Our Blog Post Sparks Row over Realism over Stratford DCs Local Plan #NPPF

In February we blogged on the unrealism of the Stratford Third different draft version of its core strategy.  Basically that it was unrealistic in both distributing the vast majority of new housing to small villages whilst at the same time imposing a 2% dwelling cap on each – it simply didnt add up.

This has become a key issue at the West of Shottery appeal (the inquiry into it having closed last week) which we blogged about yesterday.  This is because the new NPPF on the issue of the weight to be given to emerging plans requires them to be assessed against the ‘degree of conformity’ to the NPPF.  This in effect makes each and every major housing LPI into a mini EIP on the realism, deliverablility, growth orientation, sustainability and other national policy compliance of the merging plan against the NPPF.

In Stratford’s case the appellant Bloor Homes even went to the length of writing to everyone of the households in the ‘dispersal villages’ setting out their estimates of the impact on their villages.  This you can imagine created something of a local furore

Cllr Chris Saint, Leader says: “The Bloor Homes leaflet has been produced seemingly at vast expense [eer Stratford has commissioned identical work]  but regrettably it contains many errors, incorrect information and misleading conclusions that may have alarmed many residents.  A number of Councillors including myself have been contacted by residents expressing concern about its contents.  I hope that the Company will act responsibly and withdraw the leaflet.

But it was entirely fair to highlight the broad settlement by settlement impact of a dispersal strategy as the Stratford DC consultation had studiously avoided this and Stratford challenged the figures based on estimates of existing houses per village.  Bloor challenged back.  But Bloor misunderstood the source of the data (my own GIS work was the source of the data) it was not census based but based on local OS derived gazeteer information and used judgement based estimates of village extents where there ws no local plan or census based settlement boundary.  The spat could have been avoided if the two sides had cooperated on ‘findings of fact’ but in any event the differences were only significant in terms of global figures for 4 or 5 villages without defined settlement boundaries and the basic issue remains.  Bloor though had misread the 2% cap policy CS16, its a cap per estate not per village though my own work still showed it impractical as it implies nearly 10 estates per village.  The policy simply hadn’t been thought through.

Bloor have argued

Rural villages will bear the brunt of district’s new housing

Stratford-on-Avon District Council’s new housing plans earmark rural hamlets and villages to accommodate the district’s future housing needs.

The Council’s revised emerging Core Strategy suggests that thousands of new houses should be “dispersed” among rural villages across the district, despite the fact that many are poorly served by facilities or fall within the Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

39 villages in the district have been identified to take 2,240 new homes— 40% of the total number required —and a further 560 new homes are destined for smaller, as yet unidentified, hamlets.

The council previously focused new house-building between Stratford-upon-Avon and other rural centres which have existing services where new homes are most sustainable, but has now reversed this approach to devise a plan that spreads the housing further afield.

Also, the council now seeks evidence to support this new strategy by instructing consultants to reverse the conclusions of those it originally employed to underpin its earlier strategy.

The council claims that none of the 39 villages would grow by any more than 2 per cent of their current housing size under the new plan, but the policy just doesn’t add up and would leave the council far short of its overall target.

In fact, some villages will grow by up to nearly 14 per cent if they are to accommodate the required number of houses.

There are some clear flaws with the council’s new approach:

  1. Spreading new houses around the district’s smaller villages is not a sustainable approach. They will be far removed from local services and employment – which is primarily focused in Stratford-upon-Avon.
  2. Small housing estates will not provide the capital contributions that the district needs, so new roads and community facilities will be paid for from the public purse.
  3. The dispersal strategy identifies 39 ‘Local Service Villages’ to take 2,240 of the new homes, but stipulates that the growth should be no more than two per cent of the existing homes in each village.Research shows that there are around 15,200 existing homes in these villages, but 2% growth would only deliver 304 new homes.
  4. Some of the 39 ‘Local Service Villages’ are located in special areas where development is not permitted – i.e. Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Beauty.

So where else does the council plan to “disperse” houses to in order to meet future housing demand?

We have produced a map which shows all of the 39 villages identified by the council to bear the brunt of its new housing dispersal strategy.

The map highlights all the Local Service Villages that have been singled out by the Council and shows how many homes the Council would be suggesting for each. We have also shown the seven ‘Main Rural Centres’ that the Council has designated for an additional 1,680 homes.

There are also an additional 560 homes to be allocated; but the Council has not yet said where they will go.

The table below shows each of the 39 ‘Local Service Villages’ and their status in terms of Green Belt or AONB. The first column of numbers shows the current households in each village and the second column of numbers calculates the new homes in each village that the Council’s 2% growth would create (just 304 houses). The final column of numbers estimates the new homes that each village would receive as a proportionate share of the Council’s stated target of 2,240.

Local residents are being asked to comment on the new dispersal strategy in the meantime.

It is important that you let your local councillors know what you think of this strategy before the end of March by writing to your parish council or district council ward member.

3 thoughts on “Our Blog Post Sparks Row over Realism over Stratford DCs Local Plan #NPPF

  1. Why is it unrealistic to distribute 2240 houses across 39 local service villages over 16 years?

    Take Long Compton as an example from your list (an AONB Cotswold village and therefore sacrosanct in many people’s eyes). From the list above, the existing settlement contains 327 dwellings and would have to find another 48 over the next 16 years. This equates to 3 per annum. This is almost exactly trend rate growth since the 1950s. What exactly is the problem with this level of growth, even for a dyed-in-the-wool urbanist such as yourself?

    This level of growth would provide a number of small sites for local builders/ developers for the foreseeable, who are currently shut out of the land market by a combination of garden-grabbing lack of windfall sites and the monopoly on building land exercised by the volume housebuilders such as Bloors.

    Your figure of 10 estates per village, clearly does not apply in the Long Compton case. It is much more likely that perhaps 4 estates of 10 houses each with 35% affordable will emerge through the SHLAA process. These will likely be built by local builders to a very high standard (not volume builder standard),using locally source materials and sub contractors and over the 16 year period will fit in seamlessly with the existing built form of the village, helping to support local services and fill the local school.

    Why should a new employee, accepting one of the 1000 new jobs being created this year at the district’s largest employer (Jaguar Land Rover), be denied the choice of living in a new house in a village such as Long Compton ? Why should he/she be forced to live in a pre-fab box on the outskirts of Stratford, when both locations are equidistant from the employer?

    It seems clear to me that dispersal through the villages is both realistic, and desirable from a design legacy point of view. It will also benefit the existing local economy over the 16 year life of the plan, where estate building provides only a short term boost- and that is severely limited depending on how much labour is shipped in from outside the district to finish the (usually appalling) job.

    • Firstly the 8,000 figure is 2-5,000 short.

      There is no problem with growth rates for villages which equate to around 1% /annum necessary to replenish population – but they propose overall well in excess of this -closer to 20% than 16%, and given realistic housing targets it would be well above population replenishment rates, closer to 30%

  2. I absolutely agree on the shortage of the 8000 figure and I think it likely that this will be revised upwards during the consultation phase – in fairness, the GL Hearn report was commissioned before anyone had knowledge of,for example, the 1000 new jobs at JLR, which may even make their figure of 12000 light.

    The Council are not seeking to ban housing estate development altogether, merely restrict one-off estates to a human scale of 100 units. If the housing targets are revised upwards, I am sure there will be pressure to accomodate more of these, attached to the larger settlements.

    In the Long Compton example above, historical trend rate growth has exceeded the 1% figure you mention. I see no reason why this should not continue, anything less would be a significant retrograde step and would do nothing to address the housing shortfall built up over many years (as you pointed out on a previous blog, we’re looking at 100,000 starts this year exacerbating the already dire situation).

    Villages like Long Compton can quite easily accomodate 3 more dwellings per annum with no detrimental effect. Cumulatively across the district this will produce 2240 new dwellings over 16 years – if these are carefully designed and located, the effect will only be positive.

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