The Replacement Local Development Plan explained
Posted on: Tuesday 18 August 2020
Richard Matthams is a Bridgend County Borough Council strategic planning and transportation manager. He is leading on the local authority’s Replacement Local Development Plan. Here he answers 12 questions on what the development plan is and why it’s important for the county borough and every single resident.
1. What is a Local Development Plan (LDP)?
It’s a plan which sets out how Bridgend County Borough will develop over the next 15 years. It ensures that development is delivered in the right areas with supporting roads, schools and services such as health, retail, leisure, community facilities and more.
LDPs have a lifespan of 15 years – we are legally required to review every four years. Sometimes, that review can be a massive overhaul or a light refresh depending on what’s happening in that next four years. While a review looks at whether the LDP is going to plan, this one is for a full replacement strategy, a new LDP.
2. How long does it take to put together?
The last LDP took seven years to prepare. We have had to do this one in three and a half years.
3. Why do they take so long?
They cover a lot of issues ranging from housing, employment, retail, etc. There’s an extensive evidence base you have to prepare.
When you allocate a housing site, there is a lot of technical information, from transport assessments to infrastructure studies, that sits behind that. The idea is to ensure that any allocation is supported by robust evidence – it’s not just us saying ‘that’s a nice site’. You also rely on developers getting you the right information, which then has to be assessed. Finally, it has to go through the political process.
4. When did work on the Replacement LDP start?
We started the process in 2018. We should have been out in consultation on the deposit plan, which is the final draft, earlier this year, but the pandemic caused a delay – we will hopefully get it out in January.
We have to review all the public consultation comments and take that back to committee to make changes before it can be supported.
5. Why do local authorities need a development plan?
Our existing plan expires at the end of 2021, and if you don’t have a plan in place, it creates a policy vacuum, a free-for-all where developers can submit all sorts of planning applications. It makes it very difficult for them to then be turned down.
People are always going to have children, and people are always going to need somewhere to live. That growth needs to be supported with infrastructure, and if it isn’t, that’s when you get chaos. We don’t want to have unplanned, unsustainable development.
6. How do plots of land get chosen for development?
At the start of the process, all developers, landowners and organisations submit their land to be considered for development or redevelopment. They are known as Candidate Sites, with the Candidate Sites Register being a log of all the sites submitted.
The next stage involves assessing every single one of those sites. We undertake a sustainability appraisal on each one which looks at the impact it has on the environment. It is then that you can rule out the ones which don’t have a chance, such as fields in the middle of nowhere.
The sites which are left then undergo a more detailed assessment. We look at the impact on the landscape and the environment, and how it could integrate with the surrounding development. We look at the education provision, highway infrastructure, a masterplan for the site and the wider Section 106 contributions, although you don’t always know what they are at the start of the process.
It may be that the site would require new infrastructure, new roundabouts etc. It’s at this stage that you start liaising with other statutory providers like the NHS to tease out what impact it would have on existing services – for example, the health board decides on whether any more GP surgeries are required.
Normally we allocate plots of land for 10 or more houses, but what we try to do is promote big strategic sites so they effectively then come with their own school and other services.
The sites which make it through all of those stages are then included in the final draft of the LDP, which is called the Deposit LDP.
7. At what stage do the big house-builders become interested?
Sometimes people promote their own sites or a company can take options on a plot of land where they agree a price with the landowner, and then it’s promoted by a big house builder or a smaller regional house builder.
8. Where are the new houses/developments proposed to be built?
As part of the LDP, we formulate a strategy of growth areas - the main sites where we think development should go in the county borough. This focuses broadly on the big settlements for access to work, schools and infrastructure. As part of the assessment stage, the Candidate Sites are assessed against that growth strategy.
The new developments over the next 15 years are planned to be around the main settlements so Bridgend, Porthcawl, Pencoed and Pyle, with some regeneration growth in Maesteg and then smaller sites, proportional to the areas they are located.
9. How many houses are planned during the lifespan of the plan?
A total of 7,575 homes are planned for the next 15 years. However, as there are existing brownfield sites already with planning permission that will be developed in the coming years, the remaining allocation requirement is for around 3,000 new homes over the next 15 years, which equates to 200 homes per year - significantly lower than the level of house building witnessed over the past few decades.
People often assume that developments, once put in the plan, get built automatically - they don’t. They all take years and there can be a host of reasons why there are delays, ranging from landowner arguments to viability issues.
Traditionally, brownfield sites where old factories have been are quite difficult to develop due to industrial materials buried in the ground which takes time to sort out.
The actual number of new houses or new sites we need to provide is very small. The housing figures are based on overall population projections.
10. How many jobs will be created as a result of the LDP?
When you plan for new housing growth, you have to align it with new jobs growth.
We have to undertake a very extensive employment evidence base which looks at jobs growth in the county borough where new private sectors are going to be, and we also have to review the statistics of existing employment sites.
Not only does the development plan deliver the housing need, but houses then deliver jobs in general in terms of more services, more people working, people working in the actual building industry etc.
Over the 15 year plan period, the plan aims to help create just under 5,000 additional jobs which broadly aligns with the new housing growth.
Bridgend County Borough has got an elderly population – 26 per cent of the population was aged 60 plus in 2018, and this is projected to increase to 32 per cent by 2033. We need to counterbalance that with young people.
Businesses will look where the skills and the workforce are – they want skilled, economically active households. We need to retain and attract these skilled, economically active households as they become a magnet to employers who move into the area.
It’s not just Bridgend, either – a lot of regional towns like Bridgend have population decline because people move to where the jobs are. Bridgend County Borough is quite lucky in that it is equidistant between Swansea and Cardiff, but you still have to have the services and the houses to accommodate younger people and their families. Once they have moved to other areas where there are jobs and houses, you start to see a managed decline, which becomes a perpetual decline when shops and business are forced to close due to the lack of demand.
11. Why is it important for residents to take a look at the LDP and have their say over the coming months?
In effect, the start of the process is the LDP and the end of the process is when the planning application comes before development control committee.
During the LDP process, people generally don’t get involved unless it directly affects them. But once it is in effect, the LDP establishes the principles of the site.
The planning application is when you get the detail of where each plot is going to go. Most people object at the planning stage to the principle of development, but by then it’s too late as it’s in the LDP. All they can object to is the layout or whether there’s adequate infrastructure provided.
12. How can locals have a say on which sites are selected?
Sites are selected on evidence – that is, on technical information and not with public engagement.
However, the public were able to comment on the Preferred Strategy at the end of last year, and they will soon be able to comment on the final draft of the plan.
If people object, they need to ensure that they have evidence on why these sites should not be used for development rather than simply because they don’t want new growth in their area.
The majority of objections we get are around infrastructure and road congestion. But the only sites that can go in the plan are those which are supported by appropriate infrastructure, whether that involves upgrades to existing infrastructure or new infrastructure.
The Deposit Plan, or the final draft, shows all the proposed developments and should be published for consultation in January.
We traditionally take six weeks with the statutory consultation where we go through an extensive process, sending it out to all the parish councils, organising exhibitions and more. Because of the pandemic, we don’t know if we’re going to be able to do that this time – instead, we’re looking at doing Skype calls and organising telephone appointments where people can book a slot to talk to planning officers on a one-to-one basis, and we’ll make sure that people can access the document online.
To see the Preferred Strategy document visit the Bridgend County Borough Council website.
For general enquiries, please contact Bridgend County Borough Council's customer contact centre:
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