South Essex Joint Strategic Plan
Work is underway on preparation of a new Joint Strategic Plan for South Essex. The plan covers the administrative areas of Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Rochford, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock councils. Draft documents are being prepared with the first stage consultation expected in early Autumn. Adoption is expected by 2021, but it could be subject to delay.
The Joint Strategic Plan will distribute housing across South Essex via a new spatial strategy and guide more focused Local Plans to be prepared by the individual authorities. The emerging Local Plans currently at an advanced stage are likely to require early review. A Statement of Common Ground prepared last year identified five ‘Strategic Areas of Opportunity’ which may be a focus for growth through the Joint Strategic Plan and subsequent Local Plan updates. These are:
- The Thames Estuary;
- London Southend Airport and the surrounding area;
- The A127 corridor;
- Crossrail, the A12 and A129; and
- The Lower Thames Crossing, Thurrock Thameside and the A13 Corridor.
Now is a good time to be promoting development opportunities in South Essex.
Basildon Council concluded consultation on its final draft (Regulation 19) Local Plan on 17 December 2018. The Council aims to submit the Plan to the Secretary of State for Examination in Public (EiP) by the end of March 2019.
This Plan has been prepared by Basildon’s new Conservative-led administration and proposes less development at Billericay than the draft Plan prepared by the Labour-led administration that controlled the Council until May 2018. It is due to be submitted and examined in advance of the Joint Strategic Plan and it will require early review to ensure it remains consistent with higher-order strategic policies.
Consultation on the final draft of Brentwood’s emerging Plan closes on 19 March 2019. It will be submitted to the Secretary of State for Examination shortly thereafter. The Council expects the Plan to be adopted by the end of this year, providing it is found sound by the Inspector.
The first consultation on the new Local Plan for Thurrock (Issues and Options Stage 1) was held in early 2016 and focused on thematic policy areas.
A more detailed Issues and Options (Stage 2) consultation closed on 8 March 2019.
The timetable for further progress in producing the new Local Plan will be set out in a new Local Development Scheme expected to be published later in March.
Controversially, the Council resolved to not proceed with a proposed Pre-Publication Draft (Regulation 19) Local Plan at a Special Council Meeting in November 2018.
It is now in discussions with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in regard to the next steps. Following the Council’s decision, it is more likely that MHCLG will intervene in the preparation of a Plan for area. If MHCLG’s threat of intervention is realised, Castle Point would be the first authority in the country that has been subject to such action.
A Local Plan Issues and Options consultation is open until 2 April 2019. A Preferred Options draft is expected towards the end of this year, with consultation on a final draft due in late 2020. The Plan is due to be submitted for Examination by Summer 2021.
Rochford’s emerging replacement Local Plan is now due to follow on from the preparation of the South Essex Joint Strategic Plan. No consultations are due imminently.
North Essex Authorities (Braintree, Colchester and Tendring)
A joint strategic (Part 1) Local Plan for Braintree, Colchester and Tendring is currently subject to EiP.
Major concerns about the soundness of this Plan and its proposals for three new Garden Communities were raised by the Inspector last summer. The authorities are continuing to prepare more evidence to seek to address the concerns. They are expecting hearing sessions to re-convene in the Autumn.
It was announced in February 2019 that North Essex Garden Communities Ltd, the development company set up by the North Essex Authorities and Essex County Council to lead the delivery of the new settlements, is to receive an additional £1million of funding from Government.
The delay in progressing the EiP is putting housing land supply in each authority under pressure, presenting potential opportunities for clients.
Uttlesford’s emerging Local Plan was submitted to the Secretary of State for EiP on 18 January 2019. An Inspector has been appointed and initial questions have been raised. A first sitting is expected early Summer 2019.
Epping Forest’s Local Plan was submitted to the Secretary of State for EiP on 21 September 2018. Examination hearing sessions will continue until at least May, with the Inspector due to report shortly thereafter.
If found sound, this Plan will need to be subject to early review to address the significantly higher growth requirements for Epping Forest arising from the revised National Planning Policy Framework (February 2019).
Examination of Harlow’s Local Plan is ongoing, with hearing sessions due to run until early April. The Council is expecting to adopt the Plan by June 2019.
The hearings associated with the Chelmsford Local Plan EiP have now closed. The Plan is expected to be found sound subject to modifications. Consultation on proposed modifications is anticipated early May, immediately after the local elections. The Plan should be adopted in the Summer, but it will be subject to review within five years.
A Housing Infrastructure Fund bid for up to £250m towards Beaulieu Station and sections of Chelmsford North-East Bypass is due to be submitted in March 2019, with a final funding announcement from the Government anticipated in the Summer 2019. This follows an earlier submission successfully navigating the ‘Expression of Interest’ stage last year.