Cheltenham Plan Pre-Submission consultation

Pre-Submission Cheltenham Plan

17 Social and Community Infrastructure

CONTEXT

17.1 Most people want to live in an area that has a strong sense of community, where neighbourhoods thrive and where good-quality infrastructure allows that to happen. Without such infrastructure, settlements can struggle to be cohesive and vibrant communities and it can be difficult to create and maintain a sense of place, a sense of belonging and a tangible identity.

17.2 Changes in population and demographics present challenges and opportunities and the Council recognises the importance of maintaining community cohesion and sustainability in an ever-changing society. Ultimately, bringing people together and providing sufficient opportunities for social activity contributes to quality of life, health and well-being.

17.3 Policy INF4 of the Joint Core Strategy (JCS) provides a robust framework for assessing all relevant development proposals with a view to protecting and enhancing community facility provision across the JCS area. Policy SD4 of the JCS complements INF4 in terms of the emphasis that needs to be placed on good design in achieving sustainable development.

17.4 The following policies are designed to complement the strategic framework provided by the JCS and offer a Cheltenham-specific policy response in key areas.

 

POLICY CI1: SECURING COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE BENEFITS


Development proposals will only be permitted where adequate community infrastructure capacity exists, or where additional capacity is capable of being provided as part of the development without unacceptable impacts on people or the environment. In order to secure community infrastructure improvements, the Council will employ planning obligations as necessary and appropriate. Obligations may relate to:

a) affordable housing
b) green infrastructure, including open space
c) suitably designed and located play, recreation, sport and leisure facilities
d) education provision
e) broadband infrastructure provision
f) highway works, traffic management measures, pedestrian and cycling improvements, public transport enhancements and improved access for the disabled
g) improvements to the public realm
h) health and well-being facilities
i) safety and security measures
j) flood risk management measures
k) environmental protection and enhancement
l) climate change mitigation / adaption
m) cultural and heritage protection and enhancement
n) public art

This policy contributes towards achieving the Cheltenham Plan Vision: Theme A - all objectives; Theme B – objectives d, f and h; Theme C – all objectives.

17.5 For the purposes of the Cheltenham Plan, community infrastructure is considered to be the structural elements that provide the framework for supporting the activities of society. It can be represented by any of the categories stipulated in Policy CI1 above but may also extend into other topic areas.

EXISTING INFRASTRUCTURE PROVISION

17.6 The implications of infrastructure capacity were considered as part of the early stages of the plan preparation process and led to the emergence of a preferred option from a number of alternatives. In taking forward the spatial elements of the preferred option, the Cheltenham Plan has made land allocations in accord with the level of existing infrastructure provision or where additional capacity can realistically be provided as part of new development.

NEW OR IMPROVED INFRASTRUCTURE

17.7 As new developments often place a burden on existing infrastructure and create requirements for new or enhanced facilities, it is only appropriate that a proportion of the increased value of the land should be returned to the community through appropriate benefits. These benefits should be reasonably related in scale and kind to the development proposed. This does not mean, however, that they have to be restricted to the site itself. For example, where a major development is proposed, this may have a significant impact on potential traffic generation. It may therefore be appropriate for the developer to contribute to investment in public transport enhancement or highway improvements.

PLANNING OBLIGATIONS

17.8 Planning obligations will be sought where they satisfy the criteria set out in Paragraph 122 of the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations (2010).

17.9 The Council will be responsible for stating the precise level and nature of its requirements as part of the planning application process, with obligations only being sought where there is an identified need. The level of provision required will be based on recognised formulae and benchmarks, such as design standards for outdoor sport and play space. However, when finalising Section 106 agreements, the Council will need to strike a balance amongst competing causes and ensure that development remains viable and the strategy of the development plan is realised.

17.10 Whilst at the time of writing, the Council widely uses planning obligations as part of the development process, it is acknowledged that in future, strategic infrastructure will be funded by the community infrastructure levy (CIL) if it is included on the Council’s "Regulation 123 list".

PROTECTING COMMUNITY FACILITIES

17.11 ‘Community Facility’ is a broad subject heading that could apply to schools/ training centres, libraries, sports and leisure facilities, health care provision, social services, emergency services, places of worship, post offices, pubs / micro-pubs, corner and village shops, public halls and any other facility that fulfils a role of serving the community. Some of these facilities are under the ownership and control of the public sector (including the local authority), whilst others are entirely private concerns.

17.12 Matters of lifestyle, mobility and demography all have the potential to influence demand for community facilities. The Council continues to monitor the level of provision and will protect and support the enhancement of facilities in accord with JCS Policy INF4, helping to facilitate improvements where possible and appropriate, to ensure that no section of the local community is excluded from having access to basic facilities and services – the overall aim being to create and maintain vibrant and sustainable places to live, work and spend leisure time.

17.13 There may also be a need to secure a contribution towards the provision of additional facilities as part of certain larger, new housing developments, especially in areas where that development places additional burden on existing community infrastructure (see Policy CI1). The Council is particularly focussed on encouraging the provision of charging points for electric vehicles in new residential development as a means of creating more sustainable transport solutions through improved community infrastructure.

17.14 Proposals for the provision of new corner and village shops should also accord with the Borough’s retail hierarchy.

17.15 Some types of community facility can also be regarded as part of the Borough’s network of green infrastructure. Reference to JCS Policy INF3 (Green Infrastructure) may also therefore be necessary.

POLICY CI2: SPORTS AND OPEN SPACE PROVISION IN NEW RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT


The Council will expect new development to contribute towards meeting local standards in respect of the provision of:

a) Open Space
b) Playing pitches
c) Built sports facilities

On-site provision, off-site provision or a financial contribution may be sought in accord with the assessment processes defined in the Social, Sport and Open Spaces Study – Developer Contributions Toolkit (2017).

This policy contributes towards achieving the Cheltenham Plan Vision: Theme A - objective f; Theme C - objectives c and e.

17.16 For any planning application that qualifies for a developer contribution, the Social, Sport and Open Spaces Study – Developer Contributions Toolkit (2017) includes multi-stage assessment processes that the Council will follow in order to inform the potential additional demand that a new housing development generates.

17.17 Separate assessment processes relate to open space, playing pitches and built sports facilities. Any contribution sought from a specific development will be based on an individually tailored approach to that development, using the robust evidence bases provided as part of the Social, Sport and Open Spaces Study. This will help to clearly justify the needs arising from the development and how they are to be met.

17.18 As part of the process of assessing additional demand, the Council will have regard to the local standards that are set out in the papers pertaining to each of the three relevant categories. These are:

  • The Open Space Standards Paper
  • The Playing Pitch Strategy
  • The Indoor Sport and Leisure Facility Strategy

17.19 Work on the three papers was undertaken as part of a coordinated and comprehensive study which the Council commissioned to help inform the policy direction of the Cheltenham Plan.

OPEN SPACE

17.20 For the purposes of the Cheltenham Plan, open space is defined as parks and gardens; natural and semi-natural greenspaces; amenity greenspace; provision for children and young people; allotments; cemeteries; disused churchyards or other burial grounds; and civic spaces including market squares and other hard-surfaced areas designed for pedestrians. The Open Space Standards Paper has evaluated the contribution that each of these site typologies makes to overall open space provision across the Borough with specific reference to quantity, quality and accessibility. It is clear that whilst in some areas, provision is adequate or good, there are other areas where improvements remain necessary.

17.21 In coming to a view on whether developer contributions towards open space provision are required as part of a planning application (and if so, what type of contribution is needed), the Council will have regard to the 5-stage assessment process outlined in the Developer Contributions Toolkit.

PLAYING PITCHES

17.22 The three main aims of the Playing Pitch Strategy reflect Sport England themes:

1) To protect the existing supply of playing pitches where it is needed for meeting current and future needs

2) To enhance playing fields, pitches and ancillary facilities through improving quality and management of sites

3) To provide new playing pitches where there is current or future demand to do so

17.23 The Playing Pitch Strategy concludes that in regard to the existing position for all pitch sports, demand is either being met (with some small levels of spare capacity) or there is an identified shortfall. Future projections show that for sports with existing identified shortfalls, those shortfalls will likely be exacerbated in future years.

17.24 In reaching a view on whether developer contributions towards playing pitch provision, are required as part of a planning application (and if so, what type of contribution is needed), the Council will have regard to the assessment process outlined in the Developer Contributions Toolkit. For playing pitch provision, this entails undertaking an 8-stage process which includes consideration of matters of design and future maintenance.

INDOOR SPORT AND LEISURE

17.25 On deciding whether developer contributions towards indoor sport and leisure provision are required as part of a planning application (and if so, what type of contribution is needed), the Council will have regard to the assessment process outlined in the Developer Contributions Toolkit. For indoor sport and leisure provision this entails undertaking a 6-stage process which includes consideration of the design principles for any new provision and the likelihood for strategic pooling of financial contributions to assist in delivery.

17.26 In respect of the above, the Council will consider how the cumulative effect of housing developments within Cheltenham (and, as necessary, the wider cross-border /JCS area) should make a contribution to strategic sport and leisure facilities. This may be to provide new provision or to enhance existing provision so that it can accommodate increased demand.

17.27 In order to calculate the contribution from each housing development into a strategic leisure facility fund, the Council will use the Sport England Sports Facilities Calculator.

POLICY CI3: STATUTORY AND NON-STATUTORY ALLOTMENTS


Development involving the loss of allotment land will only be permitted where:

a) the site is not included in the allotment strategy as a resource meeting an existing or future need, and where it can be demonstrated that there is no need for alternative outdoor recreational space; or

b) the site does not provide a significant or environmental contribution to the town; or

c) appropriate compensatory provision is made in agreement with the Borough Council and the Cheltenham and District Allotment Holders Association which meets the following requirements:

  • the new site is in the vicinity and would serve the same catchment as the existing site; and
  • the new site provides approximately the same number and size of plots as those in active use at the existing site; and
  • the soil is of a high quality and suitable for cultivation; and
  • the new site is accessible to pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles.

This policy contributes towards achieving the Cheltenham Plan Vision: Theme A – objective f; Theme C- objective f.

17.28 Allotments provide a wide range of benefits to the community including low cost food production; opportunities for recreation; green / amenity space; and biodiversity habitat.

17.29 There are currently 18 allotment sites across the Borough. These are:

  • All Saints
  • Alma Road
  • Asquith Road
  • Blacksmiths Lane, Prestbury
  • Croft Road (3 sites)
  • Hall Road
  • Hatherley Road
  • Hayden Road
  • Midwinter
  • Reddings Road
  • Ryeworth
  • Severn Road
  • Swindon Village
  • Terry Ashdown
  • Warden Hill
  • Windsor Street

17.30 Demand for allotments has been variable over time, but in recent years, with increasing amounts of leisure time, an appreciation of the benefits of home-grown produce and the trend towards smaller gardens in new housing development, demand has remained consistently strong and is likely to do so over the Plan period. However, demand and supply of allotments are not always perfectly matched and it is recognised there may be areas of under- and over-supply.

17.31 The Council considers that genuinely redundant allotment land should not be automatically disposed of for development. The first preference is for that land to be made available for an alternative community or recreational activity especially where it has considerable townscape value as a green space. Redundant allotment plots are often appropriate for use as “leisure gardens” which can be rented for private use.

17.32 The designation of new and alternative or compensatory sites requires the satisfaction of a number of criteria as set out in Policy CI3. Amongst these are accessibility for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles, and appropriate physical conditions (including soil quality).

POLICY CI4: BROADBAND PROVISION


The Council will require new residential and commercial development to be served by a high-speed, reliable broadband connection.

Exceptions may only be made where applicants are able to demonstrate through consultation with broadband infrastructure providers that this would not be possible, practical or economically viable. In such cases, an equivalent developer contribution towards off-site works will be sought which could enable greater access in the future.

This policy contributes towards achieving the Cheltenham Plan Vision: Theme A - objective d.

17.33 From 2017, EU legislation specifies that new-build and major renovations of buildings will need to be high-speed ready, with exemptions only allowed for historic buildings, holiday homes and projects where the cost to do this would be disproportionate

17.34 Paragraph 42 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) recognises the importance of infrastructure in delivering sustainable economic growth, and states that ‘the development of high speed broadband technology and other communications networks also plays a vital role in enhancing the provision of local community facilities and services’. Paragraph 43 goes on to say that ‘in preparing Local Plans, local planning authorities should support the expansion of electronic communications networks, including telecommunications and high speed broadband’.

17.35 Whilst Cheltenham is currently better connected than many parts of the UK, there are still homes and businesses which still do not receive a 36Mbps UK average service. The Council wishes to ensure super-fast and fibre broadband is available to all properties at the earliest opportunity and will work with the telecommunications industry to help maximise access to superfast broadband, wireless hotspots and improved mobile signals for all residents and businesses, assisting them in delivering their investment plans and working to address any infrastructure deficiencies or barriers.

17.36 In terms of new build, Policy CI4 introduces a specific expectation to reflect the above stance. In developments where installing high speed broadband is proven not to be possible, practical or economically viable (e.g. on smaller sites), the Council will seek developer contributions in accord with Policy CI1 to undertake off-site works that would help facilitate greater access to broadband in future.

SOCIAL SUSTAINABILITY

17.37 The Cheltenham Plan recognises that creating successful and sustainable communities requires more than just providing new homes and hard infrastructure; planning practitioners must also understand what people need from the places where they live and work, and the extent to which those needs are being met. Consequently, there is a need to combine the design of the physical realm with the design of the social world and a resulting requirement to support social and cultural life, social amenities and systems for citizen engagement, together with space for people and places to evolve.

17.38 Design for Social Sustainability (2011) sets out a framework for considering the social dimensions of community life and how these can be translated into practical initiatives. The Council has regard to this framework in policy formulation and decision-making and will also encourage developers to take account of its principles in planning social infrastructure and community facilities in future.

17.39 At a more local level, the Social, Sport and Open Spaces Study (2017) undertaken as part of the Cheltenham Plan preparation process contains a number of pertinent questions that can be asked in order to assess the particular needs of a community and to ascertain whether there are resulting requirements to make specific community provisions in the interests of long-term sustainability. For example:

  • are there enough schools, libraries, community buildings, GPs, retail facilities to meet resident needs?
  • where do people go to meet other residents?
  • what are the physical links to neighbouring areas; are they porous or rigid?
  • how will these be affected by new development - will there be capacity issues?

17.40 The concept is further highlighted through specific examples in ‘Welcome to the Future – A local model for building socially sustainable communities’ which was endorsed by the Council in 2016 as a model for social sustainability. The approach is being followed in masterplanning key sites across the Borough with the aim of supporting people to live in strong, safe and healthy communities.

17.41 Gloucestershire Rural Community Council (GRCC) was commissioned by the Council in 2016 to support communities in Cheltenham by considering their aspirations and presenting these in a comprehensive report with a view to informing the Cheltenham Plan. The work was funded by Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) as part of its Neighbourhood Planning and Local Planning Service Redesign and Capacity Building Pilot Programme.

17.42 The Cheltenham Engaging Communities Project enabled a variety of community groups to understand the process of community-led planning and provided them with practical, pragmatic support as they explored key ideas, issues and aspirations for consideration by the Council. The project built on previous partnership working between GRCC and Cheltenham Borough communities in 2014-2015 which resulted in evidence-gathering and recommendations by communities for designation of Local Green Spaces across the Borough.

17.43 Key outputs from the project included the compilation of detailed profiles for each community which the Council and its partners will be able to use in planning for the future. Whilst many of the community characteristics were already known, the project facilitated a more comprehensive consideration of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in each area.

17.44 Finally, consultation is currently being undertaken as part of the West Cheltenham Estates Regeneration Project. Lessons learned from this project will be used to further develop approaches to promoting and delivering socially sustainable communities.