5.1 This Chapter covers the following housing related issues:
5.2 Although housing provision has slowed down nationally and has reduced in this District, Braintree District is still delivering a substantial supply of new housing. It is important to make sure that the right sort of housing accommodation is built, and that residents have good access to the services and facilities that they will need.
5.3 The bulk of this housing will be in the main towns of Braintree and Witham as these are the most sustainable locations for growth with the most employment, retail provision and community facilities and are the most accessible locations for growth with trunk road connections and rail access. Lesser amounts of growth are proposed at Halstead and in the Key Service Villages.
5.4 Braintree is the larger of the two main towns with a population of 36,310 in 2001, 27% of the District total population, while Witham had a population of 22,470 17% of the District total. However, there are several reasons why the amount of growth proposed there is not greater:-
5.5 Braintree has received the largest amount of growth over the last 20 years. This growth has led to additional retail provision in the town. The town centre has expanded with the development of George Yard and other retail additions and this together with the development of the Freeport outlet centre has greatly improved retail and commercial leisure provision in the town. In contrast, the smaller amount of growth at Witham has resulted in a much smaller amount of additional retail provision, mainly at the Grove Centre, to serve the town. It is hoped that a larger proportion of future growth will benefit the town centre in Witham.
5.6 Although Witham is considerably smaller than Braintree, it provides a larger amount of employment floorspace than that found in Braintree.
5.7 As Witham is situated on the main railway line, it is more accessible than Braintree. Road congestion in Braintree, particularly in the vicinity of Galleys Corner roundabout on the A120 is also a constraint.
5.8 As well as planning for the total number of houses and where they should be built, the Government says we should also plan for a range of house and tenures (owned/shared/rented) to cater for all who wish or need to live in the District.
5.9 Our Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), provides an up to date picture of what types of accommodation are needed and can be used to make sure that new developments offer a variety of accommodation to suit everyone's needs. Braintree will be working with partners in the Haven Gateway to undertake a viability study of the sub regional housing market.
5.10 The Council considers that:
5.11 The creation of high quality places to live is a key objective of national planning policy. Good, practical design, both in the look of housing and its layout encourages people to value the place they live, leading to less vandalism and crime. Also it will be critical to the overall quality of the environment in the future.
5.12 Density (i.e. the number of dwellings per hectare on a site) can have a significant impact on the quality of new housing. Higher densities do not necessarily mean low quality, and in fact many of our older town areas and villages are built to very high densities.
5.13 Low densities mean that more land has to be used to deliver the housing we need, putting pressure on our valuable and attractive countryside. A balance has to be struck between the two, so setting absolute density targets is not likely to be the best way of getting the best quality housing in all locations.
5.14 Good design also means making sure that housing is as accessible as possible to all the services, jobs and facilities that residents need.
5.15 Securing high quality housing design and layouts is an essential part of protecting the overall environment of the District, promoting social inclusion and securing sustainable communities.
5.16 Density should depend on the character of the area and the types of development being proposed but practical issues of day to day living should be taken into account when schemes are designed and approved.
Housing Provision and Delivery
The Council will plan, monitor and manage the delivery of a minimum of 4637 dwellings between 2009 and 2026.
At new mixed-use Growth Locations at north-west Braintree, south-west Witham and north-east of Witham, as identified on the Proposals Map Insets.
These will be phased in accordance with Table CS1 to ensure that the requirement for a continuous supply of housing land is met and to ensure that the most sustainable locations are developed earlier on in the life of the Core Strategy. If monitoring shows that a 5- year supply of deliverable housing sites is not being maintained then the phasing of the Growth Locations will be altered to bring them forward earlier than proposed. The development of the mixed use growth locations will be in accordance with Master Plans to be approved as supplementary planning documents by the Council. The uses will include community facilities, open space and infrastructure requirements.
Table CS1 Braintree District Housing Provision
Housing sites of 10 or more dwellings, (apart from the strategic sites for development which are set out in the Core Strategy on the Proposals Map Insets and exception sites for affordable housing,) will be defined on the Site Allocations DPD Proposals Map Insets.
It may be necessary to alter the phasing of the growth locations, if monitoring shows a shortage of delivery from other sources.
5.17 The Council's affordable housing policy is based upon the definition of affordable housing set out in Planning Policy Statement 3.
5.18 The Strategic Housing Market Assessment for this District was published in 2008. This assessed the overall level of need for the District as 697 new affordable dwellings per year. It recognised that this level of housing need is unlikely to be met by any feasible new supply of affordable housing.
5.19 The study stated that this level of housing need would arithmetically justify any affordable housing target on qualifying new sites and is much above any likely supply and would certainly justify a 40% target, and perhaps higher if viability permits. It also concluded that in terms of size and type of affordable housing, about 40% of it could be intermediate.
5.20 An update to the SHMA in 2009 identified problems with mortgage availability, which meant that whilst the downturn in the housing market has improved affordability, accessibility is limited. The update did not propose any amendment of the affordable housing target suggested in the SHMA.
5.21 In 2009 an Affordable Housing Viability Study for this District assessed the viability of market housing schemes against a range of affordable housing options and economic scenarios. It found significant variation in house prices and residual value between different market value areas in the District; with the values in Braintree, Halstead, Hedingham and Witham being consistently lower than in rural areas elsewhere in the District. The study therefore suggests a target of 40% affordable housing in the rural areas and 30% in Braintree, Halstead, Hedingham and Witham. It also suggested that the growth locations should be planned on the basis of a 30% affordable housing target, as these are more costly to develop than urban and small rural sites; due to the lower net developable areas of these sites and higher infrastructure costs. It suggested that these targets should be subject to up to date scheme specific viability appraisals. (The Council has included Great Notley within the urban areas defined in the policy, as this is more closely related to Braintree than the rural areas.)
5.22 Evidence on site supply in the Viability Study indicates that in the urban parts of the District, the national indicative minimum threshold of 15 dwellings is appropriate. However, the profile of site supply in rural areas, coupled with high levels of need, indicates that adopting a low threshold in the rural areas is justified. A threshold of 5 dwellings would capture about a third of the supply in the rural areas. The Council has calculated that the application of the affordable housing thresholds and percentages, set out in Policy CS2, to the estimated District housing supply to 2026 should provide 1,214 affordable dwellings. The overall, plan wide target for the amount of affordable housing to be provided in the District to 2026 is therefore 1,214 dwellings.
5.23 The tenure split of affordable housing provided by this policy wil be set out in a supplementary planning document. All units will be required to meet the space, sustainability and adaptability standards required by the Homes and Communities Agency for rented homes.
5.24 The Council seeks to meet the 'Lifetime Homes Standard' for all affordable housing, unless there are overwhelming site constraints and taking into account economic viability. In addition, the Affordable Housing Strategy sets out targets for the number of new wheelchair standard units to be provided. These are usually ground floor flats, or bungalows, but can include houses with through-floor lifts. The Council would normally seek subject to viability at least one wheelchair standard unit on all housing developments in the main towns, which provide affordable housing, as part of that provision
Affordable housing will be directly provided by the developer within housing schemes on the following basis:
5.25 The Council adopted a supplementary planning document on affordable housing in 2006, which supplemented the Local Plan Review Policy RLP5 on this subject and set out the process and mechanism for the delivery of affordable housing in the District. This SPD will be revised to supplement Core Strategy Policy CS2.
5.26 In determining the actual level of affordable housing provided on a particular site, economic viability will be a material consideration. A 'toolkit' setting out economic assumptions will be used by the Council to inform viability appraisals of specific sites, which will form the basis for affordable housing negotiations.
5.27 There is a need for additional sites to meet the needs of gypsies and travellers in the District and in the East of England at present.
5.28 A revision to the Regional Spatial Strategy for the East of England, entitled 'Accommodation for Gypsy and Traveller and Travelling Showpeople in the East of England,' was published in July 2009.
5.29 This set out policies requiring local authorities to make provision for additional residential and transit pitches for gypsies and travellers and plots for travelling showpeople. (A pitch normally accommodates two caravans.)
5.30 Policy H3 set out a requirement for a minimum of 50 gypsy and traveller pitches for Braintree District by 2011. As there were already 27 authorised gypsy and traveller pitches within Braintree District in 2008 this meant that there was a requirement to provide an additional 23 authorised pitches by 2011. The Regional Strategy also required a minimum of 67 pitches for Braintree District by 2021.
5.31 As assessment of need in Essex was published in 2009 (Essex Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment), which identified a very similar requirement (for 66 residential pitches) in Braintree District between 2008 and 2021.
5.32 The Council will review the Core Strategy in relation to Traveller accommodation needs in the District in five years time, in order to identify Traveller requirements up to 2026.
5.33 Policy H3 also stated that local authorities should work together to establish a network of transit pitches, with 30 additional transit pitches required for Essex, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock between 2006 - 2011. The assessment of need in Essex in 2009 identified an additional short-stay requirement of 6 pitches in Braintree District between 2008 -2021, of which 5 would be required by 2013.
5.34 Policy H4 set out a requirement for an additional 103 plots for travelling showpeople in Essex, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock between 2006 -2011. There were two travelling showpeople sites in this District in 2008, with a total of 3 plots. The assessment of need in Essex identified an additional requirement in Braintree District of 1 plot between 2008-2021.
5.35 The Council will identify gypsy and traveller residential pitches in accordance with the requirements for this District and Government guidance and will work with the other identified local authorities to identify transit sites. The Council will also work with travelling showpeople and the Showmen's Guild to identify the required provision for travelling showpeople, in accordance with Government guidance.
5.36 The requirements will either be met by identifying sites and plots in the Site Allocations Development Plan Document, or through development control decisions, when appropriate sites or plots come forward, which may include rural exception sites. Sites should be provided in sustainable locations, which are not at risk of flooding and have access to health, education and other community facilities. Funding for the provision of sites and plots may be sought as part of developer contributions.
Gypsies and Travellers and Travelling Showpersons
Provision will be made for a minimum of 50 authorised residential pitches for gypsies and travellers caravans by 2011 and a minimum of 67 authorised residential pitches by 2021. This will require an additional provision of 23 authorised pitches by 2011 and a further 17 authorised pitches by 2021.
Provision will also be made for 5 transit pitches for gypsies and travellers by 2013 and a total of 6 transit pitches by 2021 and for an a minimum of one additional plot for travelling showpeople (in addition to the existing provision) by 2021.
The Council will identify gypsy and traveller sites and a travelling showpersons plot, to meet this provision, in the Allocations DPD, or through the planning application process in accordance with the following criteria:-