Agenda item

Cheltenham Plan Main Modifications Report

Report of the Cabinet Member Development and Safety.


The Cabinet Member Development and Safety introduced the report. He explained that the report sought authority to consult on Main Modifications to the Cheltenham Plan, following an examination into the Pre- Submission Cheltenham Plan by the Planning Inspectorate in February 2019.


He highlighted that work to progress the development of the Cheltenham Plan had been underway since 2012 and following Pre-Submission publication in early 2018 the Cheltenham Plan was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for independent examination. Public hearing sessions were held for six days during February 2019. Following the close of the hearing sessions the Inspector provided the Council with a Post Hearing Advice Note. The note raised a number of concerns around the Leckhampton School Site, Landsdown Industrial Estate, Oakhurst Rise and Local Green Space.  He advised that officers had responded to the Inspector’s advice note and outlined proposed actions in consultation with the Planning and Liaison Members Working Group and no objection to those actions had been raised by the Planning Inspector. The work proposed in the Inspector’s Advice Note had therefore been undertaken and were reflected in Appendix 2.


The significant changes were as follows:


·         Leckhampton School Site – a modification was required to ensure that the new secondary school could come forward in a way where it was capable of being delivered. This would in effect move the location of the school building to GCC owned land that had been previously designated as Local Green Space, this would increase the potential for housing on the Leckhampton Green Fields by 150. He noted that at a previous debate it was agreed that there was the potential for 400 houses on that site but because the school was to be located on part of it, that was going to be reduced to 250. He confirmed that GCC’s decision to move the location of the school building now meant that site would return to a capacity of 400. He highlighted that the changes had been made as the inspector had recognised that CBC had no direct input other than as a consultee.

·         Landsdown Industrial Estate – explained that the owners of the industrial estate were very happy for it to be re-designated as housing but were not putting forward any timescale for doing this and it therefore couldn’t be included in the housing supply calculations.

·         Oakhurst Rise – following the dismissal of the planning appeal, the inspector had asked CBC to look again at the capacity for this site. As a result, the policy had been revised to require a Masterplan to be included in any new applications that recognised the constraints of the site. A minimum number of 25 dwellings had also been included in the policy which was largely in line with what the planning committee had agreed as acceptable.

·         Local Green Space –the inspector had requested that the council re-look at the Local Green Space and put forward her own qualifying criteria by which these should be addressed. A re-assessment exercise had taken place based on the new criteria and a number of sites had been removed from the Green Space allocation due to the lack of evidence to meet the new criteria. He confirmed that as a result, 16 sites were now being recommended for Green Space designation and those spaces that had been removed still retained their existing protections under the public green space policy. The Local Green Space designations at Swindon Village and Leckhampton remained largely in place with some alterations to comply with the inspectors criteria.


The Cabinet Member highlighted that there had not yet been an allocation for Green Space at the West Cheltenham development because at this stage the proposals were not sufficiently detailed enough to bring forward accurate plans for what would be designated. The Local Green Space allocation was being worked up as part of the masterplanning exercise that was taking place at present and they expected that to come back as a separate SPD.

He confirmed that the Main Modifications required a minimum six-week period of public consultation and subject to Council’s approval, consultation would commence in November 2019. Following the close of the consultation all of the responses would be collated and sent to the Inspector who would then prepare a final report on the Cheltenham Local Plan and determine whether the modifications made it legally sound. By not having an approved plan they ran the risk of developers putting forward applications that the council were less able to defend. The anticipated adoption of the plan was spring 2020.  He stressed that making future developments carbon neutral was key to meeting the council’s 2030 target, however, the current policy was not in a position to facilitate that as it relied on central government legislation. He hoped that the government would in the future amend its legislation so that the council would be in a position to amend the policy going forward and push for higher standards.


In the debate that followed, Members made the following comments:

  • They questioned whether the council intended to adopt the March 2015 DCLG technical housing standards.
  • Regarding policy HD1, Christ College site B, one Member felt that the site description was inaccurate as it stated that the playing field was unlikely to come back in to use. They highlighted that there was a school for pupils that had been excluded directly adjacent to the site and their only external space was a multi-use games area. They, therefore, felt that the playing field could be used by the school if they entered in to some sort of agreement with the landowner. They also queried the source of the contaminated land. A Member had further concerns about the traffic lights at Gloucester Road and Tewkesbury Road and the fact they were already at full capacity and felt that there needed to be a further requirement that developers would pay for any signalling required.
  • The Cabinet confirmed that they were hoping for some significant improvements in what was and wasn’t required at West Cheltenham in terms of Local Green Space prior to the final document coming forward.
  • One Member felt that one of the key ways that CBC could address the climate emergency was through  planning policy and questioned what the Council were doing to raise this issue with national government.
  • One Member wished to place on record their thanks that Cirencester Road had still been included in the Green Space allocation.
  • Regarding Leckhampton Green Space, it was noted that there was significant development in that area and one Member was concerned that housing numbers hadn’t been reduced on the Shurdington Road site to allow for the Green Space that was proposed on the senior school site. They felt that there was no significant, useable Green Space in the area and would have liked to see some inclusion of a proper park in that area.
  • One Member had concerns about the number of brownfield sites in the town being used for retired properties and noted that there were a number of young professionals who couldn’t afford to buy property in the town. They felt that the Council needed to lobby central government and safeguard some land in the urban centres for working age people.
  • Members congratulated the planning team on their response to the inspector and the thorough consultation process.
  • One Member questioned whether MM001 related only to things within the control of the borough or if it would apply to private open green space and if so, they suggested including it within the definition.
  • On MM16, Oakhurst Rise, one Member requested that the section referring to Oakhurst Rise having good transport links be removed as they felt this was not factually correct given its location.
  • One Member requested that supplementary flood risk guidance be produced which they felt would be beneficial given that flooding was an increasing problem in Cheltenham.
  • Regarding MD3 Coronation Square and MD4 Royal Well, one Member wanted to clarify that mixed use did not rule out residential and felt it important that we retain residential as an option within mixed use developments.
  • One Member had serious concerns around housing supply, they noted that they were over providing by over 700 houses in the whole plan period although it could not be guaranteed that that many houses were deliverable in the next 5 years. They questioned the number of houses difference between the 5 year supply and the 4.6 year supply and queried why the proposed houses at Bouncers Lane, North Plan, Portland Street and Leckhampton didn’t fall within the 5 year supply.
  • Regarding the allocation at the Northern Fields and Leckhampton, one Member noted that the previous scheme would have been preferable with the school on the Northern Fields and fewer houses. They questioned whether, if the school didn’t go ahead, the land would revert back to Local Green Space.
  • They felt that the planning committee needed to impose more conditions when granting planning applications given the climate emergency.
  • They questioned the connection between the transport plan and the main modifications report.
  • Councillor Clucas wanted to put on record her thanks to Helen Wells, Aaron Stibbey, Swindon Village Parish Council, Save the Countryside, Councillor Fisher, Councillor McKinlay and the officers for their efforts in Swindon Village. She also thanked the residents of Swindon Village who wrote in with letters of support for what the council wanted to do. 
  • One Member noted that the green space near Battledown Park could not come under this plan as there was still ongoing building work but they wanted to ensure that this area was not missed in the future. Similarly, some existing playgrounds, in particular Ewens Farm play area had also been missed. They questioned whether a process needed to be put in place to ensure that they didn’t get missed in the future.
  • One Member was of the understanding that as per the 2017/2018 amendments to the NPPF, anything that was an outline application didn’t count towards the 5 year land supply and therefore reasoned that there were a considerable number of housing developments in Cheltenham that would not count.


The Planning policy officer offered the following responses to Members questions: 

  • He confirmed that they weren’t looking at adopting the space standards within the Cheltenham Plan, because they didn’t have the evidence to suggest that they could impose it, and they would likely face a lot of back lash from the development industry if they were to do so without significant evidence. He confirmed that going forward, they could look to do that in the next iteration of the plan or in the JCS.
  • With regards to Christ College, they had no indication that the landowner was looking at reusing the playing fields and they had supported the allocation of that site for housing. He stressed that it was a significant site within the town that could provide up to 60 houses. With regards to the contamination, at this stage of the plan they hadn’t looked exactly at what was there, and a more detailed inspection of the site would come forward at the planning application stage. With regards to access to the site, he confirmed that they had consulted with GCC throughout the Local Plan process and in their opinion, there were mitigation measures that could be put in place to resolve the issues. He confirmed that, at the application stage the developers would have to pay some sort of contribution towards mitigation measures.
  • He confirmed that you would not be able to designate Local Green Space at West Cheltenham through an SPD, however, they were hopeful that the masterplanning would provide enough protection and way to allocate useful Green Space. He explained that neighbourhood plans could also designate Local Green Space if necessary.
  • With regards to switching Local Green Space in to the existing allocation in the North at Leckhampton, he advised that in order to allocate that as Local Green Space you would need significant evidence that isn’t there at present. However, when the application for housing comes forward the developers are under obligation to provide open, public and green spaces for the community and the designs that had come forward included a significant amount of Green Space within it.
  • He confirmed that the statements in MM001 apply to everything in the borough.
  • He reasoned that removing the reference to good transport links for Oakhurst Rise would be a minor modification because it wouldn’t make any difference to the policy itself.
  • Producing a SPD on flood risk was a top priority for the planning team once they had capacity.
  • He confirmed that mixed use does not exclude residential and they had to take the housing figures for Coronation Square and the other sites out of the plan because they did not have solid evidence that they would come forward.
  • The difference between 4.6 and 5 years of supply was around 250 homes and the reason some of the sites weren’t within the 5 year supply was because the most recent version of the NPPF had changed the definition of deliverable which has made it difficult to put lots of those sites in without evidence or up to date planning permissions.
  • He confirmed that the land in MD5 South of Kidnappers Lane is for the school and the applications itself was for 350 houses North of Kidnappers Lane, he felt that the policy was strong enough to prevent any additional houses going on to those fields and they were extremely confident that the County Council were definitely going to build the school.
  • The Head of Planning advised that in terms of retirement properties, there were a number that were empty and so he felt that the market would correct itself.
  • The Local transport plan was due to be consulted on in Spring, and once adopted, would form part of CBC’s development plan so would be taken in to consideration when making planning decisions.
  • The 2019 NPPF states that if anything has outline permission, it should only be considered deliverable when there is clear evidence that housing completions begin on site within 5 years. Therefore, if it is only an outline application, the burden is on officers to go out and prove that it is likely to come forward in 5 years. It is possible to include outlines in the 5 year supply if the evidence is there.


Councillor Babbage informally proposed an amendment to remove policy HD4, Oakhurst Rise and add it on to the Local Green Space designation. He noted that the decision to leave it in as a residential site and not an LGS site meant that it had never been properly assessed for Local Green Space. He did not want to make a formal amendment, but hoped that Members would agree to carry out an assessment on the site for Local Green Space so that when they got to the latter stages of the process they would know whether it was suitable. 


The Cabinet Member for Development & Safety highlighted that the intention was to protect as much Green Space as possible and that the proper mechanisms to ensure areas were not missed would need to be picked up by officers. He had concerns about accepting the proposed amendment as the planning inspector had specifically referenced Oakhurst Rise in her report and had already outlined what she thought the council needed do, he therefore could not support something that would negate what the inspector was saying.


On the point of HD4, the Head of Planning advised that in 2014/2015 there was a good amount of public consultation on Local Green Space and assessments were made that were then examined by the inspector. Policy HD4 Land at Oakhurst Rise had also been the subject of that consultation and so as it stands there was no evidence to support that as being a Local Green Space. As worded, policy HD4 retained the site as an allocated housing site but called for a masterplan to be developed for the site which would highlight all of the constraints on that site. He highlighted that there was considerable information that already exists that would enable a developer to come forward for that site, provide Green Space and protect the trees and heritage assets but also deliver housing in line with HD4. He confirmed that subject to the Council’s decision, they would go out to consultation in November and December and collate all the consultation comments received, the comments would then be submitted to the local plan inspector who would confirm whether the plan was sound. Presuming the plan was deemed sound, it would come back to Full Council for a final decision, however, at this stage, it would not be possible to make changes to the policy or make decisions on what a piece of land should be used for.


The Leader highlighted that the Local Green Space reviews were carried out by the local community and therefore, it would be possible for the local parish council to conduct a review and submit this as part of the formal consultation process and explain their preference for the site.


Councillor Babbage formally proposed an amendment that was seconded by Councillor Harman, as follows:

To assess land at Oakhurst Rise (HD4) for Local Green Space designation, in parallel with the Cheltenham Plan.

The Cabinet Member Development and Safety rejected the amendment and felt that the Leaders suggestion was the appropriate way of taking the matter forward. He confirmed that the masterplanning would look at potential Green Space allocation on the site but would do so in the context of the agreed plan. He also confirmed that he was happy to remove the reference to good transport links for Oakhurst Rise as suggested during the debate.

Councillor Babbage withdrew the amendment on the understanding that outside Council they could progress the local Green Space designation and present it as part of the consultation process. The Cabinet Member agreed that this would be a sensible way forward.

The Cabinet Member agreed that the plan was not fit to drive forward the climate change agenda and that they were making representations to the LGA to lobby central government in this respect. He noted the contention around the fact that outline planning applications could not be included in the 5 year land supply as without a 5 year supply the council had considerably less control over what was allocated.




·         the proposed Main Modifications to the February 2018 Pre-Submission Cheltenham Plan as set out in Appendix 2 to this report (including proposed modifications to the Proposals Map and site maps/plans) as those it endorses and considers necessary to make the Cheltenham Plan sound be approved;


·         Authority be delegated to the Director of Planning to make minor changes to the proposed Main Modifications and proposed modifications to the Proposals Map and site maps/plans in terms of formatting, presentation and accuracy prior to publication for consultation purposes.

Supporting documents: