Tuesday 12 December 2017 at 2.30pm
Steering Group: Phyllida Culpin (Chair), Richard Toft, Richard Nichols, Brian Wilson, Celia Martin, Jim Tigg, Raja Jarrah, Richard Freer and Bob Gillis
West Dorset District Council: Hilary Jordan and Trevor Warrick
The Chair explained the purpose of the meeting:
- To enable the Steering Group to explain current position on the Plan.
- To ask W.D.D.C. what they think of what has been done so far.
- Identify any issues for West Dorset District Council
- Clarify support available from WDDC
NP - Advertising for a new project manager.
31st October joint meeting held of all participating councils and generally endorsed the current position of the neighbourhood plan.
Draft intentions published.
Public consultation on draft intentions. Whilst response not as great as hoped, it was encouraging that the vast majority of responses were in favour of the policies.
The key decision taken has been not to allocate land but want to include a policy to allow for it in the future.
Now at the stage that need to review the wording of the policies, ready for the draft plan. Currently looking to recruit consultancy support for this work and also to prepare a design statement.
WDDC - will be able to help in commenting on the draft policy. Need to bear in mind that Examiners’ reports are stricter than used to be the case. Other local groups disappointed with examiner’s report.
NP – there may be things that we do not want to move on as have the community’s backing.
WDDC - if you want to push the boundaries need to be aware that once Examiner has reported, there is very little scope to challenge. Piddle Valley disappointed on examiner’s response. Buckland Newton likewise, and their Referendum passed by only 60 to 40%. This is a very rigorous process, ultimately subject to law and developers were making challenges through the courts.
NP - helpful to indicate the level of risk in the policies being proposed.
WDDC - can do that but need to be aware that some things may not survive examination.
NP - what about the selection of Examiner and involvement of the neighbourhood plan group?
WDDC - they are required to involve the qualifying body in the selection of the examiner. There were firms offering services as examiners and can discuss options. However, cannot challenge the findings of the Examiner.
Local Plan Review
WDDC - preparing preferred options to take through the committee process at the end of March/beginning of April, with a view to consultation in June on the preferred options. The more issues that can be resolved at this stage, before it goes to the Inspector, the better. Development sites will be identified so can be commented on
NP - involvement of Local Enterprise Partnership?
WDDC – LEP involved in a high level not on site specific issues. LEP will be consulted.
NP – ask about the WDDC retail study.
WDDC – consultants appointed for this and will be meeting all the communities. The study is analysing shopping habits.
NP – need involvement of economy group as concerned about the development on town centre car parks.
WDDC - retail study is primarily for the local plan but could also be useful for the neighbourhood plan. It may be that the need for more shopping may have gone down due to Internet shopping etc.
NP – necessary to recognise retail link with tourism and importance of visitors. Shops were part of the significant appeal to tourism. Bridport a unique offer
WDDC – the study will be an assessment of need and there will be a telephone survey of local residents.
NP - There were questions and concerns about the use of telephone research.
NP – strong views on town centre issues and particularly on need for car parking. How can the NP input into the process?
WDDC – there will be a stakeholder event in January and we will ensure that an NP representative is invited. Information will also be made available to the NP through the Town Council.
NP – like to see the draft report before the consultation
WDDC - the work is being done by an independent company and is intended to be an objective assessment of shopping habits and need.
NP - Local Plan Review timing for comment?
WDDC – reports will be public when go to committee in March/April. Members may make changes before options then go out to consultation.
NP – impact of unitary councils on Local Plan.
WDDC - will eventually have one local plan but at the current time most likely continue with individual plans. The more work we do now in this area the better. Also doing an environment and heritage survey. Consultants look at all the main settlements and where there could be development. They will revisit and analyse sites, to see if we are on the right track. This will be a technical study available in the New Year. Should be on the web site around March.
NP – be helpful to be notified when these studies were available.
WDDC - hopefully can use each other's information so we can avoid potential conflicts in the plans. However, there is in some cases a different criterion, as WDDC looking at growth and you are looking at protection of green spaces. Agreed to notifying us when information is posted on the Website.
NP Design Statement
NP – embarking on a design statement and shopfront design. Welcome thoughts.
WDDC - good idea for neighbourhood plan to undertake this work. Conservation team at West Dorset could give more advice (Kate Williams). North Dorset adopted one and could look at that (Kevin Morris).
WDDC - Sturminster Newton included their town design guidance in their NP plan but need to be aware that you cannot contradict what is in the Local Plan. It would be more about identifying local distinctiveness, which would be helpful, and the key considerations could go into the Design Statement.
NP - we have a lot of evidence of the local need and definition is an issue. Concern at the use of viability tests by developers to avoid achieving affordable housing targets. Still waiting for a response from West Dorset District Council on the Housing Needs Assessment. Community feel affordable housing is the major concern
WDDC – will need to see evidence if any variation proposed to the Local Plan definition and examiners will want to see the viability of the HNA evidence. May find it helpful to get expert advice on viability. Need to be in accordance also with national policy. Government policy on social housing has changed a lot and starter homes appear to have been dropped but this has not been stated. A new wider definition of affordable housing is expected. Have looked at the HNA but need to come back with comments.
NP – need to know if any parts of the HNA were not considered to be “examiner friendly”.
WDDC – may be possible to talk to developers about tenant mix within the overall 35%. Could potentially have a different tenure mix in line with local need.
NP – local approaches include community land trusts and self-builders.
WDDC – potentially could include national and local plan policy as starting point and state that look to negotiate local settlement that reflects local need.
NP – welcome a formal response from WDDC on the HNA as soon as possible and more clarity on viability.
WDDC – reiterate that may need to do some viability work yourselves locally. Government white paper asked about transparency on viability and we support open book approach but developers wary as state that information commercially sensitive. Not easy to make information public due to commercial considerations. Potentially you can put it in the policy that should be an open book approach, but this can still be challenged. WDDC will send details about consultants who could carry out this work.
NP - how can community find out if changes to section 106 agreements/affordable housing commitments etc.
WDDC – if changed to planning conditions then this would be subject to further planning approval and also would be notified of detail of application changes as part of the reserved matters stage.
Clean Growth Strategy
NP - wish to include ministerial commitments to new carbon plan and clean growth strategy to reduce carbon burden. Want to aspire to energy efficiency/low carbon heating in the Plan.
WDDC – this is not a ministerial statement of planning and WDDC still bound by current national policy and building control legislation. We can only advise on what is current policy at the time. Could look again if there is a planning policy change. At this stage this is not planning policy.
NP – this is something to keep under review as could become a policy in time.
WDDC – may not be able to change at this time. Relevant document is national planning policy guidance on housing: optional technical standards. If a policy does not accord with national policy then it will be struck out.
WDDC Comments on Work So Far
WDDC - the critical stage will be when you get to the draft policy and we will be keen to help. Need to come to us to warn of any issues before going any further. From issues raised we will come back on: ministerial statement issue, HNA feedback, early indications on the retail and heritage studies and will confirm the comments in a formal response. WDDC happy to comment on the draft plan or on individual elements, whichever is more helpful to the group and we can try to work more with you.
NP – be positive to get some feedback on HNA (Jim will send latest copy of HNA). What about the timescale?
WDDC. - all the plans were taking some time, and this was by far the most complex plan of all of those undertaken in the three council areas covered by the Dorset Partnership.
NP - now want to move on with the plan and do not want to come up against the Local Plan. Need to keep up the pressure and would like to have details of contact and support arrangements from WDDC in these crucial stages.
WDDC - it is obvious that a lot of work has been done and can understand the aspirations and that these need to be turned into policies that can be used in the planning process. The key tasks would appear to be how you can focus all these things into policies.
NP – the role of the consultants will be to look at the wording of the policies to take on board the aspirations and it will be important that they have good access to WDDC
All agreed that this had been a very positive meeting and NP looked forwarded to receiving a formal response from WDDC. Hilary and Trevor were thanked for attending.
The meeting closed at 4:45 p.m.