“Planning policy should support social, environmental and economic priorities. We aim to build communities that are innovative, sustainable, resilient and well-connected.” Sarah Gibson, Councillor for Bradford on Avon South
What is the challenge?
Britain has a housing shortage but the Government is going the wrong way about solving it. It is putting numbers of homes above quality with the result that new developments are often poorly designed and poorly located.
They are typically new housing estates on edge of towns without shops or community facilities and they create overload – on the roads, in schools, in surgeries and in small town centres.
Local councils like Wiltshire can refuse planning permission for an undesirable development, but unless they have met challenging quotas for new homes being built or planned, the developers will win the subsequent appeal while the council carries the cost. Public consultations can be ignored and residents, officers and councillors become demoralised.
What will we do?
We will make the most of what powers local councils still have to promote ‘place-making’ or the development of thriving and sustainable communities, rather than more dormitory-style housing estates around our market towns. We will aim to earmark sufficient land for housing, raise cash by increasing and accelerating the council’s own investment in properties for rent and sale, and make Wiltshire a national leader in defining and advocating for ‘what good looks like’ in the design of homes and communities.
In Wiltshire, a Liberal Democrat Council will:
- Take a holistic approach to development with a focus on building sustainable communities rather than simply housing estates – communities that not only include affordable homes, but schools, shops, transport links, cycle routes, community facilities, open spaces and high environmental standards;
- Apply this approach to the Local Plan now being drafted, including securing a five-year land supply to avoid speculative and unplanned development, often on appeal and particularly around market towns;
- Seek to maximise supply of social and affordable housing in all new developments.
- Explore opportunities to create entirely new village communities on open land, avoiding overloading existing small towns – this proactive approach to planning ensures we have the five-year land supply required by the system and therefore are not at the mercy of the speculative volume housebuilders;
- Explore possibilities for replicating the development model used in Cornwall of small-scale social housing projects that also raise funds as developers transfer part of their freehold to the council;
- Recognise the start the council has made in investing in housing for sale through its wholly owned Stone Circle company, as well as for rent, and work to accelerate that process, thereby providing housing and raising income;
- Promote Neighbourhood Plans in individual towns and parishes that allocate development zones, community facilities, rights of way, open spaces and other features and which can be used to shape development;
- Work with the town and parish councils to improve the connectivity of our network of small towns and villages; Ensure that the Wiltshire plan is consistent with the net zero carbon target for 2030.
- Support the development of renewable energy as a priority in the planning policy framework and promote low carbon housing by ensuring all new homes have solar panels, superinsulation, heat exchangers and rainwater harvesting.;
- Promote community land trusts whereby local groups can access funding to build housing for rent, especially on smaller infill and parish sites;
- Promote and assist development on brownfield sites where upfront costs are higher;
- Build the council’s expertise in design and architecture and set up a design review panel to examine applications;
- Create design guides for all developments, not only in conservation areas, covering topics such as proportions and materials and encouraging harmonised contemporary developments that are neither pastiches of traditional styles nor unsuited to their context with regional variation and putting the information in the Neighbourhood Plans at the heart of design;
- Minimise spending needed to adapt housing for people with disabilities by making some new social housing adaptation-ready, for example with wide corridors and doorways;
- Explore use of planning performance agreements to set timescales on developments;
- Take a lead in lobbying government with other councils and specialist groups for better planning regulations that create communities in line with the policies outlined here.
- We will help town centres move from their primary historic retail focus to provide opportunities with increasing demand tailored to their catchment area, providing guidance and incentives to help encourage the changes necessary and support in converting disused non-sustainable retail properties into much-needed accommodation or other services.
- Push for super-fast broadband connectivity to every home, working to cover all unconnected and poorly connected communities.
- Promote energy efficiency improvements to existing housing – providing economic incentives through coordination of national government schemes and Wiltshire Council promoted bulk-buy for solar panels, insulation, vehicle charging points and installation of ground and air source heat pumps.
- Set up a working forum with neighbouring counties to improve infrastructure, transport and communication to the benefit of the residents of Wiltshire and its neighbours;
- Build on the work so far to improve Wiltshire’s local plan with a more innovative strategy, with a focus on building communities rather than simply providing housing, covering not only settlement boundaries but schools, surgeries, community buildings, retail areas, local transport networks, cycle routes and green open spaces;
- Ensure that Lib Dem policies and priorities are reflected in day-to-day planning decisions;
- Examine existing and proposed projects on transport links, cycle routes, canals, green corridors and public transport across the County to get Wiltshire connected;
- Follow environmental guidelines set out in the BREEAM – or BRE (Building Research Establishment) Environmental Assessment Method Communities International 2012 technical standard or equivalent to ensure Wiltshire meets its 2030 zero carbon target.