West of England Joint Spatial Plan

West of England Joint Spatial Plan: Publication - November 2017


The Plan area

1. The West of England (WoE) covers the four Unitary Authorities (UAs) of Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES), Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. This is the Plan area for the JSP as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: West of England Plan area.

Fig 1

Housing Market Areas

2. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires local plans to be informed by a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) in order that there is a clear understanding of the needs of their area. The first required step is to establish the Housing Market Area (HMA).

3. The SHMA identifies two separate Housing Market Areas that operate across the West of England. One focussed on the wider Bristol HMA, which includes Weston-super-Mare as a sub housing market area, and the other focussed on Bath.

4. The JSP sets out the housing target across the whole plan area (encompassing all four Unitary Authorities) based upon meeting the needs of both the wider Bristol HMA and the Bath HMA. Further information on housing need is set out in Chapter 4 alongside Policy 2.

5. The diagram below show both the technical HMAs and the functional HMAs in the West of England.

Figure 2: Functional and Technical Housing Market Areas (HMA) in the West of England

Fig 2


Functional Economic Market Areas

6. The Economic Development Needs Assessment (EDNA) has defined the West of England (encompassing all four Unitary Authorities) as a Functional Economic Market Area (FEMA). This is because there is a high level of people, almost 90%, who live in the area and also work in the area.

7. The JSP sets out the current and future strategic employment locations 2016-2036 that are needed to support the job forecasts which underpin the West of England's economic aspirations. Furthermore, detailed work will be undertaken in local plans to ensure local needs are met in the context of local market conditions. This will include identification of economic priorities and options for the distribution of employment land supply. Both the HMA and FEMA evidence show a high level of functional containment within the WoE geographical area. The WoE therefore performs strongly as a geographical unit and this provides an effective basis to plan for a sustainable spatial strategy for the Bristol City Region.

8. The WoE is a generally prosperous area with an excellent quality of life and a growing national and international profile.

West of England Key facts and figures

    • The West of England covers an area of 1,343 km2. It has a growing population which currently stands at 1.1 million people, around 90% of which live in urban areas. The three principal urban areas are Bristol (617,280 pop), Bath (94,782 pop) and Weston-super-Mare (84,452 pop).
    • Its economy is worth £31bn a year and makes a net contribution to the UK Treasury.
    • 22% of employment is within the high-tech economy above the national average.
    • 44% of the population has higher level skills Level 4 or above. There are skill gaps in the workforce at entry level and Level 2 qualifications.
    • There is good connectivity including accessibility to London, South Wales the Midlands and the South West, a major airport and port, rail and strategic road network, all of which enables access to global mass markets.
    • The WoE has an outstanding physical environment with two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the only UK 'whole city' World Heritage Site, coast, areas of international ecological importance and a diverse countryside with attractive market towns and villages.
    • Between 2006/7 and 2016/17 22% of new homes built, were Affordable Homes in the West of England.
    • Affordability ratios (average earnings to average house prices vary across the sub region), UA averages are: B&NES 10.5, Bristol 9.2, N.Som 8.0, and S.Glos 8.4. Compared to the National average of 7.9.
    • The WoE has a number of areas which fall within the 10% most deprived nationally equating to some 83,916 people or 7.8% of the WoE population. These areas are focused primarily in Bristol and Weston-super-Mare.
    • The 2011 census shows that across the West of England around 14% of commuters walk to work and 5% cycle, which is above the national average of 11% and 3% respectively.
    • Bus patronage has increased by 17% since 2008/09, which is against the national trend of decline, although the number of bus journeys per head of population is still below other core English cities.
    • Approximately 2% of commuting journeys are by train.
    • Car based travel still accounts for around two-thirds of commuting journeys in the West of England.


Critical issues

9. Previous stages of the Plan's preparation included public consultation on the key issues and challenges that should be addressed. The comments received have been taken into account and used to inform the Plan's critical issues and strategic priorities. The table below demonstrates what we consider are the critical issues facing the West of England and how these relate to the Plan's spatial objectives and overarching strategic priorities.

Figure 3 Critical issues and strategic priorities

Critical Issue

Strategic Priority

Policy framework


There is a critical need to substantially boost the housing supply, particularly affordable housing of which the need is acute across the Plan area.

1 To meet the sub-region's identified housing needs, in a sustainable way. In particular to make a substantial step change in the supply of affordable housing across the plan area.

1, 2, 3, 7

Delivery of the Plan's housing requirement and affordable housing target (as set out at Policy 1 and Policy 3 in accordance with the Plan's spatial strategy at Policy 2).

Economic prosperity has brought substantial benefits to residents, communities & the environment. However, prosperity has not been shared equally by all communities as there are pockets of deprivation within the sub region.

2 To pursue inclusive economic growth by accommodating the economic growth objectives of the LEP Strategic Economic Plan. Particularly to:

  • promote the growth of existing employment centres such as the Enterprise Zones and Enterprise Areas
  • ensure more inclusive growth and life chances for all, across the West of England, and improve accessibility to jobs.


Delivery of the Plan's employment land requirement (as set out at Policy 4 in accordance with the Plan's spatial strategy at Policy 2).

The form and function of development in some parts of the West of England has resulted in significant pressure on infrastructure and settlement patterns which are over-reliant on the private car.

This inhibits wealth creation and productivity and contributes to climate change and poor health.

3 To deliver a spatial strategy which;

  • focuses on three primary centres of Bristol, Bath and Weston-super-Mare and recognises the complementary role of market towns to achieve sustainable growth.
  • ensures that new development is properly aligned with infrastructure and maximises opportunities for sustainable and active travel.
  • through a place making approach promotes places of density and scale with a range of facilities and which encourages healthy lifestyles and cultural wellbeing.
  • integrates high quality, multi-functional green infrastructure. Reduces greenhouse gas emissions and ensure resilience to the impacts of climate change.


Sustainable growth of homes and jobs, supported by necessary infrastructure.

Reduction in car dependency and improved public transport access to opportunity, jobs and services.

Contribution to mitigating impacts of climate change.

Delivery of Communities in which people want to live and work.

Improved health and wellbeing outcomes.

The sub-region benefits from a world class environment. This brings substantial economic and community benefits and contributes significantly to the quality of life of residents, visitors and businesses.

4 To protect and enhance the sub-region's diverse and high quality natural, built and historic environment and secure a net gain in biodiversity.

To prioritise development on brownfield locations, optimise densities and retain the overall function of the Bristol and Bath Green Belt.

 2, 5, 6, 7

Enhanced quality of the natural, built and historic environment.

Biodiversity gains.



Vision and Strategic Priorities

10. The West of England Joint Spatial Plan vision is consistent with national policy, and stems from the critical issues identified in the Issues and Options document, and the WoE LEP Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) economic vision for the sub-region to 2036. The economic vision has been augmented to reflect social and environmental aspirations. The proposed vision for the JSP has public support as demonstrated by 71% of respondents to the public consultation at the end of 2015.

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 city 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. Provision of a range of housing types, will be of high quality and more affordable. 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.