North Somerset Council needs to produce a new Local Plan as the existing document expires in 2023. Attempts by the previous administration on the council to agree a Joint Spatial Plan with other West of England authorities collapsed last year due to problems with the details that were highlighted by planning inspectors.
Local Plans are about the big strategic decisions on planning for the future of communities over a 15-year landscape. They also spell out how housing development is to be achieved and where and help prevent a ‘free-for-all’ by housing developers that would occur if there was no Local Plan.
The government has imposed a target on North Somerset of building an extra 15,500 houses in the period 2023-38 over and above the current commitments of 5,035 houses - so an extra 20,535 houses in total.
This week, the council published a draft ‘Challenges and Choices’ report which set out some of the options for the development of the new Local Plan. Liberal Democrat councillors were not happy with the overall approach of this document and argued strongly for changes. We were supported in this by many colleagues of all parties and none in changing direction.
As a result, North Somerset Council’s Executive met yesterday to agree a new approach that aims to deliver:
🏠 A strong challenge to government on the house building target they have set for us, it’s sustainability and relevance in a post-Covid-19 world and the lack of critical investment in jobs and infrastructure to underpin it. We are determined that North Somerset must not just roll over to government diktat and build thousands of more homes without evidence of need and supporting investment.
👂 A much more open consultation on the challenges we face - with residents, businesses and stakeholders asked to contribute their ideas on meeting the challenges we face, with no preconceived ideas about locations, quantity or types of development. This is key. We must not simply dust off failed previous plans and repackage them.
❓ An important second ‘choices’ phase of engagement - setting out some of the options highlighted by the 'challenges' phase and exploring the preferences of the local community. Any new Local Plan must be shaped and led by the community first and foremost. Nobody knows better about what is right for your community than you do.
🔜 Details of the community engagement and consultation on the first ‘challenges’ face will be made available soon and we'll report back when there is more to say on this.