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Step 3: Comparing options for the spatial strategy

Understanding the spatial strategy and the Sustainability Appraisal.

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Drawing up options for the spatial strategy

The next main stage of Local Plan preparation is to draw up options for the spatial strategy. As we mentioned earlier, this identifies broadly where development should be located to meet local needs. Possible options might include:

  • Concentrating development in urban areas on previously used (brownfield) land. This is sometimes called an 'urban capacity' option.
  • A number of urban extensions on brownfield or greenfield sites.
  • Development around public transport nodes (e.g. railway stations).
  • Distributing development across the district/county, with most development in towns, but allowing for some development in larger villages too.
  • Completely new settlements perhaps on previously developed land, such as former defence, prisons or health care sites which are no longer in use.
  • A combination of these options may be proposed.

Commenting on options

This is a key stage to make comments and have an influence on the plan - once the spatial strategy has been decided the remainder of the process is about the detail. If you have limited time and resources, make sure you comment at this stage. See the our example letter here.

Commenting on the options for the spatial strategy

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
  • Does the option respond to the need for development identified in the evidence base?
  • Do the broad locations for development seem sensible? Are they backed up with clear reasons and references to evidence?
  • Which is your preferred option for the spatial strategy (why)? Would it be best for the plan to include a combination of the options? If you think an option should be improved, explain how.

Top tip

Use the evidence base to inform and back up your comments. Talk to the Local Plan team at your local council if you do not fully understand what the options mean for you.

Get involved: The local planning authority may hold further events at this stage to consider possible spatial strategies for the area, and to get local people and organisations involved in the Sustainability Appraisal process which will run alongside and inform the plan.

The role of the Sustainability Appraisal

Local Plans are required to be subject to a process known as Sustainability Appraisal. This considers the likely social, environmental and economic implications of the plan, and whether these are likely to have positive, negative, neutral or uncertain effects on sustainability objectives. The sustainability objectives are informed by locally important issues which are normally identified in the Sustainable Community Strategy. Sustainability objectives might include:

  • To provide everyone with an affordable home.
  • To maximise access to job opportunities.
  • To reduce greenhouse gas emissions by minimising the need to travel.
  • To improve health and well-being in areas suffering from deprivation.
  • To protect nature reserves.
  • To ensure developments are adapted to cope with the effects of climate change.

The flow chart below shows how the Sustainability Appraisal feeds into the Local Plan process - it provides a way of testing and challenging the plan, and of comparing options for where development should be located, or alternative policy responses to issues or problems.

A key requirement of the Sustainability Appraisal is to consider options or alternatives at each stage in the preparation of the Local Plan - and to explain clearly why the chosen option has been selected, and others rejected.

local-plans-sustainability

Top tip

Sustainability Appraisals can be quite long and sometimes technical documents. But try not to be put off. The Sustainability Appraisal can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of different options for development, and identifies the potential impacts. It is a good idea to refer to the Sustainability Appraisal to back up your comments. You will find the Sustainability Appraisal reports on the planning policy pages of your council's website. If you can't see them, contact your local plans team for help.

NextStep 4: Understanding policies and proposals

Further reading

Sample letter or email supporting a spatial strategy
Sustainable Communities Strategies
Further information on Sustainability Appraisal