Q. What is the consultation about?
A. “Refining the Plan Options” builds on the responses made to the “Issues and Options” consultation held in early 2019. In particular, it develops in more detail how the requirements for 23,620 homes and 11,000 jobs could be met. Four different Strategy options and possible sites that could contribute to this are presented for comment.
As well as looking at the Borough as a whole, the consultation looks in detail at different neighbourhoods in Southend. This includes looking at their existing character and infrastructure as well as potential sites for growth.
This consultation focusses on options for addressing housing and employment need and also asks a number of questions on other topics. Detailed policies on managing development will be published in subsequent consultations and will reflect comments previously received.
It is important to tell us what you think works well in Southend as this will influence the approach we take as we put a draft Plan together.
Q. Why are you consulting people now?
A. We are seeking people’s views on how we should distribute development within our Local Plan. The ‘Refining the Options’ Report is stage 2 of five stages during which the Local Plan is progressively developed and refined in light of comments received. There is a published timetable - the Local Development Scheme (LDS) - available on the Council’s website that sets out when consultation is due to occur. Local Development Scheme | Southend Local Plan
Q. What is a Local Plan?
A. A local plan is produced by the local planning authority – in this case, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council - in consultation with local people and other organisations. Every Council is required by law to produce one.
The local plan will identify land for housing, jobs, local services and supporting infrastructure to meet the needs of the Borough for the period up to 2040. It will set out planning policies to manage new development in a manner that protects and enhances our natural and historic environment while meeting Southend’s aspirations for the future of the town.
It will be an important document for the Borough and will have a major influence on how the local area will develop and change in the future. It is also the document which all planning applications will be assessed against.
Therefore, once adopted, the Local Plan will ensure that the right development happens in the right place at the right time, benefiting communities, the environment and the economy.
Q. Why does Southend need a Local Plan?
A. The Government has changed the way we plan for growth since the current planning framework for the Borough was produced and adopted. Therefore, Southend will need to create a new plan assessing the needs of the Borough and will need to plan for the ways it will meet those needs.
Having an up-to-date local plan in place is also essential for making successful infrastructure bids, particularly for transport and access improvements and enhancements to public spaces.
Q. What if Southend does not produce a new Local Plan?
A. The Government could decide to intervene and have a Local Plan prepared for the Council, limiting local involvement and decision-making as well as incurring extra expense.
The Government has also introduced a number of tests relating to housing delivery and supply. If a new Local Plan is not prepared in a timely manner, currently set by the Government as the end of 2023, existing policies relating to housing will likely not be applicable.
This increases the risk of planning consents being granted by appeal and development occurring in more random locations outside the Council’s control, including on Green Belt land.
Q. Why are you proposing so many new houses?
A. The Government has produced for each local authority in the Country a housing target using a ‘standard housing methodology’ which is a formula based on population trends and the affordability of housing. The figure for Southend is 1,181 dwellings per year which equates to 23,620 houses or flats over a 20-year period. This represents a three-fold increase on past development rates in the Borough.
If we do not meet the Government housing target, either by ourselves or through South Essex Authorities working together, the Government’s ‘Housing Delivery Test’ will apply a presumption in favour of development that will make it harder to reject proposals that do not comply with the New Local Plan on matters such as poor design or loss of existing land uses. There is therefore a clear imperative to look at all opportunities for how and where our housing need can be met.
However, it should be emphasised that the Governments housing standard methodology for calculating housing needs in an area does not take into account the physical capabilities of an area to accommodate such growth, such as land availability, existing urban densities, Green Belt and infrastructure provision. Planning for future growth that is sustainable and respects the character and identity of Southend is therefore essential. It is clear the Government expects Local Authorities to deliver the amount of new homes calculated using their standard methodology but only where it is possible to do so and where there are agreements with neighbouring authorities on how and where unmet housing need can be met.
To clearly establish the best growth strategy to take forward it is essential that you make your views known before we develop more detailed planning policies.
Q. How were the potential sites (HELAA sites) identified and chosen?
A. The HELAA stands for the Housing and Employment Land Availability assessment. This is an assessment of available land in the Borough and is a non-technical assessment looking at which sites are actually and potentially available for development in the future. These are all the sites put forward by landowners, agents, developers, businesses and indeed the Council. There was a comprehensive “Call for Sites” exercise to inform this. These sites were then subject to further study and assessment to inform the current consultation. Just because a site is identified in the HELAA document doesn’t mean that it will necessarily be put forward for development at subsequent stages of plan preparation.
The list of sites included in the HELAA reflects the position at the time of production. The “Call for Sites” process remains open and new sites that are submitted as part of the ongoing plan preparation process will also be considered.
Q. Have the sites been individually assessed for their suitability?
A. Housing sites have been assessed against a broad range of criteria including national policy constriants and infrastructure provision. This will help further assist consideration of sites before any final decisions are made.
Q. When will there be a list of recommended sites?
A. The final list will be part of the next stage of local plan preparation, namely the Preferred Approach stage, consultation on which is due to take place in 2023.
Q. Why do we need 11,000 new jobs?
A. As well as new homes there is a need to provide additional jobs within the Borough. These are required to reduce the levels of commuting; improve the range of jobs available and accommodate a growing population.
The figure is calculated in a document called the Economic Development Needs Assessment (EDNA) which was produced by planning consultants on behalf of the Council to inform the local plan preparation process. It looks at wider economic trends as well as data specific to Southend.
Provision of this number of jobs will require land to be identified for new employment opportunities as well as the safeguarding of most of the existing industrial estates.
Q. What is the Green Belt?
A. Green Belt is land on the edge of development that is protected for its openness. It is a policy designation that is primarily intended to prevent urban sprawl and the joining together of settlements. The Green Belt in Southend is part of the much larger London Metropolitan Green Belt stretching from east London across south Essex including land in Rochford and Castle Point. In the Southend Borough the Green Belt designation covers four areas, namely the coastal stretches of open land to the west of Leigh; the Belfairs Wood area; land to the north of Eastwood and farmland located between Sutton Road and Great Wakering.
Q. I thought Green Belt was supposed to be protected from development?
A. Two features of Green Belt are its long-term nature and the very limited range of development that should occur within it.
Preparation of a Local Plan is the point in the planning process where Green Belt boundaries can be reviewed and revised. The National Planning Policy Framework paragraphs 136 and 137 require there to be “exceptional circumstances” for consideration to be given to the release of Green Belt land which must be fully evidenced.
In terms of meeting local housing needs, the Local Authority must be able to demonstrate that it has looked at making as much use as possible of previously developed and under-utilised land; that it has considered higher densities of development within the urban area, especially in town centres and areas well served by public transport; and has liaised with neighbouring authorities to see if they can accommodate any of the development need. Only then can Green Belt land be considered for release having regard to the stated purposes of the Green Belt.
Q. How will existing infrastructure and services cope and what new infrastructure will be provided to support the growth?
A. It is recognised that services such as schools and doctors are stretched in some locations and that utilities need to be improved in various places. We are working closely with colleagues responsible for schools, parks, roads, etc within the Council as well as with external parties, such as the utility providers and the NHS to try to ensure that infrastructure needs are adequately planned for.
An Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) will be prepared as the Local Plan progresses, setting out what infrastructure is needed to support the growth targets within the plan. Wherever possible development will be timed to reflect the capacity of the existing and proposed infrastructure.
The IDP must set out not only the infrastructure required and when but also how it is expected that this will be funded. Some of this will come through infrastructure providers own plans. In other cases, applications for government funding will be required.
All new developments in the Borough must contribute to the delivery of appropriate infrastructure, whether directly or through financial contributions, for example through the Community Infrastructure Levy or through Section 106 planning legal agreements.
Q. How does the Local Plan relate to the emerging Transport Strategy and Local Transport Plan (LTP 4)?
A. As the Local Plan is prepared it will be both informed - and will inform - other strategies and initiatives, including the preparation of the Southend Transport Strategy and LTP4.
How transport and land use planning interact is recognised as being very important to development of the Local Plan given the constraints on parts of the transport network, particularly the strategic road network. It will also be important to understand how new technology such as electric and hydrogen vehicles and digital technology will change the way we travel. Improving walking, cycling and public transport networks and incorporating these into new developments will be important to developing attractive neighbourhoods.
Q. What is a sustainability appraisal?
A. A Sustainability Appraisal is a required document, which sits alongside the Local Plan and seeks to ensure that all areas of the proposed plan are assessed against a range of social, economic and environmental objectives. This work is undertaken independently and will impact on each stage of the Plan’s preparation. Carefully considering these three objectives will enable us to deliver sustainable planning policies. The sustainability appraisal is also open to consultation at the same time as the Local Plan.
Q. What will happen to the existing Planning Policies?
A. The Council currently has a suite of documents consisting of:
- Core strategy 2007
- Development Management Plan 2015
- Southend Central Area Action Plan 2018
- London Southend Airport Joint Area Action Plan 2014
- Essex and Southend Waste Local Plan 2017
The new Local Plan will run for 20 years and will ensure that planning policies are as up-to-date as possible. Therefore, the new Local Plan will replace three current plans: the Core Strategy; the Development Management Document; and the Southend Central Area Action Plan with a single document. However, some policies could be carried over from these older plans, especially the Southend Central Area Action Plan, which was adopted in 2018.
The London Southend Airport and Environs Joint Area Action Plan (prepared jointly with Rochford District Council) and the Essex and Southend Waste Local Plan (prepared jointly with Essex County Council) are likely to be reviewed separately from the local plan as they are cross-border document, although the Local Plan may contain some strategic level policies for each.
Q. How does the Local Plan relate to Southend 2050?
A. The Southend New Local Plan will play a key role in delivering the Southend 2050 shared ambition and contributes towards a number of relevant 2050 themes and outcomes.
You may have previously made comments on the ‘Southend 2050 Vision’. However, it is important that you also make comments on the new Local Plan for Southend. Whilst the vision is a starting point in gathering people’s views, the Local Plan has to make choices in the way the limited land and other resources are developed and used. It also has to balance these with wider community needs and protect the local environment.
Q. How does the Local Plan relate to the South Essex Joint Strategic Framework?
A. The Joint Strategic Framework (JSF) will be a non-statutory document providing a wider context for the preparation of more detailed local plans for each of the South Essex Local Authority areas, including the Southend New Local Plan.
The JSF will provide development principles which cover the whole of South Essex as well as identifying broad areas for growth and enhancement. It will guide the Southend Local Plan and will contain policies which cover issues affecting Southend but which also cross the Borough boundary.
Q. How do I get involved and how can I find out more?
A. The Refining the Options document is available online for you to read and comment on. Hard copies will be available at each of the Council’s libraries and Civic Centre for reference, and further copies can be made available upon request. We will be holding online workshops and drop-in sessions which you are more than welcome to come along to for more information and to have your say on the future of the Borough. Details of the events will be available on Home | Southend Local Plan
Q. How long is the consultation for?
A. The consultation period will run until 26th October 2021.
Q. I have a question about the consultation, how do I contact you?
A. If your question is not answered in this FAQ or our Refining the Options document, we are contactable in the following ways:
- Online at: localplan.southend.gov.uk
- By email to: email@example.com
- By post to: Business Intelligence Officer, Performance & Business Support, Department for Place, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, PO Box 6, Civic Centre, Victoria Avenue, Southend on Sea, SS2 6ER
For more details visit: How to have your say | Southend Local Plan
Q. Will my comment be made public?
A. By law, we are required to make the comments we receive about the Local Plan available for all to see, including your name. No other personal information will be published. This meets the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulations 2018.
Q. Can I remain anonymous?
A. We cannot accept any comments marked private or confidential.
Q. I don’t use the internet, how can I respond to the consultation?
A. Whilst we prefer comments to be made on our online consultation portal, we will also accept paper responses. If you wish to do this, please request a paper copy of the questions and we can send you one for you to write your answers on and post them back to us. Alternatively, please come along to one of our drop-in sessions.
Q. What happens next?
A. The consultation responses we receive at this stage will be analysed and used to inform the preparation of a number of Preferred Approach for Southend. This will then be subject to further consultation in 2022.
Q: If I respond once do I need to comment on subsequent consultations?
A. While your comments will be retained, if any changes are made to the Plan and you wish to make additional observations, it is important that you make these known at subsequent stages of the Local Plan preparation.
Q: Why does the Local Plan take so long to produce?
A. We are required by law to ensure that the Local Plan goes through defined consultation stages and also that specific evidence is commissioned and completed to justify the plans approach.
Q. After the Local Plan is finally approved, will it remain untouched until 2040?
A. A Local Plan must be reviewed at least every five years after it is adopted. This ensures that its policies still reflect national guidance and remain up to date. The Local Plan may not need changing or a partial review may only be necessary. Any significant changes would require new public consultation to be undertaken.