Woking Borough Council has a statutory responsibility to prepare Local Development Documents (LDD) that will collectively replace the Woking Borough Local Plan (1999). The Core Strategy is a key LDD because it will provide the local strategic planning policy context within which all the other LDDs will be prepared. The Core Strategy has been prepared in a timely manner in accordance with the Council's adopted Local Development Scheme.
The Core Strategy covers the period up to 2027 but also ensures that its implementation will not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It has a geographical coverage of the whole Borough. Its policies and proposals are justified by robust and up-to-date evidence. There is a clear path for its implementation and an in-built mechanism for monitoring its performance. It builds in sufficient contingencies and flexibility to adapt to uncertainties.
The Core Strategy enhances the existing strengths and opportunities of the Borough to the benefit of everyone, but also addresses the weaknesses and threats that exist within it. For example, Woking Borough is nationally recognised for its work and commitment to environmental improvement and mitigation of the adverse impacts of climate change. It has made significant investment in an energy efficient infrastructure, which future development could be made to utilise and the Core Strategy includes policies to enable this to be achieved. Woking's community is relatively affluent. However, there are pockets of deprivation, which the Core Strategy seeks to address. In this regard, it sets out a locally distinctive policy to deal with pockets of deprivation at Sheerwater, Maybury and Lakeview Estate in Goldsworth Park. These areas have been identified by Woking and Surrey Strategic Partnerships for priority action and investment.
The Core Strategy contains an analysis of the current state of the Borough and the key challenges facing the area. It sets a clear vision of what the Borough will look like by 2027 and a clear sense of direction for how the vision will be achieved. It seeks to respond to the challenges facing local residents, workers and visitors and does so by taking into account national and international planning policies, regulations and directives.
Public involvement has been integral to its preparation and the aspirations of the local community as expressed in the Sustainable Community Strategy have been a key objective. The Council has valued and taken into account comments received from public consultation exercises. The Core Strategy has been prepared in accordance with the Statement of Community Involvement.
The social, economic and environmental effects of the Core Strategy have been assessed through a Sustainability Appraisal (SA) and appropriate mitigation measures are incorporated to overcome any adverse impact. A Habitats Regulation Assessment of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area and the Thursley, Ash, Pirbright and Chobham Special Area of Conservation has been carried out to complement the SA. The Core Strategy therefore strikes a good balance between the three strands of sustainable development - social, economic and environmental. The Council is confident that the implementation of the Core Strategy will help create a sustainable community in which people will choose to live, work and visit.
What is the Core Strategy and what will it mean to the people who live, work and visit Woking Borough?
The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (the Act) sought to reform the planning system by making it simpler and speedier to prepare plans, and to put community involvement at the heart of plan-making. Woking Borough Council has taken the reform aims of the Act into account in preparing this Core Strategy. Of the Local Development Documents that the Council has committed to prepare, the following will be Development Plan Documents (DPD):
- Core Strategy
- Site Allocations DPD
- Development Management Policies DPD.
The timetable for the preparation of these DPDs is set out in the Council's Local Development Scheme, which can be found on the Council's website (http://www.woking.gov.uk/).
The Core Strategy sets out the overall local strategic context for the preparation of the other Local Development Documents. It is visionary, proactive and based on robust evidence.
The Act makes the Sustainability Appraisal of Development Plan Documents a statutory requirement. In this regard, a Sustainability Appraisal (SA) Report has been prepared to support the Core Strategy. The SA is published as a separate document, but its findings have been used to inform the policies and proposals of the Core Strategy. The SA has been prepared as an integral part of the Core Strategy process.
The Core Strategy will affect the lives of people who live, work and visit Woking Borough in a variety of ways.
- It sets out the overall approach to managing development and change in the Borough.
- It identifies the broad location for new homes, jobs, community facilities and services and how they will be delivered.
- It sets the framework for the provision of affordable housing in the Borough.
- It sets out quality standards for design and sustainable construction that development has to meet to be acceptable in Woking Borough.
- It sets out a framework for securing the necessary infrastructure to support development, including transport, education, health, utilities, community facilities, open spaces and green infrastructure and how this will be delivered. Details of this are set out in an Infrastructure Delivery Plan.
- It identifies Woking Borough's contribution towards minimising the adverse impacts of climate change and how it intends to meet its international and national obligations towards environmental improvement.
- It provides specific policy guidance to protect the Borough's diverse habitats, biodiversity, geodiversity, heritage, Green Belt and important built features such as listed buildings, historic landscapes, ancient monuments and Conservation Areas.
- Overall, it sets a framework for delivering the aspirations of the local community as set out in the Surrey and Woking Sustainable Community Strategies, and seeks to improve the well-being of the community.
The Core Strategy has been prepared to be in general conformity with National Planning Policy and all other regional and international requirements. This is one of the legal requirements that the Core Strategy has to meet to be judged sound.
How has the Core Strategy been prepared?
Five key principles underpin the preparation of the Core Strategy.
- Effective involvement of key stakeholders and the general public at all relevant stages of the process in accordance with the Statement of Community Involvement.
- Corporate approach to its preparation, hence the involvement of all service areas of Woking Borough Council with strong support of the Corporate Management Group.
- Robust, credible and up-to-date evidence to justify policies and proposals.
- Appropriate scrutiny and involvement of Councillors through relevant committees of the Council. In particular, a cross-party working group has been established to oversee the preparation of the Core Strategy.
- Efficient management of the process in accordance with the Local Development Scheme.
In the context of the above principles, a summary of the key stages for the production of the Core Strategy with timescales is set out in Figure 1 overleaf.
A Consultation Statement has been prepared as a separate document setting out the extent of public involvement in the Core Strategy process.
The evidence base to inform the Core Strategy
An up-to-date evidence base is necessary to ensure that the policies of the Core Strategy are justified and deliverable. A great deal of information from a variety of sources has been used to inform the Core Strategy. Appendix 1 of the SA Report includes a list of this information. Other documents included in the evidence base are included as Appendix 1 of this document. Reference to the evidence base has also been made throughout the Core Strategy where relevant.
Context for the Core Strategy
Emerging changes to the planning system
The Government has proposed a number of changes to the planning system. These are either set out in the Decentralisation and the Localism Bill (the Bill) or in ministerial statements. The Bill is passing through Parliament and is anticipated to be enacted by the end of 2011 to be effective from April 2012. The Bill is driven by six key actions, which are to:
- lift the burden of bureaucracy
- empower communities to do things their way
- increase local control of public finance
- diversify the supply of public services
- open government to public scrutiny, and
- strengthen accountability to local people.
The relevant aspects of the Bill that have significant implications for the Core Strategy are:
- the abolition of Regional Strategies
- the duty to co-operate in relation to planning of sustainable development
- introduction of Neighbourhood Planning
- endorsement of the use of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to secure developer contributions towards infrastructure provision.
Since the publication of the Bill, there have been a number of ministerial statements, which local authorities are required to take into account as material considerations. These have been taken into account. A summary of the key proposals are below.
- Local authorities should prioritise growth and jobs. In this regard, the Secretary of State has written to local authorities setting out clear expectations in this regard.
- There is going to be a powerful new presumption in favour of sustainable development. This will be set out in the emerging National Planning Policy Framework (guidance will be provided about the definition of sustainable development).
- There will be a legal requirement to carry out an economic viability assessment to justify the rate at which CIL rate is set.
- Businesses will be able to bring forward neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood development orders.
- The national target on how much development should be on previously developed land is removed.
- A review of the Use Classes Order to make it easier to convert commercial premises to residential is now a subject of public consultation.
- The duty to co-operate will be strengthened.
There is no doubt about the Government's commitment to promote growth. It is also committed to the plan-led system and expects local authorities to set out their growth targets in their Local Development Documents (LDD). Local authorities are encouraged to speed up the preparation of their LDDs to provide the necessary framework to deliver the Government's objectives for growth. The policies of the Core Strategy Publication Document reflect the above national context and have been prepared expeditiously to provide the framework for the delivery of locally generated growth in the context of national planning objectives.
The Decentralisation and Localism Bill makes provision for Neighbourhood Development Plans. Neighbourhood plans are designed to empower local communities to take control in shaping the places they live and work in. There is no statutory duty for communities to prepare Neighbourhood Plans, only a right to do so if they wish. Organisations such as parish councils, wards, and neighbourhood forums may decide to prepare neighbourhood plans for their area. It is also proposed that businesses will be able to bring forward Neighbourhood Plans. It is a permissive regime and for that matter, local authorities are required to consider any request from local communities who wish to prepare neighbourhood plans. Once adopted, neighbourhood plans will form part of the statutory development plan for the area.
The Core Strategy offers in-principle support for neighbourhood plans that meet the following requirements.
- Have regard to national planning policy.
- Have regard to the other development plan documents in the area.
- Be in general conformity with the strategic policies and proposals in the Core Strategy.
- Be compatible with European Union Directives and obligations.
- There should be a clear definition of the geographical coverage to be covered by the neighbourhood plan.
Furthermore, the Bill sets out detailed requirements such as the number of people that can comprise a neighbourhood forum. These requirements will also have to be met.
The preparation of Neighbourhood Plans follows a process that is defined by the Bill. This will include:
- a geographical definition of the neighbourhood. The Local Authority will help with this
- the neighbourhood will have to apply to the Local Authority to prepare a Neighbourhood Plan and
- there should be pre-application consultation preceding the application
- neighbourhood Plans will have to be submitted for Independent Examination and the Examiner will have to issue its report with recommendations
- if judged to be sound, a referendum will have to be carried out and the plan will be adopted if 50% or more of those voting are in favour
- It needs to be emphasised that Neighbourhood Plans cannot plan for less development than what is indentified in the Core Strategy and/or the development plan for the area.
The Council will help to define the geographical scope of neighbourhoods, provide advice on the preparation of the plans throughout their key stages and validate plans to ensure that they meet all the necessary requirements.
Key implications of the revocation of the South East Plan on the Core Strategy
The Core Strategy had originally been prepared in the context of the South East Plan. However, the Council is fully aware of the Government's intention to revoke Regional Strategies and had taken that into account before the Draft Core Strategy was published for consultation. Specifically, the South East Plan contains spatial policies concerning the scale and distribution of new housing, priorities for new infrastructure and economic development, the strategy for protecting the countryside, biodiversity and the built and historic environment and tackling climate change and safeguarding natural resources. The Council had contributed to providing the evidence to justify the requirements of the South East Plan. This evidence has been tested at an Examination in Public and proven to be reliable. Some of the evidence used to inform the South East Plan has also been used to inform the housing target for the Core Strategy.
The Council therefore considers that the level of growth being planned for through the Core Strategy represents a reasonable and realistic target for the Borough. Furthermore, a great deal of the policies of the Core Strategy are justified by evidence collated at the local level.
- The South East Plan required Woking to provide for 5,840 net additional dwellings between 2006 and 2026 (an annual average of 292 per annum). Based on local evidence of past completion rates and future housing land supply, as identified in the Council's Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) and future direction of growth, it is considered that this level of housing provision is deliverable and justified. It should be noted that local evidence (Strategic Housing Market ssessment - SHMA) highlights a need for an additional 499 new affordable homes every year in the Borough and a total of 594 new homes every year when taking into account demand for market housing as well. This is around double the South East Plan requirement. Given the level of environmental constraints present in the Borough, it is considered that the provision of 292 dwellings per annum represents a reasonable level of housing growth for Woking that is deliverable. The SA Report assesses the impacts of alternative housing targets and provides further justification for the decision to adopt a target of 292 dwellings per annum.
- The South East Plan identified Woking as a Regional Hub due to its importance as a centre of economic activity and in recognition of its importance as a transport interchange. This means that Woking is a focus for improvements to the transport network and for major retail and employment development and infrastructure improvements. The evidence and justification for this designation as a Regional Hub still stands and it is considered that the Council, through the Core Strategy, should continue to manage growth and emphasise the Borough's significance to the regional economy. In particular the Core Strategy will deliver sustainable development and achieve a sustainable and balanced community, for example, by reducing the need to travel through closer alignment of local labour supply and demand.
- Woking Town Centre is a Primary Retail Centre in the regional hierarchy and was identified as a Centre for Significant Change in the South East Plan. This means that it is expected to evolve significantly in terms of the range of town centre uses. This reflects the Council's current direction in respect of Woking Town Centre, and the proposed level of retail and commercial floorspace growth which can be supported by local evidence contained in the Town, District and Local Centres Study and Employment Land Review.
National planning policy
The Core Strategy takes account of national planning policy. This is primarily contained in Planning Policy Statements (PPSs), Planning Policy Guidance Notes (PPGs), Circulars and Regulations. It is not intended to list them or summarise their objectives. However, embedded in national planning policy is the overall goal of achieving sustainable development. The Sustainability Appraisal of the Core Strategy provides useful evidence of how the Core Strategy contributes towards achieving this goal. In preparing the Core Strategy, care has been taken to ensure that it does not repeat national planning policy, because in itself, national planning policies are a material planning consideration when determining planning applications. The following is the link to the Department of Communities and Local Government website where the list of national planning policy documents can be found
It is expected that the Government will publish its National Planning Policy Framework towards the end of 2011. The Core Strategy will be updated to take into account its requirements.
Surrey Strategic Partnership Plan (2010 - 2020)
Surrey County Council and Woking Borough Council have prepared Sustainable Community Strategies with their partners to demonstrate how they will work together to improve the social, economic and environmental well-being of their respective areas. The over-arching Sustainable Community Strategy for Surrey is the Surrey Strategic Partnership Plan, which was published in April 2010. It covers the period up
to 2020. The Surrey Strategic Partnership Plan includes a specific section that deals with a summary of the local priorities for Woking Borough. The Core Strategy provides a positive framework for delivering those aspects of the Community Strategy that have spatial implications.
Ten priorities are identified and are described in detail under the following themes.
- Children and young people.
- Safer and stronger communities.
- Health and well-being.
- Economic development.
- Housing, infrastructure and environment.
It also identifies the following specific aims for Woking Borough.
- Creation of a strong community spirit with a clear sense of belonging and responsibility to promote a clean, healthy and safe environment.
- A transport system that is accessible and has good links, recognising Woking's potential as a transport hub.
- Giving local people and key workers access to good quality and affordable housing.
- A community which values personal health and well-being.
- Providing opportunities and encourage people to participate in learning throughout their lives, so they progress and reach their full potential.
Woking Sustainable Community Strategy
This strategy sets out six key aims, which define the Woking Partnership's vision for the Borough. These are:
- a strong community spirit with a clear sense of belonging and responsibility
- a clean, healthy and safe environment
- a transport system that is linked and accessible, recognising Woking's potential as a transport hub
- access to decent affordable housing for local people and key workers
- a community which values personal health and well-being
- providing opportunities and encourage people to participate in learning throughout their lives so they progress and reach their full potential.
Surrey Waste Plan (2008)
Surrey County Council is responsible for the preparation of the Surrey Waste Plan. The Plan was adopted in May 2008 and sets out the planning framework for the development of waste management facilities in Surrey. Its provisions are a material considerations in planning decisions. In particular, the Proposals Map identifies sites that are safeguarded for waste purposes.
Surrey Minerals Plan (2011)
Surrey Minerals Plan Core Strategy and Primary Aggregates Development Plan Documents (DPDs) were adopted in July 2011. They form part of the Surrey Minerals and Waste Development Framework. The Plan provides the policy framework to guide minerals development in the county. It replaced the Surrey Minerals Local Plan 1993. The Proposals Map illustrates allocated sites within Woking Borough.
Other plans and programmes
The Core Strategy is influenced by a significant number of other plans, strategies and programmes such as the Local Transport Plan produced by Surrey County Council. A review of these has assisted in identifying objectives, targets and indicators to monitor the performance of the policies and proposals of the Core Strategy. Appendix 1 of the Sustainability Appraisal Report which supports the Core Strategy includes a list of these documents, the objectives and requirements that they seek to achieve and their relationship to the Core Strategy. A diagram showing the relationship between the key plans and the Core Strategy is set out in Figure 2 below:
Sustainability Appraisal (SA)
It is a statutory requirement to carry out a SA of the Core Strategy to assess its impacts on social, economic and environmental objectives. The SA has been undertaken as an integral part of the Core Strategy process. It has been an iterative process where outcomes have been fed back to inform the policies and proposals of the Core Strategy. The process includes an appraisal of options to demonstrate that the preferred options chosen for the Core Strategy are the best when tested against reasonable alternatives. Furthermore, each policy has been appraised and appropriate mitigation measures incorporated within the Core Strategy to deal with any adverse impacts. The SA has been subject to public consultation and has been published as a separate evidence base to support the Core Strategy. Full details can be found here.
It is a statutory requirement to prepare a Proposals Map which should:
- identify areas of protection, including the Green Belt
- safeguarded sites identified in the Minerals and Waste Development Framework
- it also sets out the areas to which specific policies apply.
The Council has published a new Proposals Map alongside the Core Strategy.
It has been agreed with the Environment Agency that the Proposals Map should not include areas at risk of flooding. This information is contained in the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment and any future advice and/or new information that will be provided by the Environment Agency. This approach is necessary to enable the flood risk data to be updated when required. Users should contact both Woking Borough Council and the Environment Agency to confirm the most up to date information.