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Chapter 3 - Housing


Note: The housing provision figures contained in the Local Plan Review have been superseded by the figures as set out in the Braintree District Core Strategy, adopted September 2011. These are consistent with the targets set out in the East of England Plan (published in May 2008). Although the RSS will be revoked, the evidence base that underpinned it which established the housing need for this District is still relevant. See Core Strategy Policy CS1 and paragraphs 1.23, 1.24, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4 and 4.5 for further details.

3.1 The overall approach to the provision of housing in the District is referred to in Chapter 2, which deals with the development strategy for the District. This Chapter deals with housing allocations in more detail and sets out specific policies relating to housing provision. The Local Plan concentrates on overall provision of housing and specific land use policies. It is complemented by the Council’s Housing Strategy, which deals in more detail with housing needs and the supply and management of the District’s housing stock.

3.2 This Chapter includes policies in relation to:

1. Overall housing allocation and location strategy.

2. Meeting local and special housing needs, including those of gypsies.

3. Design and layout of residential development.

4. Policies for replacement and extension of dwellings in the countryside.

Policy Background

3.3 The policy context for housing provision in the District is provided by Planning Policy Guidance Note (PPG) 3 published on 7th March 2000 and the Essex and Southend-on-Sea Replacement Structure Plan, adopted in April 2001 (the Structure Plan). Circular 1/97 provides the policy context for Planning Obligations and Circular 6/98 provides Government advice on Planning and Affordable Housing.

3.4 PPG3 sets out a new approach to the provision of housing land based on plan monitor and manage, with an emphasis on the next five years rather than the ten year plan period. PPG3 asks local authorities to:

- Plan to meet the housing needs of the whole community, including those in need of affordable housing.

- Provide wider housing opportunity and choice and a better mix in the size, type, and location of housing than is currently available, and seek to create mixed communities.

- Provide sufficient housing land, but give priority to re-using previously developed land within urban areas, bringing empty homes back into use and converting existing buildings, in preference to the development of greenfield sites.

- Create more sustainable patterns of development by building in ways which exploit and deliver accessibility by public transport to jobs, education and health facilities, shopping, leisure and local services.

- Make more efficient use of land by reviewing planning policies and standards.

- Place the needs of people before ease of traffic movement, in designing the layout of residential developments.

- Seek to reduce car dependence, by facilitating more walking and cycling, by improving linkages by public transport between housing, jobs, local services and local amenity, and by planning for mixed use.

- Promote good design in new housing developments, in order to create attractive, high-quality living environments in which people will choose to live. These principles are therefore reflected in this plan.

3.5 Policy H1 of the Structure Plan provides for a net dwelling stock increase in the District of 10,300 dwellings between 1st April 1996 and 31st March 2011. Policy H2 of the Structure Plan provides for residential development to be located on sites which can provide good access to employment, shopping, education and community facilities and which are accessible by a choice of means of transport, especially non-car modes. It provides for a sequential approach to the location of new housing provision, with the maximum amount to be located within existing large urban areas in the first instance. If sufficient provision cannot be made within urban areas, then planned peripheral development on the edge of large urban areas should be the next choice. Only then should expanded settlements be considered. It is for local plans to determine whether small-scale housing provision is appropriate in small towns and villages, where it can take place in accordance with sustainability principles. Sporadic development in the countryside is to be resisted.


3.6 In planning for the future provision of housing the Council is seeking to achieve the following objectives:

1. To provide sufficient housing land within the District to meet the Structure Plan provision.

2. To ensure a five year supply of housing land is always available.

3. To maximise the use of sites within existing urban areas.

4. To relate the location of housing land closely to employment, to public transport, and to community, retail, and leisure facilities and where it can secure improvements to these facilities.

5. To provide a range of sites for housing that will cater for a variety of densities, housing types and tenures to meet differing requirements within the population, including the particular needs of elderly and disabled people.

6. To maximise the provision of low cost social housing to meet the identified housing needs of the District.

Housing Allocation and Location Strategy

3.7 As indicated above, Policy H1 of the Structure Plan proposes a net dwelling stock increase for the District of 10,300 dwellings for the period 1996 to 2011. As at 31st March 2000 some 3,659 dwellings had been built in the District, with the remaining provision for 2000 to 2011 being 6,641 dwellings. The existing commitment at 31st March 2000, that is dwellings under construction, or with planning permission or allocated in the previous Local Plan, was estimated at 5,817 dwellings leaving a residual provision of 824 dwellings required to meet the Structure Plan requirement. The existing commitment includes sites with planning permission and existing plan allocations, which are not yet built, and an allowance for small sites (less than 12 dwellings) at a rate of 100 per year.

3.8 In order to assess the full housing potential of Braintree, Halstead, and Witham, the District Council published an urban capacity study in April 2001. The Study was reviewed in February 2004. The review of the urban capacity study has identified potential for over 500 dwellings, over and above those included in the land availability study. It will not be necessary to realise the full potential identified in the urban capacity study to meet the Structure Plan provision. Small sites of less than 12 dwellings are not specifically allocated, as there is an allowance for these within the overall provision. Large sites of 12 dwellings, or more, identified by the urban capacity study are shown on the Proposals Map and listed in Appendix 1, where they are not in a current employment or community use.

3.9 As a result of the findings of the land availability study of 31st March 2000 and the urban capacity study, it is considered that sufficient sites already exist in the District to meet the Structure Plan provision for the period 1996 to 2011. The strategy for the Plan is therefore to concentrate provision for new housing on sites already identified, sites within existing urban areas and on previously developed land, which meet sustainability criteria. It is not proposed to allocate any further strategic sites for housing as part of this Plan.

3.10 This approach to new housing provision is considered to be consistent with paragraph 30 of PPG3 and Policy H2 of the Structure Plan. Paragraph 30 of PPG3 states: “In identifying sites to be allocated for housing in local plans, local planning authorities should follow a search sequence, starting with the re-use of previously developed land and buildings identified by the urban housing capacity study, then urban extensions, and finally new development around nodes in good public transport corridors. They should only seek to identify sufficient land to meet the housing requirement set as a result of the regional planning guidance and strategic planning process. In doing so they do not need to consider all the land in their area; they should not extend the search further than required to provide sufficient capacity to meet the agreed housing requirement.”

The sequential approach to housing development required by Structure Plan Policy H2 is referred to in paragraph 3.5.

3.11 Having applied the search sequence to the District, the Council has concluded that the Structure Plan provision of 10,300 dwellings for the period 1996 to 2011 can be met from existing commitments and sites within existing urban areas. Previous local plan allocations of greenfield sites have been reviewed, but all are either under construction, or committed by way of a planning consent and it is not therefore possible to remove them from the Plan.

These comprise the following: Mill Hill, Braintree; Kings Park Village, Braintree; Great Notley Garden Village; Nether Court, Halstead; Maltings Lane, Witham.

A few smaller greenfield sites have been allocated; these all consist of small urban extensions or infill of Braintree and Witham, within the town development boundary. These include land next to A120/ Cressing Road, Braintree; Gypsy Corner and Panfield Lane, Braintree; and Constance Close, Witham.

3.12 The Council is committed to maximizing the use of previously developed land for housing. The Government has set a national target for 60% of land used for housing to have been previously developed. This figure is difficult to achieve in a District such as Braintree that has a mixture of medium sized towns and extensive rural areas because the large Greenfield sites listed in the previous paragraph have yet to be completed. However, the Review of the Local Plan has sought to maximize opportunities for the re-use of previously-developed land for housing.

3.13 The Council will apply the plan monitor and manage approach required by PPG3. Housing provision will be regularly monitored, at least annually, to assess progress towards meeting the Structure Plan provision. The Plan will be reviewed in five years time, to roll the proposals forward to 2016 or 2021.

This review can consider the results of the housing provision monitoring and can make any necessary changes to the provision if required, at that time. The proposals of the plan will be reviewed in five years time, or sooner, should monitoring of the housing supply situation identify an under- provision or over-provision of housing land.

Policy RLP 1 Housing Provision

(Policy superseded 19 September 2011 by Core Strategy Policy CS1 Housing Provision and Delivery.)

Provision is made for a net dwelling stock increase of 10,300 dwellings in the Braintree District, in the period 1st April 1996 to 31st March 2011, as set out in Table 1. Provision will be concentrated on sites within existing urban areas and on previously developed land which meet sustainability criteria.

Table 1: Housing Provision

No. of Dwellings
A Total housing provision for Braintree District over the Structure Plan Period 1996-2011
Essex and Southend on Sea Replacement Structure Plan
  Potential Supply:-
B Total net dwelling stock change 1996-2002
ECC and BDC annual monitoring results, including site checks
C Expected contribution from small sites 2002-2011
Structure Plan assessment at 100 dwellings per year for the period 2002-2011 (small sites = less than 12 dwellings total capacity)
D Large sites allocated in the Local Plan, as set out in Appendix 1
  Total potential supply 1996-2011 (B+C+D)

Town Development Boundaries and Village Envelopes

3.14 The intended limits to settlements are defined on the Proposals Map, by town development boundaries and village envelopes. Outside these limits countryside policies will apply and new development will not normally be permitted. Village envelopes have been drawn around those settlements where some infill development may be appropriate. The boundaries have been drawn around the main built-up area of those settlements. They are intended to:-

- Protect the countryside surrounding settlements

- Prevent extension of ribbon development and sporadic development

- Protect non-renewable and natural resources in accordance with national policies.

The boundaries follow property boundaries wherever possible, except where gardens are so long that their inclusion would lead to possible pressure for backland development. In those cases the boundaries cut across gardens. Any development that is permitted within town development boundaries and village envelopes must be appropriate to the location, satisfy the criteria set out in Policy RLP3 and comply with other policies set out in this plan.

Policy RLP 2 Town Development Boundaries and Village Envelopes

New development will be confined to the areas within Town Development Boundaries and Village Envelopes. Outside these areas countryside policies will apply. Exceptions may be made to this policy for affordable housing schemes, which fully comply with the criteria set out in Policy RLP 6. Housing sites with a capacity of 12 or more dwellings are shown on the Proposals Map and are listed in Appendix 1.


Policy RLP 3 Development within Town Development Boundaries and Village Envelopes

Within village envelopes and town development boundaries residential development will only be permitted where it satisfies amenity, design, environmental and highway criteria and where it can take place without material detriment to the existing character of the settlement. Proposals for development should:-

1. Seek to protect the character of the existing street scene, the setting of attractive buildings and historic interest of the locality, the landscape value of existing tree cover and generally to ensure that new development does not materially detract from the character of the settlement.

2. Seek to ensure that in the development of infill plots, the scale, design and intensity of any new building is in harmony with existing surrounding development, respects neighbouring amenities and that inappropriate backland development is prevented.

3. Have regard to the extent to which proposals for housing development will contribute towards meeting local housing needs.

4. Seek to protect the character and historic interest of the locality.

Prevention of Town Cramming

3.15 Although the overall strategy for housing is to make maximum use of sites within existing urban areas, this should not be at the expense of open spaces and gaps between buildings, which are important in terms of local identity and visual amenity, or for recreation. Such open spaces are important to the character of a settlement by providing a break in an otherwise built-up area. The most important of these are identified on the Proposals Map as Visually Important Open Space, Public Open Space, Formal Recreation, Informal Recreation, School Grounds, Churchyards and Cemeteries. Visually Important Open Space is defined as an area of open land, which contributes to the character of an area, or is important visually. In many cases these areas will be in private ownership and there will be no public access. Examples are well-treed gardens adjacent to river walks/linear parks and meadows within villages. The fact that an area within a town development boundary, or village envelope, is not specifically shown for protection does not necessarily mean that it is suitable for development.

Policy RLP 4 Prevention of Town Cramming

Within Village Envelopes and Town Development Boundaries development on open areas, which are important visually, which contribute to the character of the settlement, or which are used for recreational, social, or community purposes or which are of importance to nature conservation will not be permitted.

Affordable Housing

Note: The Council's affordable housing policy is now set out in Policy CS2 of the Core Strategy. It is based on the definition of affordable housing set out in Planning Policy Statement 3. See Core Strategy paragraphs 5.17 to 5.26 for further details.

3.16 PPG3 emphasises the need for local authorities to carry out surveys and studies, to assess whether there is a need for additional affordable housing and, where this is identified, to include a local plan policy seeking affordable housing in suitable housing developments.

3.17 Affordable housing is that provided with subsidy for people who are unable to resolve their housing requirements in the local housing sector market, because of the relationship between housing costs and incomes. PPG3 also refers to low cost housing for sale as falling within the definition of affordable, but in this respect a distinction must be drawn between affordable low cost housing for sale and ‘starter homes’. Affordable low cost housing for sale does not mean small units provided without subsidy to meet the needs of households with income levels just adequate to access the housing market - these are starter homes. Low cost housing for sale provided with subsidy i.e. via shared equity, may be defined as affordable.

3.18 The District is in an area of high demand for housing. This demand comes from both within and beyond the District. It has resulted in relatively high house prices, which are beyond the reach of people on low and modest incomes. This is a general problem for the District’s housing market and this part of Essex.

3.19 PPG3 states that a community’s need for a mix of housing types, including affordable housing, is a material planning consideration. There is insufficient affordable housing to meet local needs, so this Plan seeks affordable housing in suitable housing developments. The level of housing need is considered to be greater than can reasonably be met through the proposals in this Plan and the Policy will therefore apply to all suitable housing developments, including windfall sites. The Council considers that the best and most reliable way of ensuring affordable housing provision is through the involvement of a housing association or other Registered Social Landlord.

3.20 An independent housing needs survey for the District, was conducted by DCA Housing Consultants in 2002. This examined the housing needs, aspirations and demands for communities and households within the District, with the aim of informing Local Plan policy on affordable housing and providing data to assist in delivery through negotiation, in accordance with Circular 6/98 and PPG3.

3.21 The 2002 Housing Needs Study, identified that the total annual affordable housing need is for 1284 units. Re-letting of existing social stock averages 637 units annually and the Housing Strategy currently plans the delivery of 100 units per annum, which results in an annual affordable housing shortfall of 547 units. Projected over the Plan period this equates to 4923 units, and the level of unmet need will grow each year. The Study therefore concludes that over the Plan period, 30% of all new units on suitable sites should be subsidised affordable housing.

3.22 The findings of the DCA Study therefore form the basis of the affordable housing policies in this Plan. The Council will normally require the applicant to enter into an obligation, or agreement, before granting planning permission for sites of 15 dwellings or more. The type and tenure of affordable housing and the mechanism by which the dwellings will be allocated to the first and subsequent occupants, at low cost in perpetuity, will be subject to discussion and agreement with the Council. The Council will ensure that all schemes for affordable housing accord with its normal standards, for example of design, layout, and car parking, so that there is no distinction between affordable housing and other housing. The Council may place a maximum limit on the number of affordable units that can be grouped together on any part of the site.

Policy RLP 5 Affordable Housing in New Developments

(Policy superseded 19 September 2011 by Core Strategy Policy CS2 Affordable Housing.)

In new developments of 15 dwellings or more, or residential sites of 0.5 hectare or more, provision should be made for up to 30% of the total number of dwellings to be in the form of affordable housing.

Affordable Housing in Rural Areas

3.23 PPG3 advocates that rural affordable housing be augmented by an exceptions policy allowing, in certain circumstances, affordable housing to be built as an exception to rural policies. The local authority will monitor the outputs of local plan affordable housing policies and housing delivered on rural exception sites.

3.24 PPG3 requires the Council to define in the plan:

1. What is considered “affordable” and

2. The area within which needs will be considered “local” in terms of groups of villages, parishes, or a single parish. Settlements where there is evidence of need may be named where opportunities for housing on exception sites will be explored.

The definition of affordable housing is set out in paragraph 3.17. No specific settlements are identified in this Plan for rural affordable housing and any proposals will be judged against the following policy.

Policy RLP 6 Affordable Housing in Rural Areas

In rural areas, schemes to provide affordable housing in perpetuity for local need, normally defined as need within that parish and immediately adjoining parishes, will be permitted on sites outside but adjacent to village envelopes if the following criteria are satisfied:

- The development must provide affordable housing to meet a local need proven to the satisfaction of the District Council;

- The scheme should cater exclusively for local needs and there should be no speculative element;

- The scheme must provide for its continued use as affordable housing in perpetuity. This will normally involve the management of the scheme by a Housing Association, Charitable Trust, or similar organisation;

- The site should have no overriding planning or infrastructure constraints;

- The style and character of housing permitted under this policy shall be in keeping with its surroundings and local building styles;

- There should normally be Parish Council support for local needs housing;

- Sites released under this policy will be treated as an exception to normal policies for the provision of housing for general housing demand.

Creating Mixed Communities

3.25 Government guidance in PPG3 asks local authorities to adopt policies to create mixed and inclusive communities. Different housing types and tenures do not make bad neighbours. New housing developments can help secure a better social mix by avoiding the creation of large areas of housing with similar characteristics. Greater diversity can also be achieved by the inclusion of non-residential uses, such as employment and social and community facilities. The Council will therefore be seeking to achieve mixed communities and will prepare a supplementary planning document to provide guidance on this subject.

Policy RLP 7 Housing and Mixed Use Sites

New residential development should seek to achieve mixed communities. Where appropriate a mix of different house types and tenures and other uses, which are compatible with the residential amenities of both existing and proposed dwellings, should be included having regard to size, location, suitability and the economics of provision.

Housing Types

3.26 PPG3 notes the projected increase in the number of new households over the longer term, especially one-person households. Local authorities should assess the composition of current and future households and the type and size of additional housing required. The Local Plan should:

- Secure an appropriate mix of dwelling size, types and affordability in both new developments and conversions to meet the changing composition of households in the area;

- Encourage the provision of housing to meet the needs of :

- Elderly people

- Disabled people

- Students

- Young single people

- Homeless people and those needing hostel accommodation

- Key workers

- Travellers and occupiers of mobile homes

- Avoid housing development which makes inefficient use of land and provide for more intensive housing development in and around existing centres and close to public transport modes;

- Promote improved quality of developments, which in their design, layout and allocation of space create a sense of community; and

- Introduce greater flexibility in the application of parking standards

Policy RLP 8 House Types

The District Council will seek the provision of a range of house types and sizes from one development site to another and within individual sites, in order to meet the local needs of the different household types.

Design and Layout of Housing Areas

3.27 The Council will require the preparation of master plans and development briefs for all major housing and mixed-use development sites. These will set out the principles for the development of the area, the general disposition of uses within the sites, and standards to be achieved. It will be a condition of the outline consent that master plans and/or development briefs should be prepared and approved before reserved matters are submitted, and that reserved matters must be in accordance with the master plan/development brief. The Council will require new development to achieve very high standards of design and layout, to be at a density appropriate for the site, to provide appropriate car parking and adequate play areas and public open space. Design and layout should also incorporate sustainability concepts, for example, in energy and water efficiency, drainage, and provision of recycling facilities. Further guidance on this is set out in Chapter 6 below. The needs of disabled people in gaining access to and within housing areas should also be taken into account. Policies H4 and BE1 of the Structure Plan deal with the development form of new housing areas and urban intensification. The design and layout of housing and mixed use areas will also be expected to comply with the Essex Design Guide, which has been adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance. Policy RLP90 also sets out guidance on the layout and design of development.

Policy RLP 9 Design And Layout of Housing and Mixed Use Areas

New residential and mixed-use buildings shall create a visually satisfactory environment and be in character with the site and relate to its surroundings. Planning permission will only be given for housing if the following criteria are met:

1. A site appraisal is required for all development sites of 1 hectare or more. This site appraisal must precede or accompany the planning application. The appraisal should cover the following points, which are to be shown on a plan:

- An analysis of visual and physical characteristics of the site and the visual and physical relationship of the site to its townscape and landscape context.

- Views into and out of the site, landmarks in the surrounding area.

- Existing movement patterns and desire lines across and around the site, for both motorised and non-motorised users.

- Access points to the site , for both motorised and non- motorised users, including public transport.

- Existing and potential nodal points, within or near the site.

- Existing buildings and structures, on and adjacent to the site and whether they are to be retained.

- The potential for energy, water efficiency, and solar power.

- Wayleaves and easement strips that cannot be built on.

- Slopes, wind shelter, overshadowing.

- Trees, their spread, height and condition, hedges, boundary features and whether they are to be retained.

- Wildlife habitats and protected species and whether they are to be preserved.

- Secured by design principles

- The potential for sustainable drainage systems

- Potential for recycling.

- Need for any additional community facilities and infrastructure.

2. High quality landscaping schemes will be expected as an integral part of all new developments and should normally be submitted concurrently as part of the planning application.

3. The design and layout should incorporate measures to maximise energy and water efficiency, to provide sustainable drainage systems, minimise waste, and incorporate facilities which assist recycling, enhance and create wildlife habitat, and promote sustainable forms of transport.

Residential Densities

3.28 The density to which new residential development is built will depend on a number of factors, including the location of the site and the characteristics of the surrounding area. A specific density standard is not considered to be appropriate. In general terms developments of less than 30 dwellings per hectare will be resisted. Developments of 30 to 50 dwellings per hectare, which make more efficient use of land, will be encouraged. A greater density of development may be acceptable at locations with good public transport and close to town and local centres, and at other nodes on good quality public transport corridors. Equally there may be locations where lower densities are appropriate, particularly in rural areas, where high density development would be out of character with its surroundings.

Policy RLP 10 Residential Density

The density and massing of residential development will be related to:

i) The location of the site in relation to public transport accessibility and shops and services

ii) The characteristics of the site

iii) The layout and density of surrounding development

iv) The extent to which car parking and open space standards can be achieved within a satisfactory layout

v) The adequacy of the access and adjacent road system to cope with the traffic likely to be generated

vi) The need to provide landscaping for the development

vii)The retention or provision of wildlife corridors where appropriate.

Vehicle Parking in Residential Areas

3.29 The level of parking within new residential developments will need to reflect the location of the site in relation to public transport, shops, services, and community facilities. It will need to reflect a balance between discouraging high levels of vehicle use, whilst preventing an unacceptable level of on-street parking, which may be a road safety hazard.Vehicle parking standards are set out in supplementary planning guidance, which is included as Appendix 3 to this Plan. Guidance on the location and arrangement of parking spaces is set out in the Essex Design Guide.
Vehicle Parking Standards are set out in Parking Standards: Design and Good Practice September 2009, adopted by the Council in November 2009.

Change of Use in Residential Areas

3.30 Changes of use in predominantly residential areas can have significant effects on residential amenities, as can changes of use in non-residential areas close by. Such changes will be resisted. However proposals for working from home, which can be carried out with no adverse environmental or traffic effects on the surrounding area, will be encouraged.

Policy RLP 11 Changes of Use Affecting Residential Areas

Permission will not be given for employment or other new uses which by reason of their character or appearance, or the noise fumes, smell and traffic which they generate, will harm the character of a predominantly residential area and make it a less pleasant area in which to live.

New Dwellings in the Countryside for Agricultural Workers

3.31 PPS 7, Annex A (August 2004) deals with this subject. New permanent dwellings should only be allowed to support existing agricultural activities on well-established agricultural units, subject to criteria, set out in the following policy.

Policy RLP 12 Permanent Agricultural Dwellings

New dwellings will not be permitted in the countryside, unless they are needed for agricultural workers. Such dwellings should satisfy the following criteria:

(a) There is a clearly established existing functional need;

(b) The need relates to a full-time worker;

(c) The unit and agricultural activity have been established for three years, have been profitable for at least one of them, are currently financially sound and have a clear prospect of remaining so;

(d) The functional need could not be fulfilled by another dwelling on the unit; or any other existing accommodation in the area, which is suitable and available for occupation by the workers concerned;

(e) Other normal planning requirements, for example on siting and access, are satisfied; If it is demonstrated that a new dwelling is essential to support a new farming activity, whether on a newly-created agricultural unit or an established one, it should, for the first three years, be provided by a caravan, a wooden structure which can be easily dismantled, or other temporary accommodation, satisfying the criteria (a), (b), (d) and (e) above and criteria (f) and (g) below.

(f) There is clear evidence of a firm intention and ability to develop the enterprise concerned;

(g) There is clear evidence that the proposed enterprise has been planned on a sound financial basis.


Policy RLP13 Temporary Agricultural Dwellings

If permission for temporary accommodation is granted, permission for a permanent dwelling will only be given if the criteria set out in Policy RLP 12 are fully met. At the end of the period for which the temporary permission is granted, the temporary dwelling will need to be removed, unless the requirements for a permanent permission to be granted are met.


Policy RLP 14 Applications for the Removal of Occupancy Conditions

Applications for the removal of occupancy conditions should provide a realistic assessment of their continued need, based on a technical appraisal of the demand for the dwelling on the holding, or in the locality, and evidence that the property has been marketed in a way that reflects the limited occupancy condition.

Replacement of Dwellings in the Countryside

3.32 The replacement of dwellings in the countryside will be permitted in certain circumstances. The size and scale of any replacement dwelling should be commensurate with the original building. As a guideline this will be limited to the footprint of the original dwelling, plus no more than an additional 70 cubic metres. The Council will expect the design of replacement dwellings to follow locally distinctive architectural styles and special care to be taken with siting and landscape impact.

Policy RLP 15 Replacement of Dwellings in the Countryside

The replacement of an existing dwelling in the countryside will be allowed where all of the following criteria are met:

1. The existing dwelling is a habitable, permanent dwelling of conventional construction;

2. The existing building is substantially intact;

3. The size and scale of the replacement dwelling is compatible with the size and shape of the plot on which it stands;

4. The replacement dwelling would not have a greater impact or be more intrusive in the landscape than the original dwelling by virtue of its siting, scale, height, character and design;

5. The existing dwelling is not a building of architectural or historical value, which is capable of renovation.

Replacement will also be permitted where an existing dwelling has been irretrievably damaged by fire, or other natural causes, subject to conditions 3 and 4 being fulfilled and an application for planning permission being made within 6 months of that damage occurring and there being no other constraints to its replacement.

Hamlets and Small Groups of Dwellings

3.33 The District has many hamlets and small groups of dwellings, which are not enclosed by village envelopes. In certain circumstances infill development for a single dwelling between existing dwellings will be permitted, providing there is a nucleus of at least ten dwellings and the infill plot will accommodate no more than one dwelling.

Policy RLP 16 Hamlets and Small Groups of Dwellings

Where there is a defined nucleus of at least ten dwellings and where it would not be detrimental to the character of the surroundings, exceptions may be made to Policies RLP 2 and 12 for the filling of a gap, for a single dwelling, between existing dwellings, in hamlets and small groups of dwellings. This policy will not apply to proposals for individual isolated dwellings, or the extension of ribbon development, and will not apply to gaps, which could accommodate more than one dwelling. Proposals which would set a precedent for the consolidation of sporadic or ribbon development, or for the further infilling of large gaps, will also be resisted.

Extensions and Alterations

3.34 Extensions and alterations to existing dwellings will be considered in the light of their impact on the existing property, on neighbouring properties and the locality.The Council has published Supplementary Planning Guidance “Caring for Your Home” giving further guidance on planning residential alterations and extensions. (Publication no longer available) Special consideration may be given to proposals to help dependent relatives and others with special needs. Proposals will be judged against the following policies.

Policy RLP 17 Extensions and Alterations to Dwellings in Towns and Villages

Within towns and villages proposals for the extension of an existing dwelling house will be considered in relation to:

- There should be no over-development of the plot when taking into account the footprint of the existing dwelling and the relationship to plot boundaries

- The siting, bulk, form and materials of the extension should be compatible with the original dwelling

- There should be no unacceptable adverse impact on the amenities of adjoining residential properties, including on privacy, overshadowing, loss of light

- There should be no material impact on the identity of the street scene, scale and character of the area, and

- There should be no adverse impact upon protected species Proposals will be permitted where these criteria are met.

Extensions to Existing Dwellings in the Countryside

3.35 Extensions to existing dwellings in the open countryside raise different issues to those in towns, or the built-up parts of villages. A recognised function of planning control is to restrict development in rural areas and protect the countryside for its own sake. It is where new development is seen to be out of place. Therefore, the size of any addition, the cumulative effect of extensions and the increased impact of the dwelling overall, can be more significant.

Policy RLP 18 Extensions to Existing Dwellings in the Countryside

Planning permission will be granted for the extension of a habitable, permanent dwelling in the countryside, subject to the siting, design, and materials of the extension being in harmony with the countryside setting and compatible with the scale and character of the existing dwelling and the plot upon which it stands. Extensions will be required to be subordinate to the existing dwelling in terms of bulk, height, width, and position.

Proposals for self-contained annexes, or the conversion of outbuildings, to existing dwellings, to meet the needs of dependent relatives, will be permitted subject to meeting the above criteria and, ensuring a condition or obligation to ensure that it will remain solely as ancillary accommodation, to be occupied in association with the main dwelling. The Council will have regard to the cumulative impact of extensions on the original character of the property and its surroundings.

Sheltered Housing

3.36 Where sheltered housing is proposed, it is important that the location meets the needs of residents and that appropriate facilities are provided for them. The following policy will therefore be applied.

Policy RLP 19 Sheltered Housing

Proposals for sheltered housing for elderly people will be considered against the following criteria:

1. The provision of car parking and amenity open space in accordance with the Council’s standards;

2. The proximity of facilities including shops, health facilities and public transport;

3. The provision of adequate facilities and amenities including lifts to upper floors, communal meeting areas, washing and drying facilities;

4. Provision for the storage of and recharging facilities for wheelchairs and carriages belonging to disabled persons;

Proposals which do not meet these criteria will not be permitted.

Residential Care Homes and Other Residential Institutions

3.37 These include residential care homes for the elderly, convalescent homes and other non-custodial residential institutions. They fall into two main categories - those within towns and villages and those set in the countryside. In the countryside such uses will be restricted to conversions of, and minor extensions to, existing buildings.

Policy RLP 20 Residential Institutions in Towns and Villages

Within predominantly residential areas in towns and villages, permission will be given for the development of residential care homes providing that:

- the quality of design is in keeping with surrounding properties and landscape in terms of scale, form, layout and materials;

- there is sufficient amenity open space;

- boundary treatments provide privacy and a high standard of visual amenity both for residents and neighbouring properties;

- provision is made for the storage and recharging of wheelchairs and invalid carriages;

- there are shops, health facilities and regular public transport services, in close proximity to the site;

- parking is provided in accordance with the Council’s standards.


Policy RLP 21 Institutional Uses in the Countryside

Residential care homes may be permitted in the countryside through the conversion of, or minor extension to, existing habitable dwellings, as an exception to countryside policies providing that:

- there is a high quality of design and landscaping in terms of scale, form, layout and materials;

- there is sufficient amenity open space;

- boundary treatments provide privacy and a high standard of visual amenity both for residents and the impact of the proposed home on its setting;

- provision is made for the storage and recharging of wheelchairs and invalid carriages;

- parking is provided in accordance with the Council’s standards.

The Council will also require written evidence that healthcare services, including visiting general practitioner and dental services, will be available for residents.

Housing for People with Special Needs

3.38 Special needs housing falling outside Classes C1 and C3 (hostels and dwelling houses) is a sui generis use. It includes sheltered accommodation for vulnerable groups in the community e.g. homeless families and victims of violence. Although the planning requirements for such uses will be broadly similar to those of residential care homes and other institutional uses, additional needs may arise. For example, where the premises are likely to accommodate people with children, a family room must be provided for children to play during bad weather. Outdoor play facilities will also be required. Residents are likely to be more active than those in residential care homes and may require access to a wide range of facilities. Location will therefore be important; sites should be at or near transport nodes served by regular public transport. Great care will be needed to safeguard the privacy and amenities of neighbouring properties and conditions will be imposed to that end. Parking for vehicles and cycles will also need to be accommodated satisfactorily.

Access for disabled people

3.39 PPS1 states (paragraph 13) that local authorities should take access issues into account in development plans. Part M of the Building Regulations now requires all new dwellings to provide a means of access with a level threshold. Wheelchair housing, which allows unrestricted wheelchair movement within the building, is not covered by Part M.

3.40 Although the detailed internal layout of buildings is not a planning matter, the needs of people with disabilities should be considered at an early stage in designing new buildings and alterations. Local authorities should be flexible and imaginative in seeking solutions, taking account of the particular circumstances of each case. Resolving problems by negotiation will always be preferable, but where appropriate, the Council may impose conditions requiring access provision for people with disabilities.

Policy RLP 22 Accessible Housing and Lifetime Housing

Where appropriate, new dwellings will be required to be capable of adaptation without major structural alterations to meet the needs of people with disabilities, including wheelchair users.

3.41 Design criteria for accessible housing will be set out in Supplementary Planning Guidance.

Provision for Gypsies and Travelling Showpersons

Note: Please see Core Strategy paragraphs 5.27 to 5.36 and Policy CS3 Gypsies and Travellers and Travelling Showpersons. (Policy CS3 does not replace an existing policy, as RLP23 Provision for Gypsies and Travelling Showpersons had not been saved.)

3.42 The Council is required to make provision within its Local Plan for gypsies and travelling showpersons. Current provision for gypsies consists of existing County Council sites at Sandiacres, Cressing and at Ridgewell, with 12 pitches at each site. There is also a private transit gypsy site at Half-Acres, Cressing with 12 pitches. There is an existing travelling showpersons site at Blackwater Lane, Witham. No new sites are put forward in this plan and any proposals which do come forward will be judged against the following policy. Where planning permission is granted, appropriate conditions or planning obligations will be imposed, to ensure occupation of the site is restricted to those persons genuinely falling within the appropriate definition of gypsies and travelling showpersons.

Policy RLP 23 Provision for Gypsies and Travelling Showpersons

(Policy expired 24 July 2008. Policy guidance on gypsies and travelling showpeople is set out in policies H3 and H4 of 'Accommodation for Gypsies and Travellers and Travelling Showpeople in the East of England' A Revision to the Regional Spatial Strategy for the East of England. July 2009)

Proposals for private residential gypsy sites, or sites for travelling show persons, will not be permitted where the site is located in a special landscape area, conservation area or other areas of historic interest, nature reserve, or within or adjacent to a site of special scientific interest.

Outside these areas proposals for gypsy sites may be permitted where they would not conflict with other policies in the Plan and provided they meet all of the following criteria:

i) The policy shall be confined to gypsies as defined in section 16 of the Caravans Act 1968 or travelling showpersons benefiting from exemption from site licensing requirements under the Caravan Sites Licensing Act 1960

ii) The occupation of the site should be limited to a family or families that can demonstrate a local connection with the District (Note: The consent should only inure for the benefit of the applicant and his or her dependents.)

iii) The site should be well screened from public view or have only minimal impact on the locality. Additional landscaping may be required.

iv) Sites must have, or be capable of having, convenient and safe access from the public highway, as well as provision for adequate water supply, drainage and other services together with parking and turning for occupants and visitors

v) The site offers satisfactory accessibility to local services, in particular education, shopping and public transport facilities

vi) No more than three pitches should be placed on the site, and the site area should be commensurate with this level of occupation.

Subdivision Of Homes Including Multi-Occupation

3.43 Where sub-division of dwellings is proposed, it is important that the resultant increase in the number of households in the property does not have a detrimental effect on neighbouring properties and the locality. The following policy will be applied.

Policy RLP 24 Subdivision of Dwellings

Proposals for the sub-division of existing dwelling houses into self contained flats and proposals for multi-occupation, will be considered against the following criteria:

- The provision of car parking, amenity, garden space and facilities for refuse storage in accordance with the Council’s standards;

- The likely impact on the immediate neighbourhood including the cumulative effect of the subdivision of dwellings;

- The adequacy of the internal accommodation relative to the intensity of occupation envisaged. Proposals which do not meet these criteria will not be permitted.

Garden Extensions

3.44 Garden extensions within urban areas raise different issues from garden extensions into the open countryside. A separate policy is therefore proposed for each area.

Policy RLP 25 Garden Extensions within Built-Up Areas

Within settlements proposals for the extension of private gardens will be considered in relation to their likely impact on the surrounding area. Garden extensions onto adjoining areas of public, or visually important open space, will only be permitted if:

- there would be no loss of areas of wildlife value;

- it would have no adverse effect on the amenities of neighbouring properties, or the locality;

- it would not take away open areas originally designed, or intended to function as an amenity open space;

- it would not mean the loss of, or adverse effect upon, children’s play areas;

- it would not result in the loss of shrub, or tree planting, or flower beds, unless satisfactory arrangements for their reinstatement are agreed;

- there would be no reduction in highway safety or visibility.

3.45 Where proposals for the extension of private gardens are considered acceptable in principle, in order to secure privacy and attain a good standard of visual amenity, appropriate walling or fencing will be required. Existing boundary walls, where replaced, should be reinstated with walls built of materials appropriate to the area. The Council will normally impose conditions removing Permitted Development Rights over the new area of garden. In order to avoid the suburbanisation of the countryside and to retain its open character, garden extensions along classified road frontages will be resisted.

Policy RLP 26 Garden Extensions into the Countryside

Proposals for the extension of a domestic garden into the countryside will only be permitted if:

- there would be no significant increase in residential impact;

- there is no material adverse effect on the surrounding countryside;

- there would be no loss of existing trees, shrubs or hedgerows;

- it would not seriously interfere with a neighbouring agricultural enterprise;

- it would have no material adverse effect on the amenities of neighbouring properties;

- public rights of way are not enclosed.

Where proposals for the extension of private gardens are considered acceptable in principle, in order to secure privacy and attain a good standard of visual amenity for the countryside, the planting and retention thereafter of native species trees and hedging will be required. Any walls, fences or other forms of boundary treatment will need to be in keeping with the character of the area.

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