A new draft Local Plan for South Gloucestershire, our key planning policy document, which will shape the places that we live, work and socialise in over the next 15 years, has been approved by the Cabinet this week. The document, along with a range of supporting documentation will be the subject to a 12-week public consultation process from next month as the Council seeks to set the framework for making future growth sustainable and suitable for our communities.
This consultation document and the information we will share over the next few years will provide everyone connected to South Gloucestershire, with an opportunity to explore the issues, opportunities and choices, that face planning the future of our area.
Some of these choices will lead to debate and discussions and may divide opinions, but our choices must consider where the best connections can be made between people, development, existing and new infrastructure and the environment. We will need to build on lessons emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic and consider new ways of working, shopping and socialising. We will focus on what is important in terms of the built and natural environment and access to it, as we start to adjust to the “new normal”.
All Local Authorities must have a valid Local Plan, which show where new homes, jobs and shops and, new and enhanced infrastructure for walking, cycling, services and facilities should be located and developed in the future. It also sets out safeguards and policies to protect a district’s important natural and built environment.
They must also conform to the rules and principles set out by Government and currently set out in the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). As we produce our new Local Plan the national rules and requirements are likely to change, as the Government is proposing to make significant changes to the planning system. Future stages of this plan must reflect these changes, but we will have to wait for them to become clearer and eventually final across the next few years.
We will also need to synchronise our new Local Plan with the Spatial Development Plan being developed by the West of England Mayor and as part of this process we will work with neighbouring authorities to ensure the identified need for new homes and jobs for the whole area are addressed and accommodated.
There are a number of things that we don’t know at this stage, including the number of new homes that we will be required to accommodate. When the consultation process launches on 23 November, however, we will provide a range of supporting documents to help the general public interpret and understand the potential implications of the choices we will need to make on the existing communities and for the generations to come and we will be keen to hear from residents to ensure that we reflect their priorities in the final document.
What we do know is that our new Local Plan must establish:
- How we will meet requirements for significant numbers of new homes and jobs.
- The sites and exact location where the large-scale growth of homes, jobs and infrastructure should be located and what we will be needed to support this
- How we respond to our declared Climate Emergency and to ensure growth and development support sustainability, our environment and benefit both current and future residents and businesses in our authority
- How to retain a prosperous economy in light of Covid-19, and our changing ways and habits of working, whilst making sure there are positive impacts on our environment, economy and well-being of our communities
- How our urban areas facing significant challenges, including town centres and high streets, can change and develop to address issues faced by residents, workers and visitors
- The range of planning policies that we will need to guide and enhance development
- How we ensure future development addresses issues like climate change through higher sustainability standards and reduce health inequalities by enabling new and existing homes to be adaptable and accessible.
Cabinet Member for Planning, Transport and the Strategic Environment, Cllr Steve Reade, said: “We want to maintain South Gloucestershire’s deserved reputation as a great place to live, work and visit as we respond to and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. We know that we are a growing community, but it is vital that the council, our residents and businesses drive and guide that growth so we can remain a place that people want to be.
“The decisions we will face in the years to come will present challenges, and often we will try to balance competing interests, but by enshrining what the public want to see in the future of South Gloucestershire, which we will more of during the consultation process and beyond, we will be able to go forward with confidence that we are delivering what we want and need.
“The consultation process is designed to make all of us think about the future and how we will work together to find solutions to the challenges ahead and I look forward to it being a constructive process.”