Joint Spatial Plan: Issues and Options

2. Vision, issues & objectives

West of England: Key Facts & Figures

2.1 The West of England (WoE) covers the four Unitary Authorities (UAs) of Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. The WoE is a generally prosperous area with an excellent quality of life and a growing national and international profile.

  • The WoE covers an area of 1,343 km2 with a growing population which currently stands at 1.1 million people, around 90% of which live in urban areas
  • Its economy is worth £26 bn a year and it contributes a net £0.6 bn to the UK Treasury,
  • 22% of employment is within the high tech economy above the average for England,
  • Good connectivity including accessibility to London, the Midlands and the south west, a major airport and port, rail and strategic road network, enabling access to global mass markets, although connectivity to the south is less well defined.
  • It has an outstanding physical environment with two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the only 'whole city' World Heritage Site, coast, areas of international ecological importance and a diverse countryside with attractive market towns and villages,
  • Between 2004/5 and 2013/14 26% of net new homes were affordable in the WoE compared to 30% for England,
  • The WoE has a number of areas which fall within the 10% most deprived nationally.

 

Q1

Have the most appropriate critical spatial issues been identified in addressing housing and wellbeing; the economy; the environment; and transport?

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Critical Issues

 2.2 The Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) has a clearly defined role which is to set out how the much needed new affordable homes and employment land will be accommodated alongside the infrastructure required to support this to enable sustainable growth. Based on the JSP, more detailed land use policies will be set out in the local plans for the four UAs.

2.3 Within this context, and conforming to the national 12 core planning principles as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, a clear understanding is needed of the critical issues that need to be addressed through the JSP. These critical issues inform the vision and the spatial objectives which will guide the JSP policy framework. The issues that the UAs have so far identified as critical to address in the JSP are summarised below.

Housing & wellbeing

2.4 As identified in paragraph 1.5 there is a significant and increasing need for housing in the wider Bristol Housing Market Area (HMA) and particularly for affordable homes (this is quantified in Chapter 4). This is a result of people living longer, more births over deaths, smaller households and in-migration. The majority of the affordable housing requirement is not yet planned for and to achieve these high levels will require a step change in delivery. NPPG notes that affordable housing need is based on households "who lack their own housing or live in unsuitable housing and who cannot afford to meet their housing needs in the market" and identifies a number of different types of household which may be included

2.5 The quality of new housing development has, at times, been perceived to be of poor design and not an integral part of place making. The lack of up front supporting infrastructure has contributed to some poor connectivity and accessibility in these new developments.

2.6 Patterns of development in the past have often contributed to low levels of physical activity, leading to increasing obesity and an increased risk of physical and mental ill health issues, putting a strain on health services.

Economy

2.7 The success of the economy of the WoE has made it a net contributor to the UK exchequer. The Local Enterprise Partnership for the WoE has ambitions for strong economic growth, greater productivity and increased generation of jobs. The existing key employment areas are likely to continue to be the most significant locations for boosting economic growth and for successful future job generation. New locations may also need to be considered to provide for a wider range of supporting service jobs that may not be high in productivity but provide much needed employment to all sectors of the workforce.

2.8 Despite the prosperity of the sub-region, concentrations of deprivation exist in parts of the sub-region such as south Bristol, south western parts of Bath and pockets in the centre of Weston-Super Mare and in some rural areas. In addition, the provision of social and physical infrastructure has not kept pace with housing growth and is under strain in some areas.

Figure 3: Major employment areas

Environment

2.9 The outstanding environment of the sub-region makes a substantial contribution to quality of life and a key driver for why people want to live, work and visit the area. The high quality environment also makes a significant contribution to the economic success of the area.

2.10 Within the WoE, there is a rich landscape which includes two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, coastal areas, woodlands, grasslands and wetlands. The historic environment is exceptional, including, the City of Bath World Heritage Site, ancient monuments, numerous conservation areas and listed buildings. Ecologically, the sub-region is home to protected species, and includes areas with international and local ecological designations. Within the settlements, parks and gardens, allotments, cycle networks, rivers and canals, woodlands and trees all make up a green infrastructure network which serves people and 'wildlife', improving our everyday lives.

2.12 While in the past some patterns of development, design and layout are likely to have contributed to, rather than addressed the problems of climate change. Past development patterns have not always taken account of the need to minimise exposure to flood risk, an issue which is exacerbated by climate change. Flood risk is a threat to realising the economic potential in the West of England particularly within the Enterprise Zone and in some parts of Bath City Riverside and Avonmouth/ Severnside Enterprise Area(s). Future development plans provide an opportunity to contribute to combatting climate change, and reducing flood risk by identifying investment from several partners, utilising sustainable design and materials.

2.13 The JSP at the strategic level will highlight the potential for making more intelligent use of the environment to secure better economic and social outcomes, rather than just considering the environment as a development constraint. Patterns of development which boost and improve environmental assets will have added benefits to society by integrating ecosystem services, offered by the environment. For example, the inclusion of trees and woodlands within development can absorb carbon dioxide and provide shade. Similarly, using green spaces for natural drainage and allowing water to be purified through natural ecosystems is a more intelligent design approach than increasing the likelihood of flood through hard surfaces.

2.14 The Bristol-Bath Green Belt has and should continue to have a significant role to play in maintaining the open countryside in a large part of the WoE and has been a major factor in shaping the location of new development. 48% of the sub-region currently falls within the Green Belt

 

Figure 4: Environmental assets in the West of England

Figure 5: Bristol - Bath Green Belt

Transport

2.16 The inner urban areas have more comprehensive and sustainable travel choices, including by walking, cycling and public transport. Choices are more limited outside the urban areas. These areas often exhibit high levels of car dependency and low levels of public transport use, although people living in the WoE walk and cycle more than in other UK regions.

2.17 There are high levels of traffic congestion, including in Bath, Central Bristol, South Bristol, the northern and eastern sides of Bristol and Weston-Super-Mare. Air Quality Management Areas are identified in parts of the urban areas of Bristol, Bath, Keynsham and Saltford as well as Warmley/Kingswood. There are problems with the 'resilience' of the road network (such as its ability to cope with the impact of unforeseen road closures) and there is limited capacity on the rail network.

2.18 There is an imbalance of jobs over resident workers in central Bristol and Bath and an imbalance of workers over jobs in Weston-Super-Mare, the towns and rural areas with resultant unsustainable commuting patterns.

Figure 6: Key Transport infrastructure in the West of England

Other infrastructure constraints

2.19 Provision of infrastructure in the past has not always kept pace with growth and development. In delivering sustainable, successful and quality places, it is important to consider capacity issues in water and sewerage, electricity and energy supplies. The digital communication needs of our communities and business are also now crucial. Technological change may become increasingly important in supporting sustainable development choices.

Vision for 2036

 2.20 To achieve the delivery of homes and employment land needed for the future, we need a vision and spatial strategy that recognises the character and identity of individual communities and has the ability to make places more innovative, competitive, connected and sustainable through investment in strategic infrastructure. This requires the co-operation of public, private and voluntary sectors and community participation, to facilitate the selection of strategic priorities and projects.

2.21 The WoE Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) sets out an economic vision for the sub-region to 2036. Drawing on this, and the critical issues (set out in paragraphs 2.2 - 2.19), the JSP needs a vision to set the direction for the spatial strategy. This economic vision has been augmented to reflect social and environmental aspirations and the proposed vision is set out below.

2.22 Similarly, a vision has been developed to guide the preparation of the Transport Study. This vision seeks an affordable, low carbon, accessible, integrated and reliable transport network to achieve a more competitive economy and better connected, more active and healthy communities.

Proposed Vision for the West of England Joint Spatial Plan

By 2036 the WoE will be one of Europe's fastest growing and most prosperous sub regions with the gap between disadvantaged and other communities closed and a rising quality of life for all. The rich and diverse environmental character will be integral to health and economic prosperity. Patterns of development and transport will facilitate healthy and sustainable lifestyles. Existing and new communities will be well integrated, attractive and desirable places and supported by the necessary infrastructure. New development will be designed to be resilient to, and reduce the impacts of climate change.

 

Q2

Is our vision the most appropriate one for guiding development and growth in the West of England up to 2036?

Are there any changes you would like to see to the vision?

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Spatial Objectives

2.23 In order to deliver the Vision and to address the critical issues, the development of the JSP will be guided by the following spatial objectives which reflect the defined scope of the JSP.

Spatial Objectives

The spatial strategy should:

Housing & wellbeing

  1. Meet the full need for market and affordable housing in a way which enables demonstration of a 5 year housing land supply within each Unitary Authority
  2. Entail a pattern, location and nature of development which promote healthy lifestyles and creates a sense of community through quality design.

Economic growth

  1. Facilitate economic growth of both existing employment centres such as the Enterprise Zone and Enterprise Areas and in new locations which will most successfully deliver the scale and type of job generation identified in the Strategic Economic Plan for the WoE.
  2. Assist in closing the gap between disadvantaged and other communities

Transport & Infrastructure

  1. Ensure that new development does not exacerbate existing pressures on infrastructure and that the necessary infrastructure is provided.
  2. Focus new housing and employment which facilitate public transport and active travel methods and limit substantial new housing and employment in locations which would exacerbate unsustainable travel patterns.

Environment

  1. Maintain or enhance the environmental quality and the attractive character and identity of the WoE's cities, towns, villages, and countryside and embeds the services provided by the environment into our patterns for sustainable growth.
  2. Respond to the challenges of climate change and minimise flood risk.
  3. Have place making at its heart with high quality design that positively responds to local context and heritage assets.
  4. Maximise the use of brownfield land & minimise the use of greenfield land.

 

Q3

Are the spatial objectives the most appropriate ones for guiding development and growth in the West of England up to 2036?

Are there any changes or are there other objectives you would like to see?

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