Essex Local Plan Watch - Spring 2021
Four more authorities in Essex have adopted up-to-date strategic Local Plan policies since our Autumn Local Plan Watch, bringing the total with up-to-date plans to five out of 14 authorities in the county. A number of other emerging Plans are at an advanced stage, but Uttlesford, Thurrock, Rochford and Southend are notable exceptions to plan-making progress.
- Uttlesford – a policy vacuum persists. Uttlesford is without a Local Plan following withdrawal of its previous draft from examination last year. The council is at an early stage of preparing a new Plan, with an initial consultation and call for sites ongoing until 21 April. Following confirmation of a substantial 5-year housing land supply deficit, the council is under pressure to approve proposals for sustainable development on unallocated sites to help boost supply.
- The North Essex Authorities’ Section 1 Plan is finally adopted. Braintree, Colchester and Tendring have now adopted their shared Section 1 Plan, strengthening five-year supply in each of these authorities.
- Maldon has identified a shortfall in housing supply during its current Local Plan period and has commenced a review of its Plan. A Call for Sites is running until 21 May and an Issues and Options Consultation will be held in the Autumn. Adoption of a new Plan is forecast for 2023
The examination of Basildon Council’s emerging replacement Local Plan is ongoing. The inspector appointed to examine the Plan has questioned why it fails to meet the full objectively assessed need for housing, which may present a risk to the likelihood of it being found sound in its current form. The council responded in January, suggesting that it has identified further urban capacity to meet the shortfall, without further adjustments to Green Belt boundaries. Hearings are due to resume shortly.
Brentwood Borough Council submitted its Local Plan for Examination in February 2020. Hearing sessions were held from December through to March 2021. The council is undertaking further work to address outstanding issues raised by the inspectors regarding the housing supply and trajectory and, as a result, it is anticipated that there will be several further hearing sessions to be scheduled in due course.
Following threats of intervention from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) due to lack of progress, Castle Point submitted its Plan to the Secretary of State for examination in October. Hearings are due to commence in May.
Chelmsford City Council adopted a new Local Plan for the period up to 2036 on 27 May 2020.
The Plan proposes growth in various locations across the city council’s area, with the largest scale of focused on North-East Chelmsford. Its delivery will be supported by a £218m grant from the Government's Housing Infrastructure Fund towards the construction of Chelmsford North East Bypass and Beaulieu Train Station. This should provide sufficient funding to deliver the city's long awaited second station in the mid-2020s, together with the remaining stages of the missing road link between the A12 at Boreham, the A131 at Great Leighs and the A120 further north.
Following the close of the examination hearing sessions in June 2019, the council has been working with Natural England to address an outstanding objection relating to mitigation for impacts on air quality levels upon the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation, before being able to consult on Main Modifications. After long and complex discussions, the parties agreed an Interim Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy in December 2020. The inspector is in the process of preparing the Schedule of Main Modifications and is due to provide more information on the next steps shortly.
If found sound in due course, this Plan will need to be subject to early review to address the significantly higher growth requirements for Epping Forest arising from the revised NPPF (February 2019).
Harlow Council adopted its new Local Development Plan for the period up to 2033 on 10 December 2020. It identifies sites to deliver at least 9,200 dwellings over the Plan period, reflecting Objectively Assessed Need.
The Plan makes strategic allocations on land previously designated as Green Belt in the east of the district, which forms part of the wider Harlow and Gilston Garden Town.
To help promote growth, work funded by Highways England and Essex County Council is underway to build junction 7a on the M11, which is due to be complete and operational by 2022.
Maldon District Council was the first Essex authority to adopt an NPPF compliant Local Plan in 2017. In February 2021 the Council published a new Local Development Scheme which identifies a substantive shortfall in housing delivery up to the end of the current Plan period to 2029. The Council has therefore determined to carry out a review of its Local Development Plan, covering the period up to 2038. This process commences with a Call for Sites until 21 May, followed by an Issues and Options Consultation in Autumn 2021. Adoption of the new Local Development Plan is forecast for late Autumn 2023.
North Essex Authorities (Braintree, Colchester and Tendring)
The shared strategic policies of Braintree, Colchester and Tendring’s ‘Section 1’ Local Plans were formally adopted by all three authorities during the first two months of this year. This follows an examination in public that took more than three years to complete and resulted in the removal of two of the three garden communities proposed due to concerns over their deliverability. A third garden community, to the east of Colchester, was found to be sound.
The examination of each authority’s separate ‘Section 2’ Local Plan, which will allocate the majority of sites in accordance with the strategy established in Section 1, is now proceeding. Hearings for Tendring’s Section 2 Plan are now complete. Hearings for Colchester and Braintree’s Plans are due to be completed by the end of the summer.
The Plan period extends up to 2033 but it is likely to require early review because it has been prepared to address the requirements of the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) rather than the more demanding housing delivery targets of the standard methodology associated with more recent versions.
Southend and Rochford
Southend and Rochford Councils previously considered the merits of different collaborative approaches, but Rochford determined that it wishes to pursue its own local plan on an individual basis.
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council is now intending to conduct a ‘Refining Options’ consultation in Q3 of this year. The Issues and Options consultation in 2019 considered three main options ranging from brownfield intensification, greenfield development on the urban edges and a comprehensive new settlement.
Rochford District Council intends to consult on its Preferred Options approach later this year.
We understand that the long-awaited Joint Strategic Plan for South Essex, known as the ‘South Essex Plan’, is likely to be downgraded to a non-statutory spatial framework. The Plan will cover the administrative areas of Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point, Rochford, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock but if its non-statutory status is confirmed in due course, its implications for Local Plans in these areas will be less significant.
Various evidence base studies have been published, most notably a Strategic Growth Location Study which assesses a range of different development typologies and locations against several constraints. The first stage consultation is expected in Q3 2021.
Thurrock Council is preparing a new Local Plan. The council is conducting a series of ‘design charettes’ that will inform the selection of site allocations later this year. The council is due to consult on a draft Local Plan next year, but it is not anticipating adoption of a new Plan until 2024.
Following the withdrawal of the emerging Local Plan last year, Uttlesford District Council is implementing a fresh approach to the new Plan’s process and governance arrangements. The council is consulting on its Call for Sites and first stage consultation until April. The Local Development Scheme, approved by the council’s cabinet in October, forecasts adoption of the new Plan in mid-2024. In February, the council approved an interim set of policies to show how new developments in the district should take on board measures to address climate change. While these are not legally binding planning policies, they do make clear what the council expects to see in all new developments moving forward.