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VALP Proposed Submission

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1 Background

Introduction

View Comments (4) 1.1 Under the planning system most development needs planning permission. The principal basis for making those decisions is the development plan and this Local Plan, once adopted, will form the main part of it for the district, replacing the 2004 Local Plan saved policies.  Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC), is the local planning authority responsible for producing the Local Plan; town and parish councils can produce neighbourhood plans, and the county council is responsible for producing minerals and waste local plans. Together these plans make up the development plan, which sets out where development can take place, or where it shouldn't, and what form development should take.

View Comments (2) 1.2 This document is the Vale of Aylesbury's proposed submission Local Plan. In accordance with Regulation 19 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 it has been published to allow representations to be made before the document, along with the representations, is submitted to the Secretary of State for examination in public.  Consultation on the proposed submission Local Plan will run from November to December 2017.

What is the Local Plan?

View Comments (1) 1.3 This document is the latest stage in the preparation of the Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan (VALP), which sets out the long-term vision and strategic context for managing and accommodating growth within the district until 2033. The aim of this plan is to set out:

  • the areas where development will take place
  • the areas that will be protected, and
  • policies that will be used to determine planning applications.

How the Local Plan has been prepared

View Comments (1) 1.4 The key stages for preparing the Local Plan have included gathering evidence, identifying key issues and options and consultation. The Council has consulted extensively on the development of the Local Plan. Key consultations are listed below:

  • Scoping consultation on the new Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan (VALP) Spring 2014
  • Call for sites (2014) and consideration of further sites submitted up to September 2016
  • Issues and options:  October – December 2015 
  • Draft VALP:  August –  September 2016

View Comments (2) 1.5 The Council received more than 700 responses (4,500 comments) to the Issues and Options consultation, and 1,630 responses (5,000 comments) to the Draft Plan consultation, many of which were very detailed.  Summaries of responses and key issues raised are available on the Council's website.  In addition, various events have been held around the district including meetings with town and parish councils, ongoing discussions with service and infrastructure providers and other local authorities and key bodies.  Wherever possible, responses have been taken into account in the preparation of this plan.

National planning policy

View Comments (1) 1.6 The Local Plan is not prepared in isolation. Its content has to conform to the Government's planning policy set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the guidance contained in the national Planning Practice Guidance, the content of new relevant legislation and Government statements about planning. The NPPF has at its core a presumption in favour of sustainable development. This means that the Council should 'positively seek opportunities to meet the development needs of their area' and "should meet objectively assessed (development) needs with sufficient flexibility to adapt to rapid change".

View Comments (5) 1.7 Particularly significant in the NPPF is the Government's commitment to ensuring that the planning system does everything it can to support sustainable economic growth and the requirement that councils should boost significantly the supply of housing. Government policy is to deliver 250,000 houses per annum nationally. At the same time, the NPPF also states that 'the planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment and that there should be a positive strategy for the conservation and enjoyment of the historic environment'.

Expected growth

View Comments (11) 1.8 The Local Plan has to take account of physical characteristics of the district and what is expected to happen to the area's population up to 2033. These factors are the subject of a wide range of evidence such as maps of identified floodplains and forecasts of the district's housing, retail and employment needs. Evidence shows that to just meet the district's own housing and employment needs, the plan will have to deliver 19,400 new homes and 27 hectares (ha) of employment land.

Duty to cooperate

View Comments (16) 1.9 Aylesbury Vale district does not exist in isolation. It has major conurbations nearby which have effects across district boundaries. As there is no regional or sub-regional planning, councils are under a formal duty to cooperate over strategic issues which cross their boundaries. This means the Council has to engage positively with neighbouring councils and other organisations, about issues such as housing numbers and employment requirements.

View Comments (6) 1.10 The Council is cooperating, particularly with other councils in Buckinghamshire, over what evidence their plans should be based on. This has included:

  • a joint housing needs assessment
  • a joint assessment of employment land requirements
  • a joint review of the Green Belt
  • a joint report on a best-fit housing market area
  • an agreed methodology over the assessment of land availability, and
  • a joint housing delivery study

View Comments (4) 1.11 Comparing the land available for development in each district's plan area against the forecast need for development shows that the capacity for development in areas south of Aylesbury Vale does not match the need for development. This is primarily because of the constraint of the Green Belt and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

View Comments (12) 1.12 Councils to the south of the district have identified an estimated collective unmet need of 8,000 homes and this is set out in a Memorandum of Understanding[1]. Sufficient suitable and deliverable sites have been found to meet this need and, as a result, the housing requirement for the district will total 27,400 homes.

Housing

View Comments (17) 1.13 The overall strategy adopted by this council to meet housing need is to direct sustainable levels of development to existing settlements, through the implementation of a capacity-based approach. Local Plan site  allocations are  made  on the basis of whether a site is suitable and in a sustainable location, rather than applying a blanket housing percentage based on settlement size.  More than half of the new homes planned for the district are to go in Aylesbury. The Council anticipates these will be delivered in a way that is in line with the town's  Garden Town status.  Some new homes are expected to be delivered at RAF Halton once the site closes. The Plan recognises that in the longer term, beyond the Plan period, a new settlement may be needed. This is to be considered as part of an early review.  Important factors within the delivery of new housing will be to meet the needs for particular types of housing. The Plan makes specific provision for affordable housing given the high cost of housing in the district and to meet specialist needs such as housing for the elderly and for people with disabilities and special needs. The Council also has to meet Traveller needs and has updated a joint survey of Traveller need with other councils in Buckinghamshire. 

Employment

View Comments (10) 1.14 Employment need is usually met by new allocations to satisfy the forecast requirement. However the forecast requirement for the district is 27ha whilst the Council has a supply of over 100ha (excluding site allocations not yet consented). In light of neighbouring authorities' shortfall of employment land and the need to provide for sufficient employment land within the wider Functional Market Area,  Aylesbury Vale's employment land surplus will play a crucial role in helping to make up for this shortfall. Consideration has been given to whether some  employment sites might be allocated to other uses,  including housing. Beyond those sites already identified (e.g. Hampden House, Royal Mail Sorting Office, parts of the Gateway Industrial Estate) there is  considered to be no further scope at present.  Given the significant role of employment land in Aylesbury Vale in servicing the wider FEMA employment and business requirements, it is not considered prudent to encourage further release of employment land. Employment land supply and requirements will be kept under review as the Plan goes forward.

Town centres

View Comments (2) 1.15 Alongside housing and employment development, retail development needs to keep pace with the growth in the population, and key retail locations such as Aylesbury and Buckingham town centres need to develop to meet the needs of the expanding population. The Plan seeks to maintain Aylesbury town centre's position and allow for organic growth to match future housing developments. This includes providing for new local centres as part of major development schemes. The Plan also seeks to ensure that the district's other town centres continue to flourish. With the assistance of neighbourhood plans the Council will also be aiming to protect and enhance its existing town and village centres. The indicative target for convenience floorspace is 6,980 sqm in Aylesbury town centre by 2033, 29 sqm in Wendover and 328 sqm in Winslow. In terms of  comparison floorspace, the indicative target is 29,289 sqm by 2033 for the whole district. It is anticipated that Aylesbury, and on a smaller scale Buckingham, will accommodate the majority of new comparison floorspace over the plan period.

Infrastructure

View Comments (10) 1.16 The provision of infrastructure to support new housing is essential, such as new roads,  schools, water and sewerage provision, accessible green spaces, policing and other emergency services infrastructure. The implications of future developments are being considered by relevant infrastructure bodies such as Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC). This work has informed the contents of the Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP). This in turn will support the development of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and site-specific policies in this Plan.

View Comments (10) 1.17 An essential part of the new infrastructure will be the provision of new transport infrastructure. The main focus for road improvements will be in relation to Aylesbury, to improve the circulation of traffic around the town. There will also need to be a focus on improving north / south connectivity to enable the district to function better in relation to national highway networks and rail networks. Currently, there is a distinct boundary between Buckinghamshire including Aylesbury Vale and  employment locations in the west of London. East West Rail will provide commuting opportunities to the west of London and to the south of Buckinghamshire. n the longer term, the potential provision of the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway across the district would  improve east / west connections. The proposed delivery of East West Rail will also increase connectivity. It is important to mitigate the effect of new transport infrastructure, such as the proposed HS2. The Council will utilise the Local Plan to deliver suitable mitigation.

Evidence

View Comments (4) 1.18 In order to ensure that the Plan's policies are robust and supported by evidence, the Council has carried out and commissioned a wide range of studies. Work undertaken includes:

  • further assessing land availability and suitability in relation to larger and medium villages, existing and new sites as part of an updated housing and economic  land availability assessment
  • definition of housing market areas
  • forecasts of housing and employment need / housing and economic development needs assessment
  • revisions to landscape designations
  • Green Belt assessment
  • a revised settlement hierarchy
  • a new settlement scoping study
  • retail studies, including a retail thresholds report, capacity update, local centres report, Aylesbury Town Centre Growth Opportunity Assessment, Buckingham Town centre retail appraisal
  • Strategic Flood Risk Assessment and Water Cycle Study
  • Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople site assessment
  • traffic modelling
  • an infrastructure delivery plan and viability assessment

Sustainability appraisal

View Comments (3) 1.19 A sustainability appraisal report is required under European and government legislation, which has to assess the sustainability implications of the proposals and policies in the new Local Plan. The legal requirement is for a report to be prepared to accompany the pre-submission plan, but as it is a process which works alongside the production of a Local Plan, reports are generally prepared at every stage of Local Plan preparation. A sustainability appraisal report has therefore been prepared to accompany the Plan.

Neighbourhood plans

View Comments (4) 1.20 When a town or parish neighbourhood plan is 'made', or put into effect, it becomes part of the overarching development plan, which is the basis for planning decisions.  Neighbourhood plans have to take account of strategic elements of the relevant Local Plan. Apart from that they can determine how development will take place in their area. The expectation was that they would be created where a local plan was already in place but this is not the case in many places , including Aylesbury Vale district. As a result, neighbourhood plans which have been made  are not based on this Local Plan.

View Comments (5) 1.21 This has always been pointed out to town and parish councils preparing neighbourhood plans with the advice that housing numbers would probably need raising to meet overall housing need in the district. To avoid adding extra development beyond that which a community considers necessary to meet its needs and where the level of development proposed in a neighbourhood plan enables the Council to meet its strategic housing need, no further sites are being allocated.  In strategic settlements, due to the overall housing need for the district, capacity identified and suitability of available sites, in some instances housing figures differ to those set out in neighbourhood plans.

Policies Map

View Comments (3) 1.22 A key element of the Local Plan is the map which is referred to as a 'Policies Map'. This map identifies areas to be allocated for development and designations which need to be taken into account in applying policies.  The Local Plan Policies Map does not replicate proposals and designations from the 'made' neighbourhood plans and their maps will need to be consulted separately.

No Comments 1.23 The Local Plan Policies Map show areas marked as 'not built development' on certain sites, which are required due to flood risk vulnerability covered in the SFRA and the Sequential Test and/or the recommendations from the Strategic Landscape and Visual Impact Capacity Study (2017). These areas should only comprise green infrastructure, landscape or biodiversity mitigation or water compatible development unless a sequential test has been passed. They do not denote the full extent of green infrastructure, landscape or other open space that may be needed within the site allocations. The Masterplan SPDs may set out further areas of open space and the Council may require additional green infrastructure or open space areas in considering the impacts of planning applications.

Using this plan

View Comments (1) 1.24 When considering planning applications the development plan is the starting point for making decisions. That includes this Plan, any minerals or waste plans and any made Neighbourhood Plans. Importantly the courts have specified that plans should be read as a whole rather than decisions being based on individual policies. Therefore when considering a proposal all relevant policies will need to be considered. Anyone referring to this Plan in relation to a development proposal must have regard to all the policies it contains in regard to that proposal. If, for example, the conversion of a rural building is being proposed it will not be sufficient to refer to just policy C1 as such proposals could have other implications which will be addressed by policies on such matters as heritage, biodiversity, Green Belt, parking, etc. 

View Comments (1) 1.25 Paragraph 184 of the NPPF sets out that neighbourhood plans should be in general conformity with the strategic policies in the Local Plan.  All policies in Chapter 3 (Strategic) and Chapter 4 (Strategic Delivery) are strategic policies, alongside Policy H1 (Affordable Housing), H6 (Housing Mix), E1 (Protection of Key Employment Sites), E5 (Development outside town centres) E10 (Silverstone Circuit), T1 (Delivering the Sustainable Transport Vision) and T2 (Protected Transport Schemes), BE1 (Heritage Assets), NE1 (Protected Sites), NE4 (The Chilterns AONB and its setting), NE5 (Landscape character and locally important landscape), C3 (Renewable Energy), I1 (Green Infrastructure), I4 (Flooding) and I5 (Water Resources).

The next stages

No Comments 1.26 After the publication period ends, we intend to submit the plan for examination by an independent inspector. Comments received and updated evidence will be passed to the inspector, along with the comments from the 2016 consultation.  The intention is to submit the plan in early 2018.

No Comments 1.27 The Council anticipates that an examination in public will be held on the plan in spring 2018 with adoption of the Plan taking place later that year. However, the timetable after submission is beyond the Council's control and will be in the hands of the Government-appointed planning inspector.

Profile of Aylesbury Vale District

View Comments (1) 1.28 Aylesbury Vale is a large district (900 km2) which is mainly rural in character and has a high quality environment. The main settlements in the district are Aylesbury, Buckingham, Winslow, Wendover, and Haddenham, as shown on the district key diagram. Key features about the district and which the Vale of Aylesbury Local Plan needs to take into account are set out below.

Places

View Comments (1) 1.29 Aylesbury is by far the largest town in the district, and is the county town of Buckinghamshire. It is a focal point for housing, employment, retail, and community services and facilities. According to the Office of National Statistics Census 2011, Aylesbury town has a population of about 71,500 which is just over 41% of the population of the district.

No Comments 1.30 Buckingham is the second largest settlement, with a population  of 12,000, (2011) and is located in the northern part of the district. It has a strong employment base and a wide range of other facilities serving the town and surrounding villages.

View Comments (2) 1.31 There are over 80 larger, medium and smaller settlements across the district, many of which are very attractive. A number of these settlements are larger, in particular Haddenham, Wendover and Winslow, and provide key local facilities and services which serve surrounding rural areas. The settlement hierarchy reviews these to identify the most sustainable areas for growth.

View Comments (1) 1.32 The northern part of the district directly adjoins Milton Keynes so there are strong linkages in terms of employment, retail and other facilities.

View Comments (1) 1.33 The southern part of the district contains substantial tracts of high quality landscape, including part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and is  also partly within the Metropolitan Green Belt around London. Districts to the south of Aylesbury Vale have significant environmental constraints due to the AONB and Green Belt designations, which can affect the scale and type of development they can accommodate.

Population

View Comments (1) 1.34 The total population of Aylesbury Vale was 174,100 at the 2011 Census. This is an increase of 5% compared to the 2001 Census.

View Comments (3) 1.35 The population is forecast by ONS to increase to around 214,000 by 2033 (this does not take account of the redistribution of  housing for unmet needs).

View Comments (1) 1.36 The population is becoming increasingly elderly: 21% of the population were aged over 60 in 2011, compared to 17% in 2001. There was a corresponding decrease in the young working population (aged 25 to 39) from 23% of the population in 2011, to 19% in 2011.

View Comments (1) 1.37 The latest census show that 14.8% of the population are in ethnic groups other than white British.

No Comments 1.38 The quality of life in Aylesbury Vale is generally high, as demonstrated by the Government's indices of deprivation (2015) which show that the district falls within the 14% least deprived areas in England. However, there are pockets within Aylesbury town which rank among the 26% most deprived in the South East region.

View Comments (1) 1.39 Life expectancy of residents has been steadily increasing, and is longer than the average for England.

Economy and employment

View Comments (1) 1.40 The latest Government figures indicate that there are 73,000 employee  jobs in Aylesbury Vale (Source:  ONS Business Register and Employment Survey, 2015).

No Comments 1.41 Unemployment (2016) amongst residents, at 3.4%, is significantly lower than the level for Great Britain as a whole (4.8%). Average earnings of residents are higher than across the South East region or Great Britain.

No Comments 1.42 The district is influenced by a number of larger employment centres around its borders, particularly Milton Keynes to the north, Luton/Dunstable and Hemel Hempstead to the east/south east, High Wycombe to the south, and Oxford and Bicester to the west. Data from the 2011 Census shows that 35,025 residents commute out of the district to work (predominantly to areas just outside the district, but also further afield such as London) and 19,872 residents from other districts commute into Aylesbury Vale each day. Significant employment is planned across the district which will increase opportunities for residents to work within its borders.

View Comments (3) 1.43 As well as centres of employment in the main settlements, there are a number of other important large employment locations across the district, including part of Silverstone Circuit, Buckingham Industrial Park, Westcott Venture Park, Long Crendon Industrial Park, Haddenham Business Park and College Road North Business Park associated with the Arla development. The RAF training base at RAF Halton, near Wendover, is of significant importance to the local economy. The base  is, however, expected to close during the Plan period, after which land will become available for other uses, predominantly housing. The National Spinal Injuries Centre is located at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, and Stoke Mandeville Stadium is the national centre for wheelchair sport.

No Comments 1.44 There are a large number of small to medium sized business enterprises thriving across the more rural parts of the district which form an important part of the  overall economy.

Homes

View Comments (1) 1.45 The total stock of homes was around 78,591 in March 2016. Around 86% of these homes are privately owned, and the remainder are housing association or other public-sector homes.

View Comments (2) 1.46 Affordability of housing is an issue, with the average house price being over 10 times the average income in 2016.

View Comments (1) 1.47 The total number of households on the Bucks Home Choice  housing register waiting for a social housing tenancy in April 2016 was over 3,000.

No Comments 1.48 Rates of house building over recent years have remained high with an average of 1,127 dwellings built each year over the past five years. Out of this total, an average of 349 were affordable dwellings.

No Comments 1.49 There are a considerable number of homes either under construction or with planning permission awaiting development.

View Comments (1) 1.50 Over the past five years, an average of 29% of new homes have been built on brownfield sites. This percentage has decreased in the past 5 years and is expected to continue to decrease in the future as the supply of available brownfield sites decreases and greenfield urban fringe sites are built.

No Comments 1.51 The average household size in 2011 was 2.5 people.

Transport

No Comments 1.52 Road transport links to the south of the district are reasonable, connecting to London, Heathrow and Luton airports,  and access to the M40 and M25 motorways. There is poorer access to the Thames Valley area by road or public transport, which maybe addressed by East West Rail connections via Princes Risborough. In the longer term north/south rail connectivity via Amersham may be supplemented by an improved rail network which provides links to west London and the Thames Valley without the need to travel into central London.

No Comments 1.53 The northern half of the district is less well served by good road links, although places such as Silverstone and Buckingham have reasonable north-bound access to the M1 and M40 motorways via the A43.

View Comments (3) 1.54 Parts of Aylesbury town suffer from road congestion at peak times, and three air quality management areas have been declared close to the town centre.

View Comments (3) 1.55 The district has rail links to London Marylebone from Aylesbury Parkway, Aylesbury, Stoke Mandeville, Haddenham & Thame Parkway, and Wendover. Services to the West Midlands are also available from Haddenham & Thame Parkway (to Birmingham Snow Hill, Bicester North and Stratford upon Avon). Cheddington is on a different line and enjoys a faster service to London Euston and Milton Keynes Central.

View Comments (1) 1.56 The Government, in 2012, made commitment to the East-West Rail line to address the current connectivity issues to the east and west by rail. When open, this will connect Aylesbury and Winslow by rail to Milton Keynes and Oxford/Bicester.

No Comments 1.57 Express bus services operate between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes and between Cambridge and Oxford via Buckingham.

Natural and built environment

View Comments (3) 1.58 The district contains a wealth of historic houses and key historic landscapes, such as Waddesdon Manor, Claydon House, and Stowe landscape gardens. There are 124 existing conservation areas which protect areas of architectural or historic interest, many of them located in attractive, locally distinctive villages.

View Comments (2) 1.59 Over 1,200 hectares are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, which is indicative of their importance for biodiversity or geology. In addition, there are many nature reserves and high quality open spaces valued for their landscape, nature, or recreational interest. In the south of the district land falls within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, nationally designated as one of the finest landscapes in England.

View Comments (3) 1.60 The district is at the head of two major river catchment systems: the Great Ouse in the north, which flows through Buckingham, and the Thame in the south, which is a tributary of the River Thames. The Grand Union Canal and its arms to Wendover, Aylesbury and Buckingham, provide local interest, character, leisure opportunities, and habitat diversity. The large network of watercourses, many of which pass through Aylesbury, form an important part of the green and blue infrastructure for the district, allowing wildlife to move along their corridors. Additionally, this provides opportunities for people to enjoy nature, along with the physical and mental health benefits that this brings. Most areas in the district are in flood zone 1 (areas of lowest flood risk).

View Comments (2) 1.61 CO2 emissions per head increased slightly from 2011 to 2012, but have dropped since 2005. The figure, at 6.2 tonnes per person per year, is less than the average for the UK as a whole (7.1 tonnes per person per year).

Monitoring

No Comments 1.62 To assess whether the Local Plan is meeting its aims and objectives we have identified a series of monitoring indicators.  Where policies are failing to deliver the strategic objectives of this plan, necessary actions will be identified in the Council's Annual Monitoring Report (AMR). This may include an early review of the Plan.

View Comments (2) Key diagram

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