Local Plan 2040 Draft Plan - Strategy options and draft policies consultation

Ended on the 3rd September 2021
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7.0 Development management policies

7.1 This section contains new or replacement development management policies.

Self-build and custom housebuilding

7.2 The Self-build & Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 introduced the concept of an individual's Right to Build and the requirement on Local Authorities to keep a register of both individuals and associations who are seeking to do so. It has since been amended by the Housing and Planning Act 2016.

7.3 Further regulations[4] require Local Authorities to grant sufficient planning permissions for self- and custom-build plots to meet annual register-evidenced demand.

7.4 Councils are required to have regard to the register when carrying out their functions relating to planning, housing, the disposal of the authority's land and regeneration.

7.5 Self-build and custom housebuilding is defined in the Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 as:

the building or completion by-

(a) individuals,

(b) associations of individuals, or

(c) persons working with or for individuals or associations of individuals, of houses to be occupied as homes by those individuals.

7.6 Self-build is where individuals or associations of individuals, including those in community-led projects, are directly responsible for the design and construction of their own homes. These may be traditional DIY self-build homes where the eventual occupiers carry out all or much of the project management; construction and finish or increasingly where a self-builder commissions all or much of the work employing others to carry out the actual build for them.

7.7 Custom build homes are where developers, builders or industry specialist 'home-builders' work with individuals or associations to deliver finished or shell homes to a pre-agreed bespoke design standards and quality of finish. The developer may provide a plot, manage the construction and arrange the finance for the new home as a package. Whilst this is therefore more of a hands-off approach for the final occupier, the homes will still be tailored from initial inception to match an individual's requirements, within certain agreed parameters.

7.8 Whether self or custom-build, the instigators, funders or commissioners of the work must be the occupiers of the dwelling.

7.9 The Council introduced its Self-build and Custom Homebuilding Register in April 2016 and following recent consultation, divided it into 2 parts:

Part 1 – requires evidence by the individual or association to demonstrate a defined local connection to the area. Registrants on part 1 will be given first refusal on self-build plots that become available in the borough either through the application of Policy SB1 (below) or as a result of the Council disposing of its own land (where it is suitable for and is being disposed of for self- build).

Part 2 – Other individuals or associations that have an interest in self-build plots in the borough but who do not have the required local connection to the area. Any plots that are available but are not taken up by anyone on part 1 of the register will then be offered to those on part 2 before being more widely marketed.

7.10 Neighbourhood Plans may also allocate sites for self-build and/or custom housebuilding plots and where this is so, developers will be required to have regard to relevant policies and marketing requirements.

7.11 The Council has a duty to provide serviced plots to meet the demand on Part 1 of its Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Register but will take into account the demand shown by both parts of the register in considering planning applications. To help to do this, the Council will require qualifying developments to make available serviced plots specifically to provide self-build and custom housebuilding opportunities. The number of serviced plots to be made available will be determined by the capacity of the site.

7.12 The policy sets out marketing requirements for advertising the availability of self-build and custom housebuilding plots. These broad requirements differ depending on the number of dwellings proposed for a site. On sites of 49 dwellings or fewer, the timetable for marketing plots will generally be shorter. This is due to the fact that smaller sites will build out faster, meaning there is a greater possibility that lengthier marketing would delay the delivery of dwellings.

7.13 Whilst the nature of some proposals, for example high density sites of predominantly apartments or conversions of existing buildings, might mean individual self-build plots may not be available or practical, such dwellings do provide opportunities for custom build. The Council therefore expects that all qualifying sites will meet the requirements of Policy SB1.

Policy SB1 – Self-build and custom housebuilding

i The Council will require applications for new housing development to include a number of plots for self-build and custom housebuilders in accordance with the following, based on the overall number of net-additional dwellings proposed:

1-4 dwellings = no requirement

5-9 dwellings = 1 plot

10-29 dwellings = 2 plots

30-49 dwellings = 3 plots

50-69 dwellings = 5 plots

70-89 dwellings = 6 plots

90-100 dwellings = 7 plots

100+ dwellings = by negotiation

ii Self-build and custom housebuilding plot sizes should take account of register evidenced demand;

iii All plots must be serviced with suitable connections to utilities such as water and drainage, electricity, gas and broadband;

iv Prior to commencement of development, developers will be required to agree a marketing plan with the Local Planning Authority that complies with the following:

  • Self-build and Custom Housebuilding plots will be offered at an open value established by a RICS valuer
  • Where an expression of interest in a plot has been rejected by the developer, evidence must be provided to the Local Planning Authority, upon request, as to why it was not suitable

For sites of 50 or more dwellings:

  • Plots will be marketed solely to individuals and associations on Part 1 of the Council's Register in the first instance for an initial period of two months (minimum) from the commencement of the site being marketed. Following the initial marketing period, the offer of any unreserved plots will be extended to those on Part 2 of the Council's Register and any new registrants to Part 1 having joined during the initial period. If the developer can provide evidence to the satisfaction of the Council that suitable purchasers from the Register have not been forthcoming within 6 months (minimum) of commencement of marketing the plots, they may be offered for unrestricted market sale to self-build and custom homebuilders including industry sector specialist companies
  • Any plots not reserved within a further 6 months (minimum) will be released from this specific policy requirement, following a total of 12 months of marketing.

For sites of 49 or fewer dwellings:

  • Plots will be marketed solely to individuals and associations on Part 1 of the Council's Register in the first instance for an initial period of 1 month (minimum) from the commencement of marketing.
  • Following the initial marketing period the offer of any unreserved plots will be extended to those on Part 2 of the Council's Register and any new registrants to Part 1 having joined during the initial period. If suitable purchasers from the Register demonstrably have not been forthcoming within 3 months (minimum) of commencement of marketing the plots, they may be offered for unrestricted market sale to self-build and custom homebuilders including industry sector specialist companies
  • Any plots not reserved within a further 3 months (minimum) will be released from this specific policy requirement, following a total of 6 months of marketing.

v To ensure timely delivery of plots, the S106 agreement will contain triggers that link the marketing of self-build and custom housebuilding plots to the occupation of specified percentages of open market housing.

vi Developments required by virtue of this policy to provide self-build and custom housebuilding plots will in addition, and as a priority, be expected to deliver affordable housing across the whole development site in accordance with the Council's adopted policy (see Local Plan 2030 Policy 59S) by way of on-site provision or in exceptional circumstances by payment of commuted sums for off-site delivery, where appropriate. The Council will not normally expect self-build serviced plots to be included as part of the site affordable housing proportion unless this has been agreed in writing within the Heads of Terms of the proposed S106 agreement.

vii Where a development is phased, the siting and provision of self-build and custom housebuilding plots will be set out in a phasing plan

Quality of development and space standards

7.14 The quality of buildings and places, and how they integrate with the natural environment, have been shown to affect how people interact with them. Good quality development can create environments which promote wellbeing and happiness, as well as provide functional, well-built places.

7.15 The Bedford Borough Local Plan 2030 has a set of design policies requiring that development proposals fully consider design issues. The following documents are also available and give guidance on different aspects of design:

  • Sustainable Drainage System SPD 2018
  • Parking Standards for Sustainable Communities SPD 2014
  • Open Space SPD 2013
  • Shopfronts and Advertisements in Conservation Areas SPD 2005
  • Achieving Quality in Residential Layouts SPG 1997
  • Residential Extensions, New Dwellings and Small Infill Developments SPG 2000
  • Houses in Multiple Occupation SPD 2020

Current national guidance

7.16 Chapter 12 of the National Planning Policy Framework, "Achieving well-designed places", supports good design and the creation of high quality places. It encourages plans to set out a clear vision and expectations on design quality in the local area.

Nationally described space standards

7.17 The government has set out appropriate nationally described space standards for new developments. These space standards are predicated on the number of bedrooms and the number of people each new dwelling is intended to cater for.

7.18 For example, a single bedroom, one-storey dwelling for one person should be a minimum of 37m2; and a single bedroom, one-storey dwelling for two people should be a minimum of 50m2.

7.19 These standards have recently become mandatory for all new dwellings developed under permitted development rights[5]. This is in recognition of the fact that many have fallen below these standards in the past and created inappropriately sized homes. To be consistent with this approach the Council will expect all new dwellings (including newly formed dwellings through conversion) to conform with nationally described space standards. Further information can be found at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/524531/160519_Nationally_Described_Space_Standard____Final_Web_version.pdf.

7.20 Separate Regulations apply to sleeping accommodation floor areas in licenced HMOs.[6]

Policy DQ1 – Residential space standards

The Council will require all new dwellings to conform to nationally described space standards as a minimum.

National design guide

7.21 The government has recently published a National Design Guide, setting out and explaining ten characteristics of well-designed places. The diagram below is taken from the National Design Guide and sets out these ten characteristics within the overarching headings of climate, character and community:

Source: National Design Guide MHCLG

National model design code

7.22 The government has recently consulted on a National Model Design Code, the purpose of which is to provide detailed guidance on the production of design codes, guides and policies in Local Plans. Responses are currently being reviewed.

Proposed changes to national policy and guidance

7.23 The government white paper "Planning for the Future" sets out proposals for changes to the way the planning system will operate.

7.24 One of the proposals is to ensure that a revised planning system will enable the creation of beautiful places. The white paper emphasises high quality design of buildings and places that will ultimately create net gain in the quality of the built and natural environments.[7]

7.25 The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission set up by the government published a report in January 2020 making recommendations on how to improve the promotion of good design and beauty. A consultation on amendments to the NPPF to incorporate these recommendations was undertaken in 2020 and, if adopted, these would further emphasise the government's drive for beautiful places and would support refusal of poor quality schemes.

7.26 Together, the National Design Guide, the White Paper, the proposed changes to the NPPF and the National Model Design Code all encourage local authorities to prepare design guides and codes to provide detailed guidance on what would be expected of development in their area.

Bedford Borough design guide

7.27 Given the strengthening national context, the vision in section 2 above promotes good design, helping to improve the quality of life and creating safer, vibrant and more sustainable places throughout the borough. Interaction and integration with the natural environment is key when planning new development. In support of the clear national emphasis on design quality, and to supplement the policies in the Local Plan 2030, the Council is currently preparing a design guide.

7.28 The intention is that the design guide will include an analysis of local distinctiveness. It will do this by reviewing the built and natural environment of the borough and grouping its geography into different character areas where distinct cohesion and similarity exist. This will provide strategic guidance on design as opposed to a more detailed design code, which would provide a finer grain of detail on what sort of building arrangements and detailed design are required for defined areas. The design guide will then go on to provide general design advice for each of the character areas so that it is clear what development should take its cues from and what it should seek to promote in any given area to respond and fit in with the surrounding environment.

7.29 There will be a separate opportunity to comment on the scope of the design guide. Further details will be published shortly.

Natural environment policies

7.30 Progress on the Environment Bill that was introduced to parliament in January 2020 has been delayed. The Bill will now be carried over to the next parliamentary session in 2021 due to the impact of Covid-19. Royal Assent may be obtained in autumn 2021, with the Statutory Instruments setting out the environmental targets to be laid before parliament by 31 October 2022. The biodiversity net gain requirements are not likely to take effect until 2023, two years after Assent. For the Local Plan 2040 this means that we will need to monitor progress and may need to include new policies in the plan for submission or during the plan's examination.

7.31 Due to the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Union, there is now no relevance to previous references to European designated sites or Natura 2000 sites. To assist with the interpretation of current local plan policies, any references to Natura 2000 sites should now be read as referring to 'the new national site network'.

What is biodiversity net gain?

7.32 The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Biodiversity Metric was first introduced in 2012 and the third version is expected to be published in 2021. The metric is a calculator that is used to measure the biodiversity losses and gains that will result from development. It is designed as a template to which applicants can input their baseline and development information, and it will then produce a figure for net biodiversity gain. At the current time, legislation does not require a mandatory percentage of net gain to be achieved.

What is natural capital gain?

7.33 Natural Capital is defined in the government's 25 Year Environment Plan as "the sum of our ecosystems, species, freshwater, land, soils, minerals, our air and our seas. These are all elements of nature that either directly or indirectly bring value to people and the country at large. They do this in many ways but chiefly by providing us with food, clean air and water, wildlife, energy, wood, recreation and protection from hazards". The 25-Year Environment Plan introduced the concept of embedding an 'environmental net gain' principle for development, and the concept of expanding net gain approaches used for biodiversity to include wider natural capital benefits.

Environmental net gain

7.34 In line with the National Planning Policy Framework, biodiversity net gain was a concept first introduced in planning policy in Bedford in the Local Plan 2030. However, since the plan was adopted, the environmental agenda has moved on and it is now suggested we should go further than biodiversity net gain and adopt an environmental net gain approach in planning and development. The Local Plan 2040 provides an opportunity to update our policy. Environmental net gain is defined as:

Environmental net gain = biodiversity net gain + natural capital gain

7.35 HM Treasury's Green Book further describes ecosystem services as: "Stocks of natural capital provide flows of environmental or 'ecosystem' services over time. These services, often in combination with other forms of capital (human, produced and social) produce a wide range of benefits. These include use values that involve interaction with the resource and which can have a market value (minerals, timber, freshwater) or non-market value (such as outdoor recreation, landscape amenity). They also include non-use values, such as the value people place on the existence of particular habitats or species."

Source: Bedfordshire Natural Capital Assessment, Natural Capital Solutions

7.36 Environmental net gain builds upon the biodiversity net gain principle, but goes further to include a focus on natural capital assets and the associated benefits such as flood protection, improved water and air quality that can be achieved from developments.

7.37 Bedford Borough Council has been working with DEFRA as part of the Ox-Cam Arc Local Natural Capital Plan Project which looked at how a natural capital approach can be implemented and incorporated into planning policy across the Arc; the documents are available to view on the website – https://www.oxcamlncp.org/. The Ecosystem Services Baseline and Comparison report was completed in March 2021. The information that has been mapped is at a strategic scale across the Arc area. A Natural Capital Accounting Tool has also been produced.

7.38 In order to get information at a more local level, The Bedfordshire Local Nature Partnership commissioned natural capital and ecosystem services opportunity mapping for Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Luton. This work will also inform Local Nature Recovery Strategies which are likely to be a requirement of the Environment Act. Further detail is set out in the evidence base document, Bedford Borough Natural Capital Assessment Report. We have incorporated consideration of the information into our site assessment methodology (see Table 1).

7.39 Local Plan 2030 Policy 43 – Enhancing biodiversity explains that development proposals should provide a net increase in biodiversity. In preparation for the emerging principles of net environmental gain, we propose to replace Policy 43 with a policy which explains that development should provide environmental net gain and not just biodiversity net gain.

7.40 Other work by the Arc Environment Working Group has led to the production of Arc-wide environment principles which in due course will lead to the development of an Arc Environment Strategy. The draft principles, agreed by Bedford Borough Council, support the concept of net environmental gain and commit partners to working with government to develop a net environment gain metric for use within the Arc. The aim is to put in place technical groups to assess net gain propositions on behalf of local planning authorities and provide planning committees with independent advice.

Policy NE1 –Environmental Net Gain

Proposals for major development should provide an environmental net gain (in accordance with government policy), which incorporates biodiversity net gain, through the following:

i Enhancement of the existing features of the site, particularly where these deliver significant levels of ecosystem services; or

ii The creation of additional habitats on the site; or

iii. The linking of existing habitats to create links between ecological networks and where possible, with adjoining features.

Planning applications should demonstrate how net biodiversity and net environmental gain will be achieved through the production of a supporting statement that considers the contribution the proposal could make to the borough's natural capital.

In some circumstances there will be a requirement to enhance or create off-site habitats where it is not possible to deliver net gain solely through on-site activities.

Major development is defined as residential sites of 10 or more units; or on a site where the number of units is unknown, a site area of 0.5 hectare or greater. For non-residential uses, sites where the floorspace to be created is 1,000 square metres or greater or the site area is 1 hectare or greater.


 

[4] Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Regulations 2016 and the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding (Time for Compliance and fees) Regulations 2016

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