A background to the Local Plan Review
– and what it means for Whitminster.
Stroud District Council has to provide a ‘Local Plan’ indicating where future development might reasonably take place over a given period. This Plan is reviewed every 5 years or so. The current ‘live’ plan (which included Great Oldbury) was adopted in 2015, covering housing needs up to 2031. The 5-year review of this plan is currently in its final stages. The revised plan will cover requirements up to 2040, subject to the next review in (around) 2025.
The Government dictates the number of houses (and associated industry etc) that the District is expected to provide. This number can fluctuate with population growth etc, and one district might be asked to ‘help out’ another if scope for building is limited. Stroud have to show that they can identify sufficient ‘potential’ growth areas to satisfy all these needs during the plan period; if they do not, Government may override local planning decisions. The purpose of Local (and Neighbourhood) Plans is to ensure that sufficient potential is demonstrated and that the development areas that go forward are the best ones for the community, based on policies born of consultation.
The main stages of the Local Plan review process are as follows:
1. It starts with the Government declaring the housing numbers required of Stroud over the new plan period, and Stroud deciding how much land will be needed over and above that already in the Plan.
2. A ‘Call for land’ is issued, wherein, with or without prompting from Stroud, owners or option-holders register their land for the SALA (Strategic Assessment of Land Allocation). Supplementary ‘calls’ may be made.
This was done initially in 2016/17 for the current review.
3. Stroud assessed the proposed sites for viability, and in 2017/18 drew up an ‘Issues and Options’ document for public consultation. This included questions of e.g. distributed housing vs. large new towns, as well as comments on possible individual sites. This was followed by the the ‘Emerging Strategy’ document (2018) for further consultation and finally a draft Plan in 2019 for yet more consultations – ending in January 2020.
Various large sites were being considered at this stage, including Sharpness, Wisloe in Berkeley Vale and a smaller one at Cam – but the potential Whitminster site had not yet been proposed.
4. In August 2020 the Government moved the goal posts on housing numbers quite dramatically and it emerged that even more land might be required. A further call for land was made, and this time the Whitminster site was included as one of a number of potential ‘growth points’.
5. So, In October 2020 Stroud produced the Plan add-on document ‘Additional Housing Options’ – and public consultation on this was held (on-line due to Covid) – closing December 2020.
6. A new version of the Draft Plan is now being drawn up – based on all the above and should be ready for a final round of consultation in the coming spring/summer before being submitted as the final ‘Consultation Draft’.
7. The Consultation Draft will be considered by the Government Planning Inspectorate in an ‘Examination in Public’ later in this year, and subject still to some further tweaks, twiddles and appeals, could be adopted by early 2022.
Which of the proposed development sites will finally make the Consultation Draft is not yet certain, but it is highly possible that the Whitminster site will be included. If not, the odds are that it will be proposed again and included in the next review (around 2025).
In the meantime, the Government has decided that the increase in housing numbers should be aimed more at the north than the south of the country as part of its levelling up policy – and the pressure on Stroud to find new sites has recently been reduced.
This could well make the difference – for now.
Left: The site at Whitminster that has (belatedly) been proposed by a potential developer, Hitchens, as suitable for a development of something like 2,500 houses with associated, school, shops, industry and other infrastructure.
The trenches that people have seen being dug are part of a ‘scoping’ exercise on behalf of Hitchens to begin to provide the environmental evidence that the site is suitable. Hitchens have also sent out a ‘survey’ to local people to try to promote the idea.
Right: further areas between the M5 and the A38, all the way up to Moreton Valence will also be considered.