West of England Joint Spatial Plan

West of England Joint Spatial Plan: Publication - November 2017


All new development must contribute towards the delivery of high quality and sustainable places. The following key principles should be used to inform the development and delivery of high quality and sustainable places to:

  1. Create character, distinctiveness and sense of place which diversifies the residential offer, improves accessibility, affordability and enhances identity.
  2. Improve health and wellbeing and enable independence, reduce health inequalities, and facilitate social interaction where people can meet to create healthy, inclusive and safe communities.
  3. Enable inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
  4. Ensure the protection and enhancement of the natural, built and historic environment.
  5. Mitigate and adapt to climate change and use a catchment based approach to water management.
  6. Minimise energy demand and maximise the use of renewable energy, where viable meeting all demands for heat and power without increasing carbon emissions.
  7. Provide and ensure access to infrastructure including public transport, which reduces reliance on use of cars.
  8. Maintain and enhance the Green Infrastructure network to deliver multiple benefits for people, place and the environment.

These key principles should be used to prepare the Strategic Development Locations (identified in Policy 2 and 7) concept frameworks and future master planning to be identified in local plans or other documents to secure a co-ordinated and comprehensively planned approach. They should also be used to support existing communities to ensure the delivery of sustainable urban living and regeneration led development.

The West of England local authorities through their local plans will build good working relationships with developers, infrastructure providers other agencies and local communities to achieve these key principles.


Reasoned Justification for Policy 5.

31. Place making is at the heart of achieving our ambition for the West of England for places that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. To support this, the Plan's vision and spatial strategy recognises the importance of working on key issues across boundaries whilst seeking to respect the character and identity of our individual communities and to make places more innovative, competitive, connected, diverse and healthy.

32. To achieve these key objectives requires the leadership, ambition and co-operation of public, private and voluntary sectors. This is critical in order to shift expectations, perceptions and devise new delivery models. To support this, key principles have been developed that ensure the JSP incorporates strategic priorities for economic, environmental and social sustainability. These accord with the 3 pillars of sustainable development and are intended to articulate the West of England's ambition and focus for creating high quality places that fulfil and realise these objectives.


Policy Principle1: Create character, distinctiveness and sense of place

33. The design, diversity and nature of housing in new developments is critical to their attractiveness as places to live and in establishing successful new communities. New development will demonstrate a high standard of design appropriate to their location. This should be inclusive enabling accessibility and independence helping to reduce health inequalities. A mix of housing typologies and tenures have a role to play in diversifying the residential offer, improving accessibility and affordability and enhancing identity and sense of place. This can link to new models of housing delivery provided by new small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), such as self and custom build and build to rent. Projects at higher density and scale provide the potential for generating community energy and can help to alter perceptions about an area.

34. Having a sense of place requires that new development provides a clear sense of scale, density, and legibility, has strong landscape and multi-functional green and blue infrastructure features and the provision of a range of amenities and services. Connection to sustainable transport networks are important so that locations are accessible by means other than car travel. New development should provide places of interaction with, diverse local economies and a good standard of service provision such as education. In order to take this work forward, the WoE authorities will prepare an Urban living Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) to set out these principles.

Policy Principle 2: Improve health and wellbeing, reduce health inequalities, and facilitate social interaction where people can meet to create healthy, inclusive and safe communities.

35. The planning, design and management of places and homes has an impact on the health of both current and future generations. New development and infrastructure provide opportunities to improve public health and access to healthcare services. Such improvements can be direct, for example the installation of smart technology for independent living; or indirect by impacting on behaviour, for example provision of active travel options, improving safety and creating accessible spaces to encourage physical activity. The reduction of obesity by raising levels of physical activity has been shown to lessen the risk of physical and mental health issues and reduce costs to health service providers.

36. Health inequalities, social opportunity and quality of life are differences between people or groups due to social, geographical, biological or other factors. These differences can have a huge impact, resulting in some people and groups experiencing poorer health and shorter lives. Development proposals must be informed by a holistic and evidence-based approach which considers how the current and future health needs of the population can inform the design and planning of new places.

37. Development proposals should:

  • be fit for the future, incorporate alternative sources and resilience to a more variable climate.
  • be planned to integrate transport and land use and recognise the opportunity to offer a variety of services and facilities including access to green space and nature. This includes places for leisure, social activity and business space and places, both inside and out, where people can interact.
  • Support strong, vibrant and healthy communities, by creating clear urban design with a diversity of housing, flexibility of building uses and sufficient space for cycle paths and walkways, to suit the community's needs and support its health, social and cultural well-being.


Policy Principle 3: Enable inclusive and sustainable economic growth

38. The availability of land for business activity is important to the long-term sustainability of both our existing and new communities, as well as the performance of the local economy. Where development potential is identified, there is a risk that employment uses will be pushed out by the need for new homes and the values generated by residential development. However, whilst land should not be protected for employment use where there is little prospect of such use occurring, it is important that adequate provision for future change is made. This does not simply require the right quantum of floorspace but the provision of premises that can support a strong and productive economy.

39. To achieve this requires diversity of economic activity, enable business interaction and the retention and attraction of staff, provide for a range of flexible building types, including working from home. Development proposals should enable flourishing and successful economies by allowing for ideas to be generated, tested, developed and turned into services and products.

40. Where appropriate new employment opportunities should be provided at the Strategic Development Locations with the form and type of development to be determined through local plans and SPD as appropriate.


Policy Principle 4: Ensure the protection and enhancement of the natural, built and historic environment

41. The West of England is bounded by natural features of international and national importance - the two limestone landscapes designated for their outstanding natural beauty - the Cotswolds AONB lies to the east and the Mendip Hills AONB to the south, the Severn Estuary is an international wetland habitat. A plethora of international and national sites of ecological importance also exist throughout the WoE, that are not confined to these landscapes. The West of England's numerous historic sites and features contribute significantly to the distinctiveness and sense of place of many communities.

42. These natural, built and historic environments provide a wide range of services that benefit our economy, and encourage visitors to the region whilst also providing health related benefits to our residents. Therefore it is crucial that new development works with natural systems, and is responsive to the distinctive historic and landscape setting of the sub region.

43. By working closely with our key environmental partners we have sought to establish a strong evidence base against which to recognise the wider benefits of ecosystem services, providing net gains to biodiversity, ensure areas of high landscape and visual sensitivity are respected, and the historical environment is conserved and enhanced. This will be used to ensure new development will:

    • Conform with planning legislation to ensure protection of Local to International designated sites (AONB, SNCI, SSSI, SAC, SPA, Ramsar sites) and should ensure enhanced protection through complimentary habitat creation to extend and/or buffer the site, implemented through the delivery of green infrastructure corridors.
    • Be expected to contribute towards a net gain of the sub-region's diverse and high quality natural environment and biodiversity ensuring that new development creates high quality sustainable places that deliver the integration, enhancement and protection of the sub-region's environmental assets.
    • Encourage opportunities to take a landscape-scale approach to improve the natural environments resilience and optimise the services they provide as demonstrated through the Severnside Wetlands Nature Improvement Area (NIA) and Bristol Avon Catchment.
    • In delivering Strategic Development Locations, policy requirements will incorporate provision for multi-functional green infrastructure as mapped in the Strategic Development Locations framework diagrams.

44. The vehicle to deliver an assessment of the West of England's key environmental assets will be a Green Infrastructure Plan for the West of England, supported by the four Unitary Authorities.

Policy Principle 5 - Mitigate and adapt to climate change and use a catchment based approach to water management.

45. All development proposals will be required to demonstrate how long term climate resilience has been taken into account in the location and design of new development.

46. To increase resilience of the water environment to tidal, fluvial and surface water flooding the West of England authorities are committed to work in partnership on a catchment wide basis to achieve more holistic outcomes focused on multi-benefit projects across our administrative boundaries. A clear strategic priority is to increase investment opportunities for delivering improvements and adaption measures for water-based issues across the whole of the water catchment that falls within the Plan area, identifying new funding and delivery mechanisms to deliver positive change. These include reduced sedimentation of watercourses and associated maintenance costs, reduced risk of flooding and enhancement of the wider environment to improve the public realm through soft engineering solutions.

47. There is a need to work with wider partners including the Environment Agency and water companies to address adaption measures to respond to impacts such as drought and water shortages through schemes to manage water consumption. In working with wider partners development should positively contribute to managing the water environment by implementing a sustainable drainage strategy that adopts a catchment based approach to water management and which is integrated with the green infrastructure objectives to provide resilience against flooding.

48. To meet these objectives, the four West of England authorities will support the catchment wide action plan and its implementation.

Policy Principle 6: Minimise energy demand and maximise the use of renewable energy, where viable meeting all demands for heat and power without increasing carbon emissions:

49. The West of England Unitary Authorities are committed to improving energy security, address fuel poverty and to achieve an efficient low carbon economy. In addressing these challenges it is important for the West of England Authorities to contribute to and support the increased use and supply of renewable and low carbon energy in line with objectives and provisions of the Climate Change Act 2008, 2050 Carbon neutral targets. As such, the combined West of England CO2 reduction target is to reduce absolute CO2 emissions by 50% by 2035 from a 2014 baseline.

50. The scale of proposed development to be delivered through the JSP could generate significant additional CO2 emissions, making it harder to reach this target. To mitigate this, it will be necessary to maximise the energy efficiency of new development and integrate renewable energy technologies to supply the energy needs of new development in order to minimise energy demand. Technology continues to advance whilst costs fall and it is more cost effective to deliver efficient new buildings with renewable energy integrated from the outset than to retrofit them once they are built.

51. Through the production of the new Local Plans and supporting SPD, the potential for development to be built to a zero carbon standard, that is net zero emissions from regulated and unregulated heat and power, will be investigated using a consistent methodology across all four Unitary Authorities. Where viable, policies requiring zero carbon development or development that produces more renewable energy than it uses through opportunities including heat networks and other measures to support the delivery of environmentally sustainable development will be considered for inclusion in Local Plans.


Policy Principle 7 Provide and ensure access to infrastructure including public transport, that reduces reliance on use of cars

52. Strategic development should be in locations which maximise the potential to reduce the need to travel or, where travel is necessary, maximise opportunities to travel by sustainable, non-car modes, especially walking and cycling or be in places accessible to existing or new high quality public transport links. The focus of new transport infrastructure should both address both existing challenges and create capacity for sustainable growth. New developments should also ensure that safe vehicle access is secured and appropriate local highway mitigations are identified and delivered.

53. Development should make provision of community infrastructure necessary to support the new development including provision of retail, education, health and sport and leisure. New services and facilities should be integrated with existing provision where appropriate.

Policy Principle 8 Maintain and enhance the West of England's green infrastructure network to deliver multiple benefits for people, place and the environment

54. Strategically planned and designed new green infrastructure and enhancing the existing green and blue infrastructure can provide a broad range of economic and social benefits that underpins the JSP vision for sustainable growth.

55. In assessing the JSP Strategic Development Locations the four Unitary Authorities have taken account of the eight cross cutting green infrastructure objectives. Through the assessment of green infrastructure for the JSP strategic development locations, a framework for assessment has been created. This is intended to provide for a well-integrated, multifunctional public open space and green infrastructure network to provide a full range of formal and informal recreation opportunities (including allotments) and to help ensure the setting of local heritage and ecological assets are protected and enhanced.

56. This framework will help inform local plans to enable consistency within the design of all new development (urban living and non-strategic growth as well as the SDLs), ensuring multi-functional green infrastructure objectives are incorporated and delivered.

57. Taking this work forward, the four West of England Unitary Authorities will devise and deliver a Green Infrastructure Plan (as referred to in principle 4) which will identify the West of England's key natural assets and the mechanisms for investment in those assets. It is envisaged that the Green Infrastructure Plan will be the basis for identifying opportunities for enhancing and delivering green infrastructure and ecosystem services, both on and offsite, and prioritisation for large scale conservation management.

58. Through the delivery of a West of England Green Infrastructure Plan and Local Plans, issues will be addressed on a coordinated and strategic level, including any potential significant effects on Natura 2000 sites.