New South Glos planning strategy aims to shape a future where people can afford to live and work sustainably and locally

A house under construction

South Gloucestershire Council has published an update on its draft Local Plan ahead of public consultation next month. All councils must have a Local Plan, which sets out the strategies to build new homes and ensure they meet local needs, not just in terms of the numbers, but affordability, closeness to local services like schools and healthcare, and transport and jobs.

The council is asking for feedback from local people before final decisions are made on its proposals, which could see South Gloucestershire become a net zero area and take action to address the national housing crisis for local people.

This new Local Plan will ultimately be assessed by a Government Planning Inspector to ensure it meets its legal requirements, before being formally adopted by the council. It is vital that local people engage – to support the things in the plan that they feel are correct, and to suggest where the final plan can be improved.

South Gloucestershire Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for planning, Councillor Chris Willmore, said: “We really want to hear public views on our plans. The plans set out how we could become a net zero area, could tackle the problems of lack of facilities on new developments, protect biodiversity, and our town centres and address key housing and employment issues. It reflects our priorities as a new Partnership, to tackle climate change and the cost-of-living crisis.

“Everyone deserves somewhere to shut the door and feel safe. Yet we are living through a national housing crisis, where many hardworking residents cannot afford that basic freedom the rest of us take for granted. They are stuck in temporary accommodation, in fear of eviction or paying unaffordable rents. This plan focuses on tackling the local impacts of the national housing crisis. It provides genuinely affordable homes, to rent or buy, in the places we need them for local people – and makes sure they are decent homes, truly affordable to live in, by being warm and energy efficient. It will see far more of the houses being built as social housing than ever before.

“And it will tackle the problems of jobs being in the wrong places, leaving people with costly daily commutes to work which damage quality of life and affect everyone’s pockets. In parts of our area there are 0.4 jobs per working person. That means over half the residents in those areas have to travel considerable distances to work. This plan represents a step change in our aspirations to ensure people have homes they can afford and jobs they can reach without long daily treks, so that South Gloucestershire can truly afford – in every sense – the homes we need to live in.

“We also want to make it crystal clear to developers that the infrastructure we need: schools, healthcare facilities, transport links and places and spaces for local jobs, must be delivered alongside new housing, not years later, as has too often happened in the past.”

While much of the focus on local planning is often on the number of houses that might be built, in reality, a Local Plan covers much more in terms of how South Gloucestershire could look over the next 15 years and beyond.

Councillor Willmore said: “It’s easy to make pie in the sky promises of massive new facilities. But this draft is grounded in reality. We have been adamant that we will not allocate any land for housing unless there is a clear plan to fund the infrastructure needed. In an age of public sector spending cuts, it would be irresponsible to make promises we know the public purse cannot meet. So, this positive plan lays out a clear strategy to do this in a sustainable way, by locating them close to existing infrastructure, or where that infrastructure could realistically be delivered alongside new houses.”

The draft plan describes how South Gloucestershire can meet its expected housing demand without embarking on large-scale building projects to create entirely new freestanding communities in the countryside. Instead, building should be focussed on the urban fringe and, where appropriate, to have small schemes in rural communities. And where necessary, improvements will need to be made to existing services for new and existing residents.

Councillor Willmore added: “We’ve looked very carefully at the evidence to work out what is needed, and now we are presenting what we believe is an approach that will benefit South Gloucestershire as a whole.

“Any new development will have an impact and it is the role of the council through its local plan to make this a positive one. We promise to work with communities across the district to ensure that everyone gets those benefits, from affordable, sustainable homes, with jobs close by and the services they need.

“Through the consultation process that will launch next month, our ask of residents is to let us know whether you think our preferred strategy is the best option, and how we can do the best we can.”

Alongside the updated draft Local Plan, new policies on a range of issues managed through the council’s planning process are also being published. These include draft policies on:

  • Providing space for renewable energy generation
  • Supporting the council’s commitment to net zero covering: renewable and low carbon energy systems, climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience, embodied carbon, energy management in new development, community energy
  • Provision for Gypsy/Traveller and Travelling Showpeople communities
  • Affordable Homes policy
  • Economy and jobs policy
  • Town centres policy.