West Bergholt Neighbourhood Plan
6. Preparing the Plan
6.1 How the Plan was produced
The plan was a community-led affair but affiliated to the Parish Council who acted as its sponsor. The Neighbourhood Plan was informed by village workshops, community surveys and other parish meetings. The process was overseen by a Steering Group, made up of both residents and business owners within the parish of West Bergholt, who valued the opportunity to have a say in the future shape and development of their village.
6.2 Legal Requirements
A Neighbourhood Plan must comply with a number of conditions, known as the Basic Conditions. These require that the Plan:
- has regard to national policies and advice contained in guidance issued by the Secretary of State;
- contributes towards the achievement of sustainable development;
- is in general conformity with the strategic policies contained in the development plan for the area;
- does not breach and is compatible with European Union (EU) obligations;
- is not likely to have a significant effect on a European site or a European offshore marine site, either alone or in combination with other plans or projects.
6.2.1 National Policies and Advice
The National Planning Policy Framework 2012 (NPPF) is the principal document in which national planning policies are contained.
Government guidance is provided on the Planning Practice Guidance website.
6.2.2 Sustainable Development
The NPPF sets out a presumption in favour of sustainable development. This means development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. There are three dimensions to sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.
6.2.3 Wider Policy Context for the area
West Bergholt sits within a number of other plan and service areas including:
- National Government which sets out Planning Policies & Frameworks and other matters including strategic infrastructure;
- Essex County Council which produces plans for a number of functions including minerals and waste, education, social services, highways and libraries;
- Colchester, which produces the Local Plan for the Borough area;
- Its own Parish Council, which has at its heart the representation of its community to other bodies, as well as specific localised functions covering open space, parish facilities such as community buildings and other facilities such as play and recreational activities;
- Service Specific Plans such as those set out by the Police and Fire Services and the National & Mental Health Services;
- Deregulated private bodies such as transport and utility bodies, which provide us with power, water and public transport services;
- Voluntary sector which comes in a variety of guises to fill gaps in the public and private sector.
The Neighbourhood Plan sets out to ascertain which areas would benefit from intervention and to sound its community out on areas where they think planning could be carried out at a local level.
6.2.4 Development Plans for the area
The development plan for the area consists of the Essex Minerals Local Plan 2014 and the Essex & Southend Waste Local Plan 2017, which currently provide the local planning policies which govern minerals and waste development in Essex. Colchester Borough Council have produced a set of adopted Development Plan Documents (DPD) that are referred to as the adopted Local Plan which guides future growth and development in the Borough up to 2021.
The DPD comprises the:
- Core Strategy (adopted 2008, amended 2014);
- Site Allocations DPD (adopted 2010);
- Development Policies DPD (adopted 2010, amended 2014);
- Proposals Maps (adopted 2010);
- Tiptree Jam Factory DPD (adopted 2013).
The biggest impact on local land use planning matters is Colchester's Local Plan. A new Local plan is in the process of being formulated to cover the period up to 2033. Our Neighbourhood Plan must be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the adopted Local Plan and it has also taken into account the direction of the emerging Local Plan, although the relationships with other service and planning bodies is in fact equally important.
6.2.5 EU obligations
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA)
A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) screening determination was prepared for the Neighbourhood Plan, which concluded that the Neighbourhood Plan will not result in significant environmental effects and therefore a SEA is not needed. Natural England and Historic England agreed with the conclusion that SEA is not required.
However, towards the latter stages of the Neighbourhood Plan development the draft Essex Coast Recreational disturbance Avoidance and Mitigation Strategy (RAMS) was circulated to LPA Officers. Whilst the RAMS is still in draft form, the Essex Coast RAMS sets out Zones of Influence (ZoI), which have been agreed by Natural England. Residential development falling within the ZoI is likely to significantly affect Habitats sites through increased recreational disturbance in-combination with other plans and projects across Essex. The whole of Colchester Borough is within the ZoI, which means that all residential development in Colchester Borough is likely to significantly affect Habitats sites through increased recreational disturbance in-combination. The Neighbourhood Plan therefore needs to consider appropriate avoidance/ mitigation measures. Until recently this could be done through a screening opinion, and a HRA screening report was prepared for the Neighbourhood Plan concluding no likely significant effects. However, a recent decision from the European Court of Justice (People Over Wind and Sweetman) requires avoidance and mitigation measures to be considered in an appropriate assessment rather than a screening opinion.
The implications of this are that an appropriate assessment is required for the Neighbourhood Plan, even though the effects are in-combination and relatively minor when considering that the Neighbourhood Plan allocates land for 120 dwellings and West Bergholt is not adjacent to a Habitats site.
Changes are expected to be made to the Neighbourhood Planning Regulations in December 2018 making it clear that Neighbourhood Plans can have an appropriate assessment under the Habitats Directive and meet the basic condition of no likely significant effects on Habitats sites. Once these changes have been made to the Regulations an appropriate assessment will be prepared for the Neighbourhood Plan. The SEA Directive states that SEA is mandatory if an appropriate assessment is required. Therefore, a SEA has been prepared for the Neighbourhood Plan.
6.2.6 Human Rights
The Neighbourhood Plan must comply with the Human Rights Act 1998 and be compatible with the rights protected by the European Convention of Human Rights, including those dealing with privacy, discrimination and property.
The Basic Conditions Statement explains in detail how the West Bergholt Neighbourhood Plan complies with the Basic Conditions and other legal requirements.
6.3 Consultation & Engagement
The Steering Group overseeing the development and assembly of the Neighbourhood Plan was keen to establish the following:
- Reaching the attention of as large an audience as possible;
- Providing regular opportunities to participate at key stages in the plan's production;
- Providing feedback opportunities;
- Giving information;
- Partnering with organisations which have a stake in the plan.
The group set out to do this via its meetings, workshops, surveys, exhibitions, face to face meetings and through a visible presence on the website, village notice boards and in the Village Bulletin. A full consultation and involvement summary are provided in the supporting documents.
6.3.1 Consultation: Baselining 'the current situation'
In 2013, workshops and surveys were undertaken to establish how people felt about the village and to establish key lines of enquiry. Surveys of households, businesses, schools and colleges were undertaken. Results are included in the supporting documents, but key points were recorded as follows:
In total, nearly 500 households representing over 1000 people responded to the various consultations.
Key issues identified were:
- Traffic issues and road maintenance - Road safety;
- More facilities for older children;
- Residents having a say in new development;
- Smaller starter or mixed-use developments favoured - Minimum possible new development favoured;
- Better provision of broadband;
Other points identified were:
- Strong degree of support for maintaining the identity of the village - Very strong support for preserving the environment;
- Residents feel safe in the village from crime or anti-social behaviour.
6.3.2 Consultation: Issues and Options
In April and May 2015, an Issues and Options exhibition and consultation were carried out. This took the information from the earlier surveys plus independent evidence from desktop research and played this out to the community through a range of scenarios and propositions. Results are included in the supporting documents, but key points were recorded as follows:
- 98% of residents thought it was very important or important to have a Neighbourhood Plan;
- 93% of respondents felt that giving residents a chance to influence and shape the plan and associated development was the most important reason to have one;
- Over 80% supported the vision for the plan;
- Support for the objectives, issues and proposals for the plan components were supported by well over 50% of residents;
- The option restricting the amount of housing to 100 units over the Neighbourhood Plan lifetime emerged as the clear favoured option.
6.3.3 Consultation: The Draft Outline Plan and Policies
In October 2016, a consultation on the draft plan and policies was undertaken.
Key points were as follows:
- 70-90%+ agreement on policies;
- Broad agreement to the location of new housing.
In 2018 the Neighbourhood Plan was issued in draft for a six-week consultation period in accord with Regulation 14. The responses from that consultation have now been duly considered in this Regulation 16 version of the Plan.