Preferred Options for Sites
3. Warwick District – Context
3.1 Warwick District has a high quality environment with attractive, historic towns surrounded by a pleasant rural area. It benefits from good road and rail links with the major conurbations of the West Midlands and London. It also has a strong local economy, containing a number of major employers and attractions. This makes it a popular place to live and creates great pressure on available land for development. Not least amongst these pressures is the fact that approximately 80% of the district is within the Warwickshire Green Belt. The remaining 20% therefore has to take the majority of new development if the Green Belt is to remain intact.
3.2 The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is explicit in its defence of the Green Belt and reaffirms the Government’s support of its retention. Paragraph 80 states the five purposes of the Green Belt as being:
- 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.
3.3 It is clear however, that the Government does not expect the Green Belt to preclude all development forever and does give exceptions to this which must be proven by ‘exceptional circumstances’.
3.4 Recently, the current Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has reinforced the view that Green Belts are considered essential and have to be protected, by recovering a number of appeal decisions in the Green Belt for his own decision.
3.5 However, the NPPF also states that local authorities must provide sufficient land to meet their needs and that districts that are heavily constrained by Green Belt, such as our own, (in Paragraph 83) should use the Local Plan review process to assess the Green Belt in their area and remove land from it should there be special circumstances and providing that sustainable patterns of development are achieved. For this reason, none of the suggested sites have been excluded on Green Belt grounds only.
3.6 To take any land out of the Green Belt, special circumstances must be demonstrated and the revisions to Green Belt boundaries have to made through the Local Plan process. It is the green belt however, that creates the greatest public reaction if threatened by development. Therefore, there is the need for a careful balance based on the quality of the green belt and the ability to accommodate and service development on non-green belt land.
3.7 The vast majority of the land that is outside the green belt is located to the south of thedistrict, beyond the towns of Warwick, Royal Leamington Spa and Whitnash. The production of the Local Plan urrently underway together with work on this document, has had to take account of this fact and assess whether there is a realistic expectation that the area is capable of being developed with all the required infrastructure and is deliverable and whether this outweighs the contra argument that some green belt should be sacrificed in order to reduce the pressure to the south of the district. It is within this context that sites have to be chosen.