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6. Housing

6.1. The policies on housing have the following objectives:

  • To meet the Structure Plan housing requirement and provide sufficient housing to meet locally generated requirements;
  • To concentrate housing development in the main urban areas and other locations well related to employment and facilities; and
  • To meet the need for affordable housing and retain mixed and balanced communities.

Housing Development

6.2. The structure plan requirement for the period 1996 to 2011 is 5,600 homes. Between 1996 and 2000, 980 homes have been completed. This local plan accordingly needs to show how at least 4,620 homes will be provided over the period 2000 to 2011. Over 40% already had planning permission in April 2000. There were permissions for 318 homes (net) on sites for 11 dwellings or less and permissions for 1,575 homes on sites for 12 or more dwellings. Some of these were under construction, others not yet started. The key element is the remainder.

6.3. It is important to strike a balance between making effective use of developed land within development limits and protecting their character. Uttlesford’s urban areas are relatively small and the opportunities for development in them limited by relatively few potential sites. This is why 75% of the housing provision is proposed in urban extensions and two major settlement expansions. Much of this land already has planning permission, but this plan seeks to make effective use of these large sites, acknowledging that outstanding commitments may constrain what can be achieved on a specific site. Elsewhere, the opportunities for development in a linear loose settlement sensitive to its character may be different from those in a village where historically buildings have been more clustered. Proposals will also need to respect the character of village approaches. Some have an abrupt break between settlement and countryside. Others have a more gradual transition with well spaced out properties.

6.4. Policy H1 proposes a total of 5052 dwellings, which allows for flexibility in case some sites do not come forward in the Plan period. The allocation of sites has taken into account:

  • The availability of previously developed land;
  • The location and accessibility of sites;
  • The capacity of existing and potential infrastructure;
  • The ability to build communities
  • Constraints such as flood risk.
  • A review of land previously allocated for employment purposes.

6.5. A search sequence has been followed, starting with the re-use of previously developed land in urban areas identified in an urban capacity study, then urban extensions and finally two other key sites within the A120 transport corridor, with its potential to support public transport.

6.6. There are eight strategic sites, that is those with a capacity of more than 50 dwellings. Three of these are on previously developed land.

  • Development of the Oakwood Park site commenced in 1999 and is expected to be completed in 2006/7 taking into account the limit of 305 occupations prior to the new A120 dual carriageway.
  • Development of the Printpack site, Radwinter Road, Saffron Walden started in 2001/2 and was completed in 2002/3.
  • Development of part of the Thaxted Road Saffron Walden site started in 2003/4.

6.7. The remaining sites are greenfield sites

  • A substantial part of the largest site, the Woodlands Park site at Great Dunmow had planning permission at the beginning of the plan period and its development is expected to extend throughout the plan’s duration with completion in 2010/11.
  • The Rochford Nurseries development in Birchanger/ Stansted is expected to be supplying houses in 2005/6 following off site infrastructure works.
  • The site, west of Hawthorn close in Takeley village is expected to be supplying houses in 2004/5.
  • Implementation of the extensive Priors Green site is likely to extend throughout the remainder of the Plan’s duration with completion in 2010/11.
  • The eighth strategic site is a greenfield site, which would be an urban extension to Saffron Walden south of Ashdon Road. Half of the site is allocated during the plan period and half will only be developed if monitoring of housing supply indicates that there will be a significant shortfall against the structure plan housing requirement.

6.8. A combination of a strong housing market and site specific factors will mean that the objective of securing housing on previously developed land before taking greenfield sites will be achieved in the district. Site specific factors include the need for some developments to be phased in relation to off site highway infrastructure,

Policy H1 – Housing Development

The local plan proposes the development of 5052 dwellings for the period 2000 to 2011 by the following means:

a) The re-use of existing buildings and previously developed land, and the use of unused land, within the development limits of the main urban areas:

  • Great Dunmow (228 dwellings);
  • Saffron Walden (399 dwellings; and
  • Stansted Mountfitchet (121 dwellings)

b) Urban extensions to two of the main urban areas, and settlement expansions:

  • Oakwood Park, Little Dunmow (810 dwellings);
  • Rochford Nurseries, Birchanger and Stansted Mountfitchet (720 dwellings);
  • Takeley and Priors Green (939 dwellings); and
  • Woodlands Park, Great Dunmow (1253 dwellings).
  • Ashdon Road Saffron Walden (75 dwellings)

c) Re-use of existing buildings and previously developed land outside urban areas (450 dwellings).

d) Other contributions to supply, including development with outstanding planning permission not included in the above categories.

  • Bellrope Meadow Thaxted (30 dwellings)
  • Brocks Mead Great Easton (20 dwellings)
  • Hassobury (7 dwellings).

Policy H2 – Reserve Housing Provision

The following urban extension site will only be fully developed before 2011 if monitoring of housing supply indicates that the total proposed provision of 5052 dwellings between 2000 and 2011 as set out in Policy H1 is unlikely to be achieved. A supplementary planning document will be prepared enabling the release of the site if its development should prove necessary before 2011:

  • Land south of Ashdon Road Saffron Walden

Community-Led Plans and Village Housing

6.9. Policy H1 concentrates housing development in the main urban areas and other locations well related to employment and facilities. Within the villages development is generally limited to single infill plots and conversions, or affordable housing on exception sites. In order therefore to ensure that the needs of villages are adequately met through market and affordable housing the Council will work with Parish Councils and Community Groups to support them in producing community-led plans.

6.10. Community-led plans allow Parish Councils and community groups to get actively involved in the decision making processes that affect the future of their village. The process of producing a community-led plan includes extensive survey work to establish local needs and aspirations highlight priorities and develop an action plan and vision for the future of the community.

6.11. A protocol and guidance on Community Led Plans will be adopted by the Council as a Supplementary Planning Document.

6.12. The District Council will support the production of community-led plans and adopt consistent and robust community-led plans dealing with land-use, development and design as supplementary planning documents. Adopted Community-led Plans will be a material consideration in determining planning applications. Where the community-led plan proposes additional residential development which would involve an amendment to the Village Development Limit, this will be considered as an alteration to the Adopted Plan or incorporated into future Development Plan Documents.

Infilling

6.13. Infilling with new houses will be permitted within settlements subject to safeguards. Some settlements are not included in any boundary. These are settlements where there are no apparent opportunities for infilling, because there are no gaps left for development and, in some cases, the approaches to the village are too loose in character for development to be appropriate.

6.14. There is no specific policy on infilling outside development limits because any infill proposals will be considered in the context of Policy S7. This says that development will be strictly controlled. It means that isolated houses will need exceptional justification. However, if there are opportunities for sensitive infilling of small gaps in small groups of houses outside development limits but close to settlements these will be acceptable if development would be in character with the surroundings and have limited impact on the countryside in the context of existing development.

Policy H3 –New Houses within Development limits

Infilling with new houses will be permitted on land in each of the following settlements if the development would be compatible with the character of the settlement and, depending on the location of the site, its countryside setting. This will be in addition to the sites specifically allocated as urban extensions and settlement expansions.

Windfall sites will be permitted if they meet all the following relevant criteria:

a) The site comprises previously developed land;
b) The site has reasonable accessibility to jobs, shops and services by modes other than the car, or there is potential for improving such accessibility;
c) Existing infrastructure has the capacity to absorb further development, or there is potential for its capacity to be increased as necessary;
d) Development would support local services and facilities; and
e) The site is not a key employment site.
f) Avoid development which makes inefficient use of land.

The list of settlements is:

Arkesden
Ashdon (Incl Church End)
Barnston
Berden
Birchanger and Parsonage Farm
Chrishall
Clavering (Incl. Hill Green)
Debden
Elmdon
Elsenham
Felsted (Including Causeway End, Watch House Green/Bannister Green)
Great Chesterford
Great Dunmow
Great Easton
Great Hallingbury (incl Bedlar’s Green)
Great Sampford
Hadstock
Hatfield Broad Oak
Hatfield Heath (East and West)
Hempstead
Henham
High Easter
High Roding
Leaden Roding
Little Easton (Duck Street)
Little Hallingbury (north and south)
Littlebury
Manuden
Newport
Quendon and Rickling Green
Radwinter
Saffron Walden
Sewards End
Stansted Mountfitchet
Start Hill
Stebbing
Takeley
Takeley Street
Thaxted
Wendens Ambo
White Roding
Wicken Bonhunt
Widdington

The limit of each settlement for the purposes of this policy is defined on the proposals map.

Backland Development and Subdivision of Dwellings

6.15. The development of sites without a road frontage and the conversion of existing large residential properties, into smaller apartments for example, are also acceptable, again subject to safeguards.

Policy H4 – Backland Development

Development of a parcel of land that does not have a road frontage will be permitted, if all the following criteria are met:

a) There is significant under-use of land and development would make more effective use of it;
b) There would be no material overlooking or overshadowing of nearby properties;
c) Development would not have an overbearing effect on neighbouring properties;
d) Access would not cause disturbance to nearby properties.

Policy H5 – Subdivision of Dwellings

The subdivision of dwellings into two or more units will be permitted if the character of the area would not adversely be affected.

Conversion of Rural Buildings to Homes

6.16. Conversion of rural buildings to homes may continue to be an issue during the Plan period, as there is still a considerable stock of buildings with market potential. These may include former chapels, small agricultural buildings and so on, but most of them are barns.

6.17. Residential conversion can be problematic because this type of development may result in a loss of the barn's character and damage its historic structure. The best solution is usually achieved by converting such buildings to a light industrial or commercial use.

6.18. However, the conversion of those barns whose historic, traditional or vernacular form enhances the character of the rural area to homes will be permitted, if their character would be conserved. These will normally be listed buildings, or unlisted buildings of environmental merit, probably constructed in the period from the mid 19th to the early 20th century, substantially unaltered and constructed in an historic and vernacular tradition of materials contemporary with their age. They may form part of, and make a contribution to, a group of buildings that enhances the character of the countryside.

6.19. There are a small number of Grade 1 and Grade 2* agricultural buildings whose qualities are so outstanding that conversion to residential use may be very difficult to reconcile with respecting and conserving their special characteristics.

6.20. There is also a relatively small number of historic barns that are so large that their size would enable conversion to several dwellings. Such conversion schemes would normally be unacceptable because the number of units would give rise to an inappropriate multiplicity of windows, doors, access points and external finishes. It may be feasible to convert some of the bays to one or two dwellings and retain others as ancillary domestic storage in some instances. This is not intended to preclude the conversion of a range or group of buildings into a number of units provided each main structural element is not sub-divided. The erection of small links between buildings suitable for conversion may be permitted.

6.21. Applications for conversion of rural buildings to residential use must be full applications with all proposed works detailed. Where conversion of a timbered building is proposed the Council will normally require full survey drawings of the frame in support of an application, to assess the effect on the character of the building. Where barns are involved, conversions will need to retain the large internal volumes typical of such rural structures. Barns and other structures may well be actively occupied by a mammal or bird protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and consideration will be need to be given to whether reasonable precautions can be taken to avoid harming them.

6.22. Permission will not be granted for residential conversion of barns if they have no environmental qualities.

Policy H6 - Conversion of Rural Buildings to Residential Use

The conversion of rural buildings to dwellings will be permitted if all the following criteria apply:

a) It can be demonstrated that there is no significant demand for business uses, small scale retail outlets, tourist accommodation or community uses
b) They are in sound structural condition;
c) Their historic, traditional or vernacular form enhances the character and appearance of the rural area;
d) The conversion works respect and conserve the characteristics of the building;
e) Private garden areas can be provided unobtrusively.

Substantial building reconstructions or extensions will not be permitted. Conversion will not be permitted to residential uses on isolated sites in the open countryside located well away from existing settlements. Conditions regulating land use or development rights associated with proposals may be necessary.

Replacement Dwellings

6.23. Because of the strength of the housing market locally, the redevelopment of an existing home has become a viable proposition, especially if a larger property is permitted. Outside development limits, redevelopment may be acceptable but only if the opportunity is taken to put up a building that reflects local character, is sensitively sited and, through new planting, on balance enhances the countryside. Supplementary Planning Documents will be prepared by the Council.

Policy H7– Replacement Dwellings

A replacement dwelling will be permitted if it is in scale and character with neighbouring properties. In addition, outside development limits, a replacement dwelling will not be permitted unless, through its location, appearance and associated scheme of landscape enhancement it would protect or enhance the particular character of the countryside in which it is set.

Home Extensions

6.24. While home extensions reduce the stock of smaller, cheaper housing, an extension may be the only way many households can afford to secure the accommodation they need as their requirements change. Extending a three bedroom home into a four bedroom property will mean that the car parking standard changes from two to three spaces. Depending on circumstances, development abutting a property boundary can have an overbearing effect on adjoining properties. Leaving a gap between development and the site boundary can help avoid this problem arising.

Policy H8 – Home Extensions

Extensions will be permitted if all the following criteria apply:

a) Their scale, design and external materials respect those of the original building;
b) There would be no material overlooking or overshadowing of nearby properties;
c) Development would not have an overbearing effect on neighbouring properties;

Affordable Housing and Mixed and Balanced Communities

6.25. There are, and will continue to be, many households or potential households in Uttlesford lacking their own housing or living in housing that is inadequate or unsuitable, who are unlikely to be able to meet their needs in the housing market without some assistance. This is the Government’s definition of housing need. It is estimated that the scale of the requirements for affordable housing is nearly 300 homes a year for the period 2001 to 2006 taking into account the backlog of existing need, reducing to about 230 homes a year for the next five year period to 2011 once the backlog has been addressed. Much of the need is newly arising each year. The ten year requirement is accordingly 2,650. If the newly arising need in 2000-1 (the underlying rate of about 230 homes a year) is added to this, the total of 2,880 represents just under 60% of the total housing provision in the plan for 2000-11. Future surveys will include a ‘Key Worker’ housing needs survey to identify who are the key workers in Uttlesford as well as their housing needs.

6.26. Over 40% of the homes proposed in total already had planning permission in April 2000. The supply of housing from these sites that would address the situation of those who are unlikely to be able to meet their needs in the housing market without some assistance is already determined. It is about 200 homes (11%). This means that the balance of the total requirement, 2,680, has to be compared with the balance of the housing provision without planning permission of about 3190. In practice the ratio will be even more unfavourable, because of planning permissions granted between 2000 and the date when the policies in this Plan are capable of being accorded sufficient weight to be implemented. The situation justifies affordable housing being sought on as many sites as is practicable, subject to national planning policy.

6.27. In Government policy advice, the term affordable housing includes low cost market housing, discounted market housing, as well as housing for social rent or shared ownership from social landlords. However, new build low cost market housing is unlikely to address housing need in Uttlesford. This is because new build housing is significantly more expensive than second hand properties, and those households who are on the margins of being able to meet their needs in the housing market will be purchasing second hand towards the bottom end of the price band.

6.28. For affordable housing to be relevant to those in housing need in Uttlesford it must meet the following tests:

  • It results in weekly outgoings on housing costs that 20% of Uttlesford households in need can afford, excluding housing benefits.
  • Such housing should be available, both initially and for subsequent occupancy, only to those with a demonstrable housing need.

6.29. This Plan sets a target of 40% of dwellings to be affordable housing, meeting the weekly outgoings on housing costs and availability tests above. This represents a compromise between the proportion justified by the scale of need and what the housing industry can reasonably be expected to provide. The percentage and type of affordable housing on any given site will be subject to negotiation at the time of a planning application, to allow issues of site size, sustainability and economics of provision to be considered. Within Great Dunmow, Saffron Walden and Stansted Mountfitchet, on sites of 0.5 hectares or of 15 dwellings or more 40% affordable housing will be negotiated. Where appropriate consideration will also be given to the provision of housing to meet special needs. The level of housing provision sought on a site should have regard to the Council’s target for housing provision yet should not make the development unviable. Elsewhere in the District 40% affordable housing will be similarly sought on sites of 0.5 hectares or of 15 dwellings or more. There may however be smaller sites within the rural areas which could provide a useful contribution to the Council’s supply of affordable housing. Appropriate sites should still be large enough to ensure a viable scheme and not lead to the provision of only 1 or 2 affordable units on a site which would lead to a fragmented approach to affordable housing in the rural areas.

6.30. It will be important to achieve mixed and balanced communities in two respects: within a larger site, and the village as a whole in the case of smaller settlements. All developments on a site of 3 or more homes must include an element of small 2 and 3 bed homes, which must represent a significant proportion of the total, for those households who are able to meet their needs in the market and would like to live in a new home.

Policy H9- Affordable Housing

The Council will seek to negotiate on a site to site basis an element of affordable housing of 40% of the total provision of housing on appropriate allocated and windfall sites, having regard to the up to date Housing Needs Survey, market and site considerations

Policy H10 – Housing Mix

All developments on sites of 0.1 hectares and above or of 3 or more dwellings will be required to include a significant proportion of market housing comprising small properties.

Affordable Housing on “Exception Sites”

6.31. As a consequence of the scale of affordable housing needs and the need to retain mixed and balanced communities, the Council will also exceptionally release suitable land in rural areas for local needs housing that would not otherwise normally receive planning permission. Any such provision will be additional to the housing provision in this Plan, although the number of units completed will be taken into account in future reviews of this Plan.

6.32. It is important to establish that a need exists and then to ensure that accommodation is made available for those people who have a genuine need for housing in the locality that they cannot meet in the market. Such persons may, for example, include existing residents who need separate accommodation locally, those who provide an important local service, or people who have longstanding links with the local community, such as people who used to live in a village but were forced to move away because of a lack of affordable housing, and elderly people who need to move back into a village to be near relatives. 'Local' in this context means 'within the parish', principally, although the needs of those who live or work in an adjoining parish may also be accepted. This would particularly apply where a scheme is proposed in a larger village that would meet the needs of adjoining smaller communities. It is essential that a registered social landlord is involved to achieve control over future occupancy of the homes provided on such sites.

6.33. Schemes are likely to be more appropriate in larger communities providing a basic range of services including a primary school, public transport and adequate infrastructure for sewage disposal. Sewage disposal should be considered at an early stage so that any implications for the viability of a scheme can be taken into account. Various schemes are currently being considered and it is expected that a number will be built during the Plan period. It is intended that in most villages such housing developments will be the only new development sites. In Green Belt villages the need will have to represent special circumstances to justify an exception to Policy S6.

Policy H11 – Affordable Housing on “Exception Sites”

Development of affordable housing will be permitted outside settlements on a site where housing would not normally be permitted, if it would meet all the following criteria:

a) 100% of the dwellings are to be affordable and provided through a Registered Social Landlord;
b) The development will meet a particular local need that cannot be met in any other way;
c) The development is of a scale appropriate to the size, facilities and character of the settlement; and
d) The site adjoins the settlement.

Agricultural Workers' Dwellings

6.34. The erection of a new dwelling for someone engaged in agriculture who has to be available on the holding at all times is one instance where new buildings may exceptionally be permitted in the countryside.

6.35. Applications for planning permission in such circumstances will need to demonstrate that the intention to engage in agriculture is genuine and will be sustained for a reasonable period of time. It will also be necessary to establish that the enterprise needs one or more workers to be readily available at most times, for example to provide essential care to animals or processes at short notice and to deal quickly with emergencies that could cause serious loss of crops or produce.

6.36. Such dwellings may be exceptionally permitted in open countryside only because of the needs of the enterprise. In these cases dwellings will normally be modest in size, commensurate with the function of providing accommodation for an agricultural worker or a farm manager, as appropriate, and be related to the needs of the holding in terms of its scale. The test is a stringent one. The application must demonstrate that new residential accommodation is essential for the enterprise, and not just convenient.

Policy H12 - Agricultural Workers' Dwellings

New dwellings or the conversion of existing buildings for agricultural workers may be permitted if both the following criteria are met:

a) It can be demonstrated that there is an essential need for someone to live permanently on site to provide essential care to animals or processes or property at short notice.
b) The scale of the proposed dwelling(s) relates to the needs of the agricultural enterprise.
In these exceptional circumstances, residential occupancy conditions will be imposed.

Removal of Agricultural Occupancy Conditions

6.37. The need for agricultural dwellings may change from time to time with economic circumstances and some agricultural dwellings approved in the past have since become surplus to requirements. In order to maintain the credibility of Policy H13 it is important that such conditions, once imposed, should remain in force unless it can be proved beyond doubt that the essential need no longer exists, both on the particular holding and in the locality.

Policy H13 - Removal of Agricultural Occupancy Conditions

The removal of agricultural occupancy conditions will not be permitted unless both the following criteria are met:

a) The dwelling is genuinely surplus to the current and foreseen future agricultural needs of the holding, neighbouring locality and local farmers.
b) The dwelling has been widely advertised for at least six months on terms reflecting its occupancy condition.

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