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1.0 Introduction

1.1 The Mendip District Local Plan Part I sets out a long term strategic vision for the future of the District and how it will develop over the next 15 years.  The Plan has been shaped and informed by a comprehensive evidence base and a changing context to planning at both a national and regional level.  Consultation, formal and informal, has helped to identify key local issues and then probe in more depth on particular matters.  This plan now sets out how the Council intends to stimulate the development which the district needs including housing, economic development and infrastructure. It also puts in place a selection of policies to manage development in a manner appropriate to this district which generic national policy would not adequately cover.  A further part of the plan, Part II: Site Allocations, will be prepared by the Council to allocate and/or designate specific sites for development or other purposes in line with the intentions of the policies in this Part I document. 

The Local Plan

1.2 The Local Plan is the statutory Development Plan for the district.  This Part I Plan, together with the forthcoming Part II Plan, will supersede the 2002 Mendip District Local Plan in its entirety.  When brought into use it will primarily be used as the main basis for decision making in relation to planning applications made to the Council.  However, the confirmation of the main development proposals in the plan will also stimulate an extensive array of joint working between landowners, developers, communities, public service providers, utility companies, interest groups and many others to help ensure that proposals formulated deliver the best and most sustainable outcomes possible. This plan is just the beginning.  Its outcomes will depend upon effective coordinated and collaborative participation.

1.3 To this end, there are some clear distinctions between this plan and its predecessor.  National policy since 2004 has sought to shift the emphasis of the planning system away from rigid policies that sought to control every conceivable possibility in the development and use of land, towards a broader framework that instead focused on Spatial Planning – planning for places and outcomes.

Spatial Planning
Spatial planning aims to bring together and integrate policies for the development and use of land with other strategies and programmes which influence the nature of places and how they function.  As a result, the nature of Local Plans will vary from area to area with districts and unitary authorities preparing policy documents in response to specific local needs and issues.  The policies and proposals in this Plan are consistent with national policy, but will be used to add specific emphasis to reflect local circumstances.  A key feature of this approach is to build in flexibility.  Old style rigid policies, frequently applied in the past on a very ‘black or white’ basis, have resulted in development that passes the policy tests, but along the way have failed to deliver the outcomes intended.  A Spatial Planning framework, provided by this Local Plan, accepts that the wider benefits of proposals for a particular place are central, rather than the policies themselves.  However, this still requires that proposals inherently contribute to the achievement of sustainable development as discussed later in this introduction.

1.4 This document, Part I of the Local Plan therefore establishes an overarching development Vision and key Objectives for the area based on evidence and consultation which subsequent policies and proposals will aim to deliver.

1.5 Furthermore, once the Local Plan Part I is adopted, all other parts of the planning framework for the area must be aligned with its intentions in order that a coherent and consistent basis for decision making is established. This is discussed in the following subsection.

1.6 Having established these, this document then goes on to make the big decisions about broadly what scale of new  development is needed, where that  growth should be located, which key initiatives or projects to pursue and other key principles.  This plan contains an overall spatial strategy for the district, broad principles to direct how development will take place across the extensive rural part of the district as well as specific policies for each of the five towns.  These aspects are set out in the Core Policies of this plan contained within sections 4 and 5. 

1.7 Beyond this, the plan then sets out Development Polices in section 6 which will be applicable, to a greater or lesser degree, to all proposals for development.  There are Development Policies, which together with the National Planning Policy Framework, will enable the Council to manage impacts on areas where there are constraints on development or where the Council is seeking to manage particular effects.  In most cases the policies are permissive – i.e. saying what can be achieved – but put in place relevant criteria which will need to be satisfied during the conception or design stages of preparing a development proposal.  To this end, the Council will continue to encourage early dialogue with those considering development in order that subsequent applications are well founded.

Development Policies

1.8 The adjacent diagram outlines in a visual form the broad structure of this Local Plan Part I and the role which the key components play. 

Other Parts of the Council’s Planning Framework

1.9 This Local Plan Part I, as the cover and content indicates, sets out the strategy and policies that the Council will pursue to meet its development needs and accommodate other development opportunities that emerge during the period to 2029. 

1.10 However, other documents will be needed to address specific development issues.  The diagram below illustrates the documents which the Council intends to prepare in coming years.  Production of these documents will be timetabled within the Local Development Scheme which outlines how and when the Council will update and add to its planning framework. 

council intends to prepare

1.11 Those elements identified in black are parts of the statutory Development Plan which are subject to national regulations governing their preparation and formal independent Public Examination.  Identified in grey are Supplementary Planning Documents which can be adopted locally, but are subject to a preparation process defined by national regulations.  The final white box would include other forms of guidance prepared, consulted upon, and adopted locally which would form significant Material Considerations in planning decisions.

The following paragraphs provide a simple outline of the role and nature of the components above:

  • Local Plan Part II: Site Allocations – a Development Plan Document (DPD) which will identify sites to deliver specific, but non strategic, development needs as guided by the principles contained in this Local Plan Part I document.  The Site Allocations document may also include designations of other land to safeguard it from development where justified.  Where development sites are considered significant in their setting, the Council may require that a formal Masterplan or Development Brief is prepared and adopted as a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).
  • Policies Map – is the geographical representation of planning policies relevant in the area contained within the Local Plan (Parts I and II).  Using an Ordnance Survey base map it will detail relevant land designations as well as policy boundaries and land allocations.
  • Neighbourhood Plans – introduced by the 2011 Localism Act, are parts of the statutory Development Plan relevant to a specific local area and represent policies and proposals made at a community level as guided by the principles contained in this Local Plan Part I document. These are discussed further in a following Section related to the Localism Act.
  • Community Infrastructure Levy Charging Schedule – The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a development tariff which in future years will be collected to fund the delivery of infrastructure needed to support local growth.  It is discussed further in relation to Development Policy 19.  The Charging Schedule sets the level of tariff which the Council will charge for specific types of development expressed per square metre.
  • Supplementary Planning Documents (SPD) - are documents which offer an opportunity for the Council to provide more detail about how a Local Plan proposal or policy will be applied, or in the case of Development Briefs and Masterplans, how a particular development site might be planned.  Text related to Development Policy 7 explains more about these.
  • Other Planning Guidance – is made up of other strategies and sources of information which are considered to be important for planning purposes.  This currently includes Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Management Plans, Conservation Area Character Appraisals, Village Design Statements and some Parish Plans.  Such guidance will still be required to have undergone appropriate levels of local consultation and be subject to a formal Council resolution to adopt them. 

1.12 Alongside the main policy framework, the Council will produce or update two main supporting documents periodically:

  • Authority’s Monitoring Report – This document will report upon delivery and effectiveness of the Local Plan’s policies and proposals and be a means to highlight where changes or amendments might be needed to policies in any future review. 
  • Local Development Scheme – This document will set out a timetable for the production and review of parts of the Local Plan in order that interested parties can be clear when particular strands of work will be published for consultation or are to be adopted. 

The Context within which we Plan

1.13 The District Council does not have a free hand in planning for the district’s future.  Whilst the Localism Act 2011 gives local authorities and communities new powers and responsibilities devolved down from central government, it remains there will always be national planning policies  which the Council is bound to work within.  As set out in relation to spatial planning above, the Local Plan must also rationalise how it can deliver the goals and aspirations of the community, public service and, most crucially, private investment.

1.14 The diagram below outlines many, but not all, of the influences which the Council has sought or been required to incorporate into its thinking. 

mendip district local plan

1.15 Some of the key influences are explored in the following paragraphs:

National Planning Guidance

1.16 The Local Plan works within alongside, and takes account of, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which set out the Government’s policies on different aspects of planning.

1.17 At its heart it must be in broad conformity with national policy, now primarily encapsulated in the NPPF which states in para.6 that "the purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development.”

NPPF

1.18 Sustainable development is defined in United Nations resolution 42/187 as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

1.19 The NPPF restates the long held rationale for the planning system, namely to maximise, collectively, the social, economic and environmental benefits in the development and use of land. The Vision and Objectives set out in section 3 are predicated on this rationale.

1.20 In essence, sustainable development is already embedded within this plan and the key challenge is therefore more about the application of sustainable development principles in specific circumstances and at a site based level.   The Council will continue to adopt a positive approach in seeking to meet the objectively assessed development needs of the district. The strategy and policies in this Local Plan (and its subsequent parts) provide a clear framework to guide development that delivers positive, sustainable growth.

1.21 Paragraph 14 of the NPPF sets out a Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development, which makes it clear that proposals that accord with Local Plans should be approved without delay. In assessing and determining planning applications the Council will apply the overarching policy approach set out below.

Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development
When considering development proposals the Council will take a positive approach that reflects the presumption in favour of sustainable development contained in the National Planning Policy Framework.  It will work proactively with applicants to seek solutions which mean that proposals secure development that improves the economic, social and environmental conditions in the area.
  1. Planning applications that accord with the policies in this Local Plan (and, where relevant, with polices in Neighbourhood Plans) will be approved without delay, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
  2. Where there are no policies relevant to the application or relevant policies are out-of-date at the time of making the decision, the Council will grant permission - unless material considerations indicate otherwise – taking into account whether:
    • Any adverse impacts of granting permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the National Planning Policy Framework taken as a whole; or
    •  Specific policies in that Framework indicate that development should be restricted.

1.22 There may be instances where the Plan is silent or in future years, policies become out-of-date. To enable the Council to continue to take a sustainable and positive approach to decision making, applicants will need to assist by submitting evidence to demonstrate how the benefits of the proposal outweigh any adverse impacts. In this way economic, social and environmental responsibilities can continue to be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and well-being.

Sustainable Community Strategy

1.23 The Mendip Sustainable Community Strategy represents the collaborative strategy of a range of partners who work together as the Mendip Strategic Partnership.  As an entity, the partnership has few resources of its own, but has a role in agreeing joint working using member resources and budgets to collectively support and deliver each others aims.  With representative views from the public, private and voluntary sectors they have established an overall vision for the future of the Mendip area which is set out in the Sustainable Community Strategy which was adopted in 2010. 

1.24 The early stages of production of this Local Plan were coordinated with the production of the Sustainable Community Strategy in order that the development visions set out in section 3 of this document are consistent with the wider vision being pursued by partner groups.

Mendip Corporate Plan

1.25 The Mendip Corporate Plan has evolved during the production of this Local Plan reflecting the need for the Council to deliver clearer and more focused priorities.  The objectives of this Plan remain consistent with the current corporate priorities, namely:  

  • to support business development and growth
  • to take all steps possible to support the provision of housing in the district
  • to address issues of rural isolation, primarily through ensuring partner activity
  • to take  a clear strategic and community leadership role for the district

The objectives and subsequent policies of the Plan align directly with these priorities.

“Time to Plan”: The Preparation of this Local Plan

1.26 “Time to Plan” has been the name of the publicity campaign used throughout the production of this Local Plan.  In early 2008, formal consultation (under the previous Local Development Framework arrangements) commenced with a phase of agenda setting dialogue.  This work, undertaken as a joint exercise to inform the Sustainable Community Strategy, allowed local people, businesses and other interests to highlight issues in their locality.  Where possible the Council also worked with community groups, such as ‘Shepton 21 and ‘Vision for Frome’, allowing strategic and local issues to be gathered in one exercise.  Over 1,200 people came along to one of the 6 public events held across the district. This attracted over 1,800 individual responses on a whole range of issues, as well as many hundreds of place based points arising from mapped exercises. 

1.27 Following on from this consultation phase, a Stakeholder Workshop in July 2008 involving a wide range of public, private, governmental and voluntary sector interests from within and outside Mendip came together to consider the key findings and identify local priorities for the Sustainable Community Strategy and the Core Strategy (as it was then referred to).  In light of the outcomes, the Mendip Strategic Partnership was able to agree an overarching vision statement for the Sustainable Community Strategy which in turn helped to frame a ‘spatial vision’ and ‘strategic objectives’ to provide an overall direction for the Core Strategy (which is set out in section 3 of this Local Plan).  In the following months specific visions for each of the five Mendip towns were also drawn together to provide a strategic view of their development needs.  These vision statements were endorsed by the Council’s executive in the autumn of 2009 and are set out in section 4 of this Local Plan. 

1.28 After consolidating all the material from the initial phase of consultation and evidence gathering, a set of six ‘Portraits’1 were pulled together.  These documents drew together an understanding of each of the five towns and of the district as a whole, taking in relevant parts of the evidence base, consultation responses and monitoring data.  The information was supplemented in many cases with information from face to face meetings with service providers, community leaders and other interests including local businesses, voluntary groups and representatives of minority groups.  The ‘Portraits’ effectively provided a baseline source of information for the production of both the Core Strategy and the Sustainable Community Strategy.

1.29 Alongside this consolidation of information, a detailed consultation paper2 was prepared setting out various questions in response to issues where there were realistic choices to be made.  The document focused on issues relevant in each of the Mendip towns, promoting sustainable rural development as well as a range of topic based issues applicable across the district as a whole.  This was published for a formal eight week consultation period at the start of 2009.  The exercise attracted 475 individual responses.

consultation paper

1.30 As a roundup to the initial two rounds of consultation, a summary report3 of the issues raised was prepared in mid 2009 as a means to consolidate the views of contributors.

1.31 During 2009 and 2010 it became apparent that one of the foundations of the planning system that was present at that time, Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) were likely to be abolished which was confirmed in 2010 following the formation of the Coalition Government. One of the key consequences of this was that the Council had to move from having a defined development strategy and a fixed level of housing provision towards a strategy that was predicated on local needs and demands.  As a result, an extensive range of new evidence was gathered to underpin what were then termed “local development requirements.”  At the time of publication, the government’s attempts to abolish RSS had yet to be concluded.  Nevertheless, the proposals in this Local Plan Part I are not radically different from the intentions of the RSS, due primarily to the general consistency in the fundamental planning principles set out in national policy

1.32 In February 2011, having responded to the impending removal of RSS as well as working through the issues emerging from the preceding Consultation Paper, the District Council published what was then called its Draft Core Strategy setting out its preferred options for public consultation.  That draft plan was broadly similar in structure to this document, setting out a Vision, Objectives, Core Policies and Development Policies.  A range of events were held to coincide with the consultation period as well as summary proposals being sent to every household.  400 written representations were received.

1.33 The latter part of 2011 and early 2012 saw proposals by Government to do away with the national policy contained within Planning Policy Statements (PPS),  Planning Policy Guidance notes (PPGs) and a range of other policies and circulars and to consolidate them within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This was subsequently published in March 2012 and introduced new uncertainty.  The Council chose to hold back the publication of this pre-submission draft to consider the implications of the new NPPF.  This delay conveniently enabled new background evidence about local demographics, economic growth land supply and housing need to be built in, in addition to work needed to introduce new policies where the NPPF had left policy gaps in the Plan. 

1.34 It was also during this period that the Localism Act came into being.  Associated government guidance brought an end to the complicated and confusing terminology associated with the Local Development Frameworks system that had been in place since 2004, instead asking local authorities to return to using the term Local Plan.

The Evidence Base

1.35 To inform the production of this Local Plan, and future parts of the Council’s planning framework, it has been necessary for the Council and its partners to develop a range of evidence to justify its content. “Evidence Base” is the collective term used to describe all of the background studies and work, including consultation views, which have and will continue to inform plan making and planning decisions. The full range of information gathered together by the Council is available to view on the website or on request from the Council’s offices.  All parts of this Local Plan have been informed by evidence, whether in the form of consultation views, official statistics or specific studies. 

1.36 The Council has a duty to keep this information current to ensure that its flexible policies, when used for decision making, draw upon the most up to date information the Council can get about circumstances and conditions prevalent across the area.  As stated before, the plan is a framework and the Council intends to regularly review its evidence so that decisions reflect current circumstances.  

1.37 Throughout the preparation process of this plan, stakeholders and contributors have been challenged to identify or produce evidence to back their assertions, particularly where fundamental policy stances would result.  Where necessary, the Council has also prepared technical papers which bring together various sources of evidence.  These papers explore particular issues weighing up alternative approaches and considering their relative impacts.  These approaches have ensured that the Local Plan is based on rational and objective decision making, rather than being unduly influenced by unsubstantiated opinions or unqualified assumptions which could ultimately undermine the soundness of the overall strategy.

Regulatory Requirements   

1.38 The preparation of this Local Plan has been undertaken in line with processes set out in national planning policy and associated statutory regulations.  Where relevant, other sources of guidance have been taken into account including that produced by the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Planning Advisory Service and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. 

1.39 In terms of specific regulatory requirements, the following points itemise specific processes and regulations that this plan had to be assessed against:

  • Sustainability Appraisal (SA) is a mandatory requirement under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and helps to fulfil the objective of achieving sustainable development in preparing projects, policies and plans. To ensure that policies and proposals in the Local Plans contribute to sustainable development, each document produced will be subject to a Sustainability Appraisal, incorporating the requirements of the EU Directive on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).  The auditing process of the SA leads to more informed and transparent decision-making and helps to achieve the aims of sustainable development in Mendip.
  • Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA) is required following a ruling in October 2005 by the European Court of Justice that land-use plans including Local Plans should be subject to an ‘Appropriate Assessment’ of their implications for European Sites.  European Sites are nature conservation sites which have been designated under European Law, for example Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), as well as species outlined in Regulation 10 of the Habitats Regulations 1994. 
  • Equalities Impact Assessments (EqIA) are required under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, Disability Discrimination Act 2005 and the Sex Discrimination Act 2007.  Impact Assessments are a systematic way of examining whether new or existing functions, policy or procedures differentially affect any person or group of persons. 
  • Community Involvement Regulations require that the Council sets out evidence of how it has engaged the community in plan making when preparing a development plan document.  This is partially summarised in paragraphs 1.26 - 1.34 above with a full account being available on the Council’s website.  Full consultation statements were published after each stage of engagement.  

Copies of all of these documents are available on the Council’s website

Delivery and Monitoring

1.40 Delivery of the proposals of the Local Plan is a critical consideration.  The content of this document has been based upon a sound understanding of issues, evidence and views relevant to the area and of its constituent communities, however the ability to deliver proposals has also been an important consideration.

1.41 Accompanying this Local Plan is a Delivery Plan which sets out how key proposals and projects of the Core Policies will be delivered, including where relevant, the roles of other parts of the planning framework.  The Delivery Plan itemises the proposals, key partners/agencies, timescales and other details which, during consultation and further work, will be refined to make it clear how things will happen on the ground.  The Delivery Plan also itemises elements of key infrastructure which will need to be provided as part of development, through legal agreements associated with planning consents or through development contributions which in future may be accumulated via a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)4

1.42 Appendix 2 of this document sets out a range of indicators against which policies – notably the Development Management Policies in section 6 – will be assessed to determine their effectiveness over their lifetime, and where appropriate trigger reviews or other support mechanisms to ensure they better achieve the aims set out within the overall Local Plan objectives set out in section 3.

1.43 Reporting progress on delivery and effectiveness of policies will be through the Authority’s Monitoring Report as considered previously.

Status of policies and supporting text in the Local Plan

1.44 For the avoidance of doubt, both the policies and the supporting text of all parts of the Local Plan make up the statutory Development Plan for the purposes of determining planning applications.



1 Portraits of Frome, Glastonbury, Shepton Mallet, Street and Wells as well as the Portrait of Mendip (December 2008)

2 Time to Plan Consultation Paper (December 2008)

3 Time to Plan Consultation Responses Summary Report (July 2009)

4 See Development Policy 19 and its supporting text

 

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