In Section 5 of the Phase 1 Local Plan consultation 2020 we discussed the “building blocks” which we thought could help us to make choices about our new strategy for growth. We set out our desire to investigate the potential for an appropriate level of sustainable, small and medium scale growth, in and around the wide range of rural villages and settlements in South Gloucestershire.
Then, in Section 7 of that consultation document we explored in more detail the context and summarised the issues across our rural communities, and we set out our belief that it is appropriate to explore the potential to promote a ‘plan–led’ approach to growth and change through our new Local Plan. As part of Section 7, we also set out that we wanted to develop a new/ updated policy framework that aims to better respond to rural issues and address the specific needs of our rural communities.
In the past, the vast majority of the planned growth has been focused in and around the communities of the Bristol North and East Fringes and the market towns of Chipping Sodbury, Thornbury and Yate. However, in recent years we have seen an increasing number of speculative applications across some of our rural villages and settlements.
Through our new Local Plan, in line with what we set out in our Phase 1 consultation document, we think that unless there are significant constraints or sustainability issues, all of our rural villages and settlements should be considered, to determine the role they could play in our strategy for the sustainable growth of homes and jobs.
In the Phase 1 consultation, we noted that there are significant variations between our villages and settlements. Some have high levels of accessibility to key services and facilities and/or sustainable links to major service centres and are largely unaffected by planning constraints. Other rural villages and settlements have a very limited range of services and facilities or sustainable access to other service centres and/ or are affected by significant constraints. The result of this has in many cases, been that opportunities for growth and regeneration, or community aspirations for change have been very challenging to bring through the planning system.
To take the next step in preparing our new Local Plan we:
- still consider that, unless there are significant constraints or sustainability issues, all of our rural villages and settlements should be considered, to determine the role they could play in supporting and delivering growth and change over the next 20 years
- want to develop a new/ updated policy framework that aims to better respond to rural issues and address the specific needs of our rural communities
Taken together, through employing these two overarching approaches, we can strike a balance between providing appropriate policy mechanisms for communities to bring forward growth in their own areas to meet identified local needs and rural communities making a contribution to meeting South Gloucestershire’s overall needs.
What you told us last time
In the Phase 1 consultation document, we asked some key questions in relation to our proposed approach to growth in our rural areas, and a summary of the feedback received is set out below.
Overall, the majority of people who responded to questions in relation to rural growths (47%) agreed with the approach proposed to the national policy issues highlighted. 30% of respondents did not agree with the approach proposed, 10% didn’t know whether they agreed, and 13% did not answer the question.
In terms of other issues highlighted, there was:
- some concern regarding the potential for impacts on local character and the environment, which should be taken account of as part of considering any potential for growth in rural villages and settlements
- some consensus that any growth proposed in our rural communities should not just be new housing, and must enhance local vitality through supporting/ building local services and creating sustainable communities
- some agreement that rural growth is needed, however this must be proportional to the village/ settlement in which it is proposed, and that speculative development (particularly that coming forward recently) should be taken into account in developing any plans for future growth
- broad agreement that infrastructure improvements will be necessary in some cases to ensure that rural communities grow sustainably and do not perpetuate/ create a reliance on private car use to access goods and services
- broad agreement that the mix of housing will be important, with a desire to see a variety of tenures (including affordable housing) to improve access to housing
- broad agreement that different types and sizes of housing will be needed (not just family housing), with particular consideration needed for specific groups who want to remain living in rural areas and also make housing more accessible for all
You can view all the responses to our consultation on the creating sustainable rural village and settlements section.
What do we want to do next?
Our starting point is that we think each and every village and settlement has a role to play in contributing to sustainable growth in South Gloucestershire. We also think that the role those individual villages and settlements can potentially play should be appropriate and proportionate.
Therefore, following on from our Phase 1 consultation document, we want to set out a planning framework to deliver new homes and jobs for each of our rural communities, which supports sustainable growth that is appropriate, justified and consistent with national policy.
We feel that our future policy framework should include two key, complementary approaches or pathways.
Community led growth
- Our new Local Plan will provide the tools and flexibility for communities to bring forward the growth they want and need over and above South Gloucestershire’s overall needs; and
Local Plan led growth strategy
- We also need to create certainty around where we want to promote growth and change in the rural villages and settlements, to help meet our needs for homes, jobs and infrastructure.
Our preference is that communities that identify a local need (be that for new homes, places to work, renewable energy projects or Local Green Spaces, among other things), utilise the existing and proposed new mechanisms referred to under pathway 1 (below) to bring forward their own proposals to meet this need. These include rural exception schemes, and community led rural growth sites through a community land trust, or through preparing a Neighbourhood Development Plan.
As communities consider whether they want to bring forward their own proposals for growth we need to continue, through preparing our new Local Plan, to create the certainty that new development, particularly of homes and jobs, can be delivered. With this in mind, we need to progress with developing a positive strategy for plan-led growth and change in appropriate rural communities. Further information about this, including our emerging thinking, is identified in the pathway 2 section (below).
We consider that this is necessary in order to ensure that we: plan positively to reduce the prospect of speculative developments, allocate sufficient land to maintain our 5 year housing land supply, facilitate new affordable, market and specialist homes across in rural communities, and support existing services and facilities. Providing this certainty will also be important in helping to ensure that our Local Plan will meet the requirements of national planning policy. Further information about this is provided below.
Accordingly, we consider it appropriate that any community that wishes to pursue growth under pathway 1 commits to this and demonstrates that their ideas and aims are consistent with the strategy for Local Plan led growth and can be delivered to a timetable in parallel with our new Local Plan.
At this stage, no decisions have been made on the issues outlined above, but our emerging thinking is presented below on the policy approaches that exist and might be created to support pathway 1, and the proposed approach to create a plan led strategy for rural growth under pathway 2 and your views are invited on this.
Pathway 1: community-led growth
As a principle, we are keen to provide opportunities for local communities who want to bring forward growth to meet specific, identified local aims, aspirations and needs.
With this in mind, we are seeking to provide new and updated mechanisms and policy approaches to facilitate bringing forward growth in rural communities where needs are identified locally. This will include an updated policy framework to support community-led growth proposals such as rural exception sites and community led development, in addition to the Council’s existing and ongoing commitment to supporting local groups to produce neighbourhood development plans.
This approach is considered appropriate, justified and consistent with national planning policy by supporting opportunities to bring forward rural exception sites that will provide affordable housing to meet identified local needs. We would also like to explore whether there is potential to incorporate some element of market housing on community led sites to help facilitate rural growth.
Community led growth can be brought forward any time, subject to compliance with planning policy and meeting other relevant criteria, such as avoiding harm to designated areas or unacceptable impacts on local character. For this reason, this type of growth would not be allocated through our new Local Plan and can be progressed by communities through the planning application process.
Revising and updating our rural exception policy (CS19)
To provide increased support for communities that have a locally identified and evidenced need to deliver affordable homes, where this is supported by the local community and/ or Parish council.
These can be delivered in a variety of ways, with private developers, registered affordable housing providers and by communities through Community Land Trusts.
Case Study 1 Marshfield – Rural Exception Site and Community Land Trust
The residents of Marshfield a rural community in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and partially surrounded by Green Belt, have developed and taken forward a community led scheme for rural housing.
In a location where planning constraints and designations can make it challenging to bring forward development outside of a Local Plan, the local community needed a way of bringing forward development to meet their local needs. They also wanted to retain control of the location and design of development.
Carrying out a local housing needs survey’s they identified a need for a range of house types particularly for affordable homes. Then to take forward the design, planning and delivery of these homes the local community have set up a Community Land Trust (CLT).
Working in partnership with key advisors they have acquired land, designed a scheme and taken forward a planning proposal for which won planning approval, as it met the requirements of our existing plans Rural Exception Sites policy (CS19).
The community and local leadership have worked hard to then use this planning framework to progress a scheme grounded in and supported by the local community. They are now moving towards the delivery and build stage, commissioning builders and working with affordable housing partners. The scheme will result in 12 energy efficient, affordable homes to meet local need and three general market homes.
You can find out more about the Marshfield CLT scheme and this delivery mechanism on their website: Marshfield Community Land Trust – Marshfield CLT.
Promoting new community-led housing developments
To provide an updated mechanism to help deliver community-led housing proposals. This could be a mix of affordable and market homes, a focus on market homes, specialist homes or self-build, to meet locally identified needs, where this is supported by the local community and/ or Parish council.
These types of sites could also be brought forward or allocated through Neighbourhood Development Plans or Neighbourhood Development Orders.
Much like rural exception schemes these could be delivered through a variety of approaches, including working with private developers and house builders, particularly smaller and medium sized local builders and through community land trusts.
With this in mind, we have drafted a potential policy approach to allow housing proposals to come forward to meet an identified need for market and affordable housing, where this is supported by a local community. This new draft policy is intended to supplement the existing approach to rural exception sites policy approach. You can read the draft policy in our Planning Polices section of this document.
Do you have any comments on our emerging draft policy on rural exception sites and community led rural development?
In addition to these policy mechanisms, community-led growth can also be brought forward through the neighbourhood planning process.
Neighbourhood Development Plans
Neighbourhood planning gives communities the power to develop a vision and enables them to contribute to the development and growth of their area.
This planning approach provides powerful tools for local people, so they steer the type of development that comes forward in their community. It also ensures that the desire of the neighbourhood is aligned with the overall needs and priorities of the wider local area.
The council provides support and advice to community groups who want to bring forward growth and change in their local area. Through the neighbourhood planning process, communities can assess local needs for different types of homes and allocate land for those new homes, including affordable, market and other types of homes. They can also allocate space for new areas of employment, community uses and projects, and also bring forward new Local Green Spaces. They also provide an opportunity to inform and shape the way Local Plan growth could come forward.
Further information about neighbourhood planning can be found at https://beta.southglos.gov.uk/neighbourhood-planning.
In addition to an updated policy framework, bringing forward growth through a community led pathway will require community support and leadership at the local level. This support will need to come from bodies such as town and parish councils or neighbourhood forums, or from South Gloucestershire elected ward councillors. Local leaders will play a key role in understanding the needs of their area and then in bringing forward opportunities for development that would deliver against those needs; this is consistent with the spirit of localism.
Case Study 2 Charfield and Thornbury Neighbourhood Development Plan
The communities of Charfield and Thornbury (a market town, but the lessons are applicable to our rural villages and settlements) were both keen to have more of a say over what happens in their community. By progressing neighbourhood plans these communities will be able to have a greater say in how development is brought forward in their local area.
The Charfield Neighbourhood Plan Group worked closely with the community to identify policies that would influence the design and layout of development that came forward within the Neighbourhood Area.
The community were keen to protect the environment and local wildlife as well as ensure quality design. The policies in the plan reflected these ambitions. The plan was adopted in September and now forms part of the statutory Development Plan for South Gloucestershire. The plan can be viewed here.
The Thornbury Neighbourhood Plan Group worked closely with the community and through this also identified an additional Local Green Space they wanted to protect.
This additional Local Green Space allocation will be afforded the same level of protection as those currently protected under the Policies, Sites and Places Plan Policy PSP4 Designated Local Green Spaces.
At the time of writing the neighbourhood plan was at the examination stage, to find out more please visit the examination webpage.
Case Study 3 Oldbury rural housing and Neighbourhood Development Plan
The community of Oldbury-on-Severn were keen to deliver a proportionate level of homes to meet specific local need, with an emphasis on smaller affordable homes. However, the village and parish have a high level of national and local planning constraints that would make new development allocations through a local plan very challenging.
The progression of the Oldbury Neighbourhood Plan has allowed the community to identify two rural exception sites which they are seeking to allocate in their neighbourhood plan, to meet a locally identified need for new homes.
The Neighbourhood Plan Group have worked with the community and the council to develop a series of planning policies that will shape how this development comes forward, ensuring that the development delivered is right for the community.
At the time of writing the plan was at the examination stage, to find out more please visit the examination webpage.
Pathway 2: Local Plan-led growth and change
In addition to promoting community-led growth, we still consider that it is appropriate to investigate opportunities to deliver ‘plan-led’ growth and allocations that contribute to meeting South Gloucestershire’s overall housing needs in some of our villages and settlements. As part of this, we think that growth can help to sustain or improve the vitality and viability of existing services and facilities and in doing so create a more sustainable future of our rural villages and settlements.
There are a number of other important benefits to pursuing this approach, some of which we touched on in our Phase 1 consultation document. They include:
- opportunities to discuss the issues, supported by evidence gathered from technical work and through a programme of community engagement and public consultation, through the Local Plan process
- greater control over the location, extent and form of development than would be likely to occur than dealing through rural growth which comes forward in a non-local plan, speculative, case by case approach
- greater certainty of delivery:
- for communities and other stakeholders (including the development sector)
- for the council and its partners to facilitate infrastructure planning
- against South Gloucestershire’s overall housing needs and, in doing so, helping to support a robust supply of land and increasing our ability to resist ‘speculative’ planning applications
- to facilitate small and medium size builders and developers that may operate in rural South Gloucestershire communities, as opposed to just relying on a limited number of national house builders
- consistency with national planning policy, by meeting requirements to (among others):
- provide a clear strategy for bringing land forward to meet our housing requirements
- identify land to accommodate at least 10% of our housing requirement on sites of 1ha and below
- promote sustainable development in rural areas and locate housing where it will enhance or maintain the vitality of rural communities
- plan positively for the development and infrastructure required in the area
Through this Phase 2 consultation, we want to have a further conversation about developing a Local Plan led approach to appropriate levels of growth in our rural villages and settlements. We think this can be achieved through developing a strategy for growth in our rural villages and settlements.
Doing so will help to inform decisions about where might be appropriate to make allocations (for homes, jobs and other uses), based on a consideration of sustainability, accessibility and planning constraints.
Developing a strategy for growth in our rural villages and settlements, and making allocations
As many other Local Plans have done for their rural villages and settlements (including Stroud, Cotswold and Wiltshire), we want to classify the rural villages and settlements (beyond our existing urban areas and market towns) into groups which reflect their existing and future role and function. This is an important and necessary step which many other local planning authorities similar to South Gloucestershire have gone through previously as part of developing a robust strategy for growth in their areas.
The overall purpose of developing a strategy for our rural areas is to support the implementation of the Local Plan policies which we will be discussing through future stages of preparing the Local Plan. Importantly, and as part of this, it will help to inform the development of the Local Plan’s overall spatial strategy, and in doing so to promote a sustainable pattern of development by encouraging close links between housing, jobs and services. This is important because it can help to ensure that levels of growth proposed reflect the existing and future role, function and relative sustainability of villages and settlements.
Developing a strategy for growth can also help decision-makers to understand the role and character of different settlements, which is necessary for supporting efforts to maintain and enhance their character through determining planning applications once the Plan has been adopted.
In future stages of the Local Plan, those individual villages and settlements that are grouped together will generally be those considered to be broadly comparable to one another. For example, they could be comparable in terms of: level of access to a range of services and facilities without the need to travel by private car; or the extent to which they are affected by planning constraints.
With a view to developing a strategy for growth, we have undertaken some technical work to inform our thinking about which villages and settlements might be appropriate to consider for growth through this pathway. This work has up to this stage focussed around a number of key themes such as: accessibility; an audit of facilities and services; and evidence of existing planning designations, including environmental and historic environment constraints, and agricultural land. This work has also drawn upon some of the evidence we prepared and published previously in 2020.
This output of this work is an initial list of villages and settlements which we think, based on the evidence we’ve considered to date, might be considered to be more sustainable when considered against these themes, and therefore potentially more appropriate to investigate for growth to be delivered through the Local Plan. The rationale and methodology which led to this initial list can be viewed in the technical evidence paper
You can view the new study on the evidence base page, under ‘Rural Villages and Settlements Study’.
To be clear, no decisions have yet been made about the list (and the villages and settlements included within in) at this stage, as there are a number of important issues that will need to be considered (as we progress through the Local Plan process) as information becomes available.
These include (but are not limited to) a consideration of existing size, levels of recent speculative growth (promoted by developers through the planning application process) where this is applicable, in addition to a need to take account of any other competing or complimentary land uses (in line with other Local Plan priorities) and the outputs of the SDS.
Initial list of villages and settlements to investigate for growth:
- Acton Turville
- Coalpit Heath
- Cold Ashton
- Cromhall (Bibstone & Townwell)
- Easter Compton
- Engine Common
- Frampton Cotterell
- Hawkesbury Upton
- Hortham Village
- Iron Acton
- Old Down
- Old Sodbury
- Severn Beach
- Upton Cheyney
View our interactive map.
Through the next consultation, we will seek to confirm in which villages/ settlements we propose to bring forward growth through the Local Plan. We will also, as part of developing a strategy for rural growth, seek to assign individual villages/ settlements into categories, once we have more of the information we need including responses to this consultation to continue to shape and develop our thinking. Alongside that, we will also publish our consideration of which sites in and around those villages/ settlements may be potentially suitable for an appropriate allocation.
As part of considering what levels of growth might be appropriate in different individual villages/ settlements, we are considering using bandings. As we touched upon above, these bandings are usually created by grouping together places that have a similar role and function at present or could have a similar role and function in the future.
With this in mind, we have created some draft groupings which include an indicative growth range for each.
Initial groupings and indicative growth ranges
- Large accessible villages:
- Our largest villages with a good level of access to key services and facilities
- Growth range: 100-250
- Accessible villages and settlements:
- Villages and settlements of varying sizes which have some level of access to key services and facilities.
- Growth range: 25-100
- Functionally connected smaller villages and settlements:
- Villages and settlement which are in close proximity to our larger villages, market towns and main urban area, which benefit from good sustainable access to key services and facilities in these places.
- Growth range: 5-100
- Smaller accessible villages and settlements:
- Smaller villages and settlements which, due to their size, have a level of access to some key services and facilities, and therefore may only be suitable for a small amount of growth.
- Growth range: 5-25
Again, at this stage no decisions have yet been made about these initial categories/ groupings, the indicative growth ranges we’ve included, or which villages/ settlements (listed above) might fit into each category. As is the case with the initial list described above, there are a number of important considerations that will need to be taken into account (as we progress through the Local Plan process) as further information becomes available.
Planning policies for other rural issues
In our new Local Plan we also want to maintain and update our planning policy framework to cater for specific rural issues, including the promotion and sustenance of the rural economy, horse-related development and rural worker’s dwellings.
We already have planning policies on many of these issues but will update them where necessary to ensure they continue to be as effective as possible.
Our existing suite of policies relating to these issues includes:
- Core Strategy (2013)
- Policy CS19 – Rural housing exception sites
- Policy CS34 – Rural areas
- Policies, Sites and Places (PSP) Plan (2017)
- Policy PSP28 – Rural economy
- Policy PSP29 – Agricultural development
- Policy PSP30 – Horse related development
- Policy PSP40 – Residential development in the countryside
- Policy PSP41 – Rural workers dwellings