Agenda item


The Planning Policy Manager to provide an update on the Local Plan Review.


The Planning Policy Manager presented an update on the Local Plan Review.


It was RESOLVED that the update on the Local Plan Review be noted.


The Chair invited Lewis Claridge, the Planning Policy Manager to present an update on the Local Plan Review.


The Planning Policy Manager introduced himself and his colleague, Sally Talbot, Principal Planning Officer. He introduced the briefing by explaining the context and ongoing review of the Local Plan.


The Planning Policy Manager described the framework within which they operated and emphasised the need for all planning policies to conform to national policy and guidelines, particularly the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This framework dictated the rules and regulations for local plans, ensuring they were justified, effective and consistent with national policy. He advised that the current local plan, adopted in 2019, had passed those tests of soundness.


He outlined the components of the local plan, including supplementary planning documents that elaborated on specific policies, and other material considerations that influenced planning applications. The local plan, which spanned 160 pages, was structured into three main sections. The first section provided an introduction and context. The second section contained 13 strategic polices. The third section included 73 detailed land use policies. The policies were aimed at achieving sustainable growth and development by 2031. He noted that Stevenage’s local plan had originally faced challenges and a delay due to a hold direction by the Secretary of State, which was eventually lifted in 2019, and allowed for its adoption.


The Planning Policy Manager then highlighted the main challenges addressed by the local plan, including geography and population, housing, employment, retail design, health, education, skills, environment, and transport. He provided an overview of the strategic vision for Stevenage, focused on regeneration, housing provision, and employment growth. The policies map and key diagrams within the plan illustrated the spatial representation of these policies, detailing housing sites, employment areas, green spaces, and other critical zones.


The Committee was advised of the drivers for change that necessitated updates to the local plan. These included national changes such as the Levelling Up Regeneration Act and the forthcoming Levelling Up Regeneration Bill, which aimed to amend the NPPF. With the current plan now over five years old, its material weight had slightly weakened, prompting the need for updates to maintain its relevance and effectiveness.


At the regional and sub-regional level, Members were informed that the North East Central Hertfordshire Joint Spatial Future Plan, which involved several local authorities and outlined a high-level vision for the area’s future development. Stevenage’s unique position within this context was noted, along with the town's collaborative efforts with Hertfordshire County Council on highways, education, climate change, and other strategic initiatives.


The Planning Policy Manager advised that the key changes locally included geography and population, transport, environment, infrastructure, housing, and retail. The local plan should address these evolving factors, incorporating new developments, climate change strategies, and economic growth. The Station Gateway Area Action Plan was highlighted as a significant project aimed at enhancing the station area’s connectivity and sustainability.


The Committee was informed of the current process for reviewing and updating the local plan. This involved a light touch review focussed on essential changes rather than a comprehensive overhaul. The planning team conducted an internal consultation and sought professional legal advice to ensure conformity with national policies. The review process included the creation of a track changes version of the local plan and included a table to justify the proposed changes.


Key updates included prioritising climate change in the strategic policies, incorporating the Station Gateway Area Action Plan, updating the policies map, and reflecting changes in use class orders. Public consultation on the draft policies would be the next step in the review process, with plans to engage widely using digital platforms, newsletters, physical documents, and stakeholder meetings.


The Principal Planning Officer elaborated on the public consultation process. She emphasised the importance of reaching out to diverse groups through digital platforms like Commonplace, as well as traditional methods such as newsletters and physical documents in libraries and council offices. She highlighted the goal of ensuring transparent and effective communication with stakeholders, including local authorities on the town’s boundaries.


The Planning Policy Manager outlined the next steps in the review process. The local plan review and officer recommendations would be considered at the June Cabinet meeting. If approved, a six-week public consultation would follow, starting in mid-June 2024. The feedback from this consultation would be analysed and incorporated into revised policies, which would then undergo another round of Cabinet review and public consultation before submission to the Secretary of State in the spring of 2025.


The Chair thanked the officers for their comprehensive presentation and requested that the presentation slides, and the related links, be shared with the Committee.


It was RESOLVED that the briefing on the Local Plan Review be noted.