Joint Spatial Plan: Issues and Options

4. Maximising the potential of our urban areas

4.1 In order to deliver sustainable development and a high quality of place, the four authorities believe that the best places to meet the development needs of the future should be within our existing cities and towns; especially on previously developed - brownfield - land. This has been a central plank of our development strategy in recent years and helps to minimise the need to develop on greenfield sites. Regeneration and investment in our built up areas is encouraged and helps to draw on and support existing job opportunities, facilities and services. It is also a more effective way to build upon existing transport infrastructure and to deliver investment in the transport system, particularly cycling and waking initiatives and improved local bus services.

4.2 The government's National Planning Policy Framework identifies that encouraging 'the effective use of land by reusing land that has been previously developed (brownfield land)' is one of the core land use planning principles that should underpin plan development. Ministers have recently announced a range of initiatives that focus on bringing brownfield land into use and have indicated the importance of this source of development opportunities.

4.3 Acknowledging the benefits, there are many challenges and questions in this approach:

  • Are there sufficient and deliverable development opportunities to meet our needs and will they provide the right type and mix of development that is required?
  • What mechanisms are there to bring forward sites that may be challenging to deliver?
  • Is there a danger of harmful over development? What will the impact be on infrastructure, schools, health facilities and open space?
  • How can we ensure the location of employment and housing development helps address social and economic inequality in our urban and rural areas?

4.4 The risks of a reliance on brownfield delivery are clear. If the development does not come forward, will our plans contain sufficient flexibility and opportunity for development needs to be met, when they are needed.

4.5 This chapter explores the opportunities for continuing to make the best use of land in our existing urban areas. It considers where the potential for development may exist. It explores whether the use of brownfield land in the future could deliver even higher rates of development than in recent years.

Assessing the potential

4.6 In recent years a high proportion of new homes have been delivered on brownfield land in urban areas. This process has been aided by new approaches to urban density, and new thinking about the nature of liveable cities and towns and the trends in the type of accommodation we seek.

4.7 The four UAs are carrying out a detailed assessment of the potential of existing urban areas to deliver land to meet development needs. This assessment will be available early next year and will be used to help inform the preparation of the draft JSP.

4.8 The assessment will focus on opportunities within the existing urban areas including Bristol and Weston-Super-Mare, as these areas are most likely to offer brownfield potential. The assessment will also examine opportunities within other sizeable urban areas in the wider Bristol Housing Market Area (HMA).

4.9 Opportunities for maximising the potential of existing land may result for example from:

  • the change of use of non-residential brown field land to residential - where the previous use is no longer required or the most efficient use for the land
  • Identifying land which is currently underused and has potential for residential development
  • Increasing the density of development:
    • on allocated sites by reappraising and increasing their development potential
    • on existing sites where the opportunity for redevelopment arises

4.10 An increase in development within the urban areas will have implications for existing infrastructure, including transport infrastructure and the delivery of sustainable transport solutions. This will need to be taken into account in the work to confirm the future capacity of the urban areas.

4.11 Enabling a step change in the increase in development within the urban area may require the use of incentives to the land owner or developer. What such incentives could be and how they could be used will need detailed work. However, these may include the use of subsidies as set out in Chapter 3 - or the involvement of the Councils and other agencies to enable sites to be made development ready.

How much development could be accommodated in our urban areas?

4.12 Until the assessment is completed, robust estimates are not possible. However, we know that there has been a significant amount of delivery from the urban areas in the past and that this is likely to continue.

4.13 Table 4.1 sets out in a simple form how the Objectively Assessed Need (OAN) for the wider Bristol HMA can be delivered from known sources and where additional sources of development will need to be identified. The greater the proportion of housing which comes from development within existing urban areas, the smaller the need will be for development from other locations. However, it is unlikely that brownfield sites alone will be suitable for all types of housing required to meet the identified needs in the wider Bristol HMA.

Figure 4.1 Anticipated source of development land to meet the Objectively Assessed Need for housing for the period 2016 - 2036

 Figure 4

Note: The detailed quantum of development to be sourced by maximising the potential of our existing urban areas and from locations outside the existing urban areas, is subject to ongoing research.

The 56,000 planned and predicted new homes in the Wider Bristol HMA, have been identified from:

  • existing site allocations, planning permissions and known sites to be allocated (c 44,000 tbc)
  • predicted development arising from small sites during the period from 2016 to 2036 (c.12,000 tbc)

Approximately 60% of the planned and forecast land is anticipated to be brownfield development.


Is our priority of building more homes in Bristol and our main towns appropriate and how can this approach be achieved?

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