Black Country Core Strategy Issue and Option Report
Purpose and scope of the review
1.1 This is the first stage of the formal review of the Black Country Core Strategy. The Core Strategy is a key part of the Local Plan for the Black Country Local Authorities forming the overarching planning and regeneration document for the whole of the area. The Local Plan is a collection of statutory documents that seek to meet the development needs of the area in a way that is sustainable and reflects the vision and aspirations of local communities. This is achieved by directing economic, social and environmental activity to the right places and ensuring it is supported by necessary infrastructure. Delivery partners have a key role to play in the preparation of the Local Plan and as key stakeholders can ensure the necessary infrastructure will be available at the right time to meet local needs. The Local Plan is also used to attract investment and make decisions on individual planning applications.
1.2 The Black Country covers the areas of Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC), Sandwell MBC, Walsall Council and the City of Wolverhampton Council. The four authorities worked together to produce the existing Black Country Core Strategy, which was adopted in 2011. The existing Core Strategy provides the framework for various Site Allocation Documents and Area Action Plans (listed in Appendix A), which set out local policies and site allocations for individual authority areas. The Core Strategy has also supported work on joint documents such as the Black Country Air Quality Supplementary Planning Document. Two Neighbourhood Plans have also been “made” in conformity with the Core Strategy.
1.3 The existing Core Strategy covers the period 2006-2026. From the outset there was a clear intention to review it five years after adoption, to ensure the spatial objectives and strategy are being effectively delivered and to keep the plan up-to-date. This is in line with national planning guidance, which states that “most Local Plans are likely to require updating in whole or in part at least every five years”. Rolling the plan forward will also enable the longer term needs of the Black Country to be addressed. In fact this extended time period is a main driver for the Review and is at the heart of the most contentious issues the Black Country is facing – both population and economy are set to continue to grow and there is a need to identify additional sites which will ‘stretch’ the existing Strategy.
1.4 The need for a review has been given even greater urgency by new challenges which have emerged since 2011. The national economic situation has also changed. The existing Core Strategy was prepared as the country was emerging from the global recession of 2008, and the Black Country was recovering from a period of economic and population decline. Looking to the future, the opening of HS2 and the extension to the Midland Metro are all likely to have a significant impact on the Black Country within the timeframe of this Plan. There have been a number of changes to national policy and a housing shortfall has been identified in Birmingham which neighbouring authorities have a duty to consider accommodating.
1.5 Paragraph 12 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that there should be a clear justification for not producing a single Local Plan document for each authority or group of authorities. The inter-connected nature of the Black Country means that production of a joint document to deal with strategic planning issues is the most sensible and productive approach. However, the complexity and size of the area means that it would be impractical to produce a joint Local Plan covering all site allocations and policies. It is therefore proposed to continue with the existing two tier Local Plan document structure; although the emerging challenges mean that it may be necessary for the Core Strategy to include allocations of strategic sites which support the strategic objectives of the plan.
1.6 It is anticipated that the existing Core Strategy will generally remain fit for purpose. It has proved an effective platform to securing sustained growth, and has acted as a framework for the preparation of a suite of more detailed plans that together ensure that the majority of long term development needs can be met on sites which are already identified. Therefore it is proposed to carry out a partial review of the existing Core Strategy, looking to carry forward and ‘stretch’ the existing spatial strategy and to update existing policies in the light of new evidence and changes in national policy, rather than carry out a wholescale review.
1.7 In carrying out the review the NPPF is clear that early and meaningful engagement and collaboration with residents, organisations and businesses is essential. This consultation document has been prepared as the first stage in reviewing the Core Strategy and seeks to engage with all those who have an interest in shaping the future of the Black Country.
1.8 This initial consultation is about identifying the issues that the review will need to address and the broad options for how the sustainable growth of the Black Country can be achieved. The remainder of this document is in five parts:
1.9 Part Two – a summary of the existing Strategy and its effectiveness
1.10 Part Three – a summary of the strategic challenges and opportunities that the Review needs to consider
1.11 Part Four – infrastructure requirements and the impact of viability constraints
1.12 Part Five – strategic options on meeting growth needs
1.13 Part Six – a review of the existing Core Strategy policies
1.14 This will be the first of three key opportunities to help shape the review, with further consultation on a preferred spatial option and draft Plan programmed for 2018 and 2019. As this consultation focuses on reviewing the Core Strategy, it is recommended that it is read alongside a copy of the Core Strategy, which can be found at: www.blackcountrycorestrategy.dudley.gov.uk
Question 1 – Do you agree that the Core Strategy review should be a partial review, retaining and stretching the existing spatial strategy and updating existing policies? Yes/No; If not, what do you think should be the scope of the review?
How does the review relate to other Plans?
1.15 The Core Strategy review will need to take account of other strategic plans and strategies, in particular the Black Country and West Midlands Combined Authority Strategic Economic Plans, local plans that have been adopted or are being prepared by neighbouring local authorities that contain proposals for housing or employment growth, Infrastructure Plans and important national initiatives such as the Industrial Strategy and Housing White Paper. Interconnections within and between the Black Country and the surrounding area are being addressed through the West Midlands Transport Strategy – Movement for Growth, which will provide an overarching transport strategy framework and investment priorities for the West Midlands.
1.16 Other documents forming part of the Black Country Local Plan, including those which are at Examination stage, will also help to inform the Core Strategy review. Good progress has been made with these documents and it is anticipated that the full suite will be in place by the end of 2017. The detailed evidence which supports these plans, the allocations within them and up-to-date monitoring data together provide essential feedback to determine how far the Core Strategy has achieved its goals and if changes are required when rolling the Plan forward.
Why is 2036 the proposed end date?
1.17 Local Plans are required to have a 15 year time horizon from the anticipated date of adoption, in line with the NPPF. It is anticipated that the review will be completed by 2021; therefore the end date for the Core Strategy will be 2036, with a base date of 2014 to reflect the start date of the most recent household projections.
Will all existing policies and proposals be reviewed?
1.18 It is anticipated that the existing Vision, the spatial objectives and strategy will largely be carried forward into the review Plan but it is recognised that there is a need to review all existing policies and proposals, to assess where there has been a significant change in circumstances since they were adopted or where the evidence base needs updating. Not all of the policies and proposals will need significant change, as some may still remain up to date and relevant. A review of the existing Core Strategy policies and proposals and a summary of proposed changes can be found in Part 6.
How could it affect me?
1.19 The existing Core Strategy is focused on urban regeneration and aims to accommodate development needs entirely within the urban area. Urban regeneration will remain the focus of the new Core Strategy; however it will not be possible to accommodate all future development needs within the urban area. Therefore, an examination of the potential for additional development on land outside the existing urban area, all of which within the areas of the four authorities is currently green belt, will need to take place as part of the Core Strategy review. It is important to ensure that any release of green belt sites for development does not take place at the expense of urban regeneration. There are current and emerging significant funding opportunities available for assembly and remediation of brownfield land which are starting to bring forward sites for development. It is important that the new Core Strategy ensures these sites are developed at pace, irrespective of any decision made about sites outside the urban area, as these will deliver the majority of development needed up to 2036.
1.20 Given the levels of growth to be planned for, care is needed to safeguard environmental and historic assets and to ensure enough services, such as open space, shops, schools and healthcare, are provided.
1.21 It is therefore likely that the review will be of interest to a wide range of residents, businesses, groups and organisations living or working in the Black Country, and the Black Country authorities would encourage all those with an interest to comment on the matters raised in this document.
The Consultation and Call for Sites Process
1.22 The scope of the review, the issues it raises and the broad options for dealing with them, are the subjects of the current consultation. The consultation will run for ten weeks from 3 July to 8 September 2017. Please visit the Core Strategy website for details:
1.23 Throughout the document a series of questions are posed on key points. The online version of the document is interactive and allows you to respond to the questions as you make your way through the different sections. A response form is also available which can be completed by hand if you prefer. The Issues and Options consultation leaflet also includes a short list of less detailed questions which can be responded to online or by hand.
1.24 You do not need to answer all of the questions and responses are welcome on issues you think have been missed and that should be addressed through this review. It would help if you could provide concise but comprehensive responses and where possible provide evidence to support your response.
1.25 A “Call for Sites” also forms part of this consultation and a separate form is provided for this. The Call for Sites process is running in parallel with the Issues and Options consultation and is focussed on identifying sites to accommodate housing and employment land needs. All sites that are submitted during the consultation period will be considered as part of the evidence work for the Preferred Spatial Option stage of the plan. The submission of a site does not necessarily mean that it will be considered as suitable for development and sites may be discounted through the site review process.
1.26 Further information can be provided on the sites at a later stage, if necessary, but respondents are encouraged to provide as much information as they can now. It is important that sites are submitted during the consultation period in order to inform the evidence work, however should individuals wish to submit sites after the ten week period they should get in touch to discuss what further evidence they may need to provide for their site to be considered.All site boundaries and site information submitted as part of the Call for Sites process will be published in due course.
1.27 Call for Sites submissions should only be made for sites within the Black Country or sites within neighbouring authorities but adjoining the Black Country urban area. However, submissions will be accepted for any site within a neighbouring authority which could potentially form part of a larger development which would adjoin the Black Country urban area, to allow discussions to take place with adjoining authorities. If your submission relates to a site which stretches beyond the Black Country into a neighbouring authority then this should be clearly stated and evidence of submissions to that neighbouring authority provided.
How your personal information will be used
1.28 The information you provide will be used to help prepare the Core Strategy review and will be shared with other employees or agencies (such as the Planning Inspectorate) who may be involved with the process. Please note that the local authorities are obliged to make representations available for public inspection. This means that, with the exception of telephone numbers, email addresses and signatures, your comments and other personal details that you provide will be publicly available.
1.29 Following the Issues and Options consultation, the consultation responses and Call for Sites information received will be considered and used, along with other evidence, to assist the four Councils in producing a Preferred Spatial Option Report that will show various ways in which growth needs can be met, including specific development sites. It is anticipated that it will be possible to identify a Preferred Spatial Option as part of this process. This Preferred Spatial Option will be the subject of a comprehensive consultation and the feedback will be used to produce a Draft Plan. The timetable for the Core Strategy review is set out below:
July / September 2017 - Issues and Options Consultation
September 2018 – Preferred Spatial Option Consultation
September 2019: Draft Plan Consultation
February 2020 – Publication Plan Consultation
June 2020 – Submission of Core Strategy
Autumn 2021 – Adoption of Core Strategy