As those who follow my monthly reports will know, I have for the last two months been emphasizing the fact that South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) is shortly to embark upon the next stage of the creation of the new Local Development Plan (LDP). This stage being the Issues and Options Consultation, which involves asking residents of South Cambridgeshire for their views on the issues that the council has identified and considers important ones the district will face over the period of at least 15 years from when it adopts the new plan.
Why is SCDC creating a new Local Development Plan?
The current Local Development Framework (LDF) sets out the strategies and policies for development and use of land in South Cambridgeshire up to 2016. The plan therefore has a shelf life, and coupled with that, the economic meltdown has caused a slowdown of the delivery of housing over the past 3-4 years. To add to that, the planned development of the Marshall of Cambridge site for some 7500 new homes is now not coming forward because the company is not relocating.
It is therefore a good time to update the LDF to take into account these changes, those introduced by the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The council agreed in 2011 to review its LDF and adopt a new plan by 2015. The new LDP will set out policies and strategies for growth and development from 2016 to 2031.
What is the Local Development Plan and what is its Purpose?
South Cambridgeshire is one of the fastest growing areas in the country and is consistently recognised as one of the top places to live and work due to the quality of life and the thriving economy. It is therefore essential that the Council formulates policy that will facilitate the growth whilst maintaining the character of the district.
The Local Development Plan therefore aims to
- set a strong framework for new development that is expected to occur over the next two decades
- set the levels of employment and housing development that should be provided over the life span of the plan to best meet the needs of the area.
- set a clear strategy for meeting development needs in the best way possible that protects the quality of life for existing and future residents
- set policies to ensure that development is of high quality
- set policies to ensure development will meet the challenges we face with an ageing population
- ensure that new development comes with the necessary infrastructure such as schools, shops, health facilities, leisure facilities, open spaces etc. that residents need to provide a good quality of life
In other words, the LDP should enable the council to oversee sustainable development within the district over the coming two decades. Whatever sustainable means ……..
How is the Local Development Plan prepared?
There are several stages involved in the preparation of the LDP. The overall aim is to create sustainable development, therefore all efforts are being made to ensure the plan is robust and comprehensive. The main stages are:
- Preparation of Evidence Base – involving carrying out a number of local studies, the results of which will be used to work out the issues, options and policies
- Consultation on Issues and Options – where issues to be addressed by the new plan are identified, as well as the options for the policies that could be put in place. Consultation is with the public and other stakeholders
- Consultation on the Draft Plan – The Draft plan is created taking into account comments and views expressed by the public at the Issues and Options stage, and then undergoes further consultation by Members. If there are substantial changes to the proposed policies then it may require further public consultation.
- Submission – the new Local Plan is submitted to the Secretary of State for approval
- Examination –an independent Planning Inspector examines the plan to check out if it is sound, and produces a report to the Council.
- Inspector’s Report – the Inspector will produce a report, which may include proposals to change some of the policies. It is up to the council to decide if it will accept the changes or make its own changes to ensure that the proposed plan is sound.
- Adoption – the Local Plan is formally adopted by the Council
The first stage has now taken place, and that included holding a series of workshops with key stakeholders such as District and Parish Councillors, infrastructure and service providers, developers and agents. It also included the Strategic Housing and Land Availability Assessment that followed the call for sites in the summer of 2011. All the information collected has gone into what is called the “evidence base” for use in preparing the draft plan.
We are now in the second stage of the Issues and Options Consultation.
What are the Issues and Options?
As the name suggests, the Issues are the important topics or problems that the South Cambridgeshire expects to face over the life span of the plan. The Options are the potential choices of strategies and proposals to address those issues that have been identified.
The consultation document sets out these Issues and options around specific themes and topics, for example, the forecast on which the development is based, where in the district the development should be focussed, which sites are available for development, design and landscape, quality housing, water resources and flooding, employment retail and tourism, transport and other infrastructure etc. etc.
What is the purpose of the consultation and how do you respond?
The Council would like to hear the views of residents of South Cambridgeshire and other stakeholders that have an interest in the district, on the issues and options that have been put forward. These views will be taken into account and used to refine the LDP. In addition, SCDC wishes to know whether local communities have development aspirations or proposals of their own that they would like to see included in the new LDP.
The issues and options consultation document contains a list of over 110 issues which need to be addressed in updating the new plan and giving options where appropriate. It also asks more than 120 questions which are aimed at helping the public and other stakeholders to respond to the consultation.
The consultation process starts on 12 July 2012 and ends on 28 September 2012, a 10-week period which is longer than the normal 6 week periods allowed for such consultations. There are various ways in which residents can respond, and you should note that you don’t have to answer all the questions! Just look at the sections that are of most interest or importance to you and answer the questions.
The preferred method of responding is to use the online interactive website which is at www.scambs.gov.uk/ldf/localplan. You could also respond by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01954 713183. Those who have no access to the internet can call 01954 713183 and request paper copies which can be made available at local libraries or to the Parish Council by mutual agreement.
In order to help residents understand the issues better and assist in providing responses, SCDC has arranged a number of exhibitions in various villages, taking place from 3pm to 8pm each day.
The exhibitions take place from 3pm to 8pm on the following dates:
17th – Sawston – Spicers Pavilion
18th – Barton Sports and Social Pavilion
19th – Cambourne Business Park Marketing Office
23rd – Milton Primary School
24th – Fulbourn – The Swifts
25th – Bassingbourn Village College
26th – Waterbeach Primary School
3rd – Longstanton Village Institute
4th – Gamlingay Village College
5th – Great Shelford Memorial Hall
10th – Cottenham – All Saints Church Hall
12th – Linton Village College
14th – Histon & Impington Recreation Ground Centre
I would strongly encourage everyone to take time to visit the exhibition that is closest to them. For residents of Caldecote Ward, the dates to note are Wednesday 18th July in Barton and Thursday 19th July in Cambourne. There are particular issues that affect Caldecote and Toft in particular, so please make your views known.
If all else fails, there is display at the SCDC office in South Cambs Hall, Cambourne which will be there permanently for the duration of the consultation.
The Consultation is now open. Your views on how you want to see South Cambridgeshire develop are important, so make sure you respond to the Issues and Options consultation at www.southcambs.gov.uk/ldf/localplan now, or at least before the deadline of 28 September 2012.