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LDF L&DG: Aspects of Infrastructure Planning and the Revised Regulations. PPS12 and Manual

Date: 17/6/2008

The meeting focused on aspects of infrastructure planning, and in particular considered the approach to a suite of standard charges developed by Chelmsford Borough Council, with the benefit of a presentation from Derek Stebbing.  In addition, David Joyce from LB Camden, Patrick Conroy from South Gloucestershire Council and Claire Purcell from Cheltenham Borough Council provided short presentations on their work to date, particularly with respect to governance arrangements for infrastructure planning.

It also briefly considered the outcome of the DCLG work on streamlining the LDF system, in the form of the recently-published revised LDF Regulations, PPS12 and Development Plans Manual.

 Key points from the meeting on 17 June 2008

 Scope

1 The meeting focused on aspects of infrastructure planning, and in particular considered the approach to a suite of standard charges developed by Chelmsford Borough Council, with the benefit of a presentation from Derek Stebbing. In addition, David Joyce from LB Camden, Patrick Conroy from South Gloucestershire Council and Claire Purcell from Cheltenham Borough Council provided short presentations on their work to date, particularly with respect to governance arrangements for infrastructure planning.

2 It also briefly considered the outcome of the DCLG work on streamlining the LDF system, in the form of the recently-published revised LDF Regulations, PPS12 and Development Plans Manual.

Infrastructure planning

The Chelmsford model

3 The foundation for Chelmsford's approach is Circular 05/2005, which says that financial contributions can be pooled where -

  • the combined impact of a number of developments creates the need for infrastructure;
  • the need for infrastructure is set out in advance by the LPA; and
  • contributions can be sought after the infrastructure has been provided

4 They do not distinguish between existing infrastructure deficiencies and new requirements directly caused by development. Rather, their line is that new development would, without mitigating provisions, worsen the quality of life for the residents and users of the Borough, whether by making existing deficiencies worse or creating new problems.

5 The authority for the standard charges comes from adopted core strategy policy CP4;http://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/media/pdf/6/6/Microsoft_Word_-  _Core_Strategy_amended_140408.pdfThis is supported by further detail set out in SPD, which is currently still in draft. Each individual case requires a S106 agreement. They use a model agreement for small schemes, and provide the draft with the application forms.

6 Key features of the scheme are that -

  • all development which affects infrastructure is covered, down to a single additional house or an office extension (above a threshold)
  • site-related infrastructure needed to enable the development of a site is provided by the developer, and is not covered by the standard charges
  • in terms of offsite measures, the scheme distinguishes between community infrastructure (eg education, health) and strategic infrastructure (eg flood protection, railway station upgrading)
  • different levels of charge apply to the urban area of Chelmsford, the planned major expansion area, and the remainder of the Borough, since the impacts of development vary between them
  • the core strategy policy identifies the main schemes covered by standard contributions
  • charges are made on a theme by theme basis, eg education, transport etc

7 Before introducing the policy, the authority worked with agencies to identify the main infrastructure requirements, each of which was supported by evidence of need, a business case and costing.

8 It is not expected that the charges will cover the full cost of infrastructure, but contribute to the costs and therefore make them more affordable and achievable for the relevant agencies.

9 Currently the maximum level of charge is about £21-22,000 per dwelling, which is comparable to the charges made at Milton Keynes.

10 Affordable housing is not covered by the standard charges, but negotiated separately. Also, the standard charge currently applies to both market and affordable housing. It is acknowledged that there is a tension to be resolved here, because there is only so much funding which can be obtained from a development and the viability of affordable housing could be compromised.

11 The scheme is run through a non-statutory local delivery vehicle, with representatives of the main agencies involved in delivery of off-site infrastructure, chaired by the Chief Executive. This group -

  • developed the business plan, investment income and infrastructure trajectory
  • administers the funds which are held separately in the Borough Development Fund
  • oversees when payments are made towards specific projects, working to trigger points
  • will review project costs, whether through application of construction cost indices or by specific design and costing exercises

12 The intention is that the costs of the various elements will be updated annually within the AMR, and charges revised accordingly.

Governance arrangements

13 Cheltenham Borough Council is working with partners Gloucester City Council, Tewkesbury Borough Council and Gloucester County Council on a core strategy. The partnership is setting up the following governance arrangements. A cross boundary programme board will manage and champion the programme with some delegated authority, and including external members such as the LSP, Environment Agency and Natural England. Below the programme board sits a project board for the joint core strategy and cross boundary infrastructure. The project board presides over three officer groups ( Policy Development, Communications and SEA) and a set of 'Transport Strategy & Infrastructure Delivery Groups' which will produce a costed infrastructure delivery plan.

14 South Gloucestershire Council faces significant growth requiring primary and secondary school provision alongside local centres, green infrastructure networks and all associated utilities and transport infrastructure. They are at the start of the infrastructure planning process and have begun with an indicative list devised by LSP and other partners as well as other Council service departments. They are to work through multi-disciplinary project teams that will identify the baseline position on each element, identify future requirements needed to support each growth area, produce technical briefings to support proposals, cost emerging proposals and enter into dialogue with developers, test options to identify strategic interrelationships between elements of infrastructure and apply a 'reasonable prospect' test. engagement with delivery partners throughout development of the core strategy.

15 The London Borough of Camden intends to build on the extensive experience gained through the redevelopment of Kings Cross, which uses an Implementation Board. This board represents a joint agreement between Camden and Islington London Boroughs with the aim "to achieve an integrated and regenerative development by getting the best out of the many employment, housing, education and leisure opportunities that the King's Cross Central development will bring". The development represents a new mixed use London quarter on 27 hectares comprising 740,000 sq m of mixed use development (a mix of commercial, housing and community facilities), 50 new buildings, 20 historic buildings and structures restored and refurbished with new uses, enhancements to the Regents Canal including 3 new bridge crossings, 20 new public streets, 10 new major public spaces, 1700 homes plus up to 650 student homes and 25,000 jobs created.

16 The Board is a high level steering group to identify infrastructure requirements and inform s106 negotiations. It is chaired by a Camden Planning Assistant Director and key officers from within the Council (Education, Housing, Planning etc) sit on it alongside partners - e.g. Islington, PCT, British Waterways, Police, Housing Corporation. This Board is now focussing on delivery of the benefits secured through the development as it is now just starting to be built. The costed infrastructure plan underpinning S106 Agreement includes 750 affordable homes, a new primary school, contribution to secondary expansion & new Sure Start centre, leisure and sports facilities -10 new public spaces (including parks), improvements to adjacent open spaces & nature parks, PCT health centre, community centre, local/jobs & training initiatives plus much more besides (sustainability, public art, transport, historic buildings restoration etc).

17 The Camden Place Shaping Board is to build on this success. Its membership will initially be the Director of Culture & Environment (Chair), and Directors of Housing & Adult Social Care, Children's Schools & Families and relevant Assistant Directors - e.g. Planning, Estate Renewal, Public Realm & Sustainability. The intention is to widen membership and become a subgroup of the LSP. The Board's work programme will focus on growth areas identified by the emerging Core Strategy, identify the best use of collective resources for place-shaping including synergies between capital programmes (e.g. BSF, Estate Renewal, Transport, Council owned property, care homes etc). Its work will be based on area profiles and needs assessments and it will identify requirements/priorities & opportunities for 'joining up'/co- location of services. This will develop the evidence base for CIL.

18 The choice of a board was partly an outcome of LDF discussions with infrastructure providers on the implications of the emerging core strategy, many of whom are geared to different time horizons. A lot of radical changes to service delivery are planned (e.g. Police, PCT) and the core strategy 'direction of travel' is proving to be a help rather than hindrance. It is clear that some organisations are better prepared to engage than others and there are clear opportunities for joining up service delivery.

Key issues identified by the project members

19 Project members in group work identified a range of issues which they would need to consider in developing infrastructure strategy and a charging regime -

  • Ensuring there is a policy foundation within the core strategy that enables tools such as SPD on contributions to be developed
  • The importance of partnership working - particularly the early engagement of key infrastructure partners and alignment of programmes
  • Gaining leadership support at a high level from the Chief Executive and the managers of the Planning service
  • Gaining support from the political leadership
  • Achieving a 'can do' culture accompanied by resources and commitment to make partnerships effective and forge a way forward
  • Getting the structures right to achieve effective infrastructure planning and delivery
  • Building the detailed evidence base for infrastructure planning now to enable a clear, costed programme.
  • Setting up a local delivery mechanism/ group working within an overarching strategic vision
  • Applying the time and effort required to set up such a mechanism/ group and allow the partnership to mature
  • Considering how the LSP fits within or forms part of the local delivery mechanism/ group
  • Finding ways to manage the tension between providing certainty to the market in terms of clear guidance, as well as flexibility in approach that works with the differing viability of particular sites and developments
  • Finding ways to build in annual adjustments to charges to reflect movement in infrastructure costs and land values
  • Striking a balance between achieving affordable housing and securing developer contributions

20 Matters that were considered pertinent but not covered during the day were-

  • The details of viability testing for development, building in existing high land values or constraints
  • Squaring the specific figures reached as contributions to infrastructure with the attribution of wider benefits to communities from new infrastructure provision
  • The sub regional dimensions of infrastructure planning and delivery
  • Managing infrastructure planning and delivery within a context of changing funding schemes
  • Whether an audit trail on spending will be needed once CIL is in place, and auditing funding packages
  • How individual spending decisions are made where there is conflict to be resolved
  • Where private sector investment, PFI, commercial bus companies etc fit into the equation
  • Risk management and contingencies
  • Options in response to the current economic climate.

 The streamlined LDF system

21 In relation to the revised Regulations, it was stressed that the effect of the new Regulation is to give authorities freedom as to how they go about participation, and not a crude abolition of the preferred options stage. Most participants felt that they would carry out participation on a preferred strategy for their core strategy much on the lines of preferred options participation under the old Regulation 26, because this would facilitate compliance with the SEA Directive and the requirements in PPS12 to consider alternatives and demonstrate it had been done thoroughly; and because it would provide a valuable audit trail of decision-making.

22 Attention was drawn to the revised Regulation 25, and the addition of a new paragraph 1 which requires that special and general consultation bodies be notified of the intention to prepare a DPD and invited to make representations on matters it should contain. Rather than simply presume that consultation previously carried out on issues and options met this requirement it is advisable to review the letters and documents used in consulting such bodies, to confirm that they strictly fulfil the requirement of the new provision. If in doubt, it might be advisable to write again to them and formally invite representations.

23 It was noted that the new publication stage prior to submission is an opportunity for parties to make formal representations on soundness to be considered by the examination Inspector, and is not intended to be a consultation as such. This will require care in the way publication is described and careful explanation to elected members and others. It was recognised that if, following publication, an authority was minded to make significant changes, it was likely to need to revised the SA Report and carry out some further consultation before re-publishing the changed document, which would be time-consuming and carry a cost.

24 The finalised PPS12 is virtually unchanged from the consultation draft. It was noted that revised guidance is to be issued by PINS on the way soundness will be examined by Inspectors in the light of the changes to the presentation of soundness in PPS12 and the new and revised national policy for DPD preparation, including the priority now given to infrastructure planning.

25 It was noted that paragraph 5.1 of PPS12 effectively says that DPDs other than the core strategy should not be prepared unless there is a demonstrable need for them in the delivery of the strategy. Government Offices may be expected to give a lot of weight to this in considering proposed revisions to LDSs, and in particular to resist development policies DPDS, which DCLG has discouraged for some time.

26 The Plan-making Manual was published a few days before the meeting. First impressions from participants were that it looked helpful, and could be of significant value. Two specific matters were noted -

  • he advice that a project plan be prepared for each individual DPD
  • references to the need for a clear audit trail of the consideration given to all the issues and options raised

27 Both appear to be in part a reflection of the removal of the prescribed stages of community engagement, which provided both a mandatory process of community engagement, and a ready-made vehicle for showing the audit trail in the form of the preferred options report.

 

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