Wednesday, 22 May 2019

The 5 year supply - latest

The first set of planning application reports to be considered by the new Dorset Council are all now online.  One key thing to note is that, at least for the time being, decisions are still going to based on the separate housing land supplies on the previous local authority areas, rather than trying to take the temperature across the whole area.  Not that this particularly helps any of the areas.  West, Weymouth and North Dorset have all struggled to demonstrate a 5 year supply for some years, and East Dorset declared in December that they too have fallen below a 5 year housing land supply.  Only Purbeck are claiming that they have in excess of 5 years - though interestingly their January statement was based on the housing requirement of a 2012 Local Plan (which I am pretty sure is more than 5 years old), and their latest (May) statement is using a 10% buffer (which means they are relying on this being confirmed through the Local Plan examination) and they are also including some of the proposed Local Plan allocations in their supply - which arguably shouldn't be included at this stage.  So who knows where they are, right here, right now? 

Having said that, there is certainly still lots of movement in the planning arena that could help turn around the deficits.  One of the applications coming to the new Western and Southern Planning Committee is the outline application for up to 500 dwellings plus employment, retail and hotel uses at Littlemoor - nearly 4 years after the Local Plan's adoption.  As well as the 175 or so affordable dwellings this should also bring in over £4 million on developer S106 contributions - not an insignificant amount.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Dorset Local Plan updates

Couple of updates this week on the Local Plan situation.

The new timetable for the Dorset Local Plan Review is to be considered by the newly formed Cabinet at its meeting at the end of June (as announced by David Walsh - pictured - who has taken on the Cabinet role for Planning).  This should clarify whether the East, North and West Dorset's separate plan reviews are to be abandoned in order to focus on the combined plan.

Purbeck's Local Plan examination is moving forward, with the issues and Inspector's questions now published and two hearing sessions set for early July then early August.  Inspector Beverley Doward has raised about 150 questions to be answered - so it is understandable why she is setting a strict word limit on written responses!  Deadline for further submissions is set at 5pm on Friday 7 June 2019.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Better late than never

Glad to see the Neighbourhood Plan grants have been re-opened for this year - a late start (the grants usually open early April - but I'm guessing there were other political distractions) but perhaps making up for the delay with a welcome addition of additional £10K grant funding option to help bring forward affordable homes for sale. 

Another Neighbourhood Plan examined

The Examiner’s report on the Milborne St Andrew Neighbourhood Plan has been received – and subject to a few changes it has passed and should go referendum (or ‘people's vote’ if you like!) probably in August or September. 
The Examiner was satisfied with the plan’s approach to assessing and dealing with the area’s housing needs, including the mixed use site allocation opposite the Business Centre (which is subject to a live application).  In general he was happy with nearly all the policies, with a couple of very minor wording changes.  The two policies that he felt did need a bit more refinement were the one on design (where he has left it to the Parish Council to make some changes, mainly to simplify it) and the one on parking standards (where he has said we should delete the need to comply with our proposed parking standards, because he felt that this would be over-prescriptive and also he wasn’t convinced it was helpful to deviate from the county standards).
So the Neighbourhood Plan is certainly gaining weight - which will need to be fully considered when all the 'rejected' sites whose applications are in and waiting for a decision get decided. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

When positive policies are not silent

A judgement handed out last month in the Appeal Court reinforced an earlier decision on how to interpret 'positively worded' policies.  Basically the question posed in the appeal was whether a policy that says 'housing should go here, here or here' means that houses shouldn't be allowed elsewhere, or whether the "silence" on other locations means that anywhere else is fair game.  

The judge (Lord Justice Lindblom) makes clear that, where there is an obvious intention behind the policy (such as the hierarchy of locations for new housing), it would make a nonsense for a liberal approach to be applied to other locations for development that are clearly not part of the plan's strategy.
Having been involved in policy writing for more years than I care to remember, I have seen the writing styles swing from negatively worded policies to increasingly positively worded phrases in a vain attempt to shrug off the NIMBY and controlling image of planning.  But although on the one hand there is the presumption in favour of sustainable development, on the other, the reason you need planning permission is because without it, development is unlawful - or to put it simply, the answer is "no".  So a positively worded policy makes more sense when it implies that 'other' options should be treated negatively, and it is good to see that this judgement helps.  However it still reinforces the need for policy writers to consider all the angles when they draft their development plans.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Upper Marshwood Vale shows what it can do

Upper Marshwood Vale is showing that even in sparsely populated areas there is a will to get Neighbourhood Plans in place to promote development that should benefit the local community. 

Their pre-submission draft plan is now out for consultation.  It includes policies that highlight the important places and spaces in the area, a more flexible approach to allow the conversion of existing buildings to provide new homes, as well as being 'open for business' for small-scale employment.  It also proposes two site allocations.  The first, a site opposite the Marshwood school, should provide a new site for the now closed village shop to re-open, as well as improved parking (for use by the school and church), in return for a limited number of new homes.  The second, the Three Counties Nurseries site on the outskirts of Marshwood (a redundant site), is where some live/work units could be allowed to be develop.

Final results in for the 2 May in Dorset - and Bere Regis

The new Dorset Council have a slim Conservative majority, with many of the towns being Lib Dem strongholds for this term.  If my maths is right the Conservatives party managed to get just over 39% of all the votes cast, and won 52% of the seats on the new Council.

A very different picture in the other major vote that took place on the 2 May, which was of course the Bere Regis Neighbourhood Plan referendum.  With 447 votes in favour of the Plan (92 votes against) this was a ringing endorsement made by 83% of those voting.  Congratulations to all those involved.

Friday, 3 May 2019

The results are in (well partly)

The Government has today published its response to the consultation on further changes to a number of permitted development rights. 

It continues to support having greater flexibility on the high street, with permitted development rights for shops to offices likely to be introduced (but giving prior approval discretion to halt changes that would hurt the town centre’s vitality).  The possibility of upward extensions to allow housing above shops is still ‘on the cards’ though needs more thought.  A similar, though possibly more luke-warm response, was also given to whether the replacement of commercial buildings with residential development should be introduced (or is this simply being kicked into the long grass?).  The permitted development rights for larger residential extensions is to be continued – but with a fee requirement to help cover local Council’s costs.  The temporary permitted development rights for B8 storage to housing are to end.
Somehow this feels a bit like tracking the local council election results – who’s in, who’s out and which area needs a recount!  At the moment the Dorset results are showing a Conservative majority (with 24 of the 82 seats declared) – but still plenty to speculate about.