Agenda item

To seek the Planning Policy and Local Plan Committee’s endorsement for suggested amendments to policies in the Council’s emerging Local Plan that relate to the design, layout and quality of new housing.


The Committee had before it a comprehensive report (and appendix) of the Corporate Director (Place and Economy) (A.2) which sought its endorsement for suggested amendments to policies in the Council’s emerging Local Plan that related to the design, layout and quality of new housing.


Key Points


Members were informed that the suggested amendments to Local Plan policies set out in this report were aimed at:


·      explicitly embracing the Government’s technical housing standards which set minimum requirements for internal space in new housing;


·      explicitly setting out the Council’s expectations for minimum garden sizes in Tendring, rather than referring developers to the standards set out in the separate Essex Design Guide;


·      promoting the installation of solar panels and vehicle charging points in new residential properties along with other measures to improve sustainability, including water efficiency;


·      promoting improved standards of accessibility to ensure homes were fit for purpose and adaptable for older and disabled people; and


·      addressing any other policy wording issues either identified by Officers or raised by objectors to the Local Plan during the last formal consultation period in 2017.


The Committee was reminded that Section 2 of the Council’s emerging Local Plan contained a number of policies concerned with the design, quality and layout of development as well as renewable energy and water efficiency. Given the time that had passed since the Local Plan had been submitted to the Secretary of State to begin the examination process, Officers had been reviewing the content and specific wording of those policies, taking into account any comments that had been submitted during the last statutory consultation period in 2017, any changes in Government policy and any new evidence or other factors that had arisen. In response to specific local concerns (including those raised by the Council’s Planning Committee when determining planning applications), the Chairman of the Planning Policy and Local Plan Committee had also asked Officers to consider, specifically, whether the wording of any of the policies in the Section 2 Local Plan could be strengthened to help improve the quality of new homes, particularly in respect of their internal space, garden sizes, energy efficiency and accessibility. Those matters were considered in this report.


Internal space standards


It was reported that one of the concerns that had arisen both nationally and locally was the size of new residential property, in particular their internal dimensions and the effects they could have on quality of life. For some years, Members of this Council had referred to, and advocated a return to, the 1960s ‘Parker Morris’ housing standards (or a modern day equivalent) as a way of improving the size and quality of new housing in Tendring. In 2015, the Government had introduced optional internal space standards called the ‘Technical housing standards - nationally described space standard’ (often referred to as ‘The Standard’) which local authorities could adopt through their Local Plan policies, so long as they could evidence that they were necessary, economically viable and would not have a negative impact on affordability. Those standards were similar in many respects to the historic Parker Morris approach and Officers were satisfied that there was sufficient evidence of need and viability to justify their application. 


Members were aware that through the emerging Local Plan, the Council had already sought to embrace such minimum internal standards. Policy LP3 ‘Housing Density and Standards’ in Section 2 of the Council’s emerging Local Plan for example required new residential and mixed-use development in order to achieve an appropriate housing density that had regard to, amongst other things, “national minimum floor-space standards”. Similarly, Policy LP4 ‘Housing Layout’ required the design and layout of new residential and mixed-use developments in the Tendring District to meet certain criteria, including that they “ensure dwellings meet minimum standards of internal space”. However, as neither policy explicitly referred to the Government’s Standard Officers therefore considered that amendments would be sensible in order to avoid any ambiguity.


Members were further aware that Section 2 of the Local Plan had yet to be examined by an independent Planning Inspector (pending the final outcome of the Section 1 examination); and whilst Policies LP3 and LP4 had not attracted a significant level of objection during the last round of public consultation in 2017, there were a relatively small number of objections from the development industry which - 1) challenged the Council’s justification for wanting to apply minimum space standards and requiring evidence on need and the impacts on viability and affordability; and 2) sought clarification on which standards would apply. There were also a number of comments about the wording of the policies and how their various criteria would apply in practice. A number of amendments had therefore been put forward for Members’ consideration.


Private Amenity (Garden) Standards


The Committee recalled that Policy SPL3 in the emerging Local Plan entitled ‘Sustainable Design’ required, amongst other things, that new development made provision for private amenity space. Policy LP4 on ‘Housing Layout’ then referred to the Essex Design Guide for Residential & Mixed-Use Developments, within which were contained the standards for private amenity or garden sizes that planning applications were judged against. Unlike the 2007 adopted Local Plan, the emerging Local Plan did not contain a specific policy of its own in relation to garden sizes. 


On reflection, because the approach set out in 2007 Local Plan remained broadly in line with the current Essex Design Guide and there had been calls for the emerging Local Plan to be more explicit in respect of garden sizes, Officers were now recommending that it be suggested to the Planning Inspector, as part of the examination of the Section 2 Plan, that a private amenity or garden sizes policy was included in the new Local Plan. Details of this were set out in the Officer’s report.


Energy efficiency and climate change


Members were advised that another area of concern was the ability of new residential property to minimise energy consumption and to embrace other measures aimed at reducing carbon emissions and tackling global climate change. Whilst today’s building regulations already required new homes to meet high levels of energy efficiency through their design, insulation and technology; authorities could require, through their planning policies, developments to exceed regular standards.


In August 2019, this Council had declared a ‘climate emergency’ which committed it to preparing an action plan for consideration by Councillors with the aim of making its activities carbon neutral by 2030. A Climate Change Working Group had been set up to explore the opportunities and to develop recommendations for achieving this goal and consultants were assisting with the preparation of the action plan. On the request of the Chairman of the Planning Policy and Local Plan Committee, Officers had considered whether the policies in the emerging Local Plan could be strengthened to require, specifically, new residential development to be installed with solar panels and charging points for electric vehicles (in anticipation of significant increases in electric car ownership in the future). Officers had considered the potential cost of installation and the potential visual impacts in concluding that the policies could be strengthened and amendments had therefore been put forward for Members’ consideration. 


Water efficiency


The Committee was aware that, as the population grew and more new homes were built, there was increasing pressure to make efficient use of water resources and the design and specification of new housing had a role to play in achieving such efficiencies. Whilst the Tendring District was not identified specifically as an area of serious stress in terms of water supply, there were obvious benefits to householders and to the wider environment to reducing consumption. Policy PPL5 in the emerging Local Plan entitled ‘Water Conservation, Drainage and Sewerage’ already required developers to consider measures aimed at maintaining the supply of drinking water and it was considered that the requirements of the policy could be strengthened to require such measures to be implemented.


Accessibility and adaptability


It was suggested that, with a higher than average proportion of older and disabled residents in the Tendring area, there was a good argument for having more residential property that was easily accessible for people with mobility impairments and/or adaptable to people’s changing mobility through the course of their life. The building regulations included two optional requirements in relation to access in residential property which could be specifically promoted through policies in the Local Plan namely -


  • Requirement M4(2) which required new dwellings to make reasonable provision for most people to access the building and to incorporate features that made it potentially suitable for a wide range of occupants, including older people, those with reduced mobility and some wheelchair users; and


  • Requirement M4(3) which required new dwellings to make reasonable provision, either at completion or at a point following completion, for a wheelchair user to live in the dwelling and for them to use any associated private outdoor space, parking and communal facilities that might be provided for the use of the occupants.


It was further reported that Policy SPL3 in the emerging Local Plan (which dealt generally with ‘Sustainable Design’) already included a requirement that, on housing developments of 10 or more dwellings, 10% of market housing should be Building Regulations Part M4(2) compliant and, for affordable housing, 10% should be Part M4(2) compliant and 5% should be Part M4(3) compliant. This requirement had been tested and confirmed as economically viable through the Council’s viability assessments. However, Officers considered that those requirements could be set out more clearly and explicitly within Policy LP4 which was more specifically concerned with the design and layout of new housing development.


Summary of Suggested Policy Amendments




It was reported that the suggested amendments to Section A of the policy in respect of landscape character and the use of locally occurring and characteristic hedge species had been advised by Essex County Council in its representations to the Local Plan and the suggested amendments to Section B in respect of highways responded to comments raised by Persimmon and Gladman Homes. The additions to criterion d) of Section B responded to the need for action in response to the climate emergency. The suggested deletion of the asterisk and paragraph relating to Part M accessibility standards was to enable such guidance to be more logically set out in Policy LP3. The inclusion of a new criterion e) to Section C of the policy was to address a particular concern raised by the Chairman of Planning Policy and Local Plan Committee which reflected local concerns about the impact of development on neighbours during the construction phase and the damage caused to the highway and public realm.




Members were informed that the suggested amendments to criterion b) of Policy LP3 were to make it explicit that it was the nationally described space standards that should be met in new residential developments and to refer to the new section of the policy proposed in respect of minimum garden sizes, which reflected the wording already present in the Council’s adopted Local Plan. The reference to public rights of way in criterion f) of the policy was in response to a specific representation from the Essex Bridleways Trust. The inclusion of the paragraph relating to Part M accessibility standards followed the suggested deletion of such wording from Policy SPL3.




The Committee was advised that numerous amendments were proposed for Policy LP4 – mainly aimed at addressing local concerns about the quality of new residential development and providing more detail of the principles expected to be followed. The simplified reference to development density responded to representations from developers highlighting the potential confusion caused by the existing wording around town centres, semi-rural areas and urban areas. The additional reference to Neighbourhood Plans and Village Design Statements should help to ensure that those planning documents produced at a local or parish level and adopted by the District Council were given due consideration in the determination of housing schemes.




Members were made aware that the amendment to the second paragraph relating to the sewerage provision responded directly to the advice of Natural England and the additions to the third paragraph were simply designed to ensure that measures aimed at minimising water consumption were not only considered, but also implemented.




Members were advised that the suggested amendments to Policy PPL10 were aimed at strengthening the policy to ensure, amongst other things, that the incorporation of solar panels into new residential and other developments was a clear requirement and expectation of the Council, apart from Conservation Areas where it might not be appropriate visually.


Next steps


The Committee was aware that the Local Plan had already been submitted to the Secretary of State for it to be examined by a Government-appointed Planning Inspector. The Inspector had the power to recommend ‘modifications’ to the Local Plan, following the examination, aimed at addressing any issues with the soundness of the plan. Whilst it would be at the Inspector’s discretion which modifications were formally recommended, the Council would have the opportunity to suggest changes to the Inspector, for their consideration, as part of the examination process. It was therefore recommended that the changes outlined in this report be put forward to the Inspector for their consideration, at the appropriate time.


Having duly considered and discussed the contents of the report and its appendix:-


It was moved by Councillor Turner, seconded by Councillor G V Guglielmi and:-


RESOLVED that the Planning Policy and Local Plan Committee -


a)     has considered the Officers’ suggested amendments to Policies SPL3, LP3, LP4, PPL5 and PPL10 in the Tendring District Local Plan 2013-2033 and Beyond: Publication Draft (the emerging Local Plan) as set out in Appendix 1 to this report be approved;


b)     authorises the Assistant Director (Strategic Planning and Place), in consultation with the Chairman of the Planning Policy and Local Plan Committee, to put forward the additional suggested amendments to the above policies based upon the Committee’s debate to the Planning Inspector for their consideration as part of the examination of the Section 2 Plan; and


c)      requests that further consultation is undertaken with the Council’s Climate Emergency Working Party (with invites extended to members of the Planning Policy and Local Plan Committee, who wish to be involved) prior to reporting back to the Committee.





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