Holwell Parish Neighbourhood Plan – March 2017

What happens if we continue to develop our Neighbourhood Plan?

When approved, our Neighbourhood Plan becomes part of the Local Plan and its policies will work alongside the policies in the Local Plan.  A Plan can make significant changes to the policies in the Local Plan   Examples of changes a Neighbourhood Plan can include are :

  • Extending existing defined development boundaries, or adding them to settlements that do not currently have a boundary
  • Allowing open market housing on rural exception sites
  • Encouraging self-build homes or low impact dwellings where these would not currently be allowed
  • Identifying specific sites for new development

They can also provide greater certainty over what is special about an area and how those features should be considered in allowing new development.

The current Local Plan is valid until 2031 and is currently being reviewed. 

The Parish Council would continue to develop a plan that would ensure future development, regeneration and conservation of the area reflecting the wishes of the community.  The tasks would include deciding how much development may be needed, what type, where it could be built and any design requirements. 

The decisions we ask residents to consider could include proposing a Defined Development or settlement Boundary for Holwell as part of the Neighbourhood Planning process or allocating specific sites for development; this would be agreed through consultation and referendum.

If we have a settlement boundary, it would also give greater certainty over where the Local Plan policies for development adjoining a settlement (such as affordable housing or employment use) should be considered.  Without this,  decisions on exactly what is or isn’t “within” the settlement will be arbitrary and decided by planners in Dorchester or at appeal.

We can also set more detailed requirements specific to our settlement such as maximum density or minimum spacing between buildings

What happens if we don’t have a Neighbourhood Plan?

We continue to be bound by the WDDC, Weymouth and Portland Local Plan which places Holwell in a group of settlements of 200+ population without a Defined Development Boundary and when it comes to sustainable housing development, we would be covered by Policy SUS 2 – Distribution of Development which states that

iii) Outside defined development boundaries, development will be strictly controlled, having particular regard to the need for the protection of the countryside and environmental constraints, and be restricted to:

  • Agriculture, forestry or horticulture or related enterprises such as farm diversification and equestrian development;
  • Alterations and extensions to existing buildings in line with their current lawful use, including their subdivision or replacement;
  • New employment, tourism, educational/training, recreational or leisure related development;
  • affordable housing;
  • Rural workers’ housing;
  • Open market housing through the re-use of existing rural buildings;
  • Sites for gypsies, travellers and travelling show people;
  • the replacement of properties affected by coastal change in a location identified in an approved local development document;
  • proposals for the generation of renewable energy or other utility infrastructure;
  • Flood defence, land stability and coastal protection schemes;
  • local facilities appropriate to a rural area or close to an existing settlement;
  • Specific allocations in a development plan document and associated landscape and infrastructure requirements. 

Further, WDDC currently do not have a sufficient housing supply so without a Neighbourhood Plan our slightly sustainable settlement could become the focus for more homes as the policy restrictions are no longer overriding.  Another way of providing affordable homes is through ‘Exception Sites’ which are just for affordable housing on sites that would not be granted planning consent for open market housing. This allows small sites adjoining villages and towns, with relatively low land value, to provide for 100% affordable housing, without a fundamental policy objection    Local Plan Policy HOUS 2  states that small scale sites for affordable housing adjoining settlements may be permitted provided that:

  • the council is satisfied that the proposal is capable of meeting an identified,
  • current, local need within the town, local parish or group of parishes, which        cannot otherwise be met;
  • the scheme is of a character, scale and design appropriate to the location;
  • there are secure arrangements to ensure that the benefits of affordable
  • housing will be enjoyed by subsequent as well as initial occupiers

Is ‘no more development’ an option, with or without a Neighbourhood Plan?

Answer: NO.

With the Local Plan, planning applications for affordable housing, rural workers dwellings and the conversion of redundant buildings to housing would all be allowed in certain circumstances.  Although the Crouch Lane appeal may have provided enough affordable housing for the time being, there could be more need in 5 or 10 years’ time.  Also the District Council may find it difficult to refuse small sites for open market housing around the village at those times when it has a shortfall in housing land across West Dorset, due to national policy, as hinted in the recent Crouch Lane appeal decision.

The Neighbourhood Plan is about supporting development, so is expected to consider how much housing and where it should go.  If it allows enough development to meet its ‘fair share’ of housing need, it will provide a stronger defence against unwanted alternatives if and when there is a wider housing shortfall, but if it chooses not to ‘tackle’ the housing question the default position is that set out in the Local Plan. 

So in either scenario, ‘no more housing development’ is not an option.