Preferred Options

Ended on the 3rd August 2012
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(32) 5. Preferred Level of Growth

Introduction

5.1 The level of growth we need to plan for in the District during the life of the Local Plan impacts on all other parts of the plan. It is vital therefore that we plan for a level of growth that is founded on the best evidence we have about how the District might change and grown in years to come

Relevant Issue & Strategic Objectives

5.2 Warwick District Council’s Vision and Strategy: The Strategy for the Future and Sustainable Prosperity of Warwick District aims to:

  • facilitate the growth and development of the local economy,
  • provide for the growth of, and changes within, the local population
  • support growth in the District in the region of 550 new homes per annum on new allocated sites (this does not include sites already with planning permission nor those the allowance proposed to be made for windfall sites), the precise quantum of which will be determined at the preferred options stage... to mirror the expected growth of and change within the local population and economy

5.3 Issue: Relatively high house prices limiting local people’s ability to buy or rent property in the area, creating the need for more affordable housing for families in towns and villages and the need to provide more housing to meet people’s needs in the future, particularly those of older people.

5.4 Objectives: See objectives 1 and 2 as set out in paragraphs 4.13 to 4.15 above

5.5 Our Preferred Option

(411) PO1: Preferred Level of Growth

Our preferred option for the level of growth between 2011 and 2029 is 10,800 dwellings, an annual average of 600 new homes each year.

(22) Justification for Preferred Option

5.6 Helping Shape the District Consultation: In March 2011 the Council commenced the Local Plan consultation exercise “Helping Shape the District” which put forward three potential levels of housing growth in the District:

Scenario 1: An average of 250 new homes and 4 hectares of land for businesses each year

Scenario 2: An average of 500 new homes and 4.5 hectares of land for businesses each year

Scenario 3: An average of 800 new homes and 5 hectares of land for businesses each year

5.7 The majority of respondents to the general questionnaire (58%) considered that Scenario 1 would be best for the District with just over a quarter (28%) preferring Scenario 2. In the sample household survey, 53% preferred Scenario 1 and 37% preferred Scenario 2. The household survey showed that of those preferring Scenario 1, many felt that there were already enough homes in the District and they were against any development on Green Belt land. They were also concerned about the impact on the environment and local infrastructure of a larger scale of development. Those preferring Scenario 2 felt that this was a more balanced level of growth and represented a compromise between the competing objectives of providing more homes and protecting the environment.

5.8 Of those who preferred Scenario 3, many felt that this level of growth was more in line with the Government’s policies of encouraging local authorities to embrace growth and that housing growth would support economic growth.

5.9 The consultation exercise also asked people about their views on the important issues identified by the Council. One of these issues related to relatively high house prices, which created the need for more affordable housing, and the need to provide more housing to meet people’s needs for housing in the future. In the general questionnaire, 55% of respondents thought this was an important issue and in the household survey, 73% of respondents agreed that it was an important issue. Further details are contained within the Report of Public Consultation (December 2011).

(3) National, Regional and Local Policy

5.10 Government policy in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that local planning authorities should prepare a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA)to assess their full housing needs in terms of the scale and mix of housing, and the range of tenures, that the population is likely to need over the plan period. This scale and mix of housing should meet household and population projections, taking account of migration and democratic change. Local Plans should meet the full, objectively assessed needs for market and affordable housing in their area. The Council published a SHMA in March 2012.

5.11 The NPPF also states that local planning authorities should prepare a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment to establish realistic assumptions about the availability, suitability and economic viability of land to meet the identified need for housing over the plan period.

5.12 Proposals within the Localism Act 2012 have removed the regional layer of strategic planning – Regional Spatial Strategies (RSSs) – subject to a Sustainability Appraisal of the impact of this course of action on each of the strategies. The RSS covering this region is the West Midlands RSS. The housing policies in the adopted West Midlands RSS were in the process of being revised and these would have set a level of growth for each local authority area. With the revocation of the RSS it will be for each local authority to determine its own level of growth in line with the National Planning Policy Framework. In view of the likely revocation of the RSS before the end of the year, the Council is not giving due consideration to the emerging revised RSS housing policies. The Council will, however be consulting neighbouring authorities on its proposals.

(24) What is the Evidence to Support Different Levels of Growth?

5.13 The Council published a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) in March 2012. This sets out the current demographic profile of the population of the District and includes a set of population and household projections based on different sets of assumptions about migration and employment growth. Projections of employment growth are based on the West Midlands Integrated Policy Model (Cambridge Econometrics. July 2010). The projections aim to balance the growth in homes and jobs.

5.14 The SHMA also tests the three scenarios which were the subject of consultation and examines the implications of these for employment growth. The projections relating to Scenario 1 show that this level of housing growth would lead to an overall reduction in the number of jobs in the District (or increases in out-commuting). Scenario 2 would lead to higher levels of growth in the number of jobs, but not as high as regional employment forecasts would suggest. Scenario 3 would allow for a growth in the number of jobs which exceeds regional employment forecasts.

5.15 Three projections from the SHMA are considered to be worthy of further consideration because they would support realistic levels of employment and housing growth. These are set out below.

PROJECTION 1: TREND BASED

A projection which assumes that recent levels of net migration will continue into the future

PROJECTION 2: EMPLOYMENT GROWTH

A projection which assumes a certain level of employment growth and looks at what level of net migration would be required to enable this to happen.

PROJECTION 3: EMPLOYMENT GROWTH WITH CONTINUED COMMUTING

This is similar to Projection 2 but allows for a continuation of existing levels of in- and out-commuting, rather than balancing new homes and jobs.

5.16 The results of these three projections are as follows:

TABLE 5.1 Summary of Projections 2011-2031

Projection Population Growth Housing Growth Employment Growth (Jobs)
Per annum % change Per annum % change Per annum % change
1 Trend Based 914 0.7% 596 1.0% 413 0.6%
2 Projected Employment Growth 1,186 0.9% 716 1.2% 593 0.9%
3 Projected Employment Growth (With Continued Commuting) 853 0.6% 569 0.9% 395 0.6%
Source: Warwick SHMA Figure 2.21

5.17 The implications of these three projections for levels of housing growth over the plan period (2011 – 2029) are as follows:

TABLE 5.2 Implications of Projections for Housing Growth

Projection Dwellings
Per annum Total 2011-2029
1 Trend Based 596 10,728
2 Projected Employment Growth 716 12,888
3 Projected Employment Growth (With Continued Commuting) 569 10,242

5.18 The Council published an up-dated version of the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) in May 2012. This identifies potentially suitable housing sites within and on the edge of built up areas. Taken together, these sites would be able to accommodate an estimated 11,410 new homes. In addition, it is estimated that further windfall sites could come forward during the plan period and that these could accommodate around 2,300 new homes between 2011 and 2029.

(14) What are the Options?

5.19 Of the three realistic projections outlined in the SHMA and in Table 5.1 above, the Council dismissed Projection 3 on the grounds that the increase in jobs would not be matched by an increase in homes. Projections 1 and 2, therefore, were considered to be the most realistic options in terms of meeting the housing and employment needs of the District.

Option 1: 600 new homes each year (2011-2029)

Option 2: 700 new homes each year (2011–2029)

5.20 Testing of the two options within the Sustainability Appraisal framework showed that Option 2 would be better able to support the projected growth in jobs whereas Option 1 would create better opportunities to protect and enhance the natural and built environment and maintain and improve the quality of air, water and soils. Option 1 was also considered to be a better option in terms of enabling a better range of transport options since new development was likely to better related to the towns.

5.21 The SHLAA findings demonstrate that these two levels of growth could mathematically be accommodated within the District in strategically sustainable locations. However, examination of the capacity of the SHLAA sites, in terms of dwellings, shows that 87% of the homes would be located on greenfield sites and 43% within the Green Belt. In practice, therefore, the development of all potentially suitable sites would lead to a significant impact on the natural environment through the loss of large areas of open countryside, including land within the Green Belt.

5.22 In terms of the growth in jobs, Option 2 would meet the projected change in employment between 2011 and 2031, as identified in the West Midlands Integrated Policy Model. However, this projection is likely to be optimistic since it was carried out in 2010 and forecast an increase in employment from 2011. Bank of England GDP projections in August 2010 anticipated continued, albeit slow, growth from a low point at February 2009. However ONS data has since revealed that the rate of increase of GDP has been falling since mid-2010 and has yet to show signs of a recovery.

5.23 In terms of both Options 1 and 2, housing would need to be met largely on strategic greenfield sites on the edge of the built up areas. This would be necessary in order to deliver the required infrastructure. The sizes of these strategic sites are largely within the range 500-1600. Due to their size some of these sites will take between 5 and 7 years to come forward following adoption of the plan in 2014. There is a lack of certainty, therefore, that a sufficient number of homes on strategic sites could be delivered within the plan period to meet Option 2.

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