Core Strategy - Consultation Draft

Chapter 1: Introduction

What is the Core Strategy?

The Core Strategy will set out the broad long-term vision, objectives and strategic planning policies for North Somerset up to 2026. It is more than just a land use plan; its scope is wider, focusing on place shaping and the creation of sustainable communities, and demonstrating links to related issues such as health, education and wellbeing. This approach is summarised in the term 'spatial planning'.

The Core Strategy is not a detailed document. It will include a key diagram and can allocate strategic sites, but will not provide detailed guidance on new development sites; these will be undertaken through separate documents prepared as part of the Local Development Framework (such as the Development Management Development Plan Document or the Weston Town Centre Area Action Plan).

LDF Strucutre x2

Core Strategy within the Development Plan and Local Development Framework structure

The Core Strategy will eventually supersede part, but not all, of the North Somerset Replacement Local Plan (2007). Details of which policies are proposed to be superseded, and also where future LDF documents will replace other policy areas are published separately.


Relationship to the Sustainable Community Strategy

The Core Strategy responds to and is informed by 'Improving Our Communities Together', North Somerset Council's Sustainable Community Strategy 2008-2026. It addresses issues identified, provides their land use expression, and seeks to deliver actions across a range of spatial issues. This close relationship is demonstrated in the way the Core Strategy policies are grouped to reflect the Sustainable Community Strategy themes.


Relationship to the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS)

Legislation requires that the Core Strategy must be consistent with national and regional policy. Within the South West the emerging Regional Spatial Strategy (2006-2026) provides the regional context, with the Secretary of State's Proposed Changes published in July 2008. There is no date for the final approval of the RSS, this council has objected to key elements of the document (particularly the proposed Green Belt urban extension at SW Bristol), and it is anticipated that there may be changes to regional guidance introduced following the general election early next year.

This Core Strategy is therefore being prepared at a time of considerable uncertainty in respect of the RSS context, and this is reflected in some of the options explored in this Consultation Draft document.

The principal area of difference with the emerging RSS is in relation to the South West Bristol urban extension, and the implications for addressing the overall RSS housing requirement. The way the Consultation Draft addresses this issue is summarised as follows:

  • Both the urban extensions proposed in the RSS are strategic scale allocations specifically located adjacent to the 'strategically significant cities and towns' of Weston and Bristol;
  • In terms of housing numbers, the 9,000 dwellings proposed at each urban extension are 'ring fenced'. It would be contrary to RSS objectives to reallocate this growth elsewhere, and would lead to less sustainable development patterns;
  • If housing trajectories for the urban extensions demonstrate that they cannot deliver within the plan period, any shortfall will not be reallocated elsewhere. If necessary, the urban extensions will continue post-2026;
  • Development in the Green Belt at SW Bristol is not supported by the council and to make allocations at this stage could prejudice possible future changes to regional policy;
  • This Core Strategy does not make provision for any development at SW Bristol, and is therefore based on a 17,750 dwelling requirement (RSS 26,750 - 9,000 proposed at SW Bristol). However, the current consultation will be used to explore options and choices in relation to this proposed development. If the RSS allocation is confirmed, then further consultation will be required in respect of this issue before proceeding to the next stage;
  • The RSS housing requirements for the rest of the district (3,000 at Weston urban area, 5,750 elsewhere) will, for housing land availability purposes, be aggregated together, with priority given to development at Weston (SSCT).

These principles and their implications are explored in more detail elsewhere in the document.


What stage has the Core Strategy reached?

The table below summarises the main stages of document production from initial conception through to anticipated adoption.

This Consultation Draft forms part of the public participation phase of the Core Strategy process and is therefore a key step towards final adoption. It takes account of the outcomes of the Issues and Options consultation undertaken in 2007, as well as more recent engagement, other evidence and government guidance, and represents the council's preferred choices for delivering the Core Strategy.

The Consultation Draft will be subject to public consultation between 30 November 2009 and 19 February 2010. During this period we would like to hear the views of all interested individuals, groups and organisations on the proposed policies or any options or alternatives.

There will then follow two further formal stages of preparation: Publication when the draft Core Strategy is finalised and consulted upon in terms of whether it is a 'sound' document (is it justified, effective and consistent with national policy), and Submission to the Secretary of State. The Core Strategy will then be considered at an Examination by an independent inspector who will prepare a report indicating, where necessary, how the Core Strategy must be amended. The Core Strategy can then be adopted.


LDF Structure

Evidence Base

The Core Strategy must be underpinned by a robust evidence base that is constantly reviewed to inform decision and plan making. The policies and proposals must therefore be both informed by and assessed against relevant available evidence. The list of documents and sources making up this evidence base is set out in the North Somerset Core Strategy Evidence Base published separately.

Sustainability Appraisal

Sustainability appraisal (SA) is a statutory requirement for Development Plan Documents. The process assesses the impact of the Core Strategy on the environment, people and economy. It incorporates the requirements of the EU Directive on Strategic Environmental Assessment.

Following consultation with key local regional and national stakeholders such as the Environment Agency, Natural England and English Heritage sustainability criteria have been agreed covering issues such as air quality, water, landscape, health and economic performance. The Consultation Draft will be assessed against these sustainability criteria to find the 'best fit' and the results made available in the SA report.

The Consultation Draft has been developed with sustainability in mind and so it is considered that the preferred options are those that perform most satisfactorily when evaluated against reasonable alternatives. The SA will formally test this view. National advice is to appraise broad strategic choices rather than detailed policy wording but the process may suggest further improvements to the Core Strategy that can be incorporated into subsequent drafts.

Monitoring and Review

Monitoring and review are key aspects of the 'plan, monitor, manage' approach to the preparation of Local Development Frameworks. Continuous monitoring enables an assessment of the effectiveness of the Core Strategy and the policies contained within it in terms of both delivering and controlling various types of development across the district.

As part of the Local Development Framework, the council is required to prepare an Annual Monitoring Report (AMR) submitted to the Secretary of State each December. One of the key functions of the AMR is to monitor policies contained within local development documents and to report on their performance.

To assess the performance of the Core Strategy, a separate monitoring framework has been prepared which sets out the key indicators. Where policies are not performing as intended, the AMR will suggest the actions that need to be taken to address the issues. This can, if necessary, include a formal review and subsequent amendment to the policy.

Characteristics of North Somerset

North Somerset covers an area of around 37,500 hectares (145 square miles) with a population of 206,800. It lies south west of Bristol, abutting the city boundary to the north and east, the Severn estuary coast to the west and the Mendip Hills in the south. There is a varied landscape with coastal and rural, international and national designations i.e. Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

buttercup field and lake

North Somerset's primary town is Weston-super-Mare accounting for just under 40% of North Somerset's population, which along with Clevedon (12%) and Portishead (9%) are located on the coast. The other main population centre of Nailsea (9%) is located within the rural levels and moors landscape approximately seven miles from Bristol. 

North Somerset's economy, travel patterns and leisure and retail patterns are heavily influenced by its close proximity to Bristol and easy access to the M5 motorway. Each of the four main towns has a high level of out-commuting to Bristol and its north fringe by private car with low public transport use (less than half the national average). The majority of villages are also within commuting distance of Bristol and therefore to varying degrees have a significant dormitory role. Those residents who commute out of North Somerset for employment have some of the highest incomes in the South West; however those working within North Somerset have incomes lower than the national average. North Somerset has a high percentage of older people (24% as opposed to 19% nationally[1]), is a generally prosperous area but has pockets of deprivation and crime particularly in central areas of Weston-super-Mare. There are serious housing affordability issues with affordable housing completions falling well below the required amount.

Weston-super-Mare is recognised in the draft Regional Spatial Strategy as being an SSCT (Strategically Significant City or Town). It has amongst the lowest self-containment level of other SSCTs in the South West. Traditionally seen as a seaside town, the economic base of Weston has weakened considerably over the last 20 years with the structural changes in tourism compounded by the loss of key manufacturers. Recent focus has been on the need to strengthen the retail, tourism and employment base of Weston.

North Somerset contains two regionally important facilities: Bristol International Airport located on the A38 some 4.5 miles from the edge of Bristol, but with poor accessibility from both Bristol and Weston, and the deep sea port of Royal Portbury Dock located at the mouth of the River Avon.

1. [Office of National Statistics Mid Year Population Estimate 2008 ] [back]

Consultation Draft scope and structure

Chapter 2 sets out the spatial visions for the district and the priority objectives required to deliver the vision.

The policies provide the framework for implementing the vision and objectives, to guide investment and development proposals. The spatial policies (Chapter 3) are divided into four sections to reflect the Sustainable Community Strategy themes:

  • Living within Environmental Limits
  • Delivering Strong and Inclusive Communities
  • Delivering a Prosperous Economy
  • Ensuring Safe and Healthy Communities

Separate area policies (Chapter 4) set out the overall approach for specific locations while implementation is addressed by the delivery policies (Chapter 6).

  • Area Policies
  • Delivery Policies

While the Core Strategy does not support development at South West Bristol, or any change to the Green Belt, Chapter 5 addresses the issues and choices relating to the emerging Regional Spatial Strategy's proposed urban extension.

The key spatial implications of the Core Strategy are summarised diagrammatically on the key diagram (Chapter 6). A detailed inset is proposed for the Weston urban extension, and this follows the relevant area policy CS30.