Lancaster City Council raised a number of objections to our draft plan (NDP), and several developers have proposed sites in our villages for housing development. Since then, the Steering Group has met several times to consider how to proceed, working with officers from the Forest of Bowland AONB and Lancaster City Council, as well as our planning consultant. The Steering Group did consider abandoning work on the NDP, but unanimously decided to continue with the plan in some form. We were concerned that without local input there could be development on a scale and of a type which would not be compatible with our position within the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Briefly, our original intention was to rely on a criteria-led approach to evaluate proposed housing developments, and not identify any sites where housing or other development would be acceptable. However, it is now clear that Lancaster City Council has received a number of proposals for developments in the parish and will assess them and include them in its Development Plan (Strategic Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment - SHELAA). The Steering Group discussed at length whether to get involved in this site allocation process. We decided to do so, because Site Allocation will provide a more robust NDP and the LCC will be looking for sites anyway. We do not need to undertake any additional “Call for sites”, because Lancaster City Council has already called for sites as part of its plan, and we have consulted widely as part of our Neighbourhood Plan process. Furthermore, developers may propose sites to Lancaster City Council at any time in the future.
Key conditions for going down the Site Allocation route include:
- Emphasise our location within the Forest of Bowland AONB and the legal protection that should provide:
- Steering Group to brief the independent landscape consultants as well as Lancaster City Council, and meet them on site:
- Focus on meeting housing needs arising from within the local community (AONB) rather than simply meeting nationally or District-imposed targets:
- Importance of robust evidence for decisions and recommendations
Our revised NDP will benefit from the results of the 2017 Lancaster Rural Housing Survey, which should be available in October. Our revised NDP will be a hybrid - we will continue to set out our criteria for new development in the Parish, but also make clear where we would agree to housing sites already proposed by developers as part of SHELAA. A full environmental assessment will be required. This will be done by outside consultants, for a fee. This will be carried out on sites which have been identified through the SHELAA carried out on behalf of Lancaster City Council as being suitable for development. Lancaster City Council planners have also asked us to resubmit our work on green spaces, using their methodology.
We think it vital the we keep the community informed of our progress,and the Steering Group wishes to reassure all residents that we will be using independent consultants, to assess the sites, before offering them as part of the Neighbourhood Plan. However we are already in communication with the assessor so that we can explain our concerns. We recognise that some local residents would prefer not to see any sites offered, let alone some potentially developed in future. Unfortunately, in light of the National Planning Framework and the requirements it places upon both Local and Neighbourhood Plans that is not a tenable position even if we might like it to be. Without an acknowledgement that some development is inevitable, our NP would almost certainly be rejected. It is also important for the sustainability of our community that there should be the option for the young people of the village to stay living here as well as encouraging new villagers to come into the community.
We will continue to keep residents informed of our progress. Any comments - e-mail the Steering Group at firstname.lastname@example.org