Planning Inspector give his early findings on Cornwall’s Local Plan

The Inspector who has been tasked with looking at Cornwall Council’s local plan has given his initial thoughts, officially called ‘Schedule of Post Hearing Changes for Consultation’ on the resubmitted plan. Previously, the inspector said our housing numbers was too small and needed to be increased to take into consideration dwelling not in full-time use, i.e. second homes and those in the churn of selling/probate.

The main key message is the Inspector is happy with the overall target of 52,500 dwellings However, to be clear over 22,000 already with permission and 11,500 already built which leaves around 30,500 yet to come forward. This figure was proposed by Cornwall Council in December.

I must point out this being a minimum figure in line with the NPPF. However, the good news is on the basis of the figure of 52,500 the Council believes it can now demonstrate a 5 year land supply

Another of the Inspector’s key change is to redistribute 300 dwellings from the allowance during this plan period for the Eco-Community at West Carclaze to the built area of St Austell. This is a response to reflect past development of the town in the adjoining Community Network Area and consideration of past delivery rates. This also includes a need to review the delivery of the Eco community if there is no progress within two years of the Plans adoption

The other changes include the threshold for negotiation for affordable housing has been brought into line with the Ministerial statement and upcoming national guidance i.e. above 10 units generally and over 5 units in designated rural areas and the AONB.

The next stage of the plans journey is the proposed changes will be published for consultation probably at the end of June for a six-week period with responses provided to the Inspector for his further consideration. Unless he considers there are any new issues raised about the proposed changes (he is not looking at the whole plan) he will issue his final report and recommendations to the Council towards the end of September.

The Plan and the inspector’s recommendations would then be presented to full Council ultimately to decide if it is happy to accept his proposed changes /recommendations and so move towards formally adopting the Plan or does not wish to proceed to adoption.

If we do not adopt a plan, we leaves ourselves open to not being able to show a five-year land supply and far worse, the Government imposing a plan on Cornwall.

Changes to Cornwall’s Local Plan overwhelmingly approved

Sometimes it feels like we are going round and round on the Local Plan merry-go-round, stopping now and again for small and large changes to the plan. Today, at the meeting of full council, councillors debated the changes to the plan as directed by the Planning Inspector.

Many will not like the changes to the plan, or like the plan at all. However, without a plan, Cornwall is at more risk because it cannot prove there is adequate housing number for five-years. Furthermore, if the Council cannot agree a plan, the Government will impose on the Council in 2017. If that happened, the Council would have limited say on the housing numbers.

For those who have not read the plan, or the changes, HERE is the link to the documentation.

Many councillor spoke during the debate, mostly repeating what has been said before. For those who may have missed the Local Plan debate, HERE are previous blogs on the subject. I raise the subject on the Government needs to make sure funding for school expansions in light of new housing follows. Sadly, this does not always happen.

There was an amendment put forward by Dick Cole, for the removal of the housing allocation for the Eco-town. This totals 1200 dwellings. However, the flaw to this plan was other areas in Cornwall, mostly St. Austell’s Community Network Area would have to find the shortfall of 1200. It is no surprise this amendment was lost, with only four councillors voting in favour.

As for the main vote, this was carried by all but two councillors who voted against, and one who abstained.

The next stage of the plan’s journey will be subject to a public consultation lasting for six-weeks starting in January. From this, the plan will be re-submitted to the Planning Inspector for him to hopefully approve.

Cornwall’s Local Plan housing number set to be 52,500

The saga that is the Cornwall Local Plan (2010 – 2030) continues to rumble on. The Local Plan is it is suspended after the Planning Inspector at a public Examination said in his recommendations that the current housing numbers was too low. This was after months of debate on the numbers, with numbers ranging from 16,000 to 50,000. Prior to the Examination, the Council by a vote at full council settled on 47,000 homes between 2010 and 2030.

If the Council wants a Local Plan to be approved it cannot ignore the inspector, and therefore his direction was for the Local Plan housing numbers to be increased by 10%. This is further broken-down by 7% to take into account second homes, and 3% what is called churn, ie, those for sale, in probate and not in occupation. The figure the Council is looking like settling on is 52,500.

Now before people jump up and say where are you going to put 52,500 or where is the need for this number, I will explain this is not for another 52,500 houses in Cornwall. This number takes into account the 36,500 that have either been built, or have planning permission to be built since 2010. That means the Local Plan will require a further 16,000 to be built between 2010 and 2030. It is important to highlight this true number of new planning permission being approved, and not the overall target number.

At yesterday’s the Planning Policy Meeting, the committee agreed with reservations, the number of 52,500. There is angst amongst the committee members that this figure is a minimum, and not a maximum. However, when setting a minimum, you at least have a chance of refusing anything over this number if your Local Plan number is robust and backed up with evidence.

Arguing about settling on a lower figure is pointless after the Inspector has given clear guidance on what he expects to be a target. If the Council did set a lower target, then our plan would not be adopted. This would mean we could not prove a five-year land supply and therefore, any development would be approved as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is clear with a Local Plan having to have a five-year land supply.

On the point of 7% for holiday homes/lets, this is not meaning 7% will be built for holiday homes/lets. This percentage is to take into account those home that have been built or will be built during the lifetime of the plan will not all end up as full-time occupation homes. Therefore, the inspector has said Cornwall’s plan must take this into account in the Local Plan. I do not like it, but this was a direction from the inspector, which imposible to ignore.

How will those numbers will be shared around Cornwall?  It is easier to give you the LINK to the actual numbers at page 42. However, for Helston, and the wider Community Network Area (CNA) which Porthleven rests in, the numbers are:

Helston:

  • 900 (old number), 1,200 (new number)
  • Completed or existing commitments since 2010 – 445
  • Remaining requirement for the plan between 2010 and 2030 – 755 (417 old target)

CNA area

  • 1,100 (requirement)
  • Completed or existing commitments since 2010 – 831
  • Remaining requirements 269

In Porthleven’s case, and working on a pro-rata distribution – as worked out by planning officers – would see a requirement for 81 additional dwellings in Porthleven. This is worked out from a target of 196, but with 113 already being built since 2010. The 113 includes the housing numbers from Trivisker and Shrubberies. The work on where, how and when these 81 homes will be delivered is something the Porthleven Neighbourhood Plan is working on.

The Local Plan is not only about housing numbers, but also includes economic growth and jobs. In the plan, there is a provision of 38,000 FTE jobs and employment space for 700,000m2. Like the housing numbers, these numbers take into account 10,000 FTE and 425,000m2.

On the subject of the percentage of affordable housing contained within the plan, I am disappointed with the percentage changes for Porthleven and Helston. I have always worked on both settlements having at minimum of 40% ratio of affordable. However, these figures have been reduced to 30% for Porthleven, and 25% for Helston. The reason is because the inspector said it could not be evidenced.

If you are looking at other neighbouring LA’s  their figures in either adopted or plans going through the inspections all have percentage figures of around 25%, a few have percentages as low at 10%.  So if you want your plan accepted with a higher affordable housing ratio, you will not unless you have robust evidence.

Though this is further complicated with the Government formula on what type of affordable a house is. As different types can mean different percentages of affordable.

Affordable housing (take the point on what is affordable) is needed in both settlement. Yet this new revised percentage number actually harms the aims of having more affordable houses. I do take the point, and it is worth highlighting when wanting higher affordable figure is no Section 106 for infrastructure like roads, open space contribution, and educational contribution can be sought. So you must have a balance on the right ratio of affordability, or else create another problem.

Many will not like certain aspects of the Local Plan, including me, but the Government has been crystal clear that if a local authority does not have a Local Plan, the Government will impose one on the LA and the figure they come up with is the one you are stuck with. I can tell you the figure will not be lower than the one currently (grudgingly) accepted by the Council.

From the PAC recommendation, the next stage will be for the Cabinet to give its backing, and finally, it goes to full council on the 15th December to make the final decision.

 

Cornwall Council’s Local Plan is submitted for examination to the Sec of State.

After years of work,  Cornwall Council’s Local Plan has now been submitted to the Sec of State, Mr Pickles for examination. I for one is really pleased this has now been submitted, as this will give the Council more powers where development should take place. Furthermore, by having an adopted Local Plan will in turn allow local communities who are in the process of putting together their neighbourhood plans the vehicle to have these adopted too.

The submitted Plan is made up of the ‘Proposed Submission Local Plan – Strategic Policies’ published in March 2014 together with a series of amendments published in September 2014 as the ‘Schedule of focussed changes to the Cornwall Local Plan – Strategic Policies’. The full set of ‘submission documents’ along with the complete evidence base will be available by visiting www.cornwall.gov.uk/localplancornwall.

The public examination will take place on the 11th may 2015 where the various sides will be able to put their cases forward. From this, and depending on the formal responses on the examination, Cornwall could have its Local Plan adopted by the end of 2015.

Cornwall Council supports submission of the Local Plan to the Secretary of State

And there it is, after many years of work, discussion, argument and counter argument, the elected Members of Cornwall Council voted in favour to support the submission of the Strategic Policies element of the Local Plan to the Secretary of State. These policies are an important first part of the Local Plan and gives the flexibility that encourages Neighbourhood Plans- an important part of localism.

The actual vote was 76 in favour, 19 against, with five Councillors abstaining. 23 Councillors were missing from the vote.

In this plan, the Council will be able to demonstrate a five-year land supply. This is very important as inspectors are giving limited weight to a plan and with no agreed five-year land supply. This leaves the Council vulnerable to planning appeals, and the Council cannot remain vulnerable to planning by appeal. Developers know this, and can overturn a Council decision by mounting a strong appeal using expensive experts to put across their cases. Furthermore, without a Local Plan the Council is heavily reliant on old saved policies that have to be compliant with the National Planning Policy Framework to be applicable. In the case of the former Kerrier area, where there are no saved policies, there is sole reliance on the NPPF.

The number of housing has been the biggest single issue in formulating the Local Plan. The Planning Minister and guidance (ie the Government) in the NPPF, have said it is up to Council to set their own housing targets evidence, however, the Government have made is crystal clear the housing number target has to be based on sound evidence. This evidence comes from the projections from the Office of National Statistics in the Strategic Housing Market Need Assessment. The SHMNA has then moderated these downwards to appropriately reflect the downward trend in household formation and the 2011 census.

This evidence in the Council’s submission says 47,500 can be supported, and importantly gives the much-needed five-year land supply.  As I said before, this is important in any submission, especially if you want your plan approved. Using figures from April 2014, shows that Cornwall already have about 29,000 (28,762) commitments, including around 10,000 (8,754) that have already been built since 2010. This leaves a balance of 18,500 (18,738) more to find over the next 15 years

I am glad the plan has now been approved because having no plan would be a disaster for Cornwall and would leave Cornwall at the mercy of developers. This plan will wrestle back control of development from developers and put it back in the hands of a community through Neighbourhood Plans.

 

Local Plan approved by Cabinet

At the recent Extraordinary Cabinet, the Local Plan  or to give it its full title The Cornwall Local Plan – Strategic Policies (formerly known as the Core Strategy), which will guide planning for the next 15 years in Cornwall was debated and approved by the Cabinet. This plan has been a long time coming due to the complexities surrounding a planning document of this nature. It has not been an easy ride, as many people have a view on the actual number of housing required in the next 15 years. However, without a plan, it would be difficult to have a say where developer should build and have some sort of balance on the numbers of housing that can be built.

The full range of suggested housing targets is from 29,000 to 74,500. These suggested figures is in part from 44 representations on housing numbers from three rounds of consultation since 2011. The final figure which has been agreed on is 47,500, and this is the number which will be submitted as part of the plan. The 47,500 is not all new builds as it takes into consideration housing that already has been given  planning permission. The actual figure of ‘new’ builds will be 18,662. How these new builds will be split is on the image at the bottom of the page.

I have often heard this Local Plan will ‘concrete’ over Cornwall. However, this is far from true, as currently roughly 1% of Cornwall has development and if all the planned dwellings are built, this percentage will raise to 1.5%. That is hardly a concreting over Cornwall.

I also welcome the approval of this plan as without the approval, those town and parishes who are in the process of formulating their neighbourhood plan could not progress with out the Local Plan. These neighborhood plans are key to town and parishes deciding what happens to their communities for the next 15 years.

Now the Cabinet has approved the plan, it will be the turn of the full membership of the Council to give the final seal of approval in December before it then goes through the formal process of the inspectors etc before hopefully being adopted. With no Local Plan, Cornwall would find itself in a difficult position and open to unrestircted development.

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Cornwall’s Local Plan

It has been four years in the making, and at today’s full council meeting, the Local Plan was debated. This plan will be the cornerstone of Cornwall Council’s planning strategy for the next 17 years. The importance of the Local Plan cannot be stressed enough; as without one, it would leave Cornwall open to a development free-for-all.

Most if not all of the process and todays debate has been on the number of dwellings within this plan. If these numbers are set too low, the plan will be rejected by Government. This would leave Cornwall without that all important plan. The advice given is a plan with numbers less than 47,500 would be in grave danger of falling foul of the Government rules. We may not like it, but it is the Governments ball, and they set the game.

The government guidance states the headline figure should be evidenced using a Strategic Housing Market Needs Assessment or SHMNA unless better evidence is available these should start with data from the Office of National Statistics. There is currently no other defensible evidence and the 47,500 is the lowest figure that aligns with this guidance and our officers feel they can robustly defend this figure.

Local Plans elsewhere have been rejected for proposing as little as 1 and 2% lower than ONS projections. Out of the 64 other Local Authority Local Plans, only three have managed to defend a lower figure, and all these were told an early review was to be undertaken on those numbers. Interestingly, no Local Plan in the last year has managed to defend a plan with lower numbers.

Of course, this does not stop opportunism, as the Tory Group submitted an amendment for a much lower figure of 33,000 That is 30% lower than the evidence supports. In some of the biggest Damascene conversions I have witnessed in the chamber, many of the previous higher figure zealots, now spoke in favour of the lower figure. Furthermore, the whole amendment came unstuck when the Tory Group Leader admitted their numbers could actually turn out to be 36,000 or 38,000. Talk about undermining your own groups amendment.

A vote was taken on the amendment with 28 Councillors voted in favour of the lower number, with 78 against. There was no abstentions. With a little more debate, a vote was taken on the higher figure of 47,500. This vote resulted in 62 for, 31 against and 10 abstentions.

I will point out that the 47,500 includes extant permissions and houses that have been built between 2010 and the present day will be deducted from the headline figure and not added. This means that of the plans target, 27000 of these have already been granted planning permission of which over 7,000 have been built. That leaves 20,500 dwellings for the next 17 years.

The Local Plan will now be subject to public consultation, and then after this has been completed, with be subject to the gaze of the Planning Inspectors. Only after this will Cornwall have an adopted and robust Local Plan.

Helston’s Draft Local Plan

Helston’s Draft Local Plan, which covers Helston for the next 20 years is now subject to formal consultation before it becomes ratified. The consultation period runs until April 22nd. The plan and all the relevant details can be found HERE.

Once adopted either as it is now, or with changes, will sit alongside the Cornwall Local Plan. Details on that can be found HERE. And if you want to give your views online, HERE is that link

It is very important people take the time to comment even if it is to agree with the plans. As that will give Cornwall Council a true understanding on the local feeling. I know, I have commented.

If you want any further information, or the whole document electronically, just give me a call, tweet, text, or email.

The proposals for Helston

The proposals for Helston

Local Planning – Site meeting

Porthleven Town Council held a planning site meeting on Saturday. They wanted to see for themselves what the impact an application would have on the surrounding area. There had been many objections in writing to Porthleven Council and Cornwall Council, and at a previous Town Council meeting many objectors turned up and expressed their views.

The Town Council listened to both the applicant and objectors and at times it got a little heated between the two parties, but the Town Council did manage to listen to the various points made. The Town Council then retired back to the Council Offices and debated the various points.

In the end it felt that it could not support the application. It will be writing to Cornwall Council requesting for this application to be refused for various reasons including harm to the character and amenity of the area and lack of local support. It now heads back to Cornwall Council either for refusal under delegated powers, or if not, it will go to the Planning Committee for a decision.

The Porthleven Shipyard building refused planning permisson

What a journey this planning application has been. It has been a close run thing with the outcome finally balanced as the application was recommended for approval. The application was nearly refused at last planning meeting, but – and welcomed – a site meeting was arranged. This site meeting allowed the community to show its feeling and for Councillors on the committee to see first-hand the impact this building would have not only of the area, but Porthleven as a whole. I thank the committee for agreeing to this.

The people of Porthleven accept change will happen, but this change has to be sympathetic to our history, culture and environment. This building is not sympathetic to those important factors.

There is a statutory duty to preserve and enhance Conservation Areas that are designated under s.69 of the Act. The area’s designation has the highest protection in terms of the adopted 2010 Management Appraisal for Porthleven and Local Plan (National Policy); therefore, any building has to align itself to those important principles and this application does not uphold those principles; as the building’s location, scale, form and design would fail to preserve or enhance the character and appearance Conservation Area.

The Porthleven Fishermen’s and Boat-owner Association – much to their credit – stood firm and objected most strongly to this application. This is because the proposed building and layout would harm boat related activity. Lynne Lees as Secretary of the Association spoke amazingly at the recent site meeting. John Boyle put the views of the association at both planning with purpose and clearly highlighting why the association had continuously objected to these plans.

The Town Council objected most strongly to this application and made strong representations both in writing and at the committee meetings. The Town Council’s viewpoint were admirably put forward but Councillors Mike Toy and Liz Lane. The Deputy Mayor, Bev Plunkett showed her support at today’s meeting too.

Porthleven’s community have also stood up with over 120 representation against this proposal. Yes, not everyone was against this plan, but the objections far outweighed those who supported it.

This was all rewarded today at the West Planning Committee meeting Councillors on that committee refused to grant permission for this building. The committee understood the impact and harm to such a central and important of Porthleven part of this building would have and rather than just go with the recommendation for approval voted to refused this application. I thank the committee for the consideration and robust challenge.

The reason for refusal is:

The proposed development would, due to its scale, bulk and form, result in an imposing building which would fail to preserve and enhance the character and appearance of the Conservation Area and wider appreciation of Porthleven within the AONB landscape and harm the setting and appearance of non-designated heritage assets namely St Bartholomew’s Church and the stone boundary wall fronting Methleigh Bottoms. 

The less than substantial harm identified would outweigh the benefits of the proposal and the development would be contrary to the aims of Policies 1, 2, 12, 23 and 24 of the Cornwall Local Plan Strategic Policies 2010-2030, paragraphs 7, 14, 17, 56, 57, 58,115, 126, 127, 131 and 135 of the National Planning Policy Framework 2012, guidance within the Porthleven Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Strategy and Cornwall AONB Management Plan 2016-2021 and Section 72 of the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Area) Act 1990.

Only three Councillors voted against refusal with one Councillor, Mike Thomas of Helston spoke in favour of this application at the committee. The other two Councillors who voted against were Councillors John Herd and Richard Robinson.

Of course, this is not the end. As the application has the right of appeal. I am hopeful if an appeal is launched, the robust reasons for refusals would be upheld and the appeal dismissed.

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