Press Release: 29 August 2023
Short pause needed in local plan process to protect Stroud District’s communities and environment
Stroud District Council has requested a short pause in the Local Plan process which maps out development in the district for the next 20 years.
The Council needs more time to address Planning Inspectors’ concerns, and ensure development happens in the most appropriate way.
Government Planning Inspectors wrote to Stroud District Council during the summer break in the examination of the draft Local Plan.
Their main concern is the capacity of the M5 Motorway at Junction 12 and Junction 14 to support new development. This is not an issue that can be resolved by the Council alone as other partners are responsible for the strategic road network, but it is an issue that will affect all partners and which the Council is keen to work collaboratively to resolve.
The two other issues raised by the Inspectors concern the viability of the public transport solutions at the proposed Sharpness new settlement, and the cost of a new pedestrian and cycle bridge over the M5 to facilitate the planned new settlement at Wisloe, between Cam and Slimbridge. A short pause in the examination would give time for the Council to work with the site promoters and partners to find solutions.
Their letter suggests that they do not have significant concerns with most of the Plan’s policies and proposed new housing and development allocations.
However, the Inspectors have suggested that it may be appropriate for the Council to withdraw the draft Local Plan and for the current Examination in Public process to come to an end.
The Council is asking for a short pause in the statutory examination process to allow
time to address those concerns with partners.
The Council has responded to the Inspectors today (29th August), requesting that the Examination in Public is paused for a period of six months, to allow time for the Council to address and find solutions to their concerns before allowing the Examination to continue.
The Inspectors will now consider the Council’s response before deciding on whether to stop or pause their examination of the draft Stroud District Local Plan.
Stroud District Council Leader Cllr Catherine Braun said: “It is very important to all of us who live and work in Stroud district that we have a Local Plan in place so that we can control where new housing and development takes place. Our draft local plan has taken four years to prepare and been through extensive consultation with residents and businesses, parish and town councils in the district.
“If we don’t have a Local Plan to meet central Government-imposed housing targets then planning applications in unsuitable locations, and without the community infrastructure that’s needed will end up getting approved on appeal.”
Chair of SDC Environment Committee Cllr Chloe Turner said:
“I’m pleased that the Planning Inspectors do not have any issues with the majority of our draft Local Plan. It is therefore very surprising and disappointing that they are suggesting we withdraw the Plan. The Inspectors have highlighted that some of the proposed new housing will generate traffic affecting junctions 12 and 14 of the M5.
“However, we have identified how an increase in traffic can be addressed in our response to the inspectors and we’re prepared to work further with local stakeholders to provide additional evidence and other options to help us get this plan over the line. With a six month pause in the timetable for the plan examination, I’m hopeful that we can address the Planning Inspectors’ concerns.”
Copies of the Inspector’s letter and the Council’s response can be seen at:
LOCAL PLAN FAQs:
- Who is responsible for preparing the Local Plan for Stroud District?
Local plans are prepared by the Local Planning Authority (LPA). For Stroud this is the District Council in consultation with its community, neighbouring authorities and relevant stakeholders.
- What is the purpose of a Local Plan?
Local Plans set out a vision and a framework including where new houses, businesses and infrastructure should be located. Once in place, Local Plans are the starting point for determining local planning applications and are the local guide to what can be built where, shaping infrastructure investments and determining the future pattern of development in the district.
- Is there a Local Plan in place for Stroud District at the moment?
The current Stroud District Council Local Plan was approved and adopted in November 2015 and is still being used to guide where development should go and to assess new planning applications.
- Why do we need a new Local Plan for Stroud District?
The Government wants all local authorities to review their local plans every 5 years to ensure they are based on the most up to date evidence and local needs. New plans can take 5 or more years to finalise. If we don’t review the plan now it may be seen as out of date and the Council may lose control of where new development is located.
- What stage are we at in the preparation of the new Local Plan for Stroud District?
The Council has spent the last few years preparing its new Draft Local Plan and has reached the final stage which is an Examination in Public by Government appointed independent Planning Inspectors.
- How was the new Local Plan developed and when was it submitted?
The new Local Plan was developed through preparation of evidence base documents and reports on matters such as transport and the environment, consultation with our communities, landowners, site promoters and key stakeholders such as infrastructure providers and neighbouring authorities.
The draft Local Plan and all the relevant evidence base documents were submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in October 2021.
- What is an Examination in Public of the Local Plan?
Once the Council has submitted its draft Local Plan and evidence base work to the Government Planning Inspectorate, an Independent Inspector is appointed to review the Plan and decide if it is ‘sound’ and ‘legally compliant’. This Examination includes hearing sessions where members of the public and relevant stakeholders can take part in discussions and discuss their evidence in support or objection to the Plan.
- What stage has the Examination in Public reached (September 2023)?
The Inspectors have held hearing sessions on the majority of issues in the Plan, including individual sites and the main visions and objectives. The Inspectors requested a ‘summer break’ to start from the end of June with a small number of hearing sessions on individual policies still to be held.
- What are the main issues of concern that the Government appointed inspectors leading the Examination in Public have raised?
The Inspectors make clear that there are no soundness issues with most of the Local Plan sites and policies which are not capable of being resolved through modifications.
The Inspectors raise some concern with the site allocation in Wisloe, but state that further work is potentially capable of alleviating their concerns.
In relation to the site allocation in Sharpness, the Inspectors set out some specific concerns relating to the developer subsidy arrangements for the rail service, costs for a proposed Mobility as a Service (MaaS) transport scheme, and recent engagement with Network Rail and transport operators.
In relation to Strategic Road Network (SRN) matters the Inspectors have raised concerns that the delivery of the Plan’s spatial strategy for growth, which includes the creation of two new settlements, is dependent upon the SRN infrastructure improvements at Junctions 12 and 14. The Inspectors do not at this stage have confidence that necessary improvements to M5 Junctions 12 and 14 will be funded and delivered during the plan period and they are concerned that these motorway junctions will not have the capacity at the present time to accommodate the traffic that would be associated with new developments proposed in the vicinity.
- Are the issues being raised by the Inspectors within the Council’s power to address?
The Council believes it can resolve all of the issues raised by the Inspectors, but will need to work closely with site promoters, National Highways, Local Transport Authorities and Neighbouring Authorities.
- What is the Council’s approach to addressing the issues of concern raised by the inspectors?
The Council is proposing a pause of six months to work with the relevant site promoters and external parties to address all the issues raised by the Inspectors. The Inspectors’ main areas of concern relate to Strategic Road Network (SRN) matters. The Council considers that the issues relating to costs, apportionment, the availability of private and public funding, and delivery and timescale matters are capable of being resolved to a level appropriate for the plan making stage without undue delay to the examination process and that the Council should have the opportunity to address those specific points.
- What aspects of the new Local Plan have not so far been raised as concerns by the inspector?
The Inspectors make clear that there are no soundness issues with most of the Local Plan sites and policies which are not capable of being resolved through modifications. The only concerns relate to some aspects of the proposed new settlements at Wisloe, Sharpness and the Strategic Road Network, which the Council intends to address.
- Does the Local Plan need to be withdrawn, in order for the issues of concern to Inspectors to be addressed?
The Council does not believe so and believes it can address the issues with a short pause in the examination to focus on the issues raised by the Inspectors.
- What would be the main impacts of not having an up to date adopted Local Plan for Stroud District?
If the draft Local Plan were to be withdrawn there is a risk that by not having an up to date adopted Local Plan, Stroud District will not have a 5 year housing supply as required by the Government. This would result in ‘planning by appeal’ where promoters could propose new housing sites contrary to the ‘out of date’ 2015 plan or the sites in the draft Plan. This could result in the Council losing control of where new housing sites are located, the policies shaping the new development and the joined up strategic approach to providing infrastructure.
- Now that the Council has provided an initial response to the Inspectors, what are the next steps?
The Council intends to provide a further more detailed response of the additional tasks to be undertaken, by 12 September 2023. The Council will need to wait for the Inspectors to consider the Council’s intended approach to addressing their concerns. There is no set timescale for the Inspectors’ response.
- How will the Council keep residents informed on progress with the Local Plan?
Given that the draft Local Plan is at Examination stage, the Local Plan updates are made by the Inspectors through the independent Programme Officer (PO), and these updates come from the Inspector not the Council. When the Inspectors have an update they will ask the PO to publish the update on the Council’s Examination Webpage. The Inspectors have a list of contact details of those who have asked to be kept up to date with the proceedings and may as the PO to communicate directly with those people.