West of England Joint Spatial Plan

West of England Joint Spatial Plan: Publication - November 2017


1. The role of the JSP is to provide the broad spatial strategy that will:

    • deliver the Plan Vision and strategic priorities in order to address the critical issues identified in chapter 2, and
    • secure the delivery of the identified needs of development.

2. The Spatial Strategy has been formulated to deliver the Objectively Assessed Need of 97,800 new homes and the Housing Requirement of 102,200 new homes. It identifies an overall supply of 105,500 new homes to enable flexibility.

3. The Spatial Strategy supports the delivery of 82,500 jobs. The employment aspects of the strategy are described under Policy 4.

4. It is the role of the individual UAs, to provide the more detailed local policies, including how the different components of housing need are met such as the needs of the travelling community, students, older people and the range of dwelling types and size needed.

Building the spatial strategy

5. The Spatial Strategy Topic Paper sets out how the spatial strategy was formulated and this is outlined in the reasoned justification to Policy 2.

6. In summary, when formulating the spatial strategy, the potential supply from a variety of sources and the reasonable alternatives have been assessed, primarily:

    • maximising urban capacity & optimising density,
    • allowing for small windfalls beyond that included in Local Plans,
    • allowing for 'non-strategic' growth,
    • assessing potential strategic locations, and
    • assessing other sources e.g. empty homes, specialised housing such as Students & C2.

Existing commitments

7. The four authorities' existing Local Plans make provision for around 61,500 new dwellings at April 2016. This is predominantly on previously developed land (60.23%). There is supporting growth at towns, and villages and also several greenfield strategic locations in existing local plans. When compared to the housing supply figure identified (105,500) there are up to 44,000 additional dwellings to 2036, that need to be planned for through the JSP spatial strategy.


Figure 4: Housing Supply against existing commitments at April 2016

Fig 4


Urban Living - optimising the potential of urban areas

8. Urban Living is a central plank of the Spatial Strategy which commands a high degree of public support and is a highly sustainable element of the strategy. The four UAs have assessed the potential of existing urban areas to deliver land to meet development needs. In recent years a high proportion of new homes have been delivered on brownfield land in urban areas. Bristol has delivered 45% of the new housing provision across the JSP plan area since 2006, much of it on previously developed land. This process has been aided by new approaches to urban density to optimise quality urban living. This has developed new thinking about the nature of liveable cities and towns and the trends in the type of accommodation we seek. It is recognised that the success will rely on the ability to plan effectively the use of all public services as part of this concept.

9. Evidence has identified that through optimising opportunities for development in urban areas, there is the potential for a further 16,200 new homes to be delivered across the plan area. Opportunities for maximising the potential of existing land in urban areas will result from:

    • The change of use of non-residential brown field land to residential - where the previous use is no longer required or residential use would result in the more efficient use for the land.
    • Identifying land which is currently underused and has potential for residential development or mixed use development.
    • Identification of mechanisms to ensure more certainty over the delivery of large windfall sites.
    • Increasing the density of development on allocated or existing sites by reappraising and increasing their development potential in line with new thinking on urban living.

Small windfalls

10. The existing commitments make an allowance for small windfall sites (ie 9 dwellings or below). The JSP also makes an allowance for this component of growth to continue to the end of the Plan period. This contributes around 6,860 dwellings to the JSP strategy.

Non-Strategic Growth

11. An allowance is proposed to be made for 'non-strategic growth' in sustainable locations to accommodate smaller scale development in villages and towns which is needed to enable local communities to thrive.  Detailed proposals will be brought forward through each Authority's local plan. This contributes 3,400 new dwellings to the JSP strategy.

Strategic Development Locations

12. Against the supply described above, there is the need to identify land for another 17,600 dwellings in order to meet the housing requirement with sufficient flexibility.

13. Locations which are currently, and are anticipated to be, significant generators of trips include central Bristol, parts of the Bristol North Fringe, central Bath/Bath Enterprise Zone and Weston-super-Mare.  However, an approach which focusses on increasing existing urban development opportunities and expansion will not be sufficient to meet the homes and job needs of the Region over the next 20 years. Additional new sustainable locations will be needed which may include new innovative solutions such as garden villages or extensions.

14. The Strategic Development Locations are identified which are capable of delivering large scale development (500 dwellings+) over the plan period in locations which support the spatial strategy. This approach recognises all aspects of sustainability including growth well related to the central areas and other parts of urban areas where people seek to travel for work, shopping and recreational needs.

15. Sustainability is closely related to proximity and accessibility to services and facilities, particularly in Bristol, Bath and Weston-super-Mare and the potential to use existing and new transport corridor opportunities. Other sustainability factors to meet the priorities of the Plan have also been considered including rebalancing economic growth, maintaining and enhancing the environment and retaining the overall function of the Green Belt.

16. There is the need to avoid the unsustainable expansion of the north and east fringes of the Bristol urban area beyond the substantial existing commitments that are identified to be delivered in adopted Local Plans. Evidence also shows that due to significant environmental constraints there is no scope to further expand Bath outwards.

17. Alongside this, it is also recognised that existing towns and larger villages have a role to play in supporting sustainable economic growth. Strategic opportunities have been identified where investment in high profile public transport will assist in delivering sustainable growth.

18. A sizeable proportion (48%) of the West of England area is within the Bristol-Bath Green Belt. This has significant implications for the Spatial Strategy, particularly reflecting the strategic priority to retain the overall function of the Green Belt. The advice in NPPF para 83 is "Once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances, through the preparation or review of the Local Plan. At that time, authorities should consider the Green Belt boundaries having regard to their intended permanence in the long term, so that they should be capable of enduring beyond the plan period."

19. Technical work and transport modelling have shown that it is not possible to sustainably accommodate all the identified growth needs entirely outside the Green Belt. The transport impacts cannot be fully mitigated even with substantial investment. Such a strategy would be dependent on some highly unsustainable locations that are very difficult and expensive to mitigate with only sub-optimal solutions. It would also put pressure to locate development in the flood risk areas. These issues would impact on delivery of such a strategy.

20. In response to concerns expressed through public consultation, the spatial strategy aims to minimise the impact on the Bristol and Bath Green Belt. However, due to the scale of provision required and the extensive nature of the Green Belt, the Plan does include some Strategic Development Locations currently with Green Belt designation as explained in the Spatial Strategy Topic paper. Finally, the opportunity for new free standing garden village settlements forms part of the strategy.

21. A summary of the components of supply in the Spatial Strategy is set out at figure 5.


Figure 5: Components of supply in the Spatial Strategy

Fig 5


Demonstrating Flexibility and Contingency

22. The housing trajectory which sets out the phasing of the supply to meet the identified target is set out in the Housing Topic Paper. This shows that the plan has a sufficient flexibility to deliver identified needs across the plan period as well as addressing the requirement to demonstrate a five year land supply. The Plan also has flexibility to assist the market in delivering the identified employment land.

23. To enable delivery and implementation of the identified Objectively Assessed Need of 97,800 dwellings and the housing requirement of 102,200, the authorities have identified a supply of 105,500 dwellings. This is between 5% and 10% over the OAN, thus providing some flexibility should any issues of non-delivery arise. In addition, the JSP identifies a contingency supply (of around 3,000 homes). Release of the contingency will be considered should development not come forward as anticipated. A plan review would be the mechanism to undertake the release of the contingency informed by monitoring of delivery. It is emerging national policy guidance that plans be reviewed after 5 years. This gives an overall potential housing supply within the JSP Plan period of 108,000 new homes (including contingency).

Mitigations and infrastructure required to support the Spatial Strategy

24. It is recognised that provision of necessary infrastructure up front or phased to support development is critical to the successful delivery of the spatial strategy. Strategic infrastructure that will be required to deliver the Spatial Strategy is included in the Key Diagram at Appendix A.

25. Our transport network has to accommodate an increasing volume of travel and complex travel patterns. Increasing demand has contributed to a network that is often at capacity at peak times, with increased journey times and congestion. These impacts have been perceived as a barrier to securing sustainable economic growth. This threatens not only the productivity of our businesses and workforce but also our ability to meet wider sustainable objectives such as reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality in our urban areas.

26. Transport investment can be a major influence on where development is located and how to create high quality places in which people want to live and work. Influencing the location of development will not of itself be sufficient to address the issue.

27. Integrating housing and employment development with investment in reliable, high quality transport choices will:

    • reduce the length and number of journeys to work, and other services and facilities.
    • encourage more sustainable travel modes such as cycling, walking and public transport.
    • reduce the reliance on car based journeys.

28. In response to the spatial strategy, transport infrastructure provision to support the additional development required seeks to:

    • maximise the effectiveness of sustainable travel choices and encourage mode shift (to rail, MetroBus, Park & Ride, bus, cycling, walking) across the plan area.
    • maximise the effectiveness of non-car mode choices for both urban living and new development outside existing urban areas; and then
    • mitigate impacts of additional traffic, including investigation of junction capacity improvements, upgrades, new highway connections and traffic restrictions.

Encouraging sustainable travel choices across the plan area

29. MetroBus (Bus Rapid Transit) will be central to delivering the shift from a reliance on the car to a public transport mode of transport. Particularly at strategic development locations, and along key corridors with a number of locations outside of walking/cycling distance from key destinations and less-well served by the conventional bus and rail networks;

30. A network of new Park & Ride and interchange schemes will help to intercept trips on the edge of Bristol, Bath and Weston urban areas, reduce traffic in these areas and improve conditions for walking, cycling and public transport;

31. Conventional local bus services and in particular improving existing bus services will be an important part of promoting sustainable travel on several corridors;

32. Rail will play an important role for access to urban centres, but improvements will be needed (capacity, access to stations, parking, station environment, interchanges). Despite impressive levels of passenger growth in recent years rail currently has a modest modal share and is therefore part of a wider package of transport measures. Some locations will remain difficult to serve by rail.

33. Walking and cycling must take a central role for shorter trips -creating environments where active travel choices are the first choice, with better links to surrounding walking and cycling networks.