10 July 2014

Independent report sets out way forward with City Plan housing target

Findings from an Urban Fringe Study required by the government's planning inspector will be put before members of Brighton & Hove’s Policy & Resources Committee next week (11 July) when they discuss the City Plan.

The independent study into the potential for housing on the city's urban fringe (the open space between the built up area boundary and the National Park) is required by the government-appointed inspector to see if the city is doing everything possible to meet government housing targets.

The consultants’ view is that there is potential for 1,180 potential dwellings on 39 sites, which equates to 7.5% of the total urban fringe area. Under their recommendations 92% of the city's urban fringe remains intact. Councillors will now consider how to respond to the report, and whether to adopt the recommendations.

Should the consultants’ recommendations not be adopted, the City Plan will not be approved by government, which would have citywide repercussions. Any development in the city would be guided by national instead of local planning policy. Local planning decisions by councillors against inappropriate development would be at risk of being overturned, and inappropriate development could happen on any one of the city’s 66 urban fringe sites.

Finally the wider positive proposals in the City Plan would also be lost - including prioritising brownfield sites for development, high sustainability and building standards, and a good balance of homes and jobs
Council Leader Jason Kitcat said: ““This is a very difficult and uncomfortable decision councillors are faced with. If our City Plan doesn’t meet government requirements, we face the prospect of inappropriate development across all the urban fringe and the rest of the city.

“Councillors have already expressed their concern about national planning policy, and how it would lead to inappropriate development and local people and their representatives cut out from the planning process. Without a City Plan, planning applications would effectively be judged by this national policy, and would be granted on appeals at financial cost to the council.

“However if the council adopts these independent recommendations, the City Plan is in a strong position to be approved and come into effect. Our own proposals to increase standards, protect the majority of the urban fringe, and a positive and balanced approach to future growth will become a reality.

“We’re tackling the urgent need for new homes by prioritising underused brownfield space in the city and empty homes. We’re also working with our neighbours across the region to plan for the future. By persisting with getting a City Plan agreed we are keeping local control of housing decisions to help secure the affordable homes that the city needs – control that we would lose if we have no City Plan in place.”

Most of the sites identified for some development are recommended for partial development only. Some of the sites are clustered where a 'master plan' approach could be used to plan for a combined area and ensure community benefits, such as protected open space. The details of the study (Urban Fringe Assessment) will be available from 3 July on the council’s website.

If councillors agree in principle, the proposed changes to the City Plan, including the urban fringe will be subject to a nine week consultation on soundness beginning on 25 July.