Council unveils latest draft of Northumberland's development plan

A sliding scale of affordable housing on new developments in Northumberland is being proposed in the latest draft of the county's key planning document.

Wednesday, 12th December 2018, 3:51 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th December 2018, 3:55 pm
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The publication draft of the Northumberland Local Plan will be considered by the authority’s cabinet next week, then full council in January, before it is made available for final public scrutiny and submitted to the Government.

The first draft of the plan, which was drawn up after the Conservative administration at County Hall withdrew the previous core strategy – a major element of the local plan, was consulted on over the summer and changes have been made since then.

A map showing the different percentages of affordable housing which would be sought on new developments.

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But the consultation on the latest draft, which is set to run for six weeks from January 30 to March 13, 2019, is confined to the soundness of the plan, rather than changes to the content.

One of the updates, in line with new national guidance on viability in the Government’s refreshed planning rulebook (the NPPF), is that the proportion of affordable homes required on a new housing development would depend on where it is in the county, ranging from 10 per cent for low-value areas through 15 and 25 per cent up to 30 per cent in the highest value areas.

The value of houses in the area would also affect the tenure of the affordable homes, although these would be negotiable within reason on a site-by-site basis – in low-value areas, it would be 100 per cent ownership, where as in the highest-value areas, it would be 67 per cent to rent and 33 per cent ownership.

Quality of design in new developments has been highlighted as a high priority in the plan and policies around this have been brought together in a new chapter. Plus, the council is also publishing scoping documents for a Design Guide for Northumberland and a Highways and Transportation Design and Delivery document, which together will provide developers, landowners and applicants with clear principles, guidance and good practice.

What has not changed is the council’s view that this is an ambitious plan which promotes growth within the county, but not at the expense of the green belt and the special environmental character of Northumberland.

It sets out strategic planning policies and planning principles for the whole county, the general scale and distribution of new development, and the detail of where new homes, workplaces and facilities will be located.

The housing numbers proposed, much reduced from the withdrawn core strategy, remain at 17,700 over the 20-year plan period (down from 24,000).

However, there have been some changes to the distribution with the biggest, according to council planner Steve Robson, being the shift in balance between Alnwick and Berwick in the north of the county.

In the first draft, there were 1,100 homes proposed for Alnwick and 610 for Berwick, but in line with the latter’s ‘strong growth aspirations’, the new figures are 950 in Alnwick and 800 in Berwick.

The new plan will ensure that all communities are supported by adequate services, facilities and infrastructure, including housing, education, transport, health, social care, sport and recreation, the council says.

Coun John Riddle, the council’s cabinet member for planning and housing, said: “Progress has continued at pace on producing this new local plan for Northumberland – and we are well on track to have it adopted and in place in just over a year.

“We have produced a plan which is properly evidence-based and we are confident will pass at the examination stage. We have worked closely with teams in Government during its preparation and a recent overview has highlighted no major issues to address.

“We are committed to ensuring that everyone with an interest in this plan has the opportunity to have their say to help shape the future of the county and this final phase of public consultation will provide a final opportunity for people to review the details.”

The plan is also about the county’s economy and it has an ambition to provide homes to meet not only the needs of the resident population, but also to accommodate the needs of people moving into Northumberland.

Coun Richard Wearmouth, cabinet member for economic development, said: “This new plan shows our ambitions for the future economic prosperity of Northumberland.

“It will deliver additional, better-paid and higher-skilled jobs in the county. We plan to build on existing strengths while also diversifying and realising the potential of the rural and visitor economies.

“The plan links well with our economic strategy for the county and provides both a portfolio of high-quality employment sites and supports the development of high-quality office accommodation at locations across Northumberland.

“New in this version of the plan is specific recognition of the continued importance of military-related activity as a source of employment.”

Coun Wayne Daley, deputy leader and cabinet member with responsibility for training and skills, added: “The plan will deliver a growing and thriving county in line with not only our aspirations as a council and national planning policy, but also with the ambitions of the North of Tyne Combined Authority, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and the Borderlands Initiative.

“Devolution is offering us a great opportunity to improve the skills of people in our region – getting the workforce up to speed and supporting our aspirations through this plan to develop and diversify our economy.

“So, in a relatively short space of time since our decision to withdraw the previous plan, we have made excellent progress on a plan that will see Northumberland grow and flourish – a plan that is truly fit to address our future needs.”

Ben O’Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service