Last year, South Somerset had a public consultation on its 'Core Strategy' on the next 20 years of development in the region, covering housing, health, employment, transport, environment and communities. Several hundred people had their say, including some readers of this blog, and the council have now issued their summary of the responses, plus the council response to the responses. (still with me?)
The Core Strategy home page has just been updated to this:
The Core Strategy 'Issue & Options' document was published for public consultation from March 7 2008 until April 25 2008. The summary of issues raised and the District Council responses will be reported to District Executive on Thursday 3 December 2009. The meeting is at the council offices on Brympton Way at 9.30am.
and has this summary of what the Core Strategy aims to do:
The Core Strategy lies at the heart of the Local Development Framework and will set out the long term planning framework for the district up to the year 2026. It has to work within national and regional planning policy guidance, and will be informed by other evidence studies and council strategies, as well as your responses. It is about meeting the needs of people up to the year 2026, by providing enough homes, jobs and services, in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.
Once adopted, the Core Strategy will be the key, overarching policy document for development within South Somerset, directing how much development is needed and where it should go. It will contain development management policies setting out the criteria against which planning applications will be considered; so all planning applications will refer to it.
There'll be a further document published in spring/summer 2010 for more consultation. However, there will also be a General Election next year, which, from what I hear, many involved in planning, development and housebuilding are worried about. Conservative policy is to scrap the current regional planning framework for something more locally based, but it's not quite so clear how their new system will work. It may mean that years of work on housing, transport and development may get binned. We shall see.
Meanwhile, a few of the significant council responses:
- I commented in the consultation that the Strategic Vision for the area was all about the strong - jobs, new communities etc., but said nothing about the weak. Response: The Vision should be reworded to include reference to social inclusion. Ok, but not enough, what about practicalities?
- There were quite a few responses to the consultation about places of worship in new developments, there are several responses to this in different places:
1. The provision for places of worship as part of new development may be considered where there is an identified need. Fair enough.
2. It is recognised that the provision of community centres and places of worship is important to communities and this will be taken into account when considering the level and type of community facilities needed as part of any strategic allocation within the Core Strategy and will be addressed in the Infrastructure Delivery Plan. Good, we'll have to keep an eye out for the Infrastructure Delivery Plan now. I think the council recognise that on at least one planned new estate in Yeovil, there have been mistakes in not insisting on more community facilities, so hopefully there is the will to make sure that doesn't happen again.
3. In the Health and Well Being section (8), there was a multi-choice response on what facilities should be provided in new housing developments, and at what threshold. There were lots of votes for play areas, community centres, schools etc., and a consistent call for places of worship to be provided in developments of 700-999 houses - at present there's one for every 2,000 people in Yeovil, so this is in keeping with what we currently have. However there's no offiical response to this part of the survey, so it's not really clear what the point was.
- There are plans for a 'Community Infrastructure Levy', coming in from April 2010, which will allow local councils to levy a tax on developers for new buildings, which is then used to fund community facilities, from bus stops to play areas to Sports Zones (Yeovil in-joke. Almost literally). At the moment, a contribution is negotiated with developers as part of the planning process, so I'm not sure whether the CIL replaces that. That may make it even tougher for developers to build houses at a profit than it is at present. The Conservatives plan to abolish this, so it may be the most short-lived tax in history. At present the only house building in Yeovil is by housing associations, and the only new housing area moving forward is doing so because of £10m government assistance towards affordable housing.
- Secondary School: there were calls for a new secondary to be built, as part of the planned 'urban extension' to Yeovil of 5,000 houses. That seems to be part of the picture: the blurb reads Secondary School requirement to be identified as part of the urban extension proposal.
- Housing: new housing will be at a higher density than at present: 40-50 dwellings per hectare in urban areas, less for villages. It may even go higher than 50 in some parts. Don't buy a newly built house if you like gardening, or eating together as a family, because you won't have space to do either.
If anything spectacular happens as Thursdays meeting, it'll appear here, but don't hold your breath!