Joint Spatial Plan: Issues and Options

1. Introduction

Help shape the future of our area

1.1 The West of England (WoE) currently faces a key challenge; how to develop and deliver new homes, jobs and infrastructure to create viable and attractive places, while protecting the environment and quality of life. The local authorities of Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, North Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council have joined forces to prepare a new Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) to tackle this challenge.

1.2 Our ambition is that through better cooperation and collaboration we can deliver sustainable economic growth and enterprise, supported by public and private investment, and achieve a better quality of life for all our citizens. To meet this ambition there needs to be an effective land and housing market that keeps up with growing housing demand and provides affordable homes. Through this we can support a dynamic, productive economy that recognises the character and identity of individual communities, delivering more innovative, resilient, liveable, and connected places.

1.3 Looking ahead to 2036 and covering the combined administrative areas of the four Unitary Authorities (UAs) the plan's overall purpose is to identify:

the housing land requirements for the Wider Bristol Housing Market Area (HMA) (Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire) that will need to be met across the WoE;

the employment land required within the WoE Functional Economic Market Area (FEMA);

the most appropriate locations for the housing and employment growth needed; and

what transport improvements and other infrastructure investment will need to be made in the Plan area to support sustainable growth.

1.4 We want the preparation of the JSP to be an open process. At the heart of this is building a common understanding of the pressing need for new housing and the benefits that new development will provide including transport improvements, and the opportunity to address inequality of access to homes and jobs. The challenges involved and the Vision we have for the WoE are set out in more detail in Chapter 2. To achieve our Vision the choices made will need to demonstrate that they address the critical issues identified.

Why is it important to work together on Planning and Transport issues?

1.5 We understand that many people feel passionately about where they live and the impact new growth might have on their local communities. However, the UK has not built enough homes to keep up with growing demand. The scale of the issues to be addressed will require a strategic approach. In the WoE, we need to take steps to ensure more homes are built of the right type and mix, and in locations that people and businesses need. Many young people and families cannot afford their own homes while other people are living in homes that are too large for them with no realistic alternatives. It is important that the housing market enables a flexible labour market to support a productive economy. Businesses should be able to locate where they can be most efficient and create jobs, and enabling people to live and own homes close to where they work.

1.6 In order to achieve a competitive, collaborative and growing economy with sustainable prosperity and a good quality of life it is important to invest in housing, transport, health care, education and community facilities, public open spaces, and ensure sufficient land is available to support business. Going forward this planning requires cross-boundary working and co-operation. It's also important that planning for delivery of future homes and jobs is undertaken alongside strategic transport planning. Therefore to support the JSP the UAs have also commenced a new Joint Transport Study (JTS). This will ensure future growth decisions are made with an understanding of the necessary transport investment needed to achieve sustainable communities. You can find out more about the JTS and the guiding principles that support it on our website.

1.7 By taking this action now the four WoE UAs are using their strategic planning and transport powers to put in place the local plan framework for the homes and jobs that people need. To ensure this takes place in a sustainable way, the four UAs have committed to the following guiding principles that will underpin the preparation of the JSP and the JTS. These are:

      1. Commitment to a plan-led approach to guide future development and secure funding for essential infrastructure consistent with the Government's core planning principles.
      2. That strategic planning decisions are considered jointly as part of the Duty to Cooperate and made locally in a fair and open way.
      3. To balance the need for growth and development with the need to secure enhanced quality of life and a sustainable environmental future.
      4. To 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.
      5. To ensure emerging transport plans for the WoE are integrated with the JSP

What is the Joint Spatial Plan and what area does it cover?

1.8 The main purpose of the JSP and supporting evidence base is to identify the housing land requirements for the Wider Bristol HMA and employment land requirements for the FEMA i.e. the actual number of new homes and amount of employment land that will need to be provided. The JSP will set out the spatial distribution strategy that identifies the best locations for where this new growth should be, across the West of England, to meet the needs of the Wider Bristol HMA. The HMA is the geographical area covered by the three Unitary Authorities of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. This does not include Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES), as Bath has its own HMA. However, as B&NES has a strong relationship to the south east of the Wider Bristol HMA, under the duty to co-operate the four UAs have agreed to work together as there may be a need to accommodate some of the growth of the wider Bristol HMA in B&NES. Spatial options in all four UAs will be equal contenders at the outset of the plan preparation. The JSP therefore covers all four UAs as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The West of England

1.9 Before any final decisions are made a number of key or 'statutory' stages involving extensive public consultation need to be completed. This 'journey' is defined by the procedures set out in the government's planning regulations for how local plans should be prepared. It is also supported by carrying out a sustainability appraisal at each key stage. These statutory stages and the timetable for when they will be completed are presented in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Stages and timetable for JSP preparation

How does the JSP relate to existing Local Plans?

1.10 As a formal statutory Local Plan for the period 2016 to 2036 the JSP will, in due course, carry significant weight and be used to inform key planning decisions.

1.11 The JSP won't replace each authority's own local plans. However, it will provide the overall spatial strategy and level of housing and employment land to be provided in the period 2016 to 2036 to meet the needs of the Wider Bristol HMA and WoE FEMA. This will provide the higher level strategic planning policy framework for each UAs own local plan reviews. The JSP will also identify the strategic infrastructure, including transport, required to deliver the development needs identified. There will be a Key Diagram illustrating the JSP's policies, which will include the locations for strategic growth and the general extent of the Green Belt. Site specific allocations and policy designations will be determined through each UAs Local Plan which will need to be in conformity with the JSP.

What is the Issues and Options stage and how to use this document?

1.12 No decisions have been made yet. This first stage is about hearing your views. To help with this we have put some initial thoughts and ideas together that we would like to seek people's views on each chapter explains more about the issues. There are questions within each Chapter. Responses will let us know your views about:

  • How should the West of England area change over the next 20 years?
  • How should growth be planned, enabled and managed?
  • Where should new homes, jobs and transport improvements be located?
  • Where is it most important to minimise the impact of change?

1.13 Statutory plan making can be a complex and detailed process and it can be challenging to ensure everyone engages in the process particularly when it is at a strategic level and not dealing with specific local issues. However, the JSP needs to be owned by all interested parties and our communities and they need to see their objectives reflected in the programme. To support this, effective public engagement and awareness raising is crucial. Details of the engagement programme that supports the JSP/ JTS is available from our website

1.14 In January 2015 we published a Pre-Commencement Document (PCD). This set out how the four councils intended to undertake the JSP. This was subject to public consultation between January and March 2015. Over 80 people and organisations replied. The comments received and our responses have been published on our websitewhich have helped the four councils prepare for this next stage.

What happens now?

1.15 This is the start of helping people to be informed and to be able to actively participate in helping the four UAs plan for the future growth needs of the WoE. Undertaking this work does not in any way reduce the status of the existing Local Plan Core Strategies and development plan documents used by each local authority to make planning decisions.

1.16 Your views are important and we want to hear from you. Comments and opinions are now sought for 12 weeks from 9th November 2015- 29th January 2016.

1.17 Once this stage is complete the four UAs will review the comments made and will use these to inform the preparation of a draft Joint Spatial Plan.

1.18 Details about how to make comments and become more involved in helping the local authorities of Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, North Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council shape the future of the WoE is set out in Chapter 6