Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Local Development Plan or Local Plan?
The Local Plan will be used to help shape the direction of future change within the Borough. Among other things, the Plan influences where new homes, jobs, infrastructure, local facilities and green space will be provided. It will set a strategy for how the needs of the Borough can be met, while ensuring that our environment and local character are protected and enhanced.
Why should I comment? How will my views be taken into account?
Once the Plan is officially in place, development proposals over the next 15+ years will need to follow the Plan’s policies. The Plan will help shape the design and location of future development, among other things. It is therefore vital that your views are heard so that the Plan can be informed by local aspirations.
At the end of the consultation the Council will analyse all responses and publish a report summarising these and setting out next steps. The information gathered will inform future updates of the Plan.
What has happened to the comments I have made on previous consultations?
Comments made on previous consultations, including Preferred Options in 2013, and Strategic Growth Options in 2015 have been considered and summarised in our consultation statement documents. These are available to view on the Work So Far webpage. All comments made are available to view on our Local Plan Consultation Portal.
What about localism?
The Council recognises the changes the Government has made and the responsibility that has been placed on local authorities to determine housing targets at a local level. This consultation is an opportunity for local people to have their say. The Localism Act 2011 also enables Neighbourhood Plans to be prepared by local communities, although these must be in accordance with up to date Local Plans.
How many homes will be built? Why do we need so many houses?
Currently the Borough’s need has been calculated to be around 362 new homes a year, which is approximately 7,240 over 20 years (2013-2033). This figure has been set in accordance with national guidance.
The East of England Plan (regional strategy) previously set housing and employment targets for the Borough. This plan was abolished in 2013. These targets took into consideration strategic issues for the region, such as Green Belt, and targets were set accordingly. In place of this, the Government introduced the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which requires councils to calculate their own housing needs. It states that local planning authorities should significantly boost the supply of housing and seek to ensure that full need for market and affordable housing is met. We now have to seek to meet housing, business and other needs and identify sites in accordance with this.
When are the homes going to be built?
Once the Plan is adopted the length of time before homes are built is dependent on the nature of each individual site. Smaller sites could be developed within five years or less. For larger sites such as strategic allocations, the time taken for designs to be developed and applications to be dealt with can be longer. It could be five to ten years before any work begins on site, and up to five years or more from when construction starts until all homes are built. However, large scale sites are often developed in phases, which could minimise the impact of ongoing construction work to those living in surrounding areas.
What happens if the Plan does not provide for 7,240 homes?
If the full housing need is not planned for there is a risk that development will occur in an unplanned way in locations around the entire Borough. This will give developers a basis to challenge refused applications within the Green Belt and elsewhere.
Local Authorities are required to have a “Five Year Supply” of land, to help boost the national supply of housing. Without this local planning policies will be considered out of date. Developers can exploit this by arguing that the Local Plan is not in accordance with national policy if it does not meet housing requirements. This will put the Borough’s environment in a vulnerable position, as planning decisions may then be made at a national level.
Why don’t we just build where nobody lives, so development doesn’t affect anyone?
As part of the plan-making process the Council has to consider the social, environmental and economic sustainability of individual sites, as well as to what extent particular sites are in line with the Plan’s vision and strategic objectives. Infrastructure is a key concern for us. Allowing for managed development around existing settlements will enable financial contributions from developers to provide better economies of scale. These contributions will go towards improving valuable existing community infrastructure, such as schools and doctors surgeries. This means existing communities can benefit from these improvements.
Has the “village feel” of where I live been considered, as any development would change this?
The Council recognises the value of the high quality natural environment enjoyed around the Borough. This is particularly important around villages, and so a strategy is proposed to maintain local character. The “hierarchy of place”, which takes into account the scale of existing settlements, has been one of the considerations which sites have been assessed against. Policies in the Local Plan are not just focused on meeting development needs, they also protect our natural environment and enhance our built environment. Getting the balance right between meeting development needs and retaining local character will sometimes impact our natural environment, but there will also be opportunities to improve surrounding green space and access to the countryside.
Why do we need to provide so many Gypsy and Traveller pitches, why are they near people’s homes?
The Council has a duty to provide for the needs of all the Borough’s residents and provide for them equally. This includes allocating new Gypsy and Traveller pitches as well as housing. Locations near existing or new settlements have been proposed to minimise the impact on things such as Green Belt in the Borough, as also needs to be considered with housing site options.
How much affordable housing will be provided and where will it go?
The Council will seek to secure levels of affordable housing in new developments in line with national policy and informed by local evidence. This is currently around 35% of dwellings in new developments. The Council will ensure that affordable housing is distributed fairly across the Borough.
How can the Council be allowed to build on Green Belt land? Can’t we just build everything on brownfield land?
The Council’s preferred approach has always been to build on brownfield land in existing urban areas. However, brownfield land alone does not meet fulfil the requirements we must meet. We need to allocate sites for 7,240 homes, but the capacity of available brownfield land in the Borough is only approximately 1,300 homes.
As part of the Local Plan process it is possible for Councils to consider Green Belt boundaries. Other Local Authorities that have failed to meet their full need have been found “unsound” at examination, which is expensive, prolongs the plan-making process and leaves the Council vulnerable to uncontrolled development. Sites in the Green Belt have been proposed to help meet future needs for homes and jobs in sustainable places.
Policies are also in place to protect the Green Belt. 89% of the Borough is currently within Green Belt. Proposals to meet our full housing needs using limited Green Belt would reduce this by just 1%.
How will local services and infrastructure cope?
All development will need to meet minimum infrastructure requirements. Transport impacts of all proposals will need to be assessed to ensure that vehicle access and traffic generation do not result in unacceptable levels of congestion on unsuitable roads or in environmentally sensitive areas. Developers are required to make contributions to the Council as part of all new developments. This money is put towards community infrastructure to ensure that services can be improved or provided as necessary, such as schools and doctors and other facilities.
Surely new infrastructure is needed now before the development takes place?
The nature of providing new infrastructure as a result of new development means that often it can only come forward after a planning permission has been granted. Where appropriate infrastructure is required as a result of proposed development contributions will be sought from developers to ensure this is delivered.
DUNTON HILLS GARDEN VILLAGE
What is a Garden Village?
A standalone development, following principles to create neighbourhoods with housing for all tenures (social, rent and private) with enhanced natural environments, local facilities and infrastructure. The concept does not just relate to the design, but is also about ensuring engagement with local communities from early stages, and aiming for long term local stewardship.
Why is Dunton being considered for such a large scale development?
The strategic site at Dunton Hills Garden Village has been identified separately to other development allocations in order to deliver a significant amount of growth to meet local needs, specifically new homes with supporting jobs and retail. In line with objectives and policies in the Draft Local Plan, strategic sites also provide a level of development that achieves the necessary critical mass to bring along supporting services, facilities and infrastructure. Much of the Borough’s infrastructure and services are at capacity, and so in order to deliver growth and not over-burden already stretched services, strategic development sites allow us to deliver new communities with supporting facilities.
Will the Dunton Hills Garden Village development just contribute to urban sprawl?
The proposals for a garden village at Dunton would constitute a new standalone village settlement. There are proposals in the Basildon Draft Local Plan to build up to the Borough boundary which will need to be taken into consideration.
How long would the proposed development at Dunton take to materialise?
With a proposal of this size it could take a number of years for development to begin. However, it is anticipated that the entire site could be delivered within the plan period by 2033.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
How long will it be until the Plan is finally adopted?
The Plan will need to go through at least one more stage of public consultation. It will then be assessed by an independent planning inspector at a public examination. The Council's timetable aims for the Plan to be adopted in 2017.