Joint Spatial Plan: Issues and Options

5. Spatial scenarios

5.1 The previous chapters set out how we establish the amount of potential development already identified through existing plans and the potential contribution from other sources, particularly the use of brownfield land. Together this comprises about 56,000 dwellings. The starting point is that when compared against the housing need figure identified by the SHMA of 85,000 dwellings this leaves a potential shortfall of about 29,000 dwellings to 2036.

5.2 This chapter explains how the potential new development opportunities to address the continuing need for new homes and employment land are identified. This involves a process of identifying a wide range of strategic locations where new strategic development could take place and then considering how different options might be combined into spatial scenarios. These can then be tested against both the shortfall identified by the SHMA evidence and any alternative growth levels.

5.3 It is important to emphasise that no decisions have been made at this stage as the technical information needed to assess the suitability of potential locations is currently not yet fully available. No preference is indicated for any of the locations referred to in this document and no capacities are identified. All locations will be considered as equal contenders from the start of the process. Whilst a number of the strategic locations may be opposed by local communities other stakeholders it is important that they are assessed as part of a transparent plan-making process. Specific local concerns will need to be considered alongside the strategic need for homes and employment opportunities. The purpose of the Issues and Options consultation is to explain the context and scale of the challenge and set out a framework for the assessment of alternative scenarios to deliver development needs. How locations perform in sustainability terms and potential capacities will be assessed at the next stage of the plan-making process; preparation of the Draft JSP. The views of communities and stakeholders arising from this consultation will also be taken into consideration when preparing the next stages of the JSP.

5.4 It is important to emphasise that given the strategic nature of the document the locations identified are illustrative only and must not be used to imply detailed development proposals. However, it is also important that all reasonable alternatives are considered.

5.5 The purpose of this stage is to indicate the broad strategic locations where development may be possible. The feedback received will help inform the next stage of the JSP where an assessment will be made of the relative sustainability and suitability of different options, and how these might be combined in ways which best address housing needs in accordance with the spatial objectives. They are also the building blocks from which alternative spatial scenarios can be constructed.

5.6 Between them the strategic locations are likely to include the principal areas where new residential and employment growth may eventually be allocated. However, following testing, not all of the defined options will necessarily be suitable to be taken forward and other sites and opportunities will need to be considered as the plan making process progresses.

Classifying the strategic locations

5.7 In order to understand the implications of different potential locations for growth, it is useful to group them in respect of their broad spatial characteristics or typologies. By identifying strategic locations which are broadly similar in terms of their form and function, this helps to draw out the differences between alternative spatial scenarios.

5.8 The range of possible strategic locations can be characterised as follows:

Urban intensification: opportunities to deliver additional development within urban areas. This will be over and above what is currently planned and forecast to be delivered.

Urban extension: planned expansion of the urban area into adjacent countryside.

Town expansion: planned expansion of existing towns detached from the existing urban areas.

New settlement: there are no current proposals for new towns.

Other settlements/locations: covers a range of generally smaller scale opportunities such as village expansion or clusters of sites which together could form a strategic option. This could include options which are wholly or predominantly employment focused.

Dispersed growth: an aggregate of very small scale opportunities, perhaps across a number of villages.

If the West of England (WoE) is unable to address identified needs within the plan area in sustainable locations, then it will be necessary to discuss with neighbouring authorities, through the duty to co-operate, the potential to deliver growth in locations outside West of England.

Identifying the strategic locations

5.9 The strategic locations are sites or clusters of locations put forward primarily by landowners and developers but also from other sources. They represent areas or general locations which have the potential to deliver strategic options in terms of homes and or jobs over and above sites currently proposed in existing local plans or other documents. They therefore represent new development opportunities.

5.10 In order to focus on strategic options a threshold of about 500 dwellings and/or 500 jobs is used as the basis for identifying strategic locational options. It is recognised that there will be smaller sites or combinations of locations which will eventually make a contribution, but the aim of this stage of the process is to identify the principal options.

5.11 The main source for the definition of strategiclocations is the call for sites used to inform the Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA), as well as sites identified from other sources or proposed by the Unitary Authorities (UAs). These may comprise stand-alone proposals or perhaps three or four smaller sites around a settlement which in combination comprise a strategic location.

5.12 At this stage of the process it is important to consider all potential options. However, based on environmental assessments, urban extension options at Bath, where evidence shows development would have an adverse impact on heritage and landscape assets (specifically the World Heritage Site and the Cotswolds AONB) have been excluded as possible strategic locations.

5.13 The schedule below sets out the identified strategic locations - these are illustrative potential opportunities and must not be interpreted as relating to specific sites. They represent locations which could be considered for housing and/or employment uses at different scales of development. While most are likely to be primarily residential there may be locations which are employment focussed such as Bristol Airport.

Table 5.1: Strategic locations: classified by broad spatial characteristics (typologies)

Specific options are not identified for the categories of new settlements (no proposals are currently identified) or growth outside the WoE (as, if necessary, will be determined through the duty to co-operate).

table 5.1

5.14 The general location of these locational options is illustrated on the following map. The colours relate to the broad typography. This provides a visual overview of the pattern of potential development options across the sub-region and provides the starting point for the consideration of spatial scenarios. These must therefore not be seen as allocations - they represent the principal potential strategic alternatives to be considered. Given the character of the dispersed options, these are not depicted on the following diagram.

Mapping the strategic locations

This plan indicates the broad geographical location of all the options identified in Table 5.1. Locations are illustrative only and must not be taken to imply any specific development site or a preference for identified options.

Figure 9: Map identifying potential Strategic Locations

5.15 In order to use the strategic locations to inform the spatial scenarios, it is helpful to have an indication of potential capacity. While some of the possible locations have capacity figures associated with them (for example, proposals put forward by landowners/developers through the call for sites), their presentation in this document is not intended to equate to known development proposals and site capacities. Instead, the approach assumes that the different typologies would generally deliver different scales of growth (an urban extension would be much larger than a village expansion for example) and could deliver a range of growth (low, medium and high). This is a fairly coarse approach as some options may be much more constrained than others, but it provides an indication of potential capacity required at this stage of the plan-making process. The broad assumptions made are as follows:

Table 5.2: Indicative dwelling/job capacities of locational typologies for testing

table 5.2

Note: Given the nature of the strategic planning exercise, the smallest capacity is assumed to be about 500 dwellings/jobs. There are no new settlements currently proposed.

Transport appraisal of strategic locations

5.16 An initial transport appraisal has been undertaken for each of the strategic locations. The assessments have focused on quality of travel choices (and opportunities to reduce car dependence), the scale of congestion in each location and how locational options relate to programmed investments. Consideration has been given to the issues faced at present and in future, based on varying potential scales of development at each location and including emerging technologies such as broadband. Further details can be found in the accompanying transport technical note which is available on our website.

5.17 Urban intensification options would, in general, benefit from the wider range of travel choices available in the urban areas. However, there could be significant impacts on congestion if action is not taken to minimise car use. These options would be characterised by high-intensity development in places with good access by public transport, walking and cycling to jobs and local services. There could be opportunities for promoting largely car-free development to support high-quality place-making and encourage sustainable travel choices.

5.18 The performance of urban extensions will vary, based on their location in relation to existing transport corridors and established urban centres. Proximity to the centre of the urban area is an important criterion, as levels of car use typically rise as this distance increases. Locations next to existing corridors, with the opportunity to provide high quality public transport connections, would be expected to perform better. Conversely, locations poorly related to existing transport networks or requiring considerable new physical and social infrastructure will perform less well. In all cases, there will be a need to provide comprehensive transport packages to provide a good range of travel choices and mitigate the impacts of additional traffic.

5.19 The performance of town expansions could also differ, depending on the quality of current transport choices. Most towns considered have higher than average car use, although areas within these towns that are close to rail stations have slightly lower levels of car use. Again, comprehensive transport packages would be required, although it should be recognised that there could be limited opportunities to improve travel choices, with a greater focus on mitigating the effects of additional traffic.

5.20 In the case of new settlements, it will be necessary to start from a very limited base in terms of travel choices. Large-scale development would be much more likely to create sufficient critical mass to support a strong business case for significant investment in transport improvements, which could include new rail stations and new bus connections. However, the locations of these developments would still tend to favour travel by car for many journeys and it would be difficult to mitigate the effects of additional traffic on other parts of the network.

5.21 In other settlements, including villages, travel options are limited, although local congestion is, in many cases, less severe than the more urban locations. There are generally limited opportunities to limit car dependency for new developments in these locations. Generally small-scale development would take place with relatively modest packages of transport improvements, but in most cases car use would remain high.


Have all the reasonable strategic locations been identified?

Are there any others we should consider?

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Do you have comments on the suitability of any of the strategic locations?

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In your opinion, do some strategic locations have advantages or disadvantages in terms of addressing the critical issues identified in chapter 2?

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Spatial scenarios


5.22 Combinations of options need to be identified which could be capable of broadly meeting the housing and job requirements identified, consistent with the suggested WoE vision and spatial objectives, as well as reflecting the Joint Transport Study findings, infrastructure requirements and the conclusions of the area profiles. This would then be subject to further testing to ensure they can be delivered.

5.23 The alternative scenarios illustrate different approaches and will eventually lead to a preferred approach. This is an iterative process which will involve testing and refinement of different combinations of locational options and different scales of development in accordance with sustainable development principles.

Defining the spatial scenarios

5.24 Chapters 4 and 5 identified the baseline in terms of existing capacity through the identification of planned and forecast growth and maximising the opportunities for utilising brownfield land, such as through urban intensification. The next stage is to identify a range of spatial scenarios to illustrate how any remaining plan period shortfall might be addressed in a way which most effectively delivers the spatial objectives. The identification of spatial scenarios must not be used to imply any preference for a particular approach. They have been chosen to reflect a range of policy positions in order to emphasise the differences between them. For example, several of the scenarios would require the Green Belt to be amended.

5.25 As a starting point for discussion through the Issues and Options consultation, five theoretical spatial scenarios have been identified to assess different approaches of achieving the vision and spatial objectives. These are:

  1. Protection of Green Belt.
  2. Concentration at Bristol urban area.
  3. Transport focus.
  4. A more even spread of development across the sub-region - growth at Bristol, but also other towns and expanded settlements.
  5. New settlement (or a limited number of expanded settlements).

5.26 Having identified a range of different spatial scenarios, these can then be illustrated using locations set out in the schedule of possible strategic locations. This assists the overall assessment of spatial scenarios by helping to highlight the key differences.

5.27 Each spatial scenario has been assessed in terms of how well it is likely to perform against the plan's spatial objectives as set out in Chapter 3, including the potential to accommodate the housing shortfall as described in Chapters 4 and 5. This initial assessment is set out in the table following the general description of each scenario.

Spatial scenario 1: Protection of Green Belt.

The government attaches great importance to Green Belts and boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances. The WoE Green Belt is highly valued by local communities and has made a substantial contribution to the character and sense of place of the plan area. It prevents sprawl and separates existing towns and villages whilst also encouraging urban regeneration and the use of brownfield land. The objective of the first scenario is to assess the impact of additional growth assuming no change to the existing Green Belt. The extent of the Green Belt within the WoE is shown on the following plan.

The possible strategic locations which could be considered to make up this scenario are simply those locations not located within the Green Belt. Not all of these locations are likely to be required depending on the scale of overall housing requirement and the capacity of individual locations however, the map illustrates a possible approach.

This would increase reliance on the car and impact on commuting patterns.

Figure 10: Illustrative diagram - spatial scenario 1: protection of Green Belt

Table 5.3: Summary of assessment in relation to spatial objectives set out in chapter

Housing & wellbeing

It is anticipated that by using the non-Green Belt locational options, and making realistic assumptions about potential scales of delivery, there is sufficient capacity to deliver the anticipated target of 29,000 dwellings. Should the housing requirement be increased, then additional sources of supply (such as additional sites, new settlements or development outside WoE) may be required. A wide distribution of sites means that plenty of opportunities are available to meet short term needs. This will include further regeneration/revitalisation of existing towns.

Retention of Green Belt means that the focus of development, apart from urban intensification, is further away from the Bristol urban area, resulting in Bristol's housing and affordable housing needs not being met so effectively.


Sites are located at some distance from the Bristol urban area. While there will be local benefits it is potentially less effective at supporting sub-regional growth than other scenarios.

Transport and infrastructure

Some locations outside the Green Belt are peripheral to the main concentrations of population, facilities and services and not generally well related to principal transport corridors. It would be expected that this would result in more commuting, increased reliance on car journeys and less use of other modes than other scenarios. It is also unlikely to provide the thresholds of development that will facilitate substantial new transport investment. Consideration needs to be given to those locations which already have significant growth proposed and the impact of any additional development on the delivery of sustainable places and balanced communities.


This scenario could have a greater impact on rural landscapes than scenarios 2 and 3.

The current extent and form of the Green Belt has played an important role in the planning of the sub-region and there remain significant areas where sustainable growth could be located whist protecting its general extent. This scenario maximises the retention of this valued countryside which acts as a setting for Bristol, Bath, other towns and villages.

However, the use of locations outside the Green Belt means that much of the new development is remote from Bristol, and could be perceived to adding to urbanisation elsewhere.


Spatial scenario 2: Concentration at Bristol urban area.

Bristol is an important and vibrant regional centre and the main focus for jobs, housing, services and facilities within the plan area. The purpose of the JSP is to develop a spatial strategy to meet the needs of the Bristol housing market area. The objective of this scenario is to test the implications of focusing as much growth as possible within and adjacent to the Bristol urban area to maximise accessibility to jobs and services whilst minimising development in other parts of the plan area. The scenario specifically excludes strategic locations located elsewhere across the sub-region.

This scenario would have a significant adverse impact on the current extent of the Green Belt.

Figure 11: Illustrative diagram - major concentration

Table 5.4: Summary of assessment in relation to spatial objectives as set out in chapter 2

Housing and wellbeing

Subject to further testing, there are potential urban extensions which could provide the anticipated shortfall of 29,000 dwellings. Additional growth can be accommodated through additional locations/larger scales of development. Housing will tend to be delivered on large strategic sites, potentially reducing choice and short term supply, although it is well-related to address Bristol's needs. Urban extensions will tend to have long lead-in times and may require significant infrastructure provision and mitigation measures


Growth is focussed on the main economic centre and therefore this scenario has the potential to support the sub-regional economic objectives. New infrastructure will be concentrated at Bristol.

Transport and infrastructure

Beneficial in focussing growth as close as possible to where the majority of needs arise and would be positive in terms of encouraging alternatives to the car, but raises issues about the effective delivery of infrastructure and potential to increase congestion. However, not all the locations would perform equally, dependent on their proximity to the main employment centres and/or the extent of sustainable transport investment which could be justified.


Significant adverse impact on the extent of the existing Green Belt and potential loss of valued countryside on the edge of the city. Potential to result in sprawl and coalescence with existing settlements contrary to national policy if not managed effectively. Will require significant amendment to the inner edge of the Green Belt. The latter could be used to protect key fingers of countryside extending into the urban area

Concentrated development at Bristol will mean less impact in other more rural parts of the sub-region.

Urban extensions may provide the opportunity to implement more significant climate change measures and environmental mitigation through economies of scale.


Spatial scenario 3: Transport focussed - proximity to central Bristol and orientation towards public transport.

This scenario is focussed on locations assessed to perform better in terms of access to sustainable travel choices and likely local and strategic congestion impacts. Urban areas that already have good travel choices are the priority for development. In these locations distances travelled tend to be shorter, encouraging walking and cycling. In addition, the critical mass of people in urban locations supports more viable public transport. A second priority for development are locations closer to central Bristol. A focus on development in south Bristol will help bring housing and future employment together. The third priority would be to allow development at locations that have good rail links into the central areas. It would not be appropriate to propose development at all the potential locations identified, as a smaller number may better support more effective investment in transport solutions. The impact of development on existing congestion within urban areas means that a multimodal package of transport measures is essential to support this scenario.

Scenario includes several locational options which would have a significant adverse impact on the current extent of the Green Belt and the setting of existing towns.

Figure 12: Illustrative diagram - transport focused

Table 5.5: Summary of assessment in relation to spatial objectives as set out in chapter 2

Housing and wellbeing

Scenario could accommodate the 29,000 dwellings. Further growth if evidenced as required, could be accommodated as additional nodes or capacity along identified transport corridors. Development would be delivered through a more limited range of sites than other scenarios thereby potentially limiting choice. It might be more difficult to enable short term housing supply if needed, particularly if major transport investment is required


Developments are well related to Bristol and could provide a range of locations and workers to support sub-regional economic development objectives

Transport and infrastructure

Locations are prioritised which have been assessed to perform better in terms of access to sustainable travel choices and congestion impacts. There would be a combination of intensification, South Bristol focussed urban extensions and public transport focussed development, with further emphasis on walking and cycling, and with appropriate thresholds of development to support significant transport interventions.


This option entails more concentrated development of a larger scale in each location which may help to deliver more substantial environmental enhancement and mitigation.

Green Belt would be significantly affected and is likely to impact on the character and setting of existing settlements - may need to consider a combination of amending Green Belt on the inner edge or along growth corridors. The latter could be used to protect key fingers of countryside extending into the urban area.

Opportunity to create sustainable new communities with good accessibility to urban areas.


Spatial scenario 4: A more even spread of development across the sub-region - growth at Bristol, but also other towns and expanded settlements.

The WoE is a diverse area with cities, towns, villages and rural areas exhibiting a range of qualities and characteristics and experiencing local issues and opportunities. This scenario explores the benefits of either a more even spread of growth across the plan area using a mix of different typologies and/or more bespoke solutions to address local objectives or infrastructure deficits. This could include a mix of urban extensions, town expansions or development at other settlements with perhaps different approaches in different unitary authority areas to reflect local community aspirations.

A greater range of sites is also likely to have housing delivery benefits in terms of providing more variety and choice. No diagram is presented for this scenario as there is a range of different locational options (as illustrated in figure 9) and scales of growth which could be included.

Table 5.6: Summary of assessment in relation to spatial objectives as set out in chapter 2

Housing and wellbeing

Locational options provide choice of sites and at different scales of growth to accommodate the existing housing requirement. Potential to provide a mix and choice of housing sites to support delivery. Could perform well in respect of providing opportunities to address any short term housing need.


Less focussed on Bristol, but potential to support local objectives.

Transport and infrastructure

If the overall effect is a more dispersed pattern of development, then it is possible that this scenario will be much less effective in transport terms, but may provide opportunity for targeted investment in certain areas.


May be some impact on the Green Belt depending on the choice of type and mix of sites identified within any particular area, but overall form and function of the Green Belt likely to remain largely intact. Range of development opportunities could stimulate different urban design solutions.


Spatial scenario 5: New settlement (or a limited number of expanded settlements).

This scenario considers opportunities to concentrate development into a single or small number of new strategic locations which would then complement the overall functioning of the plan area. This could include new settlements which could develop over the plan period and beyond, or the expansion of existing settlements.

Delivery is potentially an issue with this option as there is no current proposal for a new settlement or the major expansion of an existing settlement. Implementation of projects of this nature are likely to have a lengthy lead-in time. As no new settlements are currently proposed, no diagram is presented in respect of this scenario.

Table 5.7: Summary of assessment in relation to spatial objectives as set in chapter 2

Housing and wellbeing

Delivery would be concentrated in very few locations, potential reducing choice, and less well related to meeting Bristol's needs. Proposals are likely to have long lead-in times but could provide growth beyond 2036.

Opportunity to create new mixed and balanced communities.


Potential to create significant new employment hubs.

Transport and infrastructure

Likely to require significant transport and other infrastructure, reducing the ability to address existing issues elsewhere. There will be opportunities to design in sustainable travel patterns.


Potential to create sustainable new communities with their own character and sense of place. Unlikely to be a significant impact on the Green Belt, but will mean a significant change to the local environment.


5.29 The JSP will need to identify the best and most effective approach for the location and delivery of additional strategic housing and employment taking into account the range of spatial scenarios and their assessment in relation to the plan's objectives. Further testing of the constraints and opportunities of each scenario will be required before any decisions are made. This will be undertaken as part of the preparation of the Draft JSP.

5.30 If it is concluded that the housing requirement should be greater than the objectively assessed need identified, then additional strategic locations may be needed in the agreed strategy. Likewise, preparation of the JSP might conclude that meeting the full need might cause too much environmental harm and therefore it is inappropriate to seek to deliver it. In this case, the local planning authorities in the WoE will need to liaise with adjoining districts to ascertain their capacity to assisting in housing delivery



Which spatial scenario (or mix of scenarios) is likely to best deliver the plan’s objectives?

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If a new settlement is a solution, how big should it be and where would you suggest it could go?

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What transport improvements or measures would be required to support the scenarios?

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