Rochford District Core Strategy Regulation 26 Draft
Section Four - Core Strategy Issues
4.1.1 The Council considers that the following are the key Core Strategy issues. Whilst text relating to the issues is included, no policies are. If, following consultation, it is believed that the Council has identified the issues correctly, then detailed policies will be developed. The areas of policy are, in no particular order, detailed below:
- The green belt & strategic buffers between settlements
- Protection and enhancement of the upper Roach Valley
- Protection and enhancement of special landscapes, habitats and species
- Housing numbers & phasing
- General development locations
- Affordable housing
- Good design & design statements
- Character of place & the historic environment
- Energy & water conservation and renewable energy
- Compulsory purchase & planning obligations
- Community, leisure & tourism facilities
4.2 The Green Belt & Strategic Buffers Between Settlements
4.2.1 The Council considers that its policies hitherto have helped achieve the five green belt purposes, as laid out in Planning Policy Guidance Note 2 - Green Belts (PPG2). The application of these has the combined effect of protecting the historic fabric of the district, preventing the further encroachment of development into the countryside and of safeguarding the countryside to provide for recreational needs and the protection of the natural features, flora, fauna and their habitats.
4.2.2 The Council also recognises that by diverting development and population growth away from rural areas to existing urban areas, green belt policy also assists in the achievement of sustainability objectives. This is recognised in the East of England Plan, particularly in policy SS1 and its supporting text. This confirms the need to maintain the green belt boundary and this approach is reiterated in policy SS7 and its supporting text. Whilst the need for a strategic review is identified, the East of England Regional Assembly have confirmed that this will not be required until after 2021.
4.2.3 The Council will include in the Development Control DPD policies to deal with the handling of specific applications. These will build on the policies already successfully rolled forward through the LPA's local plan.
4.2.4 The Council considers that there are a number of strategic buffers, maintained by the green belt, which are worthy of specific mention and enhanced protection. This will ensure that one of the principle reasons for green belts - the prevention of coalescence - is fulfilled. Indicative green belt boundaries and strategic buffers will be shown on the Key Diagram.
4.2.5 The development of previously developed land has restricted the need for green belt land to be released in a piecemeal fashion because of the good planning undertaken in the preparation of the 1988 Rochford District Local Plan. A similar exercise will be required for the preparation of the Allocations DPD. The Council still believes that the reuse of previously developed land has an important role to play in fulfilling housing and employment targets. The scope for the use of such land appears to be diminishing as many of the major sites have been used. The Council will prioritise the use of previously developed sites.
4.2.6 Following our initial consultation, it has become clear that the protection of green belt land is considered very important by the residents of the district. The Council also agrees with these comments and believes that by creating high quality developments at relatively high density, the loss of green belt land for other needs can be minimized. The Council will also consider releasing land where it fails to fulfil green belt objectives.
4.2.7 The Council's preferred options for the green belt are:
The Council considers that strategic buffers will
be defined and protected by policy and included broadly on
the Core Strategy Key Diagram. They will then be included
in detail on the Proposals Maps. Their precise boundaries
will be determined during the Allocations DPD process. The
policy will include the following strategic
- Great Wakering & North Shoebury (the area around the boundary with Southend-on-Sea Borough Council)
- Hockley & Rayleigh
- Hullbridge & Rayleigh
- Rawreth & Rayleigh
- Rayleigh & Eastwood (the area around the boundary with Southend-on-Sea Borough Council)
- Rayleigh & Thundersley (the area around the boundary with Castle Point Borough Council)
- Rochford / Ashingdon & Hawkwell / Hockley
- The Council proposes to continue its restrictive suite of policies for development within the green belt, in line with national guidance. The general extent of the green belt will be shown on the Core Strategy Key Diagram and in detail on the Proposals Maps. The policies affecting development control decisions on applications within the green belt will be laid out in the Development Control Policies DPD. However, there will be some relaxation for major developed sites, green tourism and renewable energy proposals in the green belt.
4.2.8 Alternative options for the green belt are:
- A continuation of the existing restrictive suite of policies, based around Planning Policy Guidance Note 2, but omitting the green wedges concept.
- No relaxation for green tourism or renewable energy, instead relying on such schemes to justify their very special circumstances.
- Increasing the number of major developed sites in the green belt.
4.2.9 These alternatives have been discounted because they fail to meet sustainable development objectives, the Corporate Vision and Principal Aims.
4.3 Protection and Enhancement of the Upper Roach Valley
4.3.1 The upper Roach Valley, including the area around Hockley Woods, is an area with special landscape characteristics. In the Rochford District Replacement Local Plan the area is designated as a Special Landscape Area and as an Area of Ancient Landscape. These designations arose from survey work carried out by Essex County Council.
4.3.2 There are fourteen ancient woodlands in the district and seven of them lie within the upper Roach Valley, south of the head of the valley formed by the railway line. There are also a number of wildlife sites, as identified by survey work commissioned by the Essex Wildlife Trust and shown with protection on the Replacement Local Plan Proposals Maps.
4.3.3 The Council is now committed to working on a Joint Area Action Plan covering London Southend Airport and land to the west of Rochford. This area includes part of the Upper Roach Valley. It is intended that this will deal with environmental and countryside issues as well as employment centred around the airport as a key economic generator. Enhanced protection will be required as well as improved access for informal countryside recreation, perhaps from Rochford town centre to the Cherry Orchard Jubilee Country Park.
4.3.4 In the centre of the upper Roach Valley, the Council has established Cherry Orchard Jubilee Country Park and is carrying out works to improve access to this area. The Upper Roach Valley is suitable for increased informal countryside recreation and the Council will be developing opportunities for such activities.
4.3.5 It is the Council's intention to reduce the linearity of the Country Park by purchasing additional land to enable vehicular access to the park. The park will also act as a gateway to the wider countryside and for circular walks through the Upper Roach Valley, including enhanced recreational opportunities in Hockley Woods.
4.3.6 Not all areas of the Upper Roach Valley will be suitable for significant levels of visitors. It is considered that some of the ancient woodlands and wildlife sites will not benefit from increased visitor usage. The Planning Policy team will work with the Woodlands section to ensure that opportunities countryside recreation do not adversely affect biodiversity. The improved use of this area will be consistent with the Essex Thames Gateway Green Grid Strategy.
4.3.7 Following our initial consultation, it has become clear that the Upper Roach Valley is considered important to many people. It is valued for its role in countryside recreation and a green lung. The Council will examine how best to reconcile increase recreational opportunities with the protection and enhancement of the Upper Roach Valley.
4.3.8 The Council's preferred options for the protection and enhancement of the Upper Roach Valley are:
- The Council will include policies providing for the protection and enhancement of the area and increased informal countryside recreation opportunities.
- The Council will identify land to be included in the Cherry Orchard Jubilee Country Park on the Proposals Map and will include any further proposed extensions beyond its current allocation.
- The Council will prepare a Joint Area Action Plan covering land to the west of Rochford, which will work to ensure the protection and enhancement of the Upper Roach Valley, whilst enabling employment related development closer to London Southend Airport.
4.3.9 Alternative options for enhancement and protection of the Upper Roach Valley are:
- There will be no additional country park allocation, instead keeping its current size with no proposals for expansion.
- The removal of this local landscape designation, allowing more general policies to determine the style and location of development.
4.3.10 These alternatives have been discounted because they fail to meet sustainable development objectives, the Corporate Vision and Principal Aims.
4.4 Protection and Enhancement of Special Landscapes, Habitats & Species
Coastal Protection Belt
4.4.1 The Coastal Protection Subject Plan, a statutory plan adopted in 1984, defined the extent of the coastal areas within Essex where there would be the most stringent restriction on development, due to the special character of the open and undeveloped coast. Policy CC1 of the Essex and Southend-on-Sea Replacement Structure Plan embodies the commitment to the Coastal Protection Belt.
4.4.2 PPG20 Coastal Planning provides guidance to Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) on planning for development and protecting the coastal environment (paragraph 1.2). This document is clear on the need to protect the undeveloped coast and this is especially true for the Rochford district, where much of the coast is covered by international and national nature conservation designations.
4.4.3 Paragraph 4.17 states that interested parties can cooperate to prepare estuary management plans. Rochford District Council has been working with a number of other bodies, including Essex County and Maldon District Councils and the Crouch Harbour Authority to prepare the Crouch and Roach Estuary Management Plan. This was launched in July 2005.
4.4.4 The East of England Plan contains a policy on environmental infrastructure. Policy ENV1 requires that LPAs safeguard green infrastructure, including landscape assets. The undeveloped coast is one of the most important landscape assets of the district, matching the special landscape areas. Views of the coast, across river valleys and from one part of the boundary to another are important elements of the Coastal Protection Belt, and largely contributed to the drawing up of the boundary, demonstrating the coastal character of the whole area. The indicative boundary of the Coastal Protection Belt will be shown on the Key Diagram. The Council has been actively involved in the preparation of a Strategic Flood Risk Assessment in the Thames Gateway South Essex and this too will be used to inform development decisions in the district.
Special Landscape Areas
4.4.5 Away from the coast there are three Special Landscape Areas (SLA). SLAs are areas of great landscape value resulting from a combination of features such as vegetation cover and landform. Their conservation is important to the district as well as the county's natural heritage and there is a presumption against development unless it accords with the character of the area concerned. The three SLA's, identified by countywide survey work, in the Rochford District are as follows:
- Hockley Woods. This is a large unspoilt area, containing a complex of ancient woodlands and farmland on undulating ground between Hockley and Southend-on-Sea;
- Upper Crouch. This area is based on the River Crouch and contains numerous creeks, mudflats and saltings on either shore. It is a slightly less remote version of other coastal marshes and is relatively treeless and unspoiled; and
- The Crouch/Roach marshes. This consists of a large number of islands, creeks, and channels with salt marsh, mudflats, and drainage ditches predominating. Apart from the timber wharf and marina at Wallasea Island, the area is remote and undeveloped and supports a large bird population.
4.4.6 Planning Policy Statement 7 - Sustainable Development in Rural Areas (PPS7) provides for local landscape designations in Local Development Documents. Paragraphs 24 and 25 deal with this issue. The importance of the landscapes concerned is vital to the Council's fulfilment of the leisure and tourism role for the Thames Gateway in south Essex.
4.4.7 The Local Planning Authority will seek - throughout coastal and other special landscapes - high standards of development, including the location, siting, design and materials used, as well as ensuring that the proposal will contribute to the enhancement or, where appropriate, improvement of the character of the area in which it is proposed. Tree planting and landscaping schemes using native species appropriate to their location will be an important part of new development.
4.4.8 The indicative boundaries of the Special Landscape Areas will be shown on the Key Diagram.
4.4.9 In the early 1990s, the County Council identified a number of Areas of Ancient Landscape, being landscapes containing significant assemblage of visible features of pre-1600 origin. The ancient landscape of the Upper Roach Valley (which also contains the ancient woodland, Hockley Woods) is so identified. This designation is known in the Rochford District as an Area of Historic Landscape. The indicative boundaries of the Area of Historic Landscape and Ancient Woodlands will be shown on the Key Diagram.
4.4.10 There are a number of designations used for nature conservation. In the Rochford district the following internally important sites have been designated:
Ramsar sites are named after an international conference held on wetland and wildfowl conservation at Ramsar in Iran, in 1971. The UK Government ratified the Convention on Conservation Wetlands of International Importance in 1976. The UK accepted responsibility to promote the conservation of wetlands of international significance within its territory with respect to birds, plants and animals they support. Ramsar sites are notified based on a range of assessment criteria. The criteria for waterbirds state that a wetland should be considered internationally important if it regularly supports 20,000 or more waterbirds and/or if it regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species of waterbird. There are two listed Ramsar sites in Rochford District: Foulness and the Crouch and Roach Estuaries.
Special Protection Areas (SPAs)
- The Crouch and Roach Estuaries SPA qualifies under
Article 4.2 of the EU Birds Directive by supporting:
- Internationally important assemblage of waterfowl (wildfowl and waders)
- Internationally important populations of regularly occurring migratory species.
- Foulness SPA qualifies under Article 4.1 of the EU Birds
Directive by supporting:
- internationally important breeding populations of regularly occurring Annex 1 species: sandwich tern (Sterna sandvicensis), common tern (Sterna hirundo), little tern (Sterna albifrons) and avocet (Recurvirostera avosetta).
Special Areas for Conservation
The Essex Estuaries candidate SAC (cSAC) covers the whole of the Foulness and Crouch and Roach Estuaries from the point of the highest astronomical tide out to sea. As such it relates to the seaward part of the coastal zone. The Essex Estuaries have been selected as a cSAC for the following habitat features:
- Pioneer saltmarsh
- Cordgrass swards
- Atlantic salt meadows
- Mediterranean saltmarsh scrubs
- Intertidal mudflats and sandflats
- Subtidal sandbanks
European Marine Site
Where a SPA or cSAC is continuously or intermittently covered by tidal waters, or includes any part of the sea in or adjacent to the UK, the site is referred to as a European Marine Site. The marine components of the Essex SPAs and cSACs are being treated as a single European Marine Site called the Essex Estuaries Marine site (EEEMS). This extends along the coast from Jaywick near Clacton, to Shoeburyness near Southend-on-Sea and from the line of the highest astronomical tide out to sea. It includes the Maplin and Buxey Sands.
Effectively the whole of the District coastline is within the EEEMS, although terrestrial parts of the SPAs (i.e. freshwater grazing marshes inside the sea walls) are not included as they occur above the highest astronomical tide.
4.4.11 In addition to these Sites of Special Scientific Interest have been designated by the UK government. There are three SSSI's within the Rochford District:
- Hockley Woods SSSI. A site predominantly owned by the District Council. The site is of national importance as an ancient woodland.
- Foulness SSSI. This comprises extensive sand-silt flats, saltmarsh, beaches, grazing marshes, rough grass and scrubland, covering the areas of Maplin Sands, part of Foulness Island plus adjacent creeks, islands and marshes. This is a site of national and international importance.
- Crouch and Roach Estuaries SSSI (previously known as River Crouch Marshes). This covers a network of sites (salt marsh, intertidal mud, grazing marsh, a fresh water reservoir) including Brandy Hole and Lion Creek, Paglesham Pool, Bridgemarsh Island and marshes near Upper Raypits. This site is of national and international importance.
4.4.12 Local Nature Reserves (LNR's) support wildlife and natural features that are important at the local level. These sites provide opportunities for learning and enjoyment to local communities and are a valuable element of the hierarchical network of protective nature conservation designations across the district. The Council, under the provisions of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, will declare further Local Nature Reserves where considered appropriate. To date four LNR's have been declared:
- Kendall Park (Hullbridge Foreshore). Declared by the Council in 1995. Managed by Hullbridge Parish Council.
- Hockley Woods. Declared by the Council in 1995. Managed by the District Council.
- Marylands Local Nature Reserve. Declared by the Council in January 2000. Managed by Hockley Parish Council; and
- Magnolia Nature Reserve. Declared by the Council in March 1999. Managed by Hawkwell Parish Council.
4.4.13 An extension of the Southend on Sea Foreshore Local Nature Reserve into the Rochford District to include the Maplin Bund is due to be declared. In addition to these statutory sites Essex Wildlife Trust owns nature reserves at Lion Creek and Lower Raypits, Canewdon.
4.4.14 Wildlife Sites are non-statutory sites of local nature conservation importance. They are given protection by a Local Plan policy. The following sites lie within the district:
Bartonhall Grove, Beckney Wood, Belchamps Camp (Hockley Woods), Bett's Wood, Blounts Wood, Buller's Grove, Cottons Wood, Folly Wood, Great Hawkwell New Wood, Great Hawkwell Plantation, Grove Woods, Gustedhall Wood, Hambro Hill Wood, Hockley Woods SSSI, Hockleyhall New Wood, Hockleyhall/Crabtree Woods, Hullbridge Wood, Hyde Wood, Kingley Wood, Marylands Wood, New England Wood, Plumberow Wood, Potash Wood, Primrose Wood, Rawreth-hall Wood, Sloppy Wood, The Finches EWT Nature Conservation Area, The Scrubs, Trinity Wood, Whitbred's Wood & Winks Wood Complex.
A127 Special Roadside Verge, Butler's Farm Field, Edwards Hall Fields, Great Wakering
Common, Mucking Hall Marsh, Sutton Ford Bridge Pasture & The Dome Grasslands.
Blounts Mosaic, Creeksea Road Pits, Doggetts Pond, Eastwood Rise Lake, Rouncefall and Magnolia Fields & Star Lane Pits.
FRESHWATER AQUATIC SITES
Butts Hill Pond EWT Nature Conservation Area & Stannetts Lake and Creek.
Brandy Hole Marsh Extension, Canewdon Special Roadside Verge, Foulness SSSI Lion Creek Seawall EWT Reserve, Lower Raypits Farm Seawall/Saltings part of EWT Reserve, Paglesham Seawall, River Crouch Marshes SSSI & Wallasea Seawall.
4.4.15 In addition there are 14 ancient woodlands in Rochford District, defined by the Nature Conservancy Council (now Natural England) as being woodlands over 2 hectares in size, known to have existed in 1600. These areas have evolved unique characteristics and qualities throughout the centuries and are vital for their scientific and amenity importance. The Council recognises that appropriate management is the key to their future success.
4.4.16 The Council has adopted the Essex Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) and is committed to meeting the objectives and targets set out within it. The BAP identified four flagship species for the Rochford district, these are:
- Heath fritillary butterfly (Mellicta athalia)
- Common Cow Wheat (Melampyrum pratense)
- Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)
- Wild Service Tree (Sorbus torminalis)
4.4.17 The Council is committed to the Essex Biodiversity Action Plan objectives and targets, for all habitats and species, which seek to ensure that they are satisfactorily protected and managed.
4.4.18 Following our initial consultation, it has become clear that the attractive landscapes, habitats and species are features that are greatly valued by residents and visitors alike. The Council will continue its policy of seeking to protect and enhance these landscapes and biodiversity.
4.4.19 The Council's preferred options for the protection and enhancement of special landscapes, habitats and species are:
- The Council will develop policies that seek to ensure protection for the undeveloped coast. Any development proposed for the undeveloped coast must require a coastal location.
- The Council will develop policies which seek to ensure protection for the three Special Landscape Areas allowing only for development that has location, size, siting, design, materials and landscaping according with the character of the area in which the development is proposed.
- The Council will develop policies that seek to ensure protection of the Area of Historic Landscape and Ancient Woodlands from development that would adversely affect their historic importance, existing landscape character or physical appearance.
- The Council will develop policies that seek to ensure protection for Wildlife Sites, Local Nature Reserves and Biodiversity Action Plan species and habitats.
4.4.20 Alternative options for enhancement and protection of special landscapes, habitats and species are:
- No protection for the landscape as this is an evolving feature and artificial designations create artificial landscapes.
- Freedom for agriculture, horticulture, equine uses, leisure and tourism to develop in these areas, whilst maintaining restrictions on general employment and housing uses.
4.4.21 These alternatives have been discounted because they fail to meet sustainable development objectives, the Corporate Vision and Principal Aims.
4.5 Housing Numbers & Phasing
4.5.1 The housing provision for Rochford for the period 2001 to 2021 is specified in the East of England Plan. The Council will make site specific allocations in the Allocations DPD.
4.5.2 The Council will allocate sufficient land to meet the East of England Plan allocation of 4600 dwelling units, minus the 901 dwelling units between 1st April 2001 and 31st March 2006. This leaves the district an allocation of 3699 dwelling units. The site specific details included in the Allocations DPD will be determined by the settlement pattern (see section 4.6), the density of development and other appropriate factors.
4.5.3 The Council is reviewing its Urban Capacity Study, which was prepared in 2001. This is being reviewed taking into account sites that have been developed, changing criteria and urban capacity study preparation guidance.
4.5.4 In determining the amount of land required, the Council will take into account the number of housing units already completed and those granted planning permission. No allowance will be made for so-called windfall sites in existing urban areas. Windfall sites are defined as being those sites which are developed, but which are not on allocated sites. An example of this would be the demolition of a single dwelling and its replacement with a number of dwellings. The intensification of existing urban areas has not greatly improved their character or the environment, although it has helped to restrict demand for green belt development.
4.5.5 Given that the Council wishes to continue to restrict green belt development, there is a significant role for the use of previously developed land. Such sites will generally be bigger sites within urban areas, rather than numerous small sites. This will reduce the reliance on windfall, and will allow for the maximisation of infrastructure improvements, consistent with the Council's approach for green field sites.
4.5.6 The Council will also consider the relocation of existing sites which are bad neighbour uses. This is the continuation of a current policy. Such relocations would free up land within existing residential areas and would improve general residential amenity. When such relocations are proposed the Council will ensure that replacement facilities are made available in advance of the relocation. This will also enable the enhancement of the Council's somewhat dated industrial estates.
4.5.7 The Council will specify the locations of proposed development in detail in the Allocations DPD. However, it is not intended that all of this development should come forward together. To meet the targets cascaded from the East of England Plan, all units will need to be completed by 2021. To enable the prioritisation of resources, sites will be allocated and phased, to reduce any losses of amenity to existing residents.
4.5.8 The development of the District is directly related to the availability of the necessary services and infrastructure and the processing of the required permissions. The development of the area needs to ensure that services and infrastructure can be phased to achieve development objectives in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner. The rate and sequence of growth shall be phased in a manner as to ensure the logical extension of adequate services, such as schools and public open space, to accommodate growth.
4.5.9 From the initial consultation it was made very clear that housing numbers were considered to be too high. However, this is something over which the Council has no control. The Council has to ensure that at least 4600 new homes are built in the district between 2001 and 2021, in order to be consistent with the East of England Plan and to comply with the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.
4.5.10 Respondents also made it clear that further intensification of the existing urban areas was not popular. Conversely, green belt releases were unpopular. In summary new homes have to be built and land has to be released to ensure that a land supply is available. The compromise for the Council is to release land from the edge of settlements, which does not have a significant impact on the green belt and to ensure development takes place at a density that reduces the land required, whilst still ensuring high quality development.
4.5.11 The Council's preferred options for housing numbers and phasing are:
- The Council will ensure that enough land is allocated to accommodate the cascaded figure for homes from the East of England Plan for the period 2001 to 2021.
- The Council will prioritise the reuse of previously developed land in urban areas, on bigger sites, but will resist the intensification of smaller sites, by setting local densities in line with the guidance in Planning Policy Statement 3 - Housing.
- A timescale will be specified detailing the expected phasing of development, which will be at a slightly increasing rate from 2009 - 2021.
4.5.12 Alternative options for housing numbers and phasing are:
- Relying on windfall development and urban intensification, to prevent the need for any green belt releases.
- Not allocating land to accommodate all the dwelling units and relying on a percentage of windfall development and urban intensification.
4.5.13 These alternatives have been discounted because they fail to meet sustainable development objectives, the Corporate Vision and Principal Aims.
4.6 General Development Locations
4.6.1 The Council has a duty, under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act (2004) to promote sustainable development. This duty is further reinforced by Planning Policy Statement 1 - Delivering Sustainable Development. The Rochford district is linear in shape and has significant out commuting for jobs and services. To reduce reliance on motorised transport and to place development close to facilities and services, a development pattern needs to be sought which reflects this.
4.6.2 The Council will allocate land in locations that are considered sustainable and such locations will be tested through the Strategic Environmental Assessment / Sustainability Appraisal process. The Council will not allocate sites which are considered sensitive due to landscape designations, biodiversity issues or where they may be at risk of flooding.
4.6.3 Within the district there are three tiers of settlement. The top tier is that comprising Hawkwell / Hockley, Rayleigh and Rochford / Ashingdon. These are all settlements with a good range of services and facilities as well as some access to public transport. They are capable of sustaining some expansion, infilling and redevelopment.
4.6.4 The second tier comprises Canewdon, Great Wakering and Hullbridge. These are settlements with a more limited level of services which can accommodate only small-scale development or minor extensions that address specific local needs.
4.6.5 The third tier comprises all the remaining isolated green belt settlements, e.g. Stambridge and Paglesham Church End. These are settlements with few services, which cannot sustainably accommodate development other than for demonstrated local needs.
4.6.6 Taking into account such sustainability issues, the Council believes that the settlement pattern should be focused on existing settlements, with the main settlements in the district taking the majority of development required. The majority is defined as 90% of the housing development required. The main settlements are considered to be Hawkwell / Hockley, Rayleigh and Rochford / Ashingdon.
4.6.7 Having considered this approach and believing that the balance is about right, although not evenly split between these top tier settlements, it is considered appropriate to state what this split will be. This is laid out below with an estimation of the approximate number units to be provided in each settlement.
4.6.8 Whilst the majority of new development will be focused on the most sustainable sites around these settlements, there will be minor extensions to Canewdon, Great Wakering and Hullbridge, accounting for around 10% of the housing total. For the remaining settlements, which are all islands in the green belt, no allocations are proposed. However, if there is a proven local need for affordable housing, the Council will retain an exceptions policy in the Allocations DPD. The first stage in identifying this local need will be the preparation of a village appraisal or parish plan.
4.6.9 The initial consultation made it clear that respondents felt that all settlements in the district has received more than their fair share of housing and that more should be allocated to alternative locations. There was some feeling that each parish or area should take an equal share of development. Such an approach falls well short of the Council's duty to deliver sustainable development.
4.6.10 The Council's preferred options for general development locations are:
- The Council will set out a policy detailing a settlement hierarchy split into three tiers based on services and sustainability.
- The Council will set out a policy detailing a timescale for the expected phasing of development.
The Council will set out a policy allocating the total number of housing units to the top (90%) and second tier (10%) settlements, to gain a smaller number of large sites which will deliver the greatest amount of infrastructure improvements. The split (with approximate numbers) will be as follows:
Housing Units Completions 2001-2006 900 Rochford / Ashingdon 1000 Hockley / Hawkwell 400 Rayleigh 1800 Smaller settlements 500
4.6.11 Alternative options for general development locations are:
- Greater dispersal making more use of settlements in the east of the district.
- Greater dispersal to minor settlements, enabling possible regeneration of local facilities.
- Focus solely on an expansion of one settlement, creating a significant urban expansion.
4.6.12 These alternatives have been discounted because they fail to meet sustainable development objectives, the Corporate Vision and Principal Aims.
4.6.13 The evidence base prepared by the Council, including the Strategic Environmental Assessment and Sustainability appraisal, underpins the conclusions reached about the distribution of the housing allocations between the settlements in the district following the principal of incremental expansion.
4.6.14 As explained, the Council's preferred approach to accommodating the housing allocation to 2021 is to focus on existing settlements, with the main settlements taking the majority of the housing required. That being the case a requirement of the Core Strategy is to identify the details of the broad locations for the housing allocations.
4.6.15 In reaching a decision about the broad distribution of future housing the starting point is that the top tier of settlements - Rayleigh (population 30,196), Rochford/Ashingdon (population 10,775), and Hockley/Hawkwell (population 20,140) are best placed to accommodate expansion.
4.6.16 The top tier settlements are generally better located in relation to the highway network, though the provision of new housing must be used as an opportunity to seek infrastructure improvements, particularly in relation to the highway network.
4.6.17 Having concluded that the top tier settlements should take the majority of new housing the key issue then to consider is the distribution of the allocation. The top tier settlements are different in a number of ways and an analysis of these differences is crucial to reaching a conclusion about distribution.
4.6.18 Rayleigh is the largest settlement by some way and offers a wide range of services and facilities. The town is closely connected to the A127, the main road distributor for South East Essex. Strategic buffers have been identified to maintain the gaps between the town and Hockley in the north east and Southend in the south east. The Upper Roach Valley and its ancient landscape is a limitation of expansion to the east, but there are few other protective designations close to the settlement.
4.6.19 Hockley/Hawkwell is less well located in relation to the existing highway network and close to its edges the conurbation has a more rural feel than Rayleigh and Rochford/Ashingdon. Hawkwell is the best located part of the conurbation, being only a short distance from the Cherry Orchard Way link road. There are a range of environmental designations surrounding the area from the Roach Valley and Hockley Woods along the southern boundary to a series of open spaces and wildlife sites elsewhere. The conurbation is significantly limited, as a result, in terms of opportunities for expansion.
4.6.20 Rochford/Ashingdon has in theory reasonably good transport links to Southend and the A127, but in practice the area is heavily congested with congestion on Ashingdon Road being amongst the worst in the district. To the west, Hall Road links directly to the Cherry Orchard Way link road, but the railway bridge at the eastern end of Hall Road is a severe constraint on traffic movements.
4.6.21 There are environmental designations on the west side of Ashingdon north of the railway line and Rochford town centre is a conservation area and its setting must be protected. There are some opportunities for expansion, though road infrastructure will need to be carefully considered.
4.6.22 Therefore, taking account of the size, location, environmental designations and the need to ensure that new housing development is sustainable, it is concluded that of the dwellings (90% of 3700) to be accommodated in the top tier settlements, 1800 should be provided in Rayleigh, 1000 in Ashingdon/Rochford and 400 in Hockley/Hawkwell.
4.6.23 There is no doubt that improvements to existing transport and other infrastructure will be required to accommodated these levels of expansion, and the specific location of new housing will need to be carefully considered, though the requirement to demonstrate an immediately available 5 year supply of housing places a limitation on any significant loading of provision to later in the plan period.
4.7 Affordable Housing
4.7.1 Affordable housing is defined in Planning Policy Statement 3 - Housing (PPS3) as:
"Affordable housing includes social rented and intermediate housing, provided to specified eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. Affordable housing should:
- Meet the needs of eligible households including availability at a cost low enough for them to afford, determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices.
- Include provision for the home to remain at an affordable price for future eligible households or, if these restrictions are lifted, for the subsidy to be recycled for alternative affordable housing provision."
4.7.2 LPAs must negotiate with developers for the inclusion of an element of affordable housing provision on larger sites, either through provision on the site or through a contribution so that houses can be provided elsewhere in the district where a need has been identified.
4.7.3 A Housing Needs Survey was completed in 2004, which established an outstanding net total need for 291 affordable homes per annum. This calculation took into account the Council's waiting list, homeless and concealed households, and requirements emanating from demographic changes. It is clear from the study that there is too little affordable housing in the district to satisfy local needs.
4.7.4 The East of England Plan contains policy SS13 on Overall Housing Provision, which provides guidance for LPAs on the level of affordable housing that they should seek. This level of affordable housing will be informed through the preparation of Housing Needs Study, but will aspire to a regional target of 35%. Given the backlog of affordable housing need and the need to provide for the current plan period, the LPA consider a rate of 30% to be appropriate for the district.
4.7.5 The implementation of this target will recognise the limited contribution that the district can make in terms of the regional picture. Recent guidance published by the government in Planning Policy Statement 3 - Housing, makes it clear that local authorities should reflect affordable housing guidance on their areas, taking into account the regional target. The national indicative threshold for sites to provide affordable house is 15 units and the regional affordable housing target is 35%. However, the Council considers that given the character and make-up of the residential areas in the district the threshold should be set at 25 units at a rate of 30%.
4.7.6 The Council will examine the details of affordable housing through other DPDs. It is intended that the Allocations DPD will provide a minimum figure for the number of affordable units to be completed on each of the sites specified. The Development Control Policies DPD will specify details relating to commuted payments (in lieu of affordable units on a site in exceptional circumstances) and for rural exceptions.
4.7.7 Government guidance makes it clear that the Council must meet the needs of Gypsies and Travellers. The East of England Assembly is preparing a single issue review of Gypsy and Travellers accommodation that will result in specific allocations for pitch provision on a local authority basis. Essex authorities are examining the needs of Gypsies and Travellers in the county, to input to the review.
4.7.8 Whilst any site specific allocation is for the Allocations DPD to detail, following the outcomes of the single issue review, the Core Strategy should include a policy detailing the Council's approach. Such an approach must be consistent with the tenets of Circular 1/2006 - Planning for Gypsy and Traveller Caravan Sites.
4.7.9 The initial consultation responses made it clear that respondents wanted low affordable housing to be provided for local people. Quite how local would be defined is subjective and not necessarily something that the planning system can currently resolve.
4.7.10 The Council's preferred options for affordable housing are:
- The Council will have a policy ensuring that the level of affordable housing will be set at 30% on all developments of 25 or more units, unless such a site is considered to be a rural exception site.
- Affordable housing must be spread throughout the new housing developments.
- On rural exceptions sites all units provided will be required to be affordable. On all sites affordable units will be required to remain affordable in perpetuity.
- All Gypsy and Traveller needs will be accommodated as part of the mainstream housing site allocations.
4.7.11 Alternative options for affordable housing are:
- 40% of all new homes on sites in excess of 15 units, will be affordable.
- No rural exceptions policy, because of potential sustainable development issues with rural housing.
4.7.12 These alternatives have been discounted because they fail to meet sustainable development objectives, the Corporate Vision and Principal Aims.
4.8.1 In the past Structure Plans have cascaded a requirement to local plans detailing the amount of land that should be allocated for employment uses. The East of England Plan instead allocates a number of jobs for each sub-region to provide. Rochford district is within the Thames Gateway sub-region and policy TG/SE2 - Employment Generating Development details that the district should provide 3000 new jobs during the plan period.
4.8.2 The Council cannot assess what demand for jobs there will be in this area towards the end of the plan period. It would also be difficult to ascertain what employment sector such jobs would be created in.
4.8.3 Having said this, the Council believes that London Southend Airport has the ability to provide a further number of aviation related employment jobs. This is shown in the East of England Plan by the recognition of the airport as a key employment generator. Some of these jobs will be directly linked to the growth in passenger flights and some will be related to the continuing service and maintenance uses.
4.8.4 A number of jobs will be created on the Rochford Business Park, being created to the west of the B1013, on the boundary with Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. The first phase of the development of this site is underway and this will focus on jobs within the motor trade. Car dealerships and associated servicing and repair facilities are expected to commence operation by 2008.
4.8.5 It is envisaged that about 2000 jobs will be provided within the district at London Southend Airport, Rochford Business Park and the remainder of the allocation being provided at various locations throughout the rest of the district. The preparation of the Joint Area Action Plan for land to the west of Rochford will enable a greater degree of control and the encouragement of appropriate businesses in this area, reinforcing the Council's approach.
4.8.6 The Council has a number of industrial estates in the district, which are looking tired and in need of investment. Some are also in areas that are prejudicial to good neighbourliness. The Council will consider the location and condition of existing industrial estates and may consider the creation of new employment areas in more sustainable locations. The Council will need to consider the relocation of existing bad neighbour uses to more appropriate locations.
4.8.7 The Allocations DPD will provide site specific allocations for employment purposes. The Development Control Policies DPD will include specific policies dealing with how the issues and challenges arising from employment uses will be handled, including transport and amenity issues.
4.8.8 The Council's preferred options for employment are:
- The Council will allocate a total number of jobs to be created in the district, using the East of England Plan cascaded figure, and taking account of the Regional Employment Strategy.
- The Council will prepare a Joint Area Action Plan, which will cover land to the west of Rochford, including the significant existing and possible employment uses in this area.
- The Council will programme employment development in advance of new housing, wherever possible.
4.8.9 Alternative options for employment are:
- No jobs figure to be included, as it is too difficult to accurately provide for such a figure.
- Provide no details of the general locations, as it is unrealistic to plan for employment development in excess of ten years in advance.
4.8.10 These alternatives have been discounted because they fail to meet sustainable development objectives, the Corporate Vision and Principal Aims.
4.9 Good Design & Design Statements
4.9.1 Development and building design in the past relied heavily on local tradition, building form and materials. However, more recently the adoption of modern standardised building materials and building design has, in some cases, begun to erode the character of the district. Good design is therefore clearly relevant when considering proposals that may affect older buildings, especially those that are listed due to their architectural or historic interest. Careful consideration must be given to the design of all new development. The Council has adopted the Essex Design Guide and will be working towards adoption of the Urban Place Supplement as a Supplementary Planning Document through the Local Development Framework.
4.9.2 Whilst it is considered that style is a matter of personal taste, or preference, good design is easier to define and forms a strong element of government planning policy and guidance in terms of buildings, their settings and the spaces around them. Design is therefore viewed as an important element in the protection of townscape character, as a means of enhancing environmental quality and as a way of ensuring a positive contribution is made by new development to the environment as a whole.
4.9.3 Planning Policy Statement 1 - Delivering Sustainable Development states that development plans should include design policies that encourage good design and that local planning authorities should reject poor designs, such as those that are out of scale or character with their surroundings. Aspects of design that plan policies should concentrate on include scale, density, massing, height, location in relation to other buildings and overall relationship to the surroundings.
4.9.4 As referred to in PPS1, design statements demonstrate how schemes have been designed to respond positively to the character of the area in which they are proposed. Design statements should accompany those applications for development proposals as stated in the Supplementary Planning document (SPD) dealing with this issue - 7. The degree of detail necessary is dependent on the complexity or sensitivity of the application and the site, but it is anticipated that in most cases the design statement will be short and succinct.
4.9.5 The provision of a design statement, if undertaken appropriately, should aid the decision making process and will enable a wider audience to understand the rationale for adopting a particular design approach. There are three essential steps to producing a Statement. These are site analysis, identifying design principles and creating design solutions. SPD7 provides further information.
4.9.6 The Council's commitment to sustainable development will also be underlined by the inclusion of a policy specifying the need to comply with the Code for Sustainable Homes.
4.9.7 On the 10th August 2006, Design and Access Statements became a statutory requirement for non-householder planning applications. Developers are urged to consider the provision of a lifetime homes standard and the Council will promote this through the Development Control Policies DPD. This reflects the Council and government's commitment to this issue as demonstrated in the Essex Local Area Agreement.
4.9.8 The initial consultation made it clear that respondents value their environment and appreciated good quality design. The Council considers that it should - particularly in conservation areas - continue to strive for high quality design.
4.9.9 The Council's preferred options for good design and design statements are:
- A detailed Design Brief will be required in advance of the submission of all major planning applications.
- The Council will include a policy requiring 25% of all units provided to meet a lifetime housing standard.
- The Council will require compliance with the minimum standards, as set out in the Code for Sustainable Homes.
- The Council will prepare a policy requiring all new major development proposals to be accompanied by the Health Impact Assessment.
4.9.10 Alternative options that the Council considered are:
- No emphasis on design, as the market will decide whether the product is acceptable.
- No emphasis on lifetime housing, as homeowners can make changes in future years.
- No emphasis on sustainable design as Building Regulations will deliver sustainable homes.
4.9.11 These alternatives have been discounted because they fail to meet sustainable development objectives, the Corporate Vision and Principal Aims.
4.10 Character of Place & the Historic Environment
4.10.1 The district has a distinctive character. As stated previously, all new development will be expected to make a positive contribution to this character and be of good design and quality. Quality and good design are important everywhere, whether it be to preserve the character of a conservation area or to bring about improvement and regeneration of an urban area. It is also essential to producing attractive, vibrant, sustainable places, in which people want to live, work and relax.
4.10.2 The appearance of a proposed development and its relationship to its surroundings is a material consideration in determining planning applications and appeals. PPS1 makes it clear that good design should be the aim of all those involved in the development process.
4.10.3 The district has a unique character and appearance, much of which stems from the traditional buildings that still dominate the towns and villages. These are mostly of a simple form that is easily replicable. Design will be expected to enhance this local identity by being sympathetic to local needs and by building on local opportunities. Corporate identities, and ‘in-house building styles', will be expected to be adapted to the local setting and not the other way around.
4.10.4 Many of the high quality built environments of the district have been designated as Conservation Areas. These areas have a distinctive character and the Local Planning Authority has commissioned Conservation Area Appraisals and Management Plans for these areas. These areas also contain many listed buildings. These areas and buildings have statutory protection. The Council will adopt all the Conservation Area Appraisals and Management Plans by the end of the 2007/8 financial year.
4.10.5 The Council dropped its Local List during the preparation of the Rochford District Replacement Local Plan, but more modern guidance suggests that these lists do have a valuable role. There is now positive encouragement from the government through the recent white paper for the preparation of such lists.
4.10.6 The Council will reinstate its Local List and will update the List to take account of recent developments. Such a list will be a living document and will include written descriptions and photographs.
4.10.7 Responses to the Council's initial consultation made it clear that respondents value their local environment and believe that the historic character of the district is well worth retaining. However, it was also made clear that the Council should not over-concentrate on this issue.
4.10.8 The Council's preferred options for character of place and the historic environment are:
- The Council will provide policies to ensure the protection of the district's identity and ensuring that new development respects the local character.
- The Council will prepare a Local List and a policy to give protection to buildings that demonstrate local, historic or architectural importance that would otherwise not be protected in their own right.
4.10.9 Alternative options that the Council considered are:
- No emphasis on character of place, as over-emphasis will lead to pattern book designing and a lack of innovation.
- Prescriptive design guidance within policy to ensure uniform design and high standards.
4.10.10 These alternatives have been discounted because they fail to meet sustainable development objectives, the Corporate Vision and Principal Aims.
4.11.1 The local planning authority is committed to both maintaining and enhancing environmental quality in the district. To this end, developments must contain a well-considered and high quality landscape content, which can be properly and cost effectively maintained. Many developments requiring planning permission are enhanced by the inclusion of hard and/or soft landscaping - particularly new build or refurbishment. This is an integral and important design factor as relevant in considering an application as land use, siting, access and architectural design.
4.11.2 The landscape treatment of development sites is considered to be essential in order to integrate new development into its surroundings, improve the landscape character and appearance of a site and to fulfil the site's landscape potential. Landscape planning should be regarded as an integral part of the design process. Too often schemes are prepared for the buildings and roads before any consideration is given to the rest of the landscape. Consequently, landscaping elements are often poorly thought out, inappropriate to the particular area and opportunities to enhance the landscape may be lost.
4.11.3 In particular, proposals for new development should demonstrate that sufficient space is made for the introduction of new replacement trees, and the routes for service trenches should be clearly shown. It is to the advantage of the developer to treat the environmental aspects of the proposed development seriously and to take professional advice where necessary to comply with this and other local plan policies.
4.11.4 The local planning authority believes it is no longer acceptable to agree, or postpone by condition, landscaping details until after planning permission has been granted. This will enable the planning application to be progressed more effectively and increase the likelihood of a quick and favourable decision. Where environmental aspects are not well considered, delays may be experienced due to the negotiation of amendments, or a refusal.
4.11.5 The local planning authority will also use planning contributions under Section 46 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 to seek appropriate local environmental improvements where these are necessary to support proposed development. Appropriate environmental improvements will include the provision of landscaping and open space of a size and layout appropriate to the development.
4.11.6 The Council's preferred option for landscaping is:
- Push landscaping details to the fore of the planning application process and making them a prerequisite for determination for certain application types.
4.11.7 Alternative options that the Council considered are:
- No emphasis on landscaping, as this is not a major part of the development. In any event it can be tackled through the use of conditions.
- Continue determining landscaping details post-application and through enforcement work.
4.11.8 These alternatives have been discounted because they fail to meet sustainable development objectives, the Corporate Vision and Principal Aims.
4.12 Energy & Water Conservation & Renewable Energy
4.12.1 The local planning authority believes that given the climate and resources of the locality that there is a need to reduce energy and water consumption not only for the benefit of the local environment, but also for the global environment. This is the tenet of Local Agenda 21, which the Council supports.
4.12.2 PPS1 and the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act have pushed sustainable development to the very heart of planning. Whilst local action may not be enough to resolve global challenges, the cumulative impact of such actions may.
4.12.3 The East of England Plan contains policy ENV8 and ENV9 which, together with their supporting text, provide a framework for supporting the Council's approach to this challenge.
4.12.4 Energy conservation is the efficient use of energy and the generation of energy from renewable sources will contribute towards the achievement of more sustainable forms of development. In February 2000, the Government published its initial conclusions on its new policy for renewable energy in the UK. In February 2003, the Government published its White Paper on Energy - Our energy future - creating a low carbon economy. The Government's policy focus is the need for energy efficiency and the increased use of renewable energy.
4.12.5 The Government has an initial 10 year strategy, in collaboration with industry, to help meet its aims. Specifically, it is proposing that 5% of UK electricity needs should be met from renewables by the end of 2003 and 10% by 2010, as long as the cost to consumers is acceptable. These targets are intended to act as a stimulus to industry and provide milestones for progress monitoring. However, the East of England Sustainable Development Round Table published a report in 2001 setting a target for the East of England of 14% and one for Essex of 9% for the same period.
4.12.6 The East of England Plan has a strong section on this issue; policy ENV8 and paragraphs 9.30 et seq. spell this out clearly. However, this does not take the issue far enough and it does not challenge developers to provide options on new development that will actually tackle the problem of climate change, given the likely nature of development in the Rochford district. The cost of such provision has fallen dramatically over the last ten years and there is now no reason why all development should not include renewable energy provision.
4.12.7 Since renewable energy sources can usually only be exploited where they occur the most likely proposals coming forward in and around the district relate to wind energy, tidal or wave action and solar power. Significant issues may be raised by offshore wind energy proposals which would be outside local planning authority control, but which potentially could have an impact over a much wider area. Heat pumps are a particularly useful way of providing energy to new housing developments.
4.12.8 Whilst recognising the contribution made by renewable energy, such forms of generation as wind turbines can have significant visual impacts, as well as other local impacts, in some cases, on the natural environment. The LPA will seek to balance the potential benefits of schemes against any adverse effects on local amenity that may arise. The location of such developments therefore needs to be carefully considered.
4.12.9 Responses to the Council's initial consultation made it clear that respondents were very strongly supportive of measures that increased water and energy conservation in all new homes. There was a strong feeling that more could be done at a small scale with regard to renewable energy generation, although there were concerns about the impact on the district of more major schemes.
4.12.10 The direction that the Council is moving in, ties in with the government's agenda and the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill, currently being scrutinized by Parliament.
4.12.11 The Council's preferred options for energy and water conservation and renewable energy are:
- The Council will produce development control policies that reduce the need to travel and encourage the use of energy efficient transport.
- The Council will produce a policy requiring all new homes to be compliant with the minimum standards of the Code for Sustainable Homes.
- The Council will produce policies to ensure that all new development in the district is carbon neutral.
- The Council will produce policies that require all new homes to have water and energy conservation measures.
- The Council will produce policies covering small and large-scale renewable schemes.
- The Council will produce a policy ensuring that new development promotes the development of environmentally efficient buildings and the use of energy efficient heating, lighting, cooling, ventilation and other powered systems, together with water conservation measures.
4.12.12 Alternative options that the Council considered are:
- No need for a policy on sustainable design, as this will be delivered through Building Regulations.
- Push for any renewable energy uses in any location, despite possible landscape implications.
- Set a threshold for development size or number before requiring renewable energy to be included.
4.12.13 These alternatives have been discounted because they fail to meet sustainable development objectives, the Corporate Vision and Principal Aims.
4.13 Compulsory Purchase & Planning Obligations
4.13.1 Previous local plans have included policies on bad neighbour uses and non-conforming uses, in order to protect residential amenity. The Rochford District Replacement Local Plan does not have such a policy, as it was recommended for removal by the Local Plan Inspector. However, since this has happened there have been further developments in this area.
4.13.2 The Planning & Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 has changed the way in which Councils can act with regard to compulsory purchase and the reasons for carrying out such activities are clearer. The Act states in Part 8, Section 99 that the Council can seek to compulsorily purchase land for:
- the promotion or improvement of the economic well-being of their area;
- the promotion or improvement of the social well-being of their area;
- the promotion or improvement of the environmental well-being of their area.
4.13.3 The Council will consider using compulsory purchase powers to ensure residential amenity and may consider using such powers to ensure sustainable and long-term development opportunities for residential and employment purposes, together with further expansion of the Cherry Orchard Jubilee Country Park (if required) and informal countryside recreation opportunities within the Upper Roach Valley.
4.13.4 The government issued revised guidance to Local Planning Authorities on Planning Obligations in Circular 05/2005. The Council has already outlined its intention to produce detailed guidance on this issue in its Local Development Scheme, where such a document is envisaged for production post-2008. The Council considers that it is prudent to deliver sustainable development using this mechanism and will deliver social, economic and environmental objectives using this approach.
4.13.5 The Council will use Planning Obligations to deliver compensatory or mitigatory measures in circumstances where a development causes demonstrable harm. Such measures will reduce the impact to a level where planning permission can be granted without a significant adverse impact. Further detail about the working of this document will be produced in the Local Development Document.
4.13.6 Responses to the initial consultation showed some considerable scepticism as to the ability of the Council to use compulsory purchase powers appropriately. The Council believes that such powers could and would only be used for the three reasons outlined by the 2004 Act.
4.13.7 The Council's preferred options with regard to Compulsory Purchase and Planning Obligations are:
- Set the framework to ensure that employment, residential, recreational and environmental enhancements for the district can be brought forward using compulsory purchase powers.
- Produce a strategic policy detailing the working of Planning Obligations in the Rochford District, from which the detail of the relevant Local Development Document can be delivered.
4.13.8 Alternative options that the Council considered are:
- No compulsory purchase policy and attempt to use the legislation if required.
- Designate specific potential compulsory purchase sites, despite blight and/or cost implications.
4.13.9 These alternatives have been discounted because they fail to meet sustainable development objectives, the Corporate Vision and Principal Aims.
4.14 Community, Leisure & Tourism Facilities
4.14.1 There is a reasonable level of community and leisure facilities in the district, concentrated around the existing urban areas. In rural areas facilities are of a lower level and generally of a poorer quality. It is intended that development can help to redress this imbalance in certain circumstances.
4.14.2 Throughout the district there are few tourist attractions, other than the natural environment. The district has a good range of public houses and restaurants, which provide sustenance for daytrippers, but there is little overnight accommodation. Hotels can be found in Rayleigh and Rochford, but in rural areas there is virtually no overnight accommodation, with the exception of one or two caravan and camping sites.
4.14.3 Planning Policy Statement 6 - Planning for Town Centres (PPS6) includes a sequential test. Hotels are considered to be a town centre use and therefore must comply with this test. However, it is thought that there is a need for bed and breakfast and guesthouse accommodation.
4.14.4 Planning Policy Statement 7 - Sustainable Development in Rural Areas (PPS7) sets out the national government policy on tourism and leisure in rural areas in paragraphs 34 to 36. There is a strong presumption that such facilities will be developed in existing settlements. PPS7 also states that development should take place in existing buildings wherever possible, particularly where it is outside of existing settlement boundaries.
4.14.5 This approach is further reinforced by Planning Policy Guidance Note 2 - Green Belts (PPG2). PPG2 makes it clear that certain types of development will be considered appropriate in green belt locations. PPG2 does however, allow for development to take place where it results in the re-use of an existing building. Many types of tourism and leisure facilities are unlikely to be considered appropriate, although they may make use of existing buildings. Annex D of PPG2 provides further advice on this issue. New housing associated with tourism and leisure uses will not be favourably considered.
4.14.6 The East of England Plan includes policy E13 on tourism, although this is not particularly relevant to the district, except in terms of ensuring that tourism and tourism development are sustainable. Also of relevance is the need to reduce seasonality of tourism in the region. The district could fulfil a niche role in catering for off-season breaks.
4.14.7 The selection of sites for community, leisure and tourism purposes will normally be a matter for the proponents of the schemes and applications for such proposals will be judged against material considerations.
4.14.8 The Council's preferred options with regard to Leisure, Tourism and Community Facilities are:
- The Council will provide a policy dealing with community, leisure and tourism proposals, which will provide clarity for developments.
- The Council will provide a policy dealing with healthcare facilities in the district.
4.14.9 Alternative options that the Council considered are:
- Protect the green belt without providing any further guidance, leaving it up to central government in its review of Planning Policy Guidance Note 2.
- Reduce protection of the green belt to allow for community, tourism and leisure facilities.
4.14.10 These alternatives have been discounted because they fail to meet sustainable development objectives, the Corporate Vision and Principal Aims.