West of England Joint Spatial Plan: Towards the Emerging Spatial Strategy

Towards the Emerging Spatial Strategy Document

Spatial Strategy

Further work was been undertaken to develop the spatial strategy. The methodology is set out in the Topic Paper on formulation of the emerging spatial strategy. In summary the process has involved the following 5 stages:

Approach flowchart

This has implications for the choice of strategic development locations (SDL’s) as follows;

  1. Development within existing urban areas
  2. Development outside the Green Belt in close proximity or well related in sustainable transport terms to existing urban centres, especially to the south west and south east of Bristol and adjoining Weston-s-Mare
  3. Other sustainable towns and villages including freestanding settlements
  4. If exceptional circumstances exist, consideration of the sustainability of Green Belt locations

An allowance is proposed to be made for ‘nonstrategic growth’ to accommodate on-going housing development in villages and towns which is needed to enable local communities to thrive. This allowance is for up to 1,000 dwellings each for Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire and up to 400 for Bristol, together this totals 3,400 homes across the plan area. Detailed proposals are intended to be brought forward through each authorities’ local plan.

This approach recognises all aspects of sustainability including growth closest to the central areas and other parts of urban areas where people seek to travel for work, shopping and recreational needs. Sustainability is closely related, but not entirely, to proximity to services and facilities. Other sustainability factors to meet the priorities of the plan also need to be considered including rebalancing economic growth, maintaining and enhancing the environment and retaining the overall function of the Green Belt. A balanced approach has been taken.

The current and anticipated future locations which are significant generators of trips are central Bristol, the existing communities of the Bristol North Fringe, central Bath/Bath Enterprise Zone and Weston-super-Mare. However, this approach which focusses on increasing existing urban development opportunities and expansion will not be sufficient to meet the homes and job needs of the Region over the next 20 years. Additional new sustainable locations will be needed which may include new approaches such as new neighbourhoods, or garden villages. The spatial strategy identifies locations for these, recognising their current proximity and access to central Bristol, Bath and Weston-super-Mare and their potential to utilise existing and new transport corridor opportunities. Evidence shows that due to significant environmental constraints there is no scope to further expand Bath outwards.

Alongside this, it is also recognised that existing towns and larger villages have a role to play in supporting sustainable economic growth. Strategic opportunities have been identified where investment in high profile public transport will assist in delivering sustainable growth.

A sizeable proportion (48%) of the West of England is part of the Bristol-Bath Green Belt. This has significant implications for the spatial strategy, particularly reflecting the strategic priority to retain the overall function of the Green Belt. The advice in NPPF para 83 is “Once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan. At that time, authorities should consider the Green Belt boundaries having regard to their intended permanence in the long term, so that they should be capable of enduring beyond the plan period.”

Technical work and transport modelling show that it is not possible to sustainably accommodate all the identified growth needs entirely outside the Green Belt. The transport impacts cannot be fully mitigated even with substantial investment. Such a strategy would be dependent on some highly unsustainable locations that are very difficult and expensive to mitigate with only sub-optimal solutions. It would also put pressure to locate development in the floodplain, and these issues would impact delivery of such a strategy.

In response to public consultation, the spatial strategy aims to minimise development within the Bristol and Bath Green Belt. However, due to the scale of provision required and the extensive nature of the Green Belt, the plan does include certain sites currently with Green Belt designation. Land is proposed to be released from the Green Belt, south east of Bristol as explained in the Spatial Strategy methodology paper. There may be potential through the plan’s preparation to explore whether areas could be included within the green belt to offset any green belt land released and to ensure no net loss of the overall green belt. There are no firm proposals for any areas to be included in green belt at this time. Finally, the opportunity for a new free standing settlement has been explored. Through the Issues and Options consultation a garden village of Buckover to the east of Thornbury was identified.