Uttlesford Developer Forum - questions and answers
Find the answers to some of the questions asked at our developer forum.
Those identified on the council's Local Plan database as either developers or their agents were invited to a Zoom webinar on 11 March 2021, at which an update was provided on Local Plan progress. The webinar included two Q&A sessions.
This page records the questions asked at the webinar, grouped according to the themes that emerged, and provides responses by council officers.
Green Belt and the Countryside Protection Zone
- Will there be any proposed review of the Green Belt as part of your housing distribution strategy?
- The previous Green Belt review was too broad-brush, given that Hatfield Heath, a key village, is constrained by the Green Belt would it not be appropriate to undertake a more finer grain review, focusing around the specific settlements such as Stansted and Hatfield Heath?
- East Herts DC reviewed their MGB for their LP
- Are you intending to carry forward the Countryside Protection Zone (CPZ) into the new Local Plan?
Both the Green Belt and Countryside Protection Zone designations will be reviewed. No decision has been taken on whether it is necessary to update the recent studies looking at these designations. Comments on a fine-grain approach are noted.
Pre-Local Plan planning decisions
- Uttlesford has a really poor Housing Land Supply and no up to date plan with the Local Plan Submission day over 870 days away, most Councils which have found themselves in this position have formulated a policy position for positively dealing with sustainable development outside of old settlement boundaries. What is Uttlesford's policy for fixing housing supply over the next 870 days?
- OK... you have a Climate Change Policy but you don't have a criteria based interim policy for dealing with applications for housing. [Is this] because the Council is the only Authority in the region which is run by a Group which states its opposition to development?
- To get a 5Y supply there is a need for about 1,500 units, how is this to be achieved without a clear strategy?
- Why is the LP taking so long
- How do YOU think developers can assist in repairing your five year land supply deficit, other than submitting applications?
- Perhaps Publish a policy and get it agreed with members to say what are the requirements for applications in the interim.
- Just responding to applications is not a strategy.
- What you should be doing is to devise a framework for guiding planning decisions to avoid an ad hoc system.
- Do your members accept that some sites should come forward now, ahead of the plan?
- The question about what you are doing in the interim has not been addressed.
- Is there current engagement on any planning applications for strategic development sites in advance of the themes and preferred options evolution. Are these viewed as premature in advance of settling a spatial strategy or are they driving your spatial strategy?
- When Gordon says that good schemes will be approved, are your Members on board with that strategy. Are Members able to be part of pre app discussions.
- Do your planning committee members support officers pro-active approach?
- [...] what we face is the very expensive preparation of applications, which might get officer support, but historically, proposals are then refused at committee, some Member support at an early stage for site specific locations might encourage applications to come forward.
- How do we enter into discussion with UDC on housing sites?
- But why haven't you picked up the phone to us?
- [...] Thank you for the update on 5 year supply and the observation that Members are very concerned by the housing land supply shortfall. Taking your comments and your response to [...] question, will the planning committee now be giving significant weight to the delivery of housing in the planning balance
The first priority, and primary mechanism, for putting in place a spatial strategy is the preparation of a sound Local Plan. The Council currently has no plans to publish an interim policy document, for four main reasons:
- Insufficient capacity to prepare an interim policy document without delaying progress on the new Local Plan
- Such an interim policy document would have limited weight in planning decisions
- A comparable alternative would be to apply weight to the emerging policies of the new Local Plan, in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
- The emerging Local Plan will start to form the basis for an interim document to set out a strategy and inform decisions
As the adopted Local Plan does not provide for the District's future housing needs, there will of course continue to be a need to grant planning permission on sites not allocated for development. However, each scheme will be assessed on its merits, taking into account policies that continue to carry weight, applicable Neighbourhood Plans and the NPPF. The Council expects proposals to be of a high quality, and various tools will be used to achieve this e.g. design codes, design review and the Interim Climate Change Policy.
Pre-application discussions will be held on a 'without prejudice' basis in accordance with our established service, ranging from a single written response up to a bespoke Planning Performance Agreement (PPA). The latter provides for Councillor engagement, in accordance with the published PPA Charter. Further details can be found on the Planning pre-application advice page.
- What is the Council's initial plan re spatial distribution of housing? The previous plan didn't make appropriate consideration of the rural nature of the district and was overly dependent on Garden Communities, will Garden Communities form a key part of the new plan?
- Housing distribution
- In some recent local plan hearings Inspectors have stressed the need to allocate more small housing sites in sustainable locations. Will the LP prioritise small sites?
- Did you consider keeping with the previously identified sites and working with developers to overcome the Inspector's concerns.
- Yes withdraw Plan, but start new one with a starting point of revisiting the major sites already identified for which a huge amount of work has already been invested. Starting from scratch means a 3 year program with all the difficulties in the interim.
The Council does not have an initial plan for the spatial distribution of development. This will emerge through public discussions by Councillors, informed by the Issues and Options consultation (still ongoing) and relevant evidence. The Council will take into account the advice of the previous Inspectors, including on the need to allocate more small and medium sized sites.
As for starting with previous sites and fixing their problems, the Council wanted to look at the options available to it afresh. Consequently, no decisions on strategy or sites to be allocated have been taken at this stage.
Call for sites process
- I have a question re technical work and the Call for Sites. The form implies that you want submissions supported by flood risk assessment, contamination report, viability appraisal, transport assessment; are these needed where the constraints maps show no constraints?
- What is your timetable for publishing sites as put forward for call for sites? After the first stage, sift - what is your timetable for this can you confirm?
- Do you propose to engage with contributors to the call for sites during the process of site assessment if you have queries on individual sites? Many councils do not engage and make guesses at problems and possible solutions.
- Are the Council exploring sites themselves that they consider suitable and approaching owners, and therefore submitting your own C4Ss form?
The call for sites form seeks to signpost where supporting documents might be useful to demonstrate a site's suitability, achievability and/or availability. While these are not mandatory, those submitting sites should provide as much detail as possible to address any potential issues.
The timetable and methodology for the assessment and publication of sites is still to be determined, although the initial idea is to complete an initial stage on a 'policy-off' basis followed by 'policy-on' assessment once there is an emerging spatial strategy. The Council will engage with those submitting sites where there are queries.
It is unlikely that the Council will submit any sites through the call for sites. However, in carrying out the land availability assessment, it must consider sites from a wide range of sources so it is possible that a more proactive approach will form part of the process.
- [...] when will the forum consultation results be published?
The Issues and Options consultation will close on 21 April 2021, after which all comments will be summarised and published in a consultation summary document. This will be completed as quickly as possible, not least because the comments must inform the Council's next phase of work. However, until the final number of comments is known, it is not possible to confirm a date for publication.
Climate change policy
- How can you have a Climate Change Policy without mentioning Stansted?
- What weight should be given to the "Climate Planning Policy" in decision making given not statutory?
- What is the £1m allocation of funds to the Member Working Group for?
- Are you working with ECC Climate Commission on the climate policy development?
The Interim Climate Change policies are intended to encourage 'everyday' planning applications to consider how they can better address climate change. It is not a strategic document that seeks to inform the future of Stansted Airport. The non-statutory nature of the document and the aim to get it in place swiftly obviates the ability of it to address activity at Stansted Airport.
The interim policy does not have status as either a Development Plan policy or Supplementary Planning Document. It is intended to both demonstrate the Council's commitment to the climate challenge and assist applicants in demonstrating how their proposals address climate change mitigation and adaptation.
£1million has recently been allocated for climate change projects, and officers are in the process of considering best use of these funds in the light of the Climate Change Committee's recommended Balanced Net Zero Pathway approach. Proposals will be put to members for approval by early summer 2021.
The Council liaises with regularly with ECC officers on the Essex Climate Action Commission, two of whom sit within the Local Plan and New Communities Team.
- How do you recommend we demonstrate "beauty" in outline planning applications?
- [...] what do you feel is the threshold is for Design Codes to be required. How many units do you feel would trigger the need for a Design Code?
- The National Design Guide encourages local authorities to prepare local design codes. Why, in some cases, is this expectation being passed onto developers to prepare site-specific codes instead?
- Do you think there is a conflict between net zero homes / beautiful homes / sensitive design responses to heritage assets or conservation areas? Do members understand there might have to be compromises
- Will UDC's design guide allow for blue sky thinking design or will it be prescriptive? This should really also tie in with the UDC Environmental and Sustainability Policies.
- In engaging with communities on design for individual sites do you anticipate a genuine engagement or a simple and all too often response of wanting to see no new development?
- UDC would seem to take extreme note of Local Pressure Groups, which generally are against any form of development. Moving forward, is the LPA going to continue to listen to this vociferous minority?
Outline planning applications understandably contain less detail than full or reserved matters applications. However, a certain amount of masterplanning is likely to have taken place so it should be demonstrated how this has been carried out to a high quality, perhaps even involving design review. Applicants should expect conditions to be used to secure a high quality of design, sometimes involving a requirement to submit a design code for approval.
The comment on balancing competing design issues is noted. Any codes/guides will need to address this.
The Council is likely to prepare local design codes/guides, particularly to support the policies and allocations in the new Local Plan. However, there is also a role for applicants to prepare design codes for specific sites, particularly where they come forward on unallocated sites. All design codes should be prepared with engagement from as wide a range of local stakeholders as possible.
Local Plan evidence
· What evidence base work is underway?
A full range of evidence base work is underway, with officers starting to prepare certain documents and commissioning external consultants to complete others. An update will be coming to an upcoming Local Plan Leadership Group meeting. One notable recent development is the appointment of Sustainability Appraisal (SA) consultants, who are now helping to integrate the SA and Local Plan processes
Developer Forum format
- How can we join in this meeting, rather than just watch presentations?
- Thanks for organising this session, very useful to hear direct from you. Are you going to schedule another one of these in due course?
- Are there any plans to allow this group to engage with members?
- Is the DM Team fully staffed at the present time, I recognise pressures on officers dealing with applications; it would be good to hear in future sessions on current DM issues/challenges/logjam issues?
- Suggest next meeting should be live when opportunities allow.
As explained during the webinar, it was considered that the high number of attendees (72) merited a conventional webinar format with the submission of written questions, some of which were answered at the time by panel members.
All feedback will be considered, including the above points regarding Councillor and Development Management involvement, and another session will be held in the next few months.
- It's interesting to hear you are working with developers to deal with the housing need.
- Let's hope a shop and a pub is not the threshold for new development.
- Thank you all.
- I understand the constraints today, but a bit chaotic.
- Stansted Airport's response to climate change is that it would not adversely impact on the airport!
- A sustainable transport policy is to locate development near to employment, schools, shops etc no tacked onto small villages.
- You should have some guidelines.
Last updated 4 May 2021