Cheltenham Plan (part one): Issues and Options

1. Introduction

The Cheltenham Plan, together with the Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Joint Core Strategy, the Gloucestershire Minerals and Waste Local Plans and any neighbourhood plans (in the future) made, will when all adopted comprise the statutory development plan for Cheltenham to 2031.

In a plan-led system, development plans and neighbourhood plans set out the overarching context and policies that the Council uses to shape manage and guide development in the Borough through the decisions it makes on planning applications.

The development plan also sets out higher-level objectives and aspirations that aim both to conserve what is valued and cherished within Cheltenham and to encourage development in spatial and policy areas the council wishes to promote in the public interest. Whilst the development plan is primarily concerned with land-use planning, it is very much a shared project that will support delivery of many of the Council's outcomes set out in its Corporate Strategy.

1.1 What is the Cheltenham Plan?

Since the adoption of the Cheltenham Borough Local Plan (2006) Second Review, both national planning policy and guidance has been rewritten and condensed into a more useful and readable form. This is also supported by extensive national Planning Practice Guidance (nPPG). Alongside these changes the Government has abolished regional and county strategic level planning and the Council has entered collaborative working on the Joint Core Strategy, now at an advanced stage (public examination). These changes have meant that many of the requirements set out in regulations concerning the contents of a local plan have already been met. For example, the Joint Core Strategy identifies objectively assessed development need for the area and sets out requirements for strategic sites.

 

The Joint Core Strategy also contains a suite of strategic development management policies on issues such as design, heritage and the provision of infrastructure. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and national Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) provides detailed planning policy direction and it makes clear that this guidance should not be duplicated at a local level.

In most cases, the Joint Core Strategy partially rather than completely supersedes policy in the adopted local plan. Usually, the Joint Core Strategy picks up the strategic elements of a policy, but does not always provide local detail (although this detail may have been picked up in the Joint Core Strategy's evidence base). In some cases this detail does not need to be immediately replicated in the Cheltenham Plan, either because the detail was superfluous, as the policy will achieve the same result as before, or because the planning issues raised can be addressed through preparation or updating of Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) to the Joint Core Strategy and/or informal practice or advice notes. Furthermore, the detail may be unnecessary as it could be considered that the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the national Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) provide adequate support.

In other cases there is clearly a pressing need for Cheltenham Plan policy following closely on from the adoption of the Joint Core Strategy. This is particularly around the areas of:

1. Site allocations within the Borough (outside of the strategic allocations identified within the Joint Core Strategy) to demonstrate how Cheltenham will meet its development needs up to 2031;

2. A clear local economic strategy which will inform employment, retail and town centre uses provision in the Plan;

3. Provision for local infrastructure (particularly local green space); and

4. Local detail and strategies on heritage matters.

1.2 Bite sized approach

The Plan will be delivered over a series of documents which together will comprise the Cheltenham Plan. Because policies in the 2006 adopted Local Plan have been saved, we can continue to use policies not superseded by the JCS on its adoption which accord with the Joint Core Strategy and NPPF into the future. Therefore parts of the 2006 local plan can be replaced in stages, and as each phase of the new Cheltenham Plan is produced, part of the 2006 local plan will be superseded.

The first phase (the focus of this consultation) of the Plan focusses on an economic development strategy for the Borough, the identification of local green space designations and the identification of land allocations. Once this phase has been complete, other areas for development, including the wider development management policies will be pursued. The approach is one of replacing and updating the policy framework as it becomes necessary in order to most efficiently use the Council's resources and ensure continuity of planning policy cover on these issues.

This approach has the advantage of flexibility in terms of revision and review in response to changing circumstances; which is an inherent feature of the Government's current planning regime, particularly in relation to the nPPG. It also means that changes in local policy will not necessarily require changes to the Joint Core Strategy, because the Joint Core Strategy will only contain the 'hooks' on which Development Plan Documents (DPD) and Supplementary Planning Documents (SPD) will be based.

1.3 The story so far...

This stage in the production of the Cheltenham Plan identifies what the council believes to be the main planning issues and policy options available to deliver the Council's vision and objectives. The Plan will go through various stages of preparation and will be subject to examination in public by an independent inspector before it can be adopted by the council.

Work on the preparation of the Cheltenham Plan began in 2012. During this time we have engaged with the community and stakeholders to establish what the future contents of the Cheltenham Plan should be and how it should be progressed. This is part of a process known as scoping and is one step in meeting the statutory requirements for the preparation of a development plan document. The vision and objectives set out in the scope of the Cheltenham Plan were developed by the Planning and Liaison Member Working Group - a member group that is guiding the preparation of the Plan.

The scoping document was subject to an eight week public consultation, ending 2 September 2013. In total 52 responses were received from a range of interest groups, public and private sector bodies, and individuals. The full responses are available to view, together with a summary of the responses using the following link: http://www.cheltenham.gov.uk/info/1004/planning_policy/1034/the_cheltenham_plan/2

Gathering evidence is critical part of the plan-making process. The Cheltenham Plan is supported by a number of documents, including the sustainability appraisal, habitats regulations assessment, equalities impact assessments and other evidence studies. The sustainability appraisal and assessments evolve as the plan-making process progresses and at this stage they have informed the content of the main document by testing each of the possible site allocations and policy options. Following the close of this consultation they will be reviewed to help inform the pre-submission version. The Cheltenham Plan is required to be supported and justified by robust evidence. Additional evidence has been gathered for this paper, which complements that already produced for the Joint Core Strategy; this will evolve as the Plan progresses.

1.4 Proposed Timetable for Part One

Earlier Stages:

  • Cheltenham Plan Scope Consultation (regulation. 18) 8th July to 2nd September 2013;
  • Publication of agreed Draft Vision and Objectives For Cheltenham Local Plan 3rd February 2014

Current Stage:

  • A consultation on the issues and options affecting the Cheltenham Plan June 2015

Future Stages:

  • Pre-submission consultation projected to be during Winter 2015 (This is dependent on receipt of Joint Core Strategy Inspector's Report)
  • Submission to the Secretary of State projected to during Winter and Spring 2016
  • Examination: projected to be during Spring 2016
  • Adoption: projected to be during Summer 2016

1.5 Content summary

The first section of this paper details the vision themes and objectives of the Cheltenham Plan. The second section details the Cheltenham economic strategy and local green spaces. Both these topics examine what is trying to be achieved, what issues have been identified (with the economic strategy specifically listing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), potential policy approaches, policy options and questions that could be posed during consultation.

 

The third section comprises a series of local sites and designations. It sets out the initial ideas for site allocations for housing, employment and local green space. It asks questions to seek your views on the initial approach taken in the paper, including the site suggestions, and also asks whether other sites and proposals should be considered.

 

After each chapter there are a series of questions we are seeking views on. Questions relate exclusively to this consultation and to the Borough of Cheltenham and do not relate to the Joint Core Strategy policies and sites which have already been subject to separate consultations.