Village Housing Options and Settlement Boundaries
3. Green Belt and Exceptional Circumstances
3.1 This chapter outlines the exceptional circumstances for allocating housing growth in a limited range of Green Belt village locations.
The National Planning Policy Framework and Green Belt
3.2 The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out how important the Green Belt is as well as how to establish any new designated areas. ‘The Government attaches great importance to Green Belts. The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open; the essential characteristics of Green Belts are their openness and their permanence’ (Paragraph 79).
3.3 Under the NPPF, Green Belt serves five purposes:
to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;
to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;
to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and
to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land. (Paragraph 80)
3.4 The NPPF also states that ‘Planning Authorities with Green Belts in their area should establish boundaries in their Local Plans which set the framework for Green Belt and settlement policy. Once established, Green Belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances’. The appropriateness of boundaries should only be considered when a Local Plan is being prepared or reviewed, and ‘at that time, Authorities should consider the Green Belt Boundaries having regard to their intended permanence in the long term, so that they should be capable of enduring beyond the plan period’. (Paragraph 83).
3.5 Under paragraph 84 of the NPPF, ‘When drawing up or reviewing Green Belt boundaries, Local Authorities should take account of the need to promote sustainable patterns of development’ as well as ‘the consequences for sustainable development of channelling development towards urban areas inside the Green Belt boundary, towards towns and villages inset within the Green Belt or towards locations beyond the outer Green Belt Boundary’. Paragraph 86 also talks about the important contribution the open character of some villages can make to the openness of the Green Belt, as discussed earlier in this report (paragraph 2.11).
3.6 The Government encourages councils to tailor the extent of Green Belt land in their area to reflect local circumstances and emphasise that there is considerable previously developed land in many Green Belt areas, which could be put to more productive use. There is also a duty for adjoining local authorities to co-operate in the planning process, to ensure that strategic priorities across local boundaries are properly co-ordinated and clearly reflected in individual Local Plans.
Promoting Sustainable Development
3.7 It is clear in the Revised Development Strategy that Warwick District will need to accommodate a substantial level of new homes during the plan period. This equates to an allocation of 6,622 new dwellings based on evidence informing the Revised Development Strategy. The Council will continue to ensure that the vast majority of development (77.77% of the total allocation) is directed to:
urban and brownfield sites (605 dwellings – 9.14%);
non-Green Belt sites on the edge of Warwick and Whitnash (4215 dwellings – 63.65%), and
non-Green Belt villages with good service / facility levels (330 dwellings – 4.98%).
However, it is recognised in the Revised Development Strategy that in order to meet the full needs of a growing population and maintain a focus upon sustainable development, a more distributive approach to housing is required, including looking at options in the District’s more sustainable Green Belt located villages.
3.8 The consequences for sustainable development of channelling development to these non-Green Belt areas have been carefully considered. With supporting levels of community and transport infrastructure this level of growth can be accommodated in these non-Green Belt areas. However there is a limit to growth, beyond which sustainable development would be best served through identifying supporting growth options in other locations.
3.9 In terms of non-Green Belt villages, the work discussed later in this report on landscape, ecology and a review of green field parcels suggest that there are environmental limits to growth in many locations. This relates to four main issues:
Additional development may lead to substantial landscape impact, across areas of high landscape value.
Due to the natural configuration and evolution of the landscape (the open river plain for example near Barford) development in some areas could not be accommodated without substantial mitigation measures.
There are strong ecological / habitat features in a number of locations near the non-Green Belt villages – the Tach Brook towards the north of Bishop’s Tachbrook being an example.
There is a strong need to protect villages from coalescence with nearby larger settlements. The landscape and green field parcel review indicates that it is important to maintain the individuality and open setting, identity and character of smaller settlements. This is a critical issue within Warwick District as there is often only a short distance between villages and large towns / urban areas.
Sustaining and Supporting Green Belt Villages
3.10 It is clear from the discussion in the proceeding
chapter that some Green Belt areas and villages have witnessed no or very low population growth over the Census period 2001 to 2011. Indeed Burton Green and Leek Wootton LSOAs have seen a slight decline in the usual resident population (-0.3% and -0.4%) respectively. It is also evident from the statistics that there has been a marked decline in the percentage of younger people in the more rural areas and a particular increase in the percentage of 60-74 year olds.
3.11 If these trends continue over the next generation, this has clear implications for the types and ranges of services / facilities in villages, including the potential loss of many. The NPPF is clear that in rural areas, housing should be located ‘where it will enhance or maintain the vitality of rural communities’ (paragraph 55). During the course of the last 12 months, discussions about the future of the villages have included debates about the potential closure of a community hall; post office and shop facilities; reductions in public transport services; the fragile economics of local shops and businesses and indeed notable gaps in services / facilities. While new housing, new investment, new residents and new customers might not provide all the answers to helping sustain and support local village services / facilities, it is one part of a complex solution.
3.12 The trend towards an ageing rural population in many parts also brings its own particular housing challenges and requirements, including requirements for more accessible / adaptable housing. With many villages washed over by Green Belt, the opportunities for new developments (which are not affordable housing) in Green Belt villages is limited. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people are leaving some Green Belt villages and locations as there are substantial restrictions on the possibility of adapting and modifying properties for new housing needs.
Restricted Built Forms
3.13 A number of the Green Belt villages are extremely physically constrained and have little opportunity for ‘limited infilling’ under possible exceptions to Green Belt development detailed in paragraph 89 of the NPPF. Take the example of Hampton Magna. This is a planned village (late 1960s / early 1970s) with a very tight built structure washed over with Green Belt. There are very limited options to accommodate growth through infilling alone in its current ‘village envelope’. Even if you apply the philosophy that a very limited range of housing growth is required, linked to the result of a local housing needs survey only, it is difficult to see where any growth could be sensitively accommodated without establishing a looser village boundary and a re-defined relationship to the Green Belt.
Duty to Co-operate
3.14 As part of the Council’s ongoing Duty to Co-operate with neighbouring local authorities and the joint work on the SMHA, discussions are continuing in relation to whether various aspects of housing growth can be accommodated across local authority boundaries. This work is still to be concluded on whether there are alternative non-Green Belt locations, which could accommodate a limited degree of Warwick District’s housing growth.