At an Extraordinary Meeting on 12th November, the Executive approved to carry out consultation on the Local Plan Update (LPU): Revised Growth Strategy. This includes, amongst other differences to the Draft Local Plan, the identification of a significant area of additional housing within the South Wokingham Strategic Development Location, and which identifies Lightwood’s site at Priors Farm as an area of development.
Lightwood continues its commitment to creating better places by instructing Create Streets (Nicholas Boys Smith) as lead master planners on our 2,000-home site to the North East of Trowbridge.
Nicholas Boys Smith set up Create Streets in 2013 out of frustration with the low quality of too much recent development and of irrational decision-making with the aim of making it easier to co-create beautiful, sustainable, prosperous, economically and socially successful places with strong local support and which residents will love for generations.
Lightwood have secured a promotion agreement on Priors Farm, a 97 acre site located on Easthampstead Road to the south east of the existing Strategic Development Location (SDL) and directly south of our live planning application for 95 units at Waterloo Road. Whilst it is located within the boundary of the SDL, it is currently only identified as open space. Lightwood believe that the SDL should be extended to achieve the greater numbers required as a result of Wokingham Borough Council needing to extend its time horizon for its Local Plan, and the site presents the logical next step.
The Wiltshire Draft Local Plan proposes two sites to the North East of Trowbridge that together will deliver 3,100 homes. Hilperton Marsh Farm forms a major part of the site that is expected to deliver 2,100 homes up to 2036 and a further 500 homes beyond the Plan Period. Lightwood have secured a position on 183ha of land combing both Hilperton Marsh Farm and Paxcroft Farm and will be promoting a larger concept to the LPA which, in addition to both a new primary and secondary school, provides its own SANG which in turn will help to address the issue of bats identified in the Trowbridge Bat Mitigation SPD (February 2020).
Currently local authority investment in cycle routes tends to focus on the few miles closest to the city centre. But e-bikes make it much easier for many more people to travel longer distances, opening up cycle commuting from those living in outer suburbs and even rural areas.
Lightwood has teamed up with one of Europe’s largest e-bike manufacturers and leasing companies Orbea.
Lightwood is the planning consultancy and land promoter behind large scale new communities including Culm Garden Village in Devon (2,700 new homes), Shapley Heath Garden Village in Hampshire, (5,000+ new homes) and South Wokingham (1,000+ homes).
Lightwood and Orbea will be offering free access to e-bikes for all new residents.
But key to the success of getting residents commuting by bike and not car, is putting e-bike networks at the heart of any new major development, according to Lightwood’s director James Sorrentino:
“There is a very real opportunity to slash emissions in UK cities and towns. The growth in e-bike usage – and the much greater distance range they offer – opens up commuting into city centres not just for younger, urban dwellers, but for people living at, and beyond, the edge of the city.
“As a developer we have totally revisited our approach, and now put e-bikes at the heart of any masterplan for our new developments.
“This is partly about the practical things: ensuring we provide bike routes that connect to the wider cycle and road network; ensuring e-bikes are available within a short walk of all homes; ensuring there is a sufficient number of well-maintained e-bikes for all users; providing free use of e-bikes to make it affordable for all residents, so it is equitable; providing bike hubs at key public transport points, like nearby train stations and key bus stops.
“But it’s also about creating and nurturing a culture where that community thinks it as normal to hop on an e-bike as it is to jump on a bus or train. And where there is a shared pride in reducing emissions. That can be supported through cycle clubs, cycle workshops, cycle cafes, engaging signage etc.
“We’re even looking at providing free off-road e-buggies for less abled people to enjoy the open spaces and parkland designed into our schemes.
“And now we have joined forces with Orbea to ensure all our proposed developments will provide residents with free e-bike use. This is a really great partnership with one of Europe’s e-bike pioneers.
“We think this approach – putting e-bikes at the heart of development masterplanning – should become a mandatory requirement.
“Of course, one of the key issues is ensuring that cycle networks – whether that’s dedicated cycle routes or safe cycle lanes on roads – have the right investment. Clearly this is under the control of the highways authority (usually the local council), but of course developers often pay for most of this work to be done.
“Investment in dedicated cycle routes focusses on the first five or so kilometres, on the basis that’s how far most cyclists will normally commute. But e-bikes have totally transformed how far people can and will cycle to work.
“It’s not that most people can’t cycle more than three or so miles on a standard bike…it’s just a lot easier, a lot less sweaty, and a lot more people are willing to do it on an e-bike. We can certainly expect people to happily cycle on an e-bike ten kilometres…so double what would be typically expected for a standard bike.
“And, of course, the further people commute the more they pollute – unless you get them out of their cars. So, local authorities should focus on ensuring those cycle routes reach right to the edge of their cities.
“This is not to diminish the role electric cars play in reducing emissions, but when you consider manufacturing, e-bikes use ten times less carbon than e-cars. And electric cars remain out of financial reach for many, if not most, people. So, it really is time to take e-bike commuting seriously.”
Orbea’s UK and Ireland Country Manager Damian Hackett said: “There has been rapid progress in e-bike technology and affordability. We’ve seen a huge surge in the number of people cycling to work – in just 12 months the use of Europe’s cycling lanes has grown from 11% to 48%.
“The Swiss city of Lausanne has already made a commitment to remove all vehicles with internal combustion engines from the city by 2030…there’s no reason we cannot achieve the same in the UK, and e-bikes will certainly play a key role.
“Orbea and Lightwood share the same vision, to reduce carbon emissions and increase healthy living in communities – ‘active travel’ as it is known. We are working in partnership to integrate e-bike travel into the new communities Lightwood is promoting.”
Ian Philips, senior research fellow (ESRC Fellowship), faculty of environment at the University of Leeds, says that people who use an e-bike to replace car travel are physically capable of cutting car CO2 by up to 50%: “Even if we realised a fraction of that capability, and even being humble about the fact that no technology is a panacea, e-bikes are strategically important to decarbonisation.
“The greatest opportunities for carbon reduction are for residents of rural and suburban areas. In parts of major city centres, savings are on average around 200kg per person. But in a lot of rural areas, people have the capability to knock 1,000kg off their transport carbon by switching to e-bike use from cars.
“Not everyone in every community could make use of an e-bike, but in many rural and suburban communities, there are many people who are physically capable of replacing over 5,000 kilometres of car use each year.”
The Planning Inspectorate has allowed the appeal by Lightwood against the decision of Elmbridge Borough Council Planning Committee to refuse an application for the erection of two detached dwellings on the exclusive Crown Estate in Cobham.
Despite gaining the support of the planning officer and going to committee with a recommendation to approve, it was unanimously refused on the basis that it would failed to make the most effective use of land to meet the housing needs of the area (essentially that the site should be utilised for a greater number of smaller units).
The respectful and considered proposal was recognised by the Inspector as being “consistent with the established character and appearance of the area surrounding it” and “an appropriate form of development for the appeal site”.
The Inspector of the Examination of the Mid Devon Local Plan Review 2013-2033 has concluded that the Plan provides an appropriate basis for the planning of the District and with the inclusion of the Inspector’s recommended Main Modifications, the Mid Devon Local Plan Review 2013 – 2033 satisfies the requirements of Section 20(5) of the Planning & Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (as amended) and meets the criteria for soundness in the Framework.
Lightwood’s Culm Garden Village (Policy CU7) has been allocated for 2,600 within the Plan, with the wider Garden Village to be allocated within the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan (GESP).
Inspector Roger Clews has ruled that if “unsound” proposals for new settlements on the Colchester and Braintree borders and the West of Braintree garden community are removed, the North Essex Authorities Strategic Section 1 Plan is “capable of being made sound”.
He highlights that the viability appraisal found that “with an appropriate 40 per cent contingency allowance on transport and utilities infrastructure, the proposed Colchester/Braintree borders garden community would not achieve a viable land price”, and that the proposed West of Braintree garden community is below – or at best is at the very margin of – financial viability, contrary to advice in the PPG. On this basis, he says, “neither garden community is deliverable”.
Following the examination of the Uttlesford Local Plan, Inspectors Louise Crosby MA MRTPI and Elaine Worthington BA (Hons) MT MUED MRTPI wrote to Stephen Miles, planning policy team leader at Uttlesford District Council, stating:
“Unfortunately, despite the additional evidence that has been submitted during the examination and all that we have now read and heard in the examination, including the suggested main modifications to the plan put forward by the council, we have significant concerns in relation to the soundness of the plan.
“In particular, we are not persuaded that there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the garden communities, and thus the overall spatial strategy, have been justified. We therefore cannot conclude that these fundamental aspects of the plan are sound.
“This is of major importance in this case, given the large scale and long-term nature of the garden community developments, combined with the fact that they would be the primary source of housing in the district for the next 30 to 40 years.”
At an Extraordinary Council Meeting (ECM) on Thursday 30 April Councillors decided to withdraw the Local Plan and start work on preparing a new plan for the district.
It will be interesting to see how this impacts the decision of Inspector Roger Clews in relation to the neighbouring Braintree Local Plan and the North Essex Garden Communities.
Lightwood has completed the sale of its 45 unit development in Ovingdean, Brighton to Brookworth Homes. The scheme which was consented at appeal will provide much needed homes in Brighton, including affordable housing, the growth of which is curtailed being surrounded by the South Downs National Park.