Joint Spatial Plan: Issues and Options

Spatial Scenarios

The West of England needs to build 85,000 homes by 2036. Around 56,000 homes are already “in the works”, with planning permission or sites already identified and allocated for housing use. So where could the remaining 29,000 homes be built?

Taking into account national policy, here are five different scenarios of the ways that this amount of development could potentially be delivered. Each of the scenarios is judged with how they would impact in four key areas: housing and wellbeing; economy; transport and infrastructure; and environment.

Housing and wellbeing: The plan should account for enough new and affordable homes to meet needs until 2036 whilst ensuring enough short term supply to provide flexibility and choice on a local level. . The pattern, location and nature of development should promote healthy lifestyles.

Economy: It should support economic growth of existing employment centres and in new locations able to support the scale and type of job generation identified in the Strategic Economic Plan for the West of England.

Transport and infrastructure: It should ensure new development is provided with the necessary infrastructure and should not exacerbate existing pressures. New housing and employment locations should facilitate public transport and active travel methods, rather than exacerbate unsustainable travel patterns.

Environment: It should maintain and enhance the environmental quality, attractiveness and character of the West of England’s towns, cities, villages and countryside and respond to the challenges of climate change. The use of brownfield land should be maximized.

Scenario 1: Protection of the Green Belt

BACKGROUND: There is a Green Belt around Bristol and Bath which covers nearly half of the West of England. The Government attaches great importance to Green Belt areas and boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances. Our Green Belt is highly valued and has made a substantial contribution to the character and sense of place within our area.

In addition to development within our urban areas there are areas outside the Green Belt where growth could be located.

Green BeltTHE CASE FOR: Retention of the Green Belt prevents urban sprawl, demarcates existing towns and villages in the Green Belt and encourages regeneration and the re-use of brownfield land.

However, it is possible that not all the new homes required can be provided elsewhere within the area, which could lead to some changes to the Green Belt.

The impact on things like the supply of affordable homes, investment in transport and potential increase in commuting are all factors that would need to be considered here.

There remain significant areas where sustainable growth could be located while protecting the general extent of the Green Belt.

ALTHOUGH: There is a wide distribution of potential sites, meaning that delivery of housing would most likely be consistent over time. Development outside the Green Belt could add to the urbanisation of other areas and mean that development would be more remote from Bristol, making the case for transport investment stronger.

KEY IMPACTS? Green field land close to Bristol is retained, but development beyond the Green Belt would be potentially less effective at supporting sub-regional growth than other scenarios and could lead to a rise in commuting.

Scenario 2: Concentration at Bristol Urban Area

BACKGROUND: Bristol is an important and vibrant regional centre, and the main focus for jobs, housing, facilities and services in the West of England area. It is thus seen by many as the main economic driver, the engine of growth for the whole area. The objective of this scenario is to test the implications of focusing as much growth as possible within Bristol.

ConcentrationTHE CASE FOR: By focusing as much growth as possible in and around the urban Bristol area, it will maximise accessibility to jobs and services. Concentrating development in Bristol would mean less impact on more rural parts of the West of England.

ALTHOUGH: Housing would be delivered in large sites, potentially reducing choice. Urban extensions require long lead-in times and may require significant infrastructure investment. It could also impact on the inner edge of the Green Belt.

KEY IMPACTS? There could be changes to the inner edge of the Green Belt which could have a significant impact on the countryside surrounding Bristol. The impact on transport could be mixed, with shorter travel times and alternatives to the car available, although it has the potential to increase congestion and may require significant infrastructure investment.

Scenario 3: Transport Focused Development

BACKGROUND: This scenario is focused on locations judged to work due to their access to sustainable transport choices - urban areas that already have good travel choices are the priority for development. There could be a combination of urban intensification, South Bristol urban extensions and public transport focused development.

THE CASE FOR: Commuter distances tend to be shorter, meaning more walking and cycling, while there could also be a focus on locations with rail access. In addition, the critical mass of people in urban areas supports more viable public transport. It's an opportunity to create sustainable new communities with good accessibility to urban areas.Transport

ALTHOUGH: The impact of development on congestion is a factor that cannot be ignored, and means that a package of transport measures is essential to support this scenario. The need for transport investment first means it might be more difficult to deliver homes in the short term. It could also mean changes to the Green Belt.

KEY IMPACTS? It scores well on housing and wellbeing, economy and transport and infrastructure, but could have an impact on parts of the Green Belt and on some areas of the countryside outside the Green Belt.

Scenario 4: A more even spread of development - Bristol and other towns

BACKGROUND: This scenario explores the benefits of a more even spread of development across the area, rather than focusing mainly on Bristol - recognising the West of England is a diverse area with a wide range of towns, villages and cities each possessing different qualities and offering different opportunities. This scenario could use different locations for development, potentially including a mix of urban extensions, town expansions and development in other settlements.

THE CASE FOR: A greater variety of locations could mean homes are built more quickly and could help to support development in different areas. It could also respond to local community needs in locations across the West of England. A greater range of sites is also likely to have housing delivery benefits in terms of providing more variety, choice and increasing house building levels.

ALTHOUGH: This scenario may be much less effective in transport terms and some alteration to the Green Belt may be necessary.

KEY IMPACTS? This scenario could be less effective in transport terms but may provide the opportunity for targeted investment in certain areas. In terms of the economy, it is less focused on Bristol, but has the potential to support local objectives.

Scenario 5: Focus on a new settlement or a limited number of expanded settlements

BACKGROUND: This scenario considers opportunities to concentrate development into a single or small number of strategic new locations which would complement the overall functioning of the plan area.

THE CASE FOR: This scenario would see settlements – villages and small towns, existing or new - expand over the lifespan of the plan and beyond. It’s an opportunity to create new, balanced communities, and there is also the potential to develop significant new employment hubs. There is unlikely to be a significant impact on the Green Belt.

ALTHOUGH: Delivery is potentially an issue: there are no current plans for a major new settlement within the plan period. It is likely to require significant investment in transport and other infrastructure, reducing the ability to address pressing issues elsewhere. It would mean a significant change to the local environment where a new settlement is located.

KEY IMPACTS? Potentially long lead-in times mean that this scenario doesn’t score well on housing and wellbeing in the shorter term, and it would also require a lot of transport and infrastructure investment. It does score well on economy however, as it has the potential to deliver new employment.

By Penny Adams 1 year ago