Inspector Stephen Lee, who oversaw April’s hearings into the Wiltshire Housing Site Allocation Plan, has submitted a preliminary report.
Mr Lee requires that the Housing Site Allocation Plan be modified; the report implies that during and since the hearings, the Plan has already been subject to modification but still requires further changes. When all the required modifications have been made and subjected to a Sustainability Appraisal (SA) and Habitat Regulation Assessment (HRA) that have met with Mr Lee’s approval, the modified plan will be published and there will be another period of public consultation. Mr Lee will take the representations from the public into consideration and may require further modifications. Thereafter, the Plan will be resubmitted to Mr Lee.
Here are the parts of the report that pertain to Southwick Country Park and to the ecology of Lambrok Stream; the emphases are our own.
Site H2.4 Church Lane, Trowbridge
While it is the case that the Council’s proposed changes to the site boundary are necessary for the plan to be effective, it will also be important to ensure the new policy for the site makes it clear that development will be restricted to the northern part of the site and will not be permitted if it would adversely impact on the Lambrok Stream.
It will also be necessary for policies for sites H2.4 –H2.6 to recognise the close relationship of the three sites. This is particularly important in terms of a consistent approach to mitigation measures and any potential impacts on Southwick Country Park. Main modifications here would ensure the policies will be effective
Also, in paragraph 13 in relation to site H2.1 (Elm Grove Trowbridge) Mr Lee, referring to the restraints required by the Trowbridge Bat Mitigation Strategy, says:
Nevertheless, to be effective the plan must be explicit in identifying this constraint [TBMS] in policy. It must also be clear how developers will be expected to address the issues, both in terms of layout and/or in terms of any financial contributions that will be required.
In paragraphs 5-9 Mr Lee asks for the allocation of each site to begin with a statement of policy. We don’t quite understand the full legal implications of this and will ask Wiltshire Spatial Planning to make it clear. We would, however, like any policy statement about the sites at Church Lane, Upper Studley and Southwick Court to contain detailed requirements for the assessment and buffering of Lambrok Stream.
Paras 18 and 21 do seem to propose a level of protection for the Lambrok Stream both inside and beyond the park’s borders, as well as for the park. A Sustainability Appraisal of any of the sites at H2.4, H2.5 and H2.6 would surely have to be measured against a baseline understanding of the stream’s ecology, which Wiltshire Council has not yet provided.
Any further public consultation will offer us the opportunity to request that Wiltshire County apply sound conservation principles to its Housing Site Allocation Plan.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was updated in February of 2019. Wiltshire’s Housing Site Allocation Plan was drawn up to the requirements of 2012’s NPPF and originally submitted in 2017. The Inspector made clear at the hearings in April that this was acceptable; his references to the NPPF are, therefore, to its 2012 instar.
For the sake of clarity we have included the two relevant paragraphs here:
154. Local Plans should be aspirational but realistic. They should address the spatial implications of economic, social and environmental change. Local Plans should set out the opportunities for development and clear policies on what will or will not be permitted and where. Only policies that provide a clear indication of how a decision maker should react to a development proposal should be included in the plan
184. Neighbourhood planning provides a powerful set of tools for local people to ensure that they get the right types of development for their community. The ambition of the neighbourhood should be aligned with the strategic needs and priorities of the wider local area. Neighbourhood plans must be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the Local Plan. To facilitate this, local planning authorities should set out clearly their strategic policies for the area and ensure that an up-to-date Local Plan is in place as quickly as possible. Neighbourhood plans should reflect these policies and neighbourhoods should plan positively to support them. Neighbourhood plans and orders should not promote less development than set out in the Local Plan or undermine its strategic policies