SOC questions and responses

SOC QUESTIONS, AND RESPONSES

These are questions that SOC submitted to CDC seven working days before the Special Council Meeting on August 3rd 2018. However CDC declined to allow us to raise them at the meeting, and the responses below are what we received by email on the morning of the meeting.

Question 1

The inspector, William Fieldhouse, has recommended that CDC “Reduce the number of dwellings expected to be built on the Chesterton strategic site during the plan period from 2,350 to 1,800”. This is one of the Main Modifications suggested by the inspector “to make the Plan sound and/or legally compliant and capable of adoption.”

This is clearly a material issue arising from the Local Plan Examination which affects the council’s approval conditions of the Chesterton Development. Are the council going to uphold this modification? And if so, exactly what control mechanism is CDC going to put in place to prevent the developer building more than 1,800 dwellings during the plan period to 2031?

Response

The first sentence quoted above derives from the Non-Technical Summary of the Report on the Examination of the Cotswold District Local Plan 2011-2031. This summarises the Inspector’s consideration of whether there is a reasonable prospect that 2,350 dwellings will be completed on the Chesterton strategic site by 2031 and, if not, what a more realistic assumption would be. In his conclusion on this issue in the main body of the report, the Inspector says:

“177. There is a high probability that the strategic site will be developed, and it is likely that a total of around 2,350 dwellings will be built by the time that it is completed. However, on balance, I do not consider there to be a reasonable prospect that all of those dwellings will be completed on the site by 2031. In summary, the main reasons for this are that it is unlikely that development on the main part of the site will start as early as hoped, or that four housebuilders would operate at all times over a 9 year period and each deliver an average of 40 market and 17 affordable homes every year during that period. There are also at present some uncertainties about the amount of specialist residential accommodation, such as for students or the elderly, that will be built on the site.

178. I consider that it is reasonable to assume that 78 dwellings would be built on phase 1a by April 2021, and that development on the main part of the site would start around that date with approximately 1,700 further dwellings being completed by 2031 giving an overall total of around 1,800. This would represent an average delivery rate slightly above that achieved on strategic sites elsewhere in the country. This is justified by the strength of the local housing market and the fact that a high quality scheme that includes infrastructure provision and 30% affordable housing has been assessed as viable. It allows for periods when there may be four housebuilders each delivering a total of 50-60 market and affordable homes per year, other times when there would be fewer operators and/or lower outputs, and the possibility of specialist accommodation being provided on parts of the site.

179. In total, therefore, it is reasonable to assume that around 1,800 dwellings would be built on the strategic site in the plan period, and that 120 of those would be completed by 1 April 2022. This latter figure is based on 78 dwellings be completed on phase 1a, and 42 on the main part of the site in 2021/2022. The Plan should be modified accordingly.” [MM04 and MM13].

The Inspector does not at any point in his report recommend that a control mechanism should be used for restricting delivery of the site to 1,800 dwellings by 2031. Indeed, it is quite possible that more than 1,800 homes could be completed on the strategic site by 2031. The Inspector was simply testing whether there is a ‘reasonable prospect’ that 2,350 dwellings could be delivered on the site by 2031. 

In this regard it is relevant to note:

“167. “I am, therefore, satisfied that the strategic site south of Chesterton proposed in policy S2 is in a suitable location for housing development and that there is a reasonable prospect that it is available and could be developed during the plan period in a satisfactory manner having regard to the likely social, economic and environmental effects and mitigation measures required by the Plan. The allocation of the site in the Plan is, therefore, justified.”

The Council is being recommended to uphold all of the Inspector’s recommended Main Modifications in the version of the Local Plan that is being presented for adoption by Special Council on 3 August 2018. However, none of the Main Modifications are material considerations that affect the District Council’s approval conditions of the Chesterton Development.

Question 2

For the second time, the applicant has put back the original completion date of 12th April 2018 of the Section 106 Legal Agreements, this time until September 2018. Our question to the council is: What particular issues are causing the problems, resulting in these ongoing delays?

Response

An extension of time to 12th July 2018 was agreed with the applicant before the January Council meeting and this was set out in the resolution that Members voted on at that Council meeting. 

An extension of time for a further two months has recently been agreed as further time is required to complete the S106 Agreements. This is not due to fundamental disagreements which cannot be resolved but is simply due to the complexity of drafting the legal agreement, which will cover a range of obligations including affordable housing, self and custom build, open space, car parking and employment land. In addition, the applicant has engaged a consultant to undertake work regarding the Community Management Trust (CMT) which included public consultation with a range of stakeholders within the town. As a result of this process, the applicant was able to put forward a proposal for the CMT to the Council, but this was only received in the middle of June and is still under discussion. 

In addition to the S106 between the applicant and CDC, there is a separate agreement with the applicant and GCC.  Officers understand that work is progressing well on this legal agreement.

Question 3

At paragraph 22 of his report, the Inspector states “….. the plan-led system is intended to empower local people to shape their surroundings, and meaningful engagement with neighbourhoods, local organisations and business is essential. I would, therefore, encourage the Council to give careful consideration to the clearly heartfelt concerns of some local residents and interest groups”.  

Local residents and interests groups clearly believe that the Council failed to meaningfully engage with the local community.  What action has the Council already taken and what action does it intend to take to follow the Inspectors recommendations and consult meaningfully with local residents?

Response

The quote provided by Mr Buxton only includes part of paragraph 22.  The part of the paragraph that was omitted states: “… and to keep its SCI under review with the aim of ensuring that all practical steps are undertaken in the future to effectively engage with local communities, individuals and all other interested parties on future reviews of the Plan.  

The Council accepts the comments of the Inspector, and will act accordingly.

Question 4

The district is being denied badly needed affordable and social rented housing. Builds and permissions during the extended and late local plan development, and permission for Chesterton, will take housing supply well over the OAN. Yet at the same time the amount of affordable housing will be less than required, as highlighted by the Inspector. To make matters worse, new housing, including all affordable and social housing, will be limited to one single location in Cirencester.  Such a distortion is explained by a premature bias towards the strategic site which ignores the need for affordable housing to meet local needs throughout the district – a problem highlighted recently by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England

What do the council propose to do to deal with this problem?

Response

The full OAN is neither a maximum figure nor a target.  National policy expects plans to “boost significantly the supply of housing” (Revised NPPF 59).  Having given due consideration to all of the evidence (including representations), the Inspector has concluded that a supply comprising 8,423 dwellings on identified sites (Local Plan Table 1) is a sound position.  This is just 23 dwellings over the OAN figure. The windfalls estimate (1,191 dwellings) does not relate to identified sites; however, it does provide sufficient flexibility to take account of possible changing circumstances that might otherwise lead to a potential supply shortfall.

Regarding ‘distortion’, it should be remembered that the Local Plan covers the period 2011-2031 and that significant development has already occurred beyond Cirencester in settlements such as Moreton-in-Marsh, Tetbury, Fairford and Upper Rissington.  To date, Cirencester has yielded under 25% (265 affordable units + 60 extra care flats) of the 1,235 affordable units delivered since April 2011.  Local affordable housing needs across the District clearly haven’t been ignored and, even allowing for 30% provision (of 1,800 over the Plan period) on the strategic site, there will not be a ‘distortion’ towards Cirencester.  The vast majority of affordable housing is delivered in association with open market housing developments and the proportion of affordable dwellings proposed in Local Plan Policy H2(3) is underpinned by evidence of viability. Evidence clearly indicates that the only realistic way of delivering more “badly needed affordable and social rented housing” is through the allocation of larger numbers of open market housing.  However, this would conflict with Mr Moylan’s concern that the housing supply has already exceeded the OAN.

Question 5

The emerging Local Plan could lead to nearly 1,600 affordable homes between 2015 and 2031, representing an average of 100 per year (Inspector’s Report, para 209).  The Council intended, in line with its policy, that 50% of the 2,350 homes at Cirencester would be affordable representing, 1,175 affordable homes.  This represents a significant proportion (73%) of the need.  This plan has failed because the number of affordable homes at Cirencester has fallen to 705 and the Inspect considers, at paragraph 207 of his report, that 157 homes per year is the best estimate of need.  The 705 homes exceed the need in Cirencester.  The shortfall in affordable homes delivered by the Plan is further exacerbated by the Council’s policy/course of conduct of granting permission to extend and increase the size of small homes in the District, further reducing the stock of affordable homes.  

What does the Council now intend to do to (1) provide affordable homes to meet the need identified in the Inspector’s Report, (2) ensure affordable homes are built across the District to meet need across the District, and (3) stop the reduction in stock of affordable homes.

(5A) What does the Council now intend to do to provide affordable homes to meet the need identified in the Inspector’s Report,

Response

The Local Plan contains a development strategy and housing policies to support the delivery of affordable and market housing. This provides a sound framework to provide affordable housing over the Plan period. Paragraphs 47 and 213 of the Inspector’s report provide a useful account of the Inspector’s considerations.

“47. I conclude later in this report that there is likely to be a need for at least an additional 157 affordable homes per year between 2015 and 2031. Due to the methodology used to calculate this figure, which is in line with that recommended in national guidance, there is no simple way of relating this to the DCLG 2014-based projections. However, there is no substantive evidence to indicate that the need for affordable homes is additional to the overall OAN, and as this takes account of considerations including the needs of particular groups and concealed households I do not consider this would be so. …”

“213. I have considered whether the development strategy, broad distribution of new housing across the district, and individual allocations are justified elsewhere in this report, and my findings on those issues are also generally relevant to the provision of affordable housing. There is certainly no need to identify further land to meet overall housing requirements, and to do so would be likely to have adverse environmental impacts.”

(5B) What does the Council now intend to do to ensure affordable homes are built across the District to meet need across the District,

Response

Similar to the above question, the Local Plan establishes a Development Strategy (DS1, DS2 and DS3 and illustrated on a diagrammatic map in section 2 of the Plan) and contains policies (H1, H2, H3 and H4) to support the delivery of additional affordable housing, for example, on rural exception sites.

The Local Plan covers the period 2011 to 2031 and, as such, a significant amount of development has already occurred in settlements such as Cirencester, Moreton-in-Marsh, Tetbury, Fairford and Upper Rissington. The Council’s response to question four provides additional information on the delivery of affordable housing since 2011.

The Inspector’s report provides a useful account of his considerations and judgement on the need to balance the delivery of new homes whilst protecting the environment. The following paragraphs, in particular, help to highlight this discussion:-

“214. Therefore, whilst the Plan is unlikely to ensure that all local housing needs will be met locally, I am satisfied that its overall approach to affordable housing provision is justified and consistent with national policy. That said, to be justified and effective, the Plan should contain a succinct explanation of how and where affordable housing is expected to be provided in the district over the plan period and the extent to which this is likely to meet needs overall and in particular locations [MM29].”

“215. Subject to the main modifications described above, policies H2, H3 and H4 are likely to be effective in ensuring that identified needs for affordable housing are met in the district to an extent that is justified and consistent with national policy.”

(5C) What does the Council now intend to do to stop the reduction in stock of affordable homes.

Response

The granting of planning permission for extensions to small homes in the district often applies to open market homes, which does not impact the level of affordable housing stock. Local Plan Policy H1 expects developers to provide a suitable mix and range of housing in terms of size to reflect local housing needs and demand in both market and affordable sectors. If, during the Plan period, there is a shortage of smaller homes as a result of a loss existing homes through extensions, the Council, through Policy H1, would expect applicants and developers to deliver smaller homes to meet this need.

Question 6
The Officer’s Report on Planning Application 16/00054/OUT, at paragraphs 8.2 and 8.11, states that the application site has significant or severe implications for the five year housing land supply.  The Inspector’s report at paragraph 189 states that the application site contributes 120 homes (4%) of the 2,959 housing land supply from 2017.  The Inspector also identifies, at paragraph 190, that 2,959 homes represent a 7.6 year housing land supply and the residual five-year housing land requirement is 1,959 to which the application site makes no contribution.  

Does the Council agree this statement in the Officer’s Report is misleading and, having considered the Inspector’s Report, will it reconsider Application 16/00054/OUT? 

Response

The Officer report was not misleading. Paragraph 8.16 clearly states that the Five-Year Housing Land Supply figure quoted in the report was taken from the May 2016 report and did not include Chesterton within the calculations. 

Question 7

Paragraph 8.29 of the Officer’s Report on Application 16/00054/OUT states that the application site can deliver 30% affordable homes (65% rented, 35% low cost) but is not viable at 50% (Council Policy) or 40% affordable homes.  At paragraph 8.30, the Officer’s Report advised Councillors not to increase the number of low cost homes as local and district need would be exceeded.  The Inspector, at paragraphs 208 and 209 of his report, estimates a need of 157 affordable homes for the period 2015 to 2031 against an emerging local plan (including the application site) which provides around 100 affordable homes a year.  

Does the Council agree this statement in the Officer’s Report is potentially misleading and, having considered the Inspector’s Report, will it reconsider Application 16/00054/OUT and its contribution? 

Response

Paragraph 8.30 has been misunderstood.  The reference to “low cost home ownership” refers to shared ownership and shared equity, and not socially rented properties; and Officers were advising Members not to increase this element and decrease the rented element of the affordable housing contribution. Officers were not advising Members not to seek a larger (i.e. the policy requirement) affordable contribution on the site.  The viability assessment set out that the proposed development could not deliver more than 30% affordable housing, with a 65:35 mix.

(END)

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