WPAG – Local Plan – Analysis and conclusions
This is the second of three WPAG articles which present a summary of the analysis undertaken by a Welwyn Planning sub-group, whose membership included the WPAG. The first dealt with ‘The Facts‘, and this one deals with ‘the Fall Out‘. A third article will cover our analysis of the Borough’s Infrastructure Plan, when we have reached our conclusions.
The Welwyn Planning & Amenity Group has contributed to a joint response submitted to the Council today, 21st October 2016, and we acknowledge the quality of research and analysis from within that Group, and particularly the contribution of Ian Skidmore, of the Parish Plan Action Group.
The Facts – a reminder,
The first WPAG article posted on 6th October dealt with ‘The Facts‘ and addressed fundamental issues about:
- the purpose and objectives of the Local Plan;
- Borough Council targets which aim to meet projected housing and employment needs up to 2032;
- the approach followed by the Council
- how to go about registering and responding
- the need to focus on the legality (of compliance) and soundness of the Council’s approach.
The Fall Out (for Welwyn)
This WPAG article now deals with the Impact of the Local Plan on the Civic Parish of Welwyn. It will separately address the settlements of Oaklands/Mardley Heath, Welwyn, and Digswell.
Legal Compliance – our conclusion
It is the WPAG view that the Local Plan, in this draft form, is legally compliant. The borough has:
- followed the Local Development Scheme,
- followed the Local Development Scheme,
- prepared the Plan in accordance with the Statement of Community Involvement,
- followed regulatory requirements for consultation
- complied with their duty to cooperate
- complied with the Sustainability Appraisal.
Soundness – our conclusion
All the evidence is that the Local Plan:
- has been produced in a positive manner;
- justifies decisions
- makes decisions that are evidence based
- is effective, in the sense that it can be delivered
- is compliant with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
So – what is there to shout about for Welwyn?
As a member of the Planning sub-group, we have examined, and re-examined, all the development sites proposed for Welwyn, including those now being put forward for approval, and also all those which have been rejected by the Council.
We have examined each site in turn, and to each we have applied our test for legality and soundness so that we can be confident in our conclusions. For a detailed description of these sites, go to the Borough Council Consultation Portal.
Sites for Housing Development (The Infrastructure Delivery Plan will be addressed separately).
The Housing Sites Selection process is encapsulated in a background paper which brings together key conclusions arising from the following strands of evidence and appraisals:
- The Housing and |Employment Land Availability Assessment (HELAA)
- The Green Belt Study Review (Parts 1 & 2)
- An appraisal of Green Belt boundaries
- The Sustainability Appraisal
- Flood Risk
- Sequential test, and
- An appraisal of strategic advantages or disadvantages.
To study these papers in detail go to the Housing Sites Selection – Background Paper
Local Plan Section 17 – Oaklands & Mardley Heath
We consider the draft Local Plan to be legally compliant.
Several sites have been proposed for development, of which some have been rejected and others are in the Local Plan. We believe the process employed in making these decisions was sound, with the single exception of GTLAA04.HS32 which is discussed below.
Sites Rejected by the Borough Council:
OMH6: (Danesbury Park Road) As originally proposed this site included both a LNR and a designated wildlife site.. When these were discounted the site was not contiguous with a settlement excluded from the greenbelt and so was deemed contrary to NPPF development in the grreenbelt at Stage 1 of the assessment (HELAA 2016, Appx, D)
OMH7 Land at 22 The Avenue, passed Phase 2 of the HLAA but was subsequently rejected because of difficulties establishing a defendable Green Belt Boundary once the current boundary, the A1(M) was breached. (Housing Site Selection Background Paper 13.10 and Appx.D June 2016. This is consistent with the NPPF.
Sites accepted by the Borough Council:
OMH5, HS 17: (2a to 12 Great North Road), OMH8 HS 16: (2 Great North Road) were both reviewed positively during the various phases of the HELAA (HELAA 2016) and are proposed to be taken forward.
GTLAA04. HS32.The Four Oaks Gypsy/Traveller site has currently 5 permitted pitches and is in the Green Belt. The Plan allows for 6 further pitches, a total of 11, and exclusion from the green belt.. We do not consider this to be sound. This site is a private not a public site and so cannot contribute to the identified need for public sites in the borough and, from this standpoint, fails to be either positively prepared or justified. The planning history of the site is complex but in summary a six-Authority review in 2007 concluded that this site was not suitable to accommodate further pitches. Following this the borough has until now consistently maintained that the site is only suitable for 5 pitches, i.e. 10 caravans and their associated support buildings. Changing the Green Belt boundaries to exclude this site is feasible and the new boundary would be defendable but this does not in any way alter the capacity of the site. The Inspector should also be aware that, in parallel with this plan there is a planning application (N6/2016/0211/S73B), currently on hold, that seeks permission for up to 20 caravans of which no more than 5 should be static or mobile homes.
Local Plan Section 18 – Welwyn SADM 28
We consider the draft Local Plan to be legally compliant.
Welwyn is the historic centre of Welwyn Civic Parish It is excluded from the Green Belt. Several sites have been proposed for development, some have been rejected and three have been included in the Local Plan. It is our view that the processes involved in making these decisions were sound. See below.
Sites Rejected by the Borough Council.
Wel1 (Land at Kimpton Road) The borough rejected this site and the adjacent Wel2 ( Land to the East of Welwyn Cemetary) and Wel15 (Land to the south of Linces Farm) sites for several reasons although they passed the HELAA Phases. They should be considered together (Housing Site Selection-Background Paper Appendix E). Most importantly the expansion of the green belt boundary would lead to ribbon development between Welwyn and Codicote, and one of the prime purposes of the green belt is to prevent such coalescence (NPPF para 80). There are serious issues with access, requiring a new bridge and widening of a rural road with effects on a designated wildlife site (WS5 and an LNR and there is potential for flooding . The site topography is open and housing on this site would dominate the landscape
Site Wel5, the “school reserve site” was rejected at HELAA Phase 1 as it was impossible to achieve access. HELAA 2016, appendix D).
Sites Wel6,(Kimpton Road Gravel Pit) Wel8 (Land at Rollswood Road) Wel10 (Whitehill),Wel12 (Northof Reynards Road),Wel13 Field opposite 40 Reynards Road) were all rejected at HELAA Phase 1 as they were not in or contiguous with an established settlement (HELAA 2016, appendix D) and thus were contrary to NPPF (para 80).
Wel14. Because of access issues this site would only be viable in conjunction with Wel 1 and Wel 2 and the reasons for rejecting it mirror those for the other two sites (HELAA 2016, Appendix G).
Wel16 (Whitehill). Access to this site is via a village road that is mainly single width with poor pedestrian provision and with a pinch point that cannot be modified. (see Highways comment in HELAA 2016, appendix G). Emergency access via single track roads would be problematic. The connection with the existing settlement is tenuous.
Sites Accepted by the Borough Council:
Wel3; HS 20 Previously developed land, (Affinity Water Site). Three houses have already been built on this site and the plan is for 7 more, a total of 10. Assessment suggests there are no unmanageable constraints to developing this site. (HELAA2016, appendix E)
Wel4 HS 19. (Sandyhurst) This partially developed site would extend the green belt boundary to the A1(M) junction 6 exit slip road which is a good permanent boundary. The borough resisted extending the site further to the southwest to maintain a significant and defendable gap between Welwyn and Welwyn Garden City. (HELAA2016, appendix E). Excellent public transport connectivity.
Wel11 HS18. (The Vineyards) This site, part previously developed land, would have moderate to strong green belt boundaries. There would be some loss of openness. Good access to public transport. (HELAA2016, appendix E). Traffic sitelines will need to be managed.
Local Plan Section 19 – Digswell
We consider the draft Local Plan to be legally compliant and to be sound.
Digswell is one of three distinct settlements that comprise Welwyn Civic Parish. It is excluded from the Green Belt. It was the subject of a Character Appraisal in 2004 that was adopted as a SPD by the borough. Several sites in Digswell have been considered for development. None has been taken forward. It appears to us that the process employed was sound
Dig 1, (Hillside land behind 2 New Road), was rejected in the Phase 1 HELAA (HELAA2016 appendix D) with concerns over visual openness and drainage and water run-off leading to flooding. This is in accordance with NPPF.
Dig 2 (Adjacent to 81 Hertford Road) and Dig 3 (Land North of Harmer Green Lane)were rejected at HELAA Phase 1 as they are not contiguous with a settlement excluded from the Green Belt and so were contrary to NPPF on green belt development. Dig4 was rejected at Phase 2 for similar reasons (HELAA 2016, appendix C).
Dig 5, (land adjacent to 76 Hertford Road) was rejected at HELAA Phase 1 as it is not contiguous with the settlement and the majority is within a registered historic park and garden (HELAA 2016, appendix D). Part of the site is in a flood zone 3a.
The Report of the Welwyn Planning sub-group was submitted to the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council on Friday 21st October 2016