Monday, 7 December 2015

North Dorset Local Plan and housing numbers update

For those of us that are keeping an eye on when the Examiner's report on the North Dorset Local Plan will be published, there has been some interesting updates in the last month on the latest figures emerging on housing needs for the area, leading to an exchange between the Inspector and the District Council. 

The Inspector has been made aware that the Eastern Dorset 2015 SHMA which assessed the likely housing need for the housing market area is to be published soon. From the information available it seems that it concludes that the objectively assessed need for North Dorset is 330 dwellings a year – compared to the earlier SHMA estimate of 285.  So a 15% uplift in total.  Obviously no decision as yet where this might be allocated - particularly as the 330 dwellings is an indicative split across the housing market area, and depending on the capacity and constraints, this may need to go up or down under the combined Council's Duty to Cooperate. 

The District Council are keen to get their Plan regarded nonetheless, and press ahead with starting their review straight away (they say they will start by 31 March 2016).  It does signal that there is likely to be more housing land required, and that this would need to be identified and allocated in the review (if there isn't sufficient supply coming forward above that already identified by the District Council). 

Will we get to see Inspector David Hogger's final report before Christmas?  And see the details in the SHMA?  Watch this space...

UPDATE - the housing needs report is in fact already on the Purbeck section of the Dorset Council's website - click here to view - the graph on page 197 (shown below) illustrates the different requirements.  Both Purbeck and North Dorset have a significant chunk of their need to support the likely employment growth in the area (which would otherwise be stalled by lack of employees, or lead to higher levels of commuting).  The 330 suggested annual figure for housing in North Dorset does not include residential care homes which if included would add on a further 17 units a year to this figure. 

Friday, 27 November 2015

Looking forward to my talk to Dorchester Civic Society

What could
neighbourhood planning
                          do for Dorchester?

at the Dorford Centre on Tuesday night - should be interesting I hope!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

One week left to comment on the Piddle Valley Neighbourhood Plan

The Piddle Valley Neighbourhood Plan is going through its final consultation with both local residents and the statutory consultees before it gets submitted to the District Council. 

The plan covers a number of issues that local residents thought were important – trying to balance the need for the area to have some growth, particularly affordable housing for local people, but not of a scale or type that will damage the beauty and attractiveness of the valley.  Another key issue affecting some local people has been flooding, so the plan tries to go one step further to make sure that development does not make the flooding situation worse.

The neighbourhood plan group has worked hard to listen to the opinions of local residents in pulling together the proposals in the plan, and has made a number of changes along the way, in terms of the sites that have been chosen that the way the new settlement boundaries have been drawn up.

They hope that the referendum will be given the go-ahead by next Spring.  For more information on the plan and process, visit their website.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

A shiny, new Local Plan for West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland

The West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland Local Plan was finally adopted on15 October (at Weymouth and Portland) and 22 October (at West Dorset).  The new Plan replaces the previous Local Plans for each area, which no longer need to be referred to in planning decisions. 
The new Local Plan will cover the period to 2031, although an early review (by 2021) is anticipated to ensure there is sufficient ongoing supply of housing land.  This is critical, as without a robust housing land supply the Local Plan policies can be over-ruled.
It still amazes me how much time these plans take to get through the process.  Both Councils were working on draft plans, before taking the decision in 2011 to work together on a combined plan for the whole area.  The adoption comes 4 years on from the first public sessions on the issues and options, and the examination process took 2 years.  But at least, unlike some, the examiner concluded that the plan could be adopted.
This is good news for neighbourhood plan groups working in the area, who now have certainty on the over-riding strategy that their plans should align with. 
Alongside the Local Plan, the Community Infrastructure Levy has also been adopted.  However a date has yet to be set for when it will come into effect, and it certainly won’t be used until April 2016 at the earliest (whilst the various systems are put into place), and until then the Councils will rely on section 106 agreements to secure infrastructure funding where they can.
For more information visit the Council's planning policy pages

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Just published - the new Housing and Planning Bill

The new Bill on Housing and Planning had its first reading in the House of Commons yesterday.  So at last we have a clearer view of how some of the ideas on changes to the planning system that have been aired by the Conservative Party could come into effect.

Of particular interest to people involved in planning are the clauses on

Starter Homes - defined as a new buildings (or part of a building) purchased by a first-time buyer under the age of 40, sold at a discount of at least 20% of the market value, and sold for less than £250,000 (outside of Greater London).  Regulations can be introduced to cover various matters, such as adding other criteria on who is able to qualify for a starter home or specifying restrictions on the sale or letting of these homes. The regulations could also require planning authorities to require starter homes (either on-site or through financial contributions) when they are granting planning permission for certain types of residential development. 

Self-Build Homes - the basis of the changes here are to make sure that local planning authorities grant enough sites for self-build and custom housing to keep paces with numbers of eligible people on their register. The timeframes for Councils to do this will be set out separately in regulations.

Social Housing sales - introducing the mechanisms for affordable housing providers to choose to offer a right to buy to their tenants at broadly the same discounts as for council houses.  At the present time we don't know how many Dorset properties could be sold off, as not all social housing providers may want to participate. 

Neighbourhood Planning - to streamline the process for designating neighbourhood areas at the start, and for organising the referendum and 'making' of the plan at the end.  Details to be set out in regulations.  Neighbourhood Forums can also ask to be notified about planning applications in their area (this is something Parish Councils have been able to request for some time). 

Permission in Principle and Local Registers of Land - this section of the Bill lays the foundations for regulations to require planning authorities to keep a register of certain types of sites in their area, and for development orders to be made for these types of site (potentially through changes to national permitted development rights). The idea behind this is to enable small brownfield sites to be given ‘in principle’ permission for new housing (although technical details would still need to be approved locally). How these sites will be identified is not clear, but there is scope for the regulations to require consultation as part of forming the register. There may be more detailed requirements in the regulations on what type of brownfield (or other) sites will be suitable.  There is also the provision to have regard to the development plan – so, for example, if a site is allocated for another use, the 'in principle permission' would not automatically apply. The scope of these proposals could of course be widened beyond brownfield sites if this Bill is passed, and could also work for neighbourhood development orders.

The answers provided by the Bill inevitably lead to more questions, as a lot of the detail is to be fleshed out in the regulations, which have yet to be published.  The Bill may well be subject to changes along the way.  It doesn't include any mention of small site affordable home exemptions, which there was some speculation about following the recent changes in this field (which I should probably blog about in another post!)

Monday, 31 August 2015

Planning ahead for new or extended mineral quarries in Dorset

There are three weeks left to run on the Draft Dorset Mineral Sites Plan consultation. 
The draft plan includes proposals for new or extended sites for sand and gravel extraction including three sites around Crossways / Moreton  (Woodsford Quarry, Station Road and Hurst Farm) and four further sites between Bovington and Wareham.  Eight new sites have been identified for the provision of Purbeck Stone, mostly around Langton Matravers.  There are also proposals for an extension to a site on Portland (you guessed it - for Portland Stone).  Three sites (just outside Marnhull, and at Oborne and Lilington near Sherborne) have been flagged up for the provision of other building stone – these are all extensions to existing quarries.
UPDATE: the consultation has been extended and will now close on 23 October 2015.  The pre-submission draft is due to be published March 2016.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Major milestones passed for West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland

The West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland Local Plan is firmly on track for adoption this Autumn.  The final hurdle has been passed, with the publication of the Inspector’s report announcing that, with modifications, the plan has been found sound.
The planners won’t be able to sit back for too long, as the plan will need to be reviewed by 2021, and the Inspector says this review should “identify a long-term strategy for development in the Dorchester area and reappraise housing provision in Sherborne”.
The five year housing supply has been closely examined, with the Inspector ruling out some of the ‘supply’ because of uncertainty or lack of evidence, but still finding that there is 5.1 years in the bag.   With such a slim margin he then goes on to say “it is imperative that the Councils do not ignore new opportunities which come forward in sustainable locations and are consistent with other policy provisions”

Of particular interest is the outcome on affordable housing in light of the recent High Court ruling that the national guidance on minimum thresholds should be quashed.   The Inspector has said that it is fine to go ahead with the requirement for all open market housing sites to contribute to affordable housing needs.  Good news for those in housing need - but probably not for your balance sheet if you were looking to build your own house.
The Councils are also on track to introduce the Community Infrastructure Charging Levy (CIL), with rates now agreed by the same Inspector.  We shall wait to hear when this will come into effect.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Loders Neighbourhood Plan on track for examination

Loders Parish Council submitted its Neighbourhood Plan and supporting evidence for examination, and has now received confirmation from West Dorset District Council that they will be appointing an independent examiner, and gearing up for the examination. 

It will be interesting to hear whether the examiner will require a hearing (as was the case with Cerne Valley) or whether they deal with the examination entirely based on the evidence and written representations. 

Watch this space!

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Progress on the North Dorset Local Plan

The North Dorset Local Plan Examination moved on a step with the publication of the District Council’s responses to some of the issues raised at the examination hearings.  Of particular note is the change in the plan period to 2031 and the proposed retention of the settlement boundaries and higher housing target for Stalbridge and the larger villages.  Care homes and neighbourhood plans also feature in the updated supply numbers.  The housing targets will now expressed as a minimum, the reference to prioritising 2 and 3 bed house sizes for open market houses is to be removed.
Only invited participants can comment at this stage, but there will be a chance to comment on all the major changes at a later stage.

If you want to find out more it is worth checking out the following links

MHD006: recommends extending the plan period to 2031, and increasing the housing target to 285dpa (dwellings per annum).  It also says that provision will be made for an early plan review to incorporate new emerging evidence on housing needs in conjunction with other Dorset authorities.
MHD007: recommends retaining settlement boundaries around Stalbridge and the more sustainable villages (Bourton, Charlton Marshall, Child Okeford, East Stour, Fontmell Magna, Hazelbury Bryan, Iwerne Minster, Marnhull, Milborne St Andrew, Milton Abbas, Motcombe, Okeford Fitzpaine, Pimperne, Shillingstone, Stourpaine, Winterborne Kingston, Winterborne Stickland and Winterborne Whitechurch), and that between them these provide 41dpa (dwellings per annum).  No change is made for rural employment provision. 

MHD008: proposes including care homes (C2 use class) in the housing supply.  It also revises some of the start dates and capacities of specific sites based on landowner updates, and refers to 42 housing sites ‘identified in Neighbourhood Plans’.
MHD018: sets out a range of proposed changes that arose during the hearing sessions.  This includes changes to the policy wording of (take a deep breath here) Policies 3 (Climate Change), 6 (Housing Distribution), 7 (Delivering Homes), 9 (Affordable Housing), 11 (The Economy), 13 (Grey Infrastructure), 15 (Green Infrastructure), 16 (Blandford), 17 (Gillingham), 18 (Shaftesbury), 19 (Sturminster Newton), 21 (Gillingham Strategic Site Allocation), 24 (Design), 27 (Retention of Community Facilities), 30 (Existing Employment Sites in the Countryside) and 32 (Equine-Related Developments in the Countryside). 

All the documents can be found here.

Monday, 20 April 2015

One week left on East Dorset and Christchurch scoping consultation

One week left to go for anyone wanting to comment on what should be included in their Local Plan Part 2 - in particular suggestions for potential Local Plan allocations for housing, employment, retail, open spaces, suitable alternative natural greenspace, or for mixed use development.

For more details click here on contact me for advice.  Always good to get a foot in the door...

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Maps - planners can't live without them

Planning is very hard to do without maps, and ideally GIS (geographic information systems) that allow you to add, remove and annotate different layers over map or aerial photograph base.  So I’m pleased to say that I am working in partnership with Getmapping plc who supply a GIS system for Parish Councils called Parish Online.  This uses a normal web browser, and is therefore accessible, simple but effective.  Any person in the neighbourhood plan groups I am supporting (whose Parish Council have signed up to Parish Online) can access not only a full range of Ordnance Survey mapping and aerial photography, but also the various layers provided by organisations like Natural England, English Heritage and the Environment Agency, including flooding, Listed Building, nature conservation sites and more.  And of course, then add their own layers - new sites, key views, local green spaces and much more.

First use of this software was for the Loders Neighbourhood Plan near Bridport in Dorset – you can see examples of maps at the end of the document and an aerial overlay on page 19.  I should have some more examples published shortly which I will link to in due course.

Contact me if you are interested in trialling this software, or need some help with mapping for your project.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Next Neighbourhood Plan talk

My next Neighbourhood Plan talk will be to Broadwindsor Group Parish Council at Drimpton VIllage Hall on Tuesday 7 April at 7.30pm
Fred Horsington (Neighbourhood Planning Champion for this area) and myself will be giving an overview on our experiences and will be answering questions from the audience.…/13/neighbourhood-plan-meeting/

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Neighbourhood plan for the future of Sherborne?

Last night Fred Horsington, Ian Humphries and myself gave a talk to the Sherborne Society CPRE AGM about neighbourhood plans and the Cerne Valley experience. Lots of questions about whether a neighbourhood plan is worthwhile – and discussion on whether Sherborne Town Council may take up this baton after the elections in May.

Changes to the West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland Local Plan

West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland Local Plan update

Main modifications have now been published for consultation - closing date is 8 April

Key changes being proposed by the two councils at this stage include:
  • Housing target now set at 775 dwellings a year over the plan area (no new sites added). 
  • Review of the plan set to be no later than 2021, which will need to consider sites beyond the end of the plan period (2031)
  • Minimum space standards to be agreed through future consultation
  • A Sustainable Design and Construction Statement requirement to deal with achieving high levels of environmental performance, instead of Code for Sustainable Homes standards
  • Affordable housing thresholds changed in line with Government’s latest guidance, exempting small sites from having to provide any affordable housing.
  • Clearer guidance on the ability to extend homes in the countryside, introducing a 40% ‘cap’ for extensions (based on the original building), and a 10% ‘cap’ on increase in size through a replacement dwelling.
  • The policy supporting farm diversification schemes has been broadened to apply to all land-based rural businesses (not just farms)

For more information included tracked changes versions of the amended plan click on this link

Fontmell Magna Neighbourhood Plan talk

I was invited to give a brief talk about the pro’s and con’s of preparing a neighbourhood plan to Fontmell Magna Parish Council on 9 March. A lot of interest from local residents, and questions about what a neighbourhood plan could or could not influence. I wait to see if Fontmell Magna will take up the challenge!

This video link takes you through the main points covered in the talk.

Friday, 13 March 2015

North Dorset's Housing Numbers

Lots of talk at the examination hearings this week about housing numbers for North Dorset and whether the 280 annual target of homes to be built is high enough.  A common concern raised by participants was about the housing needs evidence.  They felt the Council has not fully explored the economic or affordable housing implications, both of which could mean that the overall housing target should be higher.

The Council responded by saying that they do anticipate delivering around 350 homes every year in the next 5 years or so, which they argue should provide sufficient comfort to allow the plan to be adopted with an early review of the numbers when the new housing data is released and considered by all the Eastern Dorset planning authorities.

The Inspector suggested some further work for the Council – in particular whether there may be other ways to boost the affordable housing delivery  - what other options have been considered and why were these rejected?

At the very least it would appear that the 280 figure is to be adjusted slightly upwards to take into account the proportion of housing that is taken up by second homes, and made a ‘minimum’ target and subject to an early review.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

North Dorset Local Plan examination

First day of the North Dorset Local Plan examination - a sticky start?

The issues discussed were fairly fundamental - they included the plan period, the status of allocations and the broad locations for growth, and the relationship between part 1, the proposed part 2 and neighbourhood plans.
The Inspector (Mr David Hogger) made a number of observations.  In terms of the Duty to Cooperate, he was satisfied that the Council had met this test from his observations to date.  

The plan period came under considerable scrutiny.  The Inspector said he felt that the plan lacked the 15 year horizon advised by the national planning policy framework - particular as Part 2 (the site allocations plan) had yet to be prepared and would only last 9 years on adoption. Should the plan be halted whilst further work was done, could it be extended to 2031, or should there be an early review? Some of the participants noted that a new housing figure may be available this year from the work on the Strategic Housing Market Assessment - Poole and Purbeck had already published their draft figures. The District Council was asked to prepare further information on their thoughts about an early review.
There was also a lot of debate about how the rural housing needs were being addressed. Would the 230 homes allocation 'left over' from the towns really meet the needs of thriving rural communities? What would happen if rural areas had housing or other needs, but weren't prepared to do a neighbourhood plan or 'opt in' to Part 2? The Inspector said he was not sure there was enough in the local plan to provide a clear enough framework for rural communities undertaking neighbourhood planning, and that the 230 rural target had no relation to the rural needs. Furthermore they would not necessarily be built in the most appropriate locations. He was not convinced that this approach was sound. He asked the District Council to reassess their approach and look at both housing and employment needs for the rural areas to provide a stronger framework from which neighbourhood plans could evolve.
Day 3 should also be interesting - looking at the robustness of the Council’s objectively assessed housing need. This issue has tripped up many a Local Plan in recent years.

For more information on the programme go to

New Locality Neighbourhood Planning Grants

A couple of key points to note :
  • Maximum grant is now £8,000 (or higher for parish clusters, neighbourhood forums or neighbourhood development orders)
  • The money must be spend within 6 months or before the end of the current financial year, whichever is the earliest.
  • Minimum grant is £1,000
  • You cannot apply for work already done.

For more information on how to apply, go direct to

Monday, 16 February 2015

Loders Parish to put a development boundary back, in their neighbourhood plan

Loders Parish Council have just started their consultation on their draft Neighbourhood Plan - the second in West Dorset to reach this stage.
Check out their website with the draft plan and supporting documents.
Having had their development boundary removed in the previous 2006 Local Plan they are proposing to reinstate it (with some minor changes) around their village - adding supporting policies to protect those areas and features that of particular local importance.
It has been a real pleasure working with the neighbourhood plan group over the past few months to help them reach this milestone.
This is a view across their beautiful rural parish, just outside Bridport in Dorset.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Cerne Valley - the first Neighbourhood Plan made in Dorset

Not a bad first post for the blog - congratulations to Cerne Valley Parish Council,
the working group and all the residents for making the Cerne Valley Neighbourhood Plan the first neighbourhood plan in Dorset.  

 Cerne Valley Neighbourhood PlanI have to say it was great great fun working with the local residents as their planning adviser.  The working group included Fred Horsington who chaired the group and is now a Neighbourhood Planning Champion for the area, and Ian Humphreys, who became Chairman of the Parish Council and therefore had the unenviable task of being the nominated speaker at the Examination Hearing last summer.

Ian recently said what having a made plan meant for local residents
“We would say for the very first time that people have the opportunity as a community to influence planning matters and protect matters like green spaces.  It means that the district council has a legal obligation to give residents a strong reason to approve any planning applications that go against the Neighbourhood Plan.”

When I have a moment I will blog about some of the lessons learnt from this whole experience.