Section 2 - Publication Draft Colchester Borough Local Plan

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(11) Introduction

Colchester is a diverse and growing borough, with a vibrant town centre, attractive villages and important natural landscapes. Over the next 15 years the Borough will face many challenges, such as population growth and change, evolving economic trends and the need for more sustainable transportation. The Local Plan addresses these challenges to meet the needs of current and future generations whilst also protecting and enhancing the environment and people's quality of life.

The Local Plan sets out a vision, strategy, objectives and policies for planning and delivery across the Borough.  These are first set out at the strategic level across the North Essex authorities in Section 1 of the Plan, and then followed by more detailed information on Colchester in Section 2 of the Plan.  Taken together, these two parts of the Plan combine to provide a spatial framework that brings together and co-ordinates a range of strategies prepared by the Council, its partners and other agencies and authorities. It includes policies for deciding development proposals. It takes account of projected changes in the economy, employment, housing need, transport demand, and seeks to maintain the quality of the natural and built environment as well as its historic environment. It provides the strategy and policies for shaping the Borough until 2033 and beyond.

Local Plan: The Process

The Borough cannot be planned in isolation. The Local Plan has been developed in the context of a range of other plans and strategies operating at the national, county, and local levels.

National planning guidance

The Local Plan must reflect the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) issued by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Further national guidance on planning policies is provided in Planning Practice Guidance (PPG).  The NPPF establishes a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which the Local Planning Authority will implement in making its planning decisions.  It is a statutory requirement for the Local Planning Authority to produce planning policies for the Borough. The policies must comply with national planning policy unless there is overwhelming evidence to demonstrate why this is not the case. 

South East Local Enterprise Partnership

To bridge the gap between the national and local levels, business-led Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) have been established across the country. The South East LEP (SELEP) includes the Colchester Borough and comprises the areas of Essex, Kent and East Sussex. Whilst the LEP has no statutory land use planning powers, it is responsible for determining local economic priorities and undertaking activities to encourage economic growth and local job creation.

In July 2014, the SELEP agreed a "Growth Deal" with the government which aims to contribute to the LEP's Strategic Economic Plan (2014) for the period 2015 to 2021, and aims to create up to 45,000 new jobs and see 23,000 new homes built across the LEP area. The Growth Deal focuses initially on transport infrastructure and meeting the skills capital requirements identified by the LEP, but also lays the foundations for increased growth across the SELEP area. Significant investment in transport infrastructure is key to facilitating growth in jobs and housing. The transport priorities relevant to Colchester Borough focus on the A120 and A12 corridors, Great Eastern Mainline, and a range of measures to support growth at Colchester Northern Gateway, Colchester Town Centre, and the Knowledge Gateway, including investment in broadband and business parks. For Colchester Borough, over £35 million has been secured to complete projects over the five year period to 2020-21.

County Level Plans

Essex Local Transport Plan

The Essex Local Transport Plan (2011) contains the Essex Transport Strategy (2011) and sets out the 15 year vision to improve travel in the county and underlines the importance of the transport network in achieving sustainable, long term economic growth and enriching the life of residents. It is supplemented by delivery strategies for public transport, highways, cycling and public rights of way.

Economic Plan for Essex

The Economic Plan for Essex is based on the collective ambitions of all local authorities in Essex. It identifies the steps that local partners will take together, alongside the private sector and government to accelerate local growth over the period 2014-2021 and beyond. Colchester and the Haven Gateway are identified as growth locations. The plan states that the capacity of key transport corridors within Essex is a key challenge to securing growth – a challenge that partners are working together to meet. The key corridors for Colchester are the A120 and the A12 / Greater Eastern Main Line.

Essex Minerals Local Plan

Essex County Council is the minerals planning authority for the Borough, and is responsible for preparing planning policies, and also for assessing applications for mineral development. The Essex Minerals Local Plan (2014) is a statutory Development Plan and should be read alongside the Colchester Local Plan. The role of the Minerals Local Plan is to identify sites for the extraction of sufficient quantities of mineral within Essex to facilitate development over the Plan period.

There are active quarry sites in the Borough as well as currently unworked sand and gravel and brick clay deposits which are subject to a Minerals Safeguarding policy within the Minerals Local Plan. The safeguarding policy requires the minerals planning authority – Essex County Council - to be consulted on development proposals covering 5 hectares or more within the sand and gravel minerals safeguarding area and greater than one dwelling for the brick clay safeguarded area.  The Minerals Safeguarding Areas within Colchester Borough are shown on the Policies Map. Regard should be had to the requirements of the Minerals Local Plan where a development falls within a Minerals Safeguarding Area.

The Minerals Local Plan also designates Mineral Consultation Areas at a distance of 250 metres around active quarries, mineral infrastructure and mineral deposits permitted for extraction. Essex County Council will be required to be consulted on all non-mineral related development within these areas.

Essex and Southend-on-Sea Waste Local Plan

Essex County Council is the waste planning authority for the Borough, and is responsible for preparing planning policies, and also for assessing applications for waste management development. The Essex and Southend-on-Sea Waste Local Plan (2001) is a statutory Development Plan which should be read alongside the Colchester Local Plan. It sets out where and how waste management developments can occur, and is the planning policy against which waste management development planning applications are assessed. A Replacement Waste Local Plan is currently being prepared and should be adopted in 2017 to cover the period to 2033.

The Replacement Waste Local Plan proposes new waste development at Bellhouse, Stanway; Fingringhoe Quarry and Wivenhoe Quarry. It also identifies Areas of Search to meet the need for additional small scale waste management facilities. These Areas of Search are existing industrial estates within the Borough, and are located away from residential and other uses sensitive to amenity impacts such as schools, retail, leisure and office development. 

The Plan also designates Waste Consultation Areas at a distance of 250 metres around waste management facilities. Essex County Council will be required to be consulted on all non-waste related development within these areas.

Borough Strategies

The Local Plan brings together the spatial elements of the following Borough strategies and provides a focus for future development;

Colchester Borough Council Strategic Plan 2015-18 This plan sets out the direction and future potential for the Borough, with the aim of making the Borough a vibrant, thriving, prosperous and welcoming place.

Colchester Economic Strategy 2015-21 This plan provides an overarching vision and framework for economic interventions in Colchester, including guidance on partnership work and prioritising resources.

Duty to Co-operate

In preparing the Local Plan, the Local Planning Authority co-operates with a range of other bodies to ensure a co-ordinated approach in the development of its policies in line with national guidance, in the context of strategic cross-boundary matters. These bodies include Essex County Council, the neighbouring districts of Braintree, Tendring, Maldon and Babergh, together with agencies responsible for transport, health and the environment.

Further information on the duty is provided in Section1 of this Local Plan, which discusses the strategic approach to Local Plan issues across Colchester, Braintree and Tendring.

Evidence Base

Policy development goes hand in hand with the development of an evidence base of research and information. The Evidence Base contains documents from local, county and national levels. National guidance is not listed to avoid repetition, given that the Local Plan has been produced in accordance with national planning policy. The evidence gathered from the documents has been employed in the formulation of the Spatial Strategy and Policies:

Key documents making up the primary Evidence Base and available on the Council's website include:

  • Sustainability Appraisal – see explanation in following section
  • Objectively Assessed Housing Need Report – July 2015, updated November 2016
  • Strategic Housing Market Assessment – December 2015
  • Strategic Land Availability Assessment – June 2016
  • Infrastructure Delivery Plan – June 2017
  • Whole Plan Viability Study – June 2017
  • Section 1 Plan Viability Study – June 2017
  • Concept Feasibility Study for Garden Communities – June 2016
  • Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment – July 2014, updated October 2014 and June 2017
  • Employment Land Needs Assessment – January 2015
  • Employment Land Trajectory – June 2017
  • NE Essex Employment and Demographic Study – June 2017
  • Retail and Town Centre Study 2016 – December 2016
  • Travel to Work Patterns – September 2015
  • Green Infrastructure Strategy – October 2011
  • Indoor Sports Facilities and Playing Pitch Strategies – July 2015
  • Water Cycle Study – December 2016
  • Colchester Borough Local Wildlife Site Review – February 2016
  • Transport Modelling – June 2016, updated September 2016
  • Protected Lanes – March 2017
  • Coastal Protection Belt Report – June 2016
  • Settlement Boundary Review – June 2017
  • Strategic Flood Risk Assessment – April 2017
  • Evaluation of Alternatives: Metro Town and Monks Wood – June 2017

Sustainability Appraisal

Policy development has been carried out in the light of a Sustainability Appraisal, incorporating a Strategic Environmental Assessment.  The Sustainability Appraisal tests the sustainability of the Plan options throughout the production process.  It does this by considering how different policy choices perform against a range of 'sustainability' criteria.  For example, it looks at whether policies or allocations would provide new jobs, make efficient use of land and help to improve health and wellbeing.  The Sustainability Appraisal also helps to identify amendments to policies, or measures that could help to minimise any negative impacts identified and maximise the sustainability of the Local Plan.

Habitat Regulations Assessment

The Habitats Regulations Assessment is the process for determining whether a plan or project will have adverse effects on European sites.  The Local Planning Authority carried out a Habitat Regulations Assessment screening opinion and concluded that a high level of growth, regardless of location, has the potential to lead to adverse effects on European sites in the Borough, primarily owing to increased levels of recreational disturbance.  The draft Local Plan was re-screened with input from Natural England in 2016, and policies and issues were identified to be assessed for likely significant effect in the appropriate assessment. 

An appropriate assessment was undertaken, which concluded that the Local Plan, alone and in-combination, will not adversely affect the integrity of European sites.

All this evidence is made publicly available.  The Local Planning Authority will keep the evidence base under review and monitor the implementation of the Local Plan's objectives and policies. Monitoring reports on key Local Plan issues will be published on an annual basis, and will highlight whether circumstances have changed sufficiently to require a review of the Local Plan in its entirety or a review of selected policies.

Local Plan: Structure of the Plan and other related documents

Development Plan Documents for Colchester will comprise:

  • The Colchester Borough Local Plan setting out the overarching spatial vision for development of the Borough to 2033; broad locations for strategic growth; other detailed allocations; and development management policies. The Local Plan will provide the planning framework for the other Documents listed below.  Section1 outlines policy for strategic growth across North Essex, including cross-boundary Garden Communities, while Section 2 of the plan details specific policies and allocations within the Borough.  The allocations provided in the plan are shown on the associated Policies map.
  • Joint Local Plans with Tendring and Braintree District Councils which allocate land to specific uses within Garden Communities. They also provide relevant policy guidance, and set out policies for the management of development, against which planning applications for the development and use of land will be considered.
  • Neighbourhood Plans – Neighbourhood Plans when adopted / made for different areas of Colchester will form part of the Development Plan and will guide new development for their areas.
  • Essex Minerals Local Plan and Essex and Southend-on-Sea Waste Local Plan, prepared by the County Council, apply to minerals and waste development matters.

Other Colchester Planning Documents

The Local Plan is accompanied by a number of other planning documents that provide policies, guidance and feedback:

  • Policies Maps which show where Local Plan policies apply to specific locations;
  • Local Development Scheme – this lists and describes all planning policy documents and the timetable for preparing them;
  • Statement of Community Involvement – sets out how we will consult the public in preparing planning policies;
  • Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) – set out in more detail how some of the Local Plan's policies will be applied;
  • Authority Monitoring Report; 
  • Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – A charging schedule may be developed to set out how the CIL will be applied to various categories of development. This is subject to change when the Government announces how it is to proceed with CIL.


How to respond

Following this pre-submission consultation the Local Plan will be submitted for Examination.  An independent planning inspector will examine the Local Plan and assess whether the Plan has been prepared in accordance with the Duty to Cooperate, legal and procedural requirements, and whether it is sound.

All representations must identify whether the Local Plan:

  • has been prepared in accordance with the Duty to Cooperate;
  • has been prepared in accordance with legal and procedural requirements; and/or
  • whether it is sound.

If representations are made that the Plan is unsound, representations must identify why the Plan is unsound.  To be sound a Plan must be:

  • Positively prepared – the Plan should be prepared based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development;
  • Justified – the Plan should be  an appropriate strategy when considered against the reasonable alternatives, based on proportionate evidence;
  • Effective – the Plan should be deliverable over its period and based on effective joint working on cross-boundary strategic priorities; and
  • Consistent with national policy – the Plan should enable the delivery of sustainable development in accordance with the policies in the Framework.

All representations should be made online using the consultation portal: http://www.colchester.gov.uk/currentconsultations.  All supporting documents should be uploaded onto the consultation portal and a summary is required for each representation over 100 words.

You will be asked to register or login before being able to make a representation but you can read consultation documents without registering.  Once you have registered to submit representations online, you can update your own contact details as needed, and you will receive e-mails informing you when new documents are available for consultation. 

Alternatively, if you do not have access to a computer you can use the following contact details to submit a representation, although we would encourage respondents to use the online response forms wherever possible. 

By email to local.plan@colchester.gov.uk

By post to: Planning Policy, Colchester Borough Council, Rowan House, 33 Sheepen Road, Colchester, CO3 3WG

If you do submit a response via letter or email which is not on the Council's response form, please set out very clearly within your response which site, paragraph or policy your representation refers to and why you consider the plan unsound and/or not legally compliant and/or not prepared in accordance with the Duty to Cooperate. A summary of your response must be provided if the response is more than 100 words.

All consultation responses must be received no later than 5pm on 11th August 2017.

If you have any questions about the consultation please contact the Planning Policy team on 01206 282473/76 or e-mail local.plan@colchester.gov.uk

If you would like this document in an alternative format such as large print, braille or another language then please contact the Planning Policy team. 

What Happens Next?

The Plan will be published for eight weeks public consultation commencing on 16 June 2017 to enable the public and stakeholders to comment upon the soundness of the Publication Draft Local Plan.

Following the close of the Publication Draft consultation the Local Plan will be formally submitted to the Secretary of State.  An Inspector will be appointed to examine the 'soundness' of the Plan in a series of round table discussions on different issues, giving individuals and organisations the opportunity to challenge or support the Plan. If the Planning Inspector is content that the Plan is sound, then the Council can adopt the Plan, taking on board any relevant recommendations from the Inspector to change the Plan. The Council is aiming for the new Local Plan to be adopted by mid-2018.

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