Joint Spatial Plan: Issues and Options


As the Leaders of the four Unitary Authorities which make up the West of England we are pleased to present this Issues and Options document for public consultation.

This is the first stage in preparing our new Joint Spatial Plan (JSP). This document is designed to stimulate debate at this early stage and we can confirm no decisions have yet been made on the future locations for growth and development.

The Plan reflects the strong partnership working we have in the West of England to deliver sustainable economic growth and achieve a high quality of life for our communities.

In 2014 the four Councils agreed a formal Memorandum of Understanding, pledging to work together to understand and plan strategically for the future development needs of the sub-region. This represented a clear commitment to engage in a statutory plan-making process, now taking shape in the form of the Joint Spatial Plan. At the JSP launch in June 2015 we set out the following commitment, which we reiterate as we enter the Issues and Options consultation phase:

"To ensure that we effectively shape the future of the area and balance competing demands, we will:

  1. Commit to a plan-led approach to guide future development and secure funding for essential infrastructure.
    1. Ensure that strategic planning decisions are made locally in a fair and open way
    2. Balance the need for growth and development with the need to secure enhanced quality of life and a strong environmental future.
    3. Adopt a sequential approach to the identification of locations of growth that makes the best use of our existing brownfield sites and seeks to unlock more previously developed land before greenfield land is brought into consideration.
    4. Ensure emerging transport plans for the West of England are integrated and coordinated with the Joint Spatial Plan."

By preparing the JSP we are formally agreeing to take the necessary steps to ensure that the West of England's housing and employment needs are met in a strategic, considered and inclusive manner. The plan will provide the statutory basis by which local plans within the four authorities will be produced.

We are one of the most successful sub-regional economies in the United Kingdom. If we wish to continue to have a competitive, collaborative and growing economy with sustainable prosperity and a good quality of life for ourselves and future generations then we must also recognise that difficult decisions need to be made in planning for growth.

There is a need to provide more homes. These homes need to be of the right type and mix, in the right locations, and at prices that people can afford. They also need to meet the needs both of local people and local businesses. They need to be supported by the correct infrastructure and be provided in a way which delivers quality living environments.

In doing this we want to create a fairer region for everybody. We want people to have better access to employment, more choice of homes to live in at a range of prices, better infrastructure serving them and a more efficient, less congested transport system that allows residents, businesses and visitors to get around our area with ease. This is achievable, but only through proper strategic planning and cooperation between the four authorities.

The planning process is extremely sensitive and an ambitious growth and investment strategy must be balanced against protecting our environment and retaining our quality of life, which is both an envy of other regions and extremely important to the stimulation of economic growth. In particular, it is essential that we avoid the mistakes of the past such as the top-down Regional Spatial Strategy process which failed to connect with local communities and their aspirations. We need an approach built from the ground up which incorporates the needs of local people and what they want their communities to look like.

The Green Belt in particular has been an extremely effective policy tool for over 50 years. This remains a national policy priority and is highly valued by many communities. There are high quality environments such as the Bath World Heritage Site and the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty as well as local assets to be safeguarded for future generations. An emphasis on maximising the use of previously developed land is an important principle contained within the consultation document, but this must not be translated as 'town cramming.' Nor must it prevent a full and proper debate about how Bristol, Weston and our other towns and villages should grow and expand to create more innovative, resilient, liveable, and harmonious and connected places.

The Issues and Options stage is therefore focused on engaging with communities and stakeholders about the future of the sub-region and how we meet identified needs and realise our objectives. We will be working together to fully understand the results of this consultation exercise before preparing a Draft Plan for consultation in summer 2016.

Leaders' statements

Cllr Tim Warren, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council. "We are committed to the guiding principles that will underpin the preparation of the JSP and recognises that it provides the opportunity for locational options and spatial scenarios to take account of national guidance, in particular in relation to Green Belt policy. This is particularly relevant to the district since the Bath and North East Somerset Green Belt Review 2013, notes that a fundamental aim of Green Belt policy ' to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open' (NPPF, paragraph 79) and an overall conclusion of the review is that all parts of the current Bristol and Bath Green Belt designation contribute to this aim."

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol: "My ultimate goal is to make Bristol one of the world's most liveable cities. It is therefore encouraging that we are working as a city region, planning across local authority boundaries, to deliver the affordable housing we need, land for business growth and the necessary transport and community infrastructure to create sustainable communities. We need to do this whilst protecting our natural environment both within the city and in the surrounding areas.

Cllr Nigel Ashton, Leader of North Somerset Council: "The residents of North Somerset highly value the role of the Green Belt in maintaining the separation of settlements and in defining the character of local communities. We therefore continue to support the importance of protecting Green Belt as an effective long term approach to managing development, while supporting the need for accelerated housing delivery in sustainable locations"

Cllr Matthew Riddle, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council: "We want to build a better future for our children, to ensure they have the same or better access to homes and jobs we have now. At the same time we want to protect our environment, especially the Green Belt. Together, we can do both: we should not shy away from this, but take the initiative and tackle these issues now so that people in every part of the region and future generations can enjoy a sustainable future. The JSP sets out an ambitious twenty year vision for getting the housing with planning consent built at a pace that meets the local need and is affordable, whilst maintaining and building somewhere communities are proud to call their home."