, who are pioneers in building carbon neutral and zero dwellings.
 Greenpeace (2008): What Are We Waiting For? A short Film about Decentralised energy.
 English Partnership’s advice.
 Interview with English Partnerships.
 Provided the urban extension and new settlement are approved in the Regional Spatial Strategy.