‘So you have a site…’
Despite the UK Government’s recent proposals to reform national planning policy to speed delivery of future housing, it is clear that the lack of any substantive change to key areas such as Green Belt Policy mean active promotion of sites by landowners and developers will remain a critical component to the release of large strategic sites.
Opportunities to promote your site, such as Green Belt Review Studies, SLAAs (Strategic Land Availability Assessment) or Local Plan review, are often only open for a relatively short time window, potentially with little advance warning. These consultations form a critical part of a planning authority’s evidence base and are the basis for informing the decision making process when progressing toward releasing sites for allocation. Most importantly, representations to these documents also have the potential to inform an Inspectors decision at Examination stage should additional sites need to be identified to meet an authority’s housing needs (which are all too often underprovided for in draft plans).
It is therefore essential that your site is promoted in a timely fashion whilst concisely demonstrating that a site is deliverable (0-5 years) or developable (6-15 years), based on the key tests; available, suitable and achievable (and viable).
At SLR, our approach is to provide selected baseline technical appraisals at an early stage that focus on the potential developability of a site. This baseline work will ensure that you can fully understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of your site, enabling the preparation of a fully considered promotional document and, if desired, the preparation of a draft site masterplan. When submitted, this information will help to demonstrate to the planning authority how the key challenges associated with your site could be positively overcome and potentially avoiding the authority identifying impediments which could derail your site promotion.
Our approach provides rigorous initial feasibility studies focused on identifying and assessing key risks and abnormal issues which will affect consentability and the buildability of a development. Critically, any consideration of the merits of a site should ideally provide an integrated understanding of the site’s technical deliverability, and at the least should cover;
- Visual impact and the ability of the site to be properly assimilated into the landscape and/or existing development context;
- highway and traffic implications;
- ecology and the ability to mitigate any impacts; and
- flood risk and drainage.
Dependent on site characteristics, other key considerations which can be included within the feasibility study are; cultural heritage, noise, air quality, green belt release, agricultural land classification and minerals safeguarding.
SLR offers both the planning and technical expertise to effectively to meet your site's promotion needs. We encourage clients to act early in their promotions to get the technical work pulled together in initial baseline promotional documents. These initial technical assessments underpin and inform the more detailed promotional work for the Examination, avoiding abortive work, thus saving our clients unnecessary expenditure. There are even instances where promotion documents are welcomed by authorities for submission prior to a formal Green Belt Review Studies, SLAAs or Local Plan review. The availability of technical assessments can also be used to support pre-application consultation, either to support the planning process or to raise visibility of the site before representations.
It is critical that such assessments are undertaken in a timely manner and provide the right information to allow site promotions to demonstrate there is a sound technical basis underpinning key benefits that may be drawn out. In delivering assessments on previous development projects, SLR has developed a standardised method that facilitates the quick and efficient appraisal and presentation of baseline information.
Notwithstanding, we are prudently aware that one size does not fit all. All promotional documentation and representations are tailored to suit the site, your needs and expectations, whilst ensuring they are appropriate to the type of consultation the promotion is responding to. For example, the level of information required to support representations to a ‘Call for Sites’ process is entirely different to that submitted for a Green Belt review.
To be effective, any representation must be succinct and punchy. Documents should assist both the planning authority, and Planning Inspector in prioritising your site. Given the sheer weight of information which the LPA and Inspector will have to consider clear, brief documents (supported by robust technical appendices) will provide the best chance for the promotion of your site.
In summary the integrated SLR approach features:
- Rigorous initial feasibility studies focused on identifying and assessing key risks and abnormal issues.
Benefit to clients: Early identification of showstoppers and early provision of baseline information to support more detailed promotional work.
- Representations underpinned by initial feasibility studies at that appropriate level to the local plan stage being addressed.
Benefit to clients: Investment is appropriate to the stage the plan has reached and abortive costs avoided.
- Timely, clear and concise representations.
Benefit to clients: Aid the planning authority and Planning Inspector to quickly understand the benefits of your site for potential allocation