The Local Plan has entered its examination Phase and the hearings will be taking place in three stages as set out below;
Stage 1 – Legal and procedural requirements
Stage 2 – Housing Need and Supply, Green Belt Alterations, Spatial Strategy, Strategic Policies and Economy Policies
Stage 3 – Site Allocations & Delivery
The Stage 1 hearings dealing with legal and procedural compliance took place on June 23rd. Lightwood submitted detailed reps addressing the Duty to Cooperate and the Sustainability Appraisal on behalf of our landowners and attended the session to elaborate on these points.
Inspector Wilders has subsequently confirmed that, from what she has read and heard to date, the Examination may proceed to Stage 2.
At the latest hearing session, the Council confirmed the progress of additional studies to assess the Local Plan’s impacts on M25, junction 9a, including the identification of any necessary mitigation. It confirmed that, subject to those additional studies, it expected to submit, to the examination, an agreed Statement of Common Ground with National Highways in August 2022. This is critical evidence that underpins the delivery of the Plan, including its housing trajectory and viability.
In light of this expected submission, to make best use of Examination time and to ensure fairness to all parties given the weight of evidence submitted for stage 2 of this Examination, the Inspector has amended the draft Examination hearings time table delaying the stage 2 hearing sessions until after the summer break.
Further to the local elections that took place on 5th May 2022 and which saw the Conservatives lose control of Fleet East to the Liberal Democrats, at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Thursday 19 May, the new Chairman and Vice Chairman were elected for 2022/23. The Cabinet members and Chairmen of Hart District Council Committees were also appointed.
The Council has 33 seats, made up of 11 Conservatives, 10 Community Campaign Hart (CCH), 11 Liberal Democrats and one independent.
Following a number of design team meetings with Create Streets, the first vision for Great Whaddon at Trowbridge has evolved and a wider concept that, instead of locating development close to Hilperton and its conservation area, prefers to expand beyond the byway and across the A361 to make for a more coherent urban form and vastly expanded green spaces and amenities, is being considered.
The Mole Valley Local Plan was submitted to the Secretary of State for independent examination on Monday 14 February 2022 and Beverley Wilders BA (Hons) PgDurp MRTPI from the Planning Inspectorate has appointed by the Secretary of State to carry out the independent Examination of the Local Plan.
A consultation on a Revised Growth Strategy for the local plan was conducted between 22 November 2021 and 24 January 2022, which sought views on some key changes to the council’s approach for development across the borough.
Unlike the previous Draft Plan, which was consulted on last year, Wokingham BC did not propose a new town of around 15,000 homes at Grazeley. This was no longer possible following an extension of the emergency planning zone around AWE Burghfield to include that area. Instead, the key sources of proposed supply are:
This sub-totals at 3,532, nearly 1,000 (6.5%) over the minimum requirement. The Council is also proposing a wholly new SDL at Hall Farm/Lodden Valley south of the M4. The full scale of this is assessed as being in the region of 4,500 homes, with 2,200 to be completed by the end of the Plan period.
The proposals for the South Wokingham SDL follow an investigative masterplanning approach led by David Lock Associates and Stantec for WBC. Two scales of development were considered for the area south of Waterloo Road, but approach (i) was selected;
i. 835 homes as proposed in the consultation document, with the Emm Brook forming the limit to built development.
ii. 1,000 homes, which, unless the density north of Emm Brook was increased from 30dph to 35dph, would require land between Emm Brook and Easthampstead Road.
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.”