What infrastructure might be needed
3d.1 The biggest feedback we get is that the infrastructure needed by new development often lags too far behind the development, if it comes at all. That’s why as part of the new plan process, we want to be better at ensuring provision comes much sooner so that residents and employers have the facilities they need. To that end our locational strategy will need to pay close attention to the infrastructure needs of new development, and its deliverability, including being realistic about how any ‘big ticket’ items that may be needed will be delivered and funded and the constraints this may impose on whether development locations are sustainable. We also know that council finances are under severe pressure and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. It therefore cannot be assumed that the council will be able to cover any funding shortfalls for new infrastructure to support new homes and jobs and do everything we may want. This fact too will have an impact on the decisions we make.
The national planning context
3d.2 Government planning rules set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), require that Local Plans should set out the contributions expected from new development towards infrastructure, such as new schools, health and community facilities, public transport, renewable energy, new parks, sports pitches and places for wildlife (para 34 of NPPF). In short, planning authorities, infrastructure providers and developers of sites need to be able to explain what infrastructure is required to support new development and that there is a reasonable prospect that it will be delivered in a timely way. Or in other words; show how much it will cost, how it will be funded, who by and when it will be provided.
Infrastructure planning challenges
3d.3 Planning for infrastructure is complex and a constant and evolving process. Infrastructure providers’ standards, priorities, objectives and funding sources continually evolve and change over time. Technology, variations in population growth and external shocks, such as the financial crash and Covid pandemic will also affect providers funding, plans and strategies, including the council’s. Hence, too often infrastructure has lagged behind delivery of new homes and businesses. This is because providers will not expend time and resources providing expensive items of infrastructure if there is uncertainty when the new communities will be built and hence demand will be there, and sometimes simply because not enough priority is afforded early enough in the development of such new communities.
3d.4 There is also continued pressure from many infrastructure providers to centralise services and facilities into fewer larger hubs, which runs counter to aspirations for local services within easy walking distances of communities. Similarly, existing constraints such as school capacity, particularly in smaller villages where local schools cannot typically be expanded easily to operationally sustainable sizes and developer funding would be insufficient to fund such expansions and new central government guidance (for example the Department for Education no longer supports new primary schools of less than 2 forms of entry (60 pupils per year group) present significant challenges. Spatially, there may also have been a mismatch in infrastructure delivery in recent years, for instance many of our villages have also seen very little planned growth with consequences for the retention of local shops and services or indeed the opposite in some communities where speculative housing developments have resulted in significant pressure on remaining local services. Therefore, in a rapidly changing world, the Local Plan will, need to consider, in spatial terms, the best locations for development and types of development that will enable as many people as possible to access existing and new services in as convenient way as possible, to address local needs. New Local Plan policy and development management practice also needs to focus more on prioritising infrastructure delivery in a timely way.
How this influences where jobs and homes could be created
3d.5 All these factors influence the choices we need to make about where the homes and jobs that are needed will be located. In order therefore to ensure there is a reasonable prospect of the plan being deliverable, a key driver of preparing the new strategy for jobs and homes, is to minimise infrastructure requirements or to try to make new homes and communities as ‘infrastructure efficient’ as possible. This means locating new development where there may be some existing capacity in the infrastructure networks, investing in places that already have some services and facilities and avoiding where possible ‘big ticket’ items that may prove extremely time consuming and expensive to deliver. This is no easy task as most infrastructure is already planned to be highly efficient and not over provide. There is also huge pressure on existing infrastructure of all kinds that needs replacing and maintaining.
Recent progress and looking forward
3d.6 The last decade or so has seen some significant infrastructure provision in South Gloucestershire. This includes new flood defences along the Severn Estuary, new strategic sewer and water mains across the north Bristol fringe, Metro Bus, new half hourly rail services to Yate, new primary schools at Charlton Hayes, Lyde Green and Frenchay, a refurbishment of Marlwood Secondary School, a significant extension of the Concord Medical Centre, a new community centre at Lyde Green and investment in new and improved cycling and walking routes and in many of our parks and green spaces.
3d.7 However, if we are to deliver on our climate emergency pledge, we need to do more, in particular to provide education and community facilities close to where people live on new developments and to enable more people to make sustainable travel and transport choices; whether to walk, wheel, cycle, drive or travel by scooter, bus or train. That’s why investment into ‘active travel’ infrastructure needs to continue at a pace over the coming years: Examples of key projects that already have external funding include:
- 3 new rail stations (North Filton, Henbury and Charfield)
- sustainable transport investment along the A432 to Yate and A38 to Thornbury
- investment into the Cycle Trunk route from the Science Park to the Cribbs Patchway New Neighbourhood, Bristol and Bath Cycleway and Yate (cycle) Spur, and
- a significant package of sustainable transport measures to support the new Arena
3d.8 And, we are also delivering on community infrastructure and measures to help make more space for nature. Current plans include:
- new facilities and upgrades at Abbeywood and Castle Secondary schools
- a new secondary and primary school at Lyde Green
- a new community centre and primary school within the Harry Stoke New Neighbourhoods
- rebuilding of the Elm Park primary school to passivhaus standards in Winterbourne
- a new primary school and community centre at Ladden Garden Village
- green infrastructure investment along the river Frome and Severn Estuary to improve flood resilience and biodiversity and along the Bristol east fringe through the Commons Connected project, and
- a new waste transfer and recycling centre (Sort It centre) in Filton and improvements to Mangotsfield recycling centre
- Wessex Water is also investing in a substantial upgrade to the Avonmouth water recycling centre which serves large parts of South Gloucestershire.
3d.9 The above list is not exhaustive. To understand key infrastructure, that is planned and being progressed prior to consideration of a new strategy for jobs and homes, check the map below.
How infrastructure provision is reported on
3d.11 Current planning regulations and guidance suggest that it is good practice for local authorities to produce an Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) to support new Local Plans. Planning for infrastructure involves multiple partners and is ongoing during the Local Plan adoption process and after. At this stage therefore we have produced:
- An Infrastructure Position Statement (IPS). The IPS seeks to explain how key infrastructure is planned for and funded, and what has been provided in recent years and what is planned to be provided in the next few years. You can find the range of statements for different types of infrastructure on our evidence base page.
- A Viability Position Statement (VPS). Understanding the financial viability of new development is also a key component of infrastructure planning as it is important to understand what new development can contribute financially towards the cost of new infrastructure. You can find the VPS on our evidence base page.
The need for consultation
3d.12 Infrastructure requirements and their deliverability is a key consideration, probably more so than it has ever been, in informing choices of where we should locate new jobs and homes. We have set out known infrastructure issues alongside the emerging preferred strategy and the 3 different strategy lenses. We want to explore and consult on how the different approaches to building a strategy create different infrastructure requirements.
3d.13 The nature of development and infrastructure provision in the UK is however constantly evolving and it is inevitable that providers methods and funding will change over the plan period. It is also expected that developers will necessarily have to play an innovative, proactive and supportive role in providing new infrastructure and implementing the stewardship arrangements to maintain it thereafter, particularly in any new large-scale developments. The new Local Plan will therefore set out requirements in terms of land for new development and broad infrastructure objectives, as best it can envisage at the time of writing. At this stage however, we cannot yet confirm what infrastructure will be needed until we agree our strategy for new homes and jobs.
Read the next section – Urban areas and market towns.
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