Core Strategy Issues and Options Consultation Document (Read-only)

Ended on the 28th January 2011
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6 Spatial options for growth around Harlow


6.1 Identifying potential areas of search

6.1.1 One of the requirements of Policy HA1 of the now withdrawn East of England Plan was for Harlow, Epping Forest and East Hertfordshire District Councils to appraise the possible growth options around the town. Consultants Scott Wilson were appointed to undertake this work. The main aims of the study were for the Consultant to:

  1. identify sustainable locations for growth and new green belt areas
  2. provide evidence of spatial options for growth
  3. inform the scale and phasing of growth
  4. provide a framework for on-going planning, monitoring and management

6.1.2 The study sought to identify the most appropriate location for 11,000 new homes through urban extensions due to the requirements of the now withdrawn Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS). The study assumed that this housing growth would be delivered by 2021.

6.1.3 Although the report was required by the East of England Plan the Council believes that the assessment remains relevant and informative for the purposes of examining a range of alternative options for accommodating growth that may be required around Harlow. However, it should be noted that the Options Appraisal is the view of Scott Wilson and is a technical study which forms part of the LDF Evidence Base. A full copy of the report can be obtained from www.harlow.gov.uk/ldf (follow link to ‘Evidence Base’).

6.1.4 The Scott Wilson study states that should opportunities for further development within Harlow’s boundary arise, then there could be a reduction in the extent of urban extensions in the Green Belt (see part 5 of this document).

6.2 Harlow Options Appraisal methodology

6.2.1 The methodology used by the Consultant can be split into two stages. During the first stage, the Consultant sought to identify potentially ‘developable land’ and generate different spatial options. During the second stage, the Consultant tested each spatial option in order to determine how realistic and sustainable the options were. Following this assessment the Consultant was able suggest whether or not each option was reasonable and to produce a suggested spatial approach.

6.3 Generating spatial options

6.3.1 The Consultant divided the land surrounding Harlow into 32 Spatial Land Areas. Spatial Land Areas were designed so that they were smaller than Council wards but were sufficiently small to be analysed in sufficient detail. Of these Spatial Land Areas, 10 are in Harlow, 10 in East Hertfordshire and 12 in Epping Forest.

6.3.2 To establish the amount of ‘developable land’ in each Spatial Land Area, the Consultant first excluded all urban areas, employment areas, national and local nature and wildlife designations and areas in Flood Zone 3.

6.3.3 The Consultant then tested the remaining developable land in each Spatial Land Area against a criteria based on a range of transport, environmental and regeneration related issues. From this assessment, the Consultant developed the following spatial options:

  • Option A - RSS: Northern-led
  • Option B - Policy-led 2
  • Option C - Combined criteria-led
  • Option D - Regeneration-led
  • Option E - Sustainable transport-led

6.4 Testing spatial options

6.4.1 In accordance with guidance on testing spatial options produced by the Planning Advisory Service each spatial option underwent a Reasonableness Test and a Sustainability Test. The Reasonableness Test involved establishing whether the option is realistic and can be genuinely implemented in practice. In assessing the reasonableness of spatial options, the following questions were asked:

  1. Will the implementation of the option assist in fulfilling the objectives of the plan (East England Plan)?
  2. Where may the necessary resources come from to deliver the option?
  3. Will there be sufficient time within the plan period to implement the option?
  4. Is there an acceptable risk that the option might not be fully implemented for one reason or another?
  5. Is the option sufficiently flexible to accommodate changing circumstances?
  6. Does the option generally conform to national policy and the RSS?

6.4.2 During the Sustainability Test each option was assessed in order to determine the likely positive and negative sustainability effects. This process complements but does not replace the full Sustainability Appraisal of the Core Strategy Issues and Options document. The Spatial Options were assessed as part of the Sustainability Appraisal of the Issues and Options.

6.5 The withdrawal of the Regional Spatial Strategy

6.5.1 When the study was produced there was a statutory requirement for spatial options to be in general conformity with the Regional Spatial Strategy. As a result, each option was assessed against this requirement. Some options did not satisfy this requirement and scored negatively as a result. However, the withdrawal of the Regional Spatial Strategy means that the Council is reconsidering the appropriateness of all options, including the Consultants’ suggested approach. The Council has decided to consult on the range of spatial options produced by the Consultant in order to ensure all the potential approaches that could be used to meet Harlow’s development needs are considered.

6.6 Infrastructure requirements

6.6.1 The Council is at an early stage in the production of the Core Strategy and as such does not yet have a complete picture of the specific infrastructure requirements needed to support the individual growth options. The Council is continuing to gather this information and will present this alongside the Preferred Option(s). This work not only covers the transportation needs but also includes a range of other physical and social infrastructure including open space, utilities and services.

6.7 Harlow spatial options

6.7.1 Option A - RSS: Northern-led

Option A

Please note distributions of development are purely illustrative. Source: Scott Wilson

6.7.2 This approach is based on requirements set out in the now withdrawn Policy HA1 of the East of England Plan. This places the bulk of growth to the north of Harlow together with some growth to the east and smaller elements to the south and west. The larger distribution to the north with the smaller distributions in the other locations would avoid coalescence with Sawbridgeworth and other smaller settlements.

Consultant’s findings:

6.7.3 The Consultant’s suggested that this is not a reasonable option as there is an unacceptable risk that it would not be delivered during the plan period. This is largely a reflection of the constraints imposed by such high levels of development to the north of Harlow and the key transport infrastructure required to deliver the scale of growth in this location. The Consultant’s considered that there would be insufficient time available for the transport infrastructure required for this spatial option to be delivered.

Question 21:

What is your view on the Consultant’s recommendations regarding Option A?

To respond please use the separate Issues and Options consultation questionnaire

6.7.4 Option B - Policy-led 2

Option B

Please note distributions of development are purely illustrative. Source: Scott Wilson

6.7.5 This approach reflects the broad directional and distributional elements of the growth requirements set out in the withdrawn policy HA1 of the East of England Plan, as described above, but does not focus the bulk of the new housing provision to the north of Harlow. Instead it provides an opportunity to examine the relative opportunities and constraints associated with a number of potential alternative locations around Harlow but which still reflect the general overall approach set out in the guidance of the now withdrawn policy. The scale of development in this location would ensure that the prominent ridgeline to the south of Harlow is not breached.

Consultant’s findings:

6.7.6 The Consultant’s suggested that this would be a reasonable option if lower levels of housing growth were prescribed for the area west of Harlow with greater growth explored to the east and south.

6.7.7 The Consultant’s suggested that a proportionate distribution between the locations to the north and south may help provide sufficient critical mass to assist the regeneration of the town. The smaller growth distributions to the south and west may assist regeneration initiatives in adjoining neighbourhoods to the south of Harlow. However, the Consultant did express concern that significant housing development to the south in close proximity to Junction 7 of the M11 may encourage private car use.

Question 22:

What is your view on the Consultant’s recommendations regarding Option B?

To respond please use the separate Issues and Options consultation questionnaire

6.7.8 Option C - Combined criteria-led

Option C
Please note distributions of development are purely illustrative. Source: Scott Wilson

6.7.9 This approach is based on an assessment of a range of specific environmental criteria including Green Belt, landscape sensitivity, flood zones, regeneration objectives and transport accessibility but disregards the specific strategic directions for growth set out in the withdrawn East of England Plan. This distribution focuses on locations to the east of Harlow as the main area of search with less development to the south and west.

Consultant’s findings:

6.7.10 The Consultant’s suggested this is not a reasonable option, primarily because it did not conform to the Regional Spatial Strategy. In particular, the spatial option does not include an extension to the north. The Consultant’s also questioned whether the spatial option would contribute towards regeneration and sustainable transport objectives.

6.7.11 They considered that situating significant numbers of new dwellings close to Junction 7 of the M11 would encourage private car use within an area unable to cope with increased traffic without a southern bypass. The Consultant also concluded that significant levels of development to the south could increase traffic levels along Southern Way and effectively undermine neighbourhood renewal plans at this location. Growth to the south could impact on the ridgeline that provides a southern edge and setting for the town.

Question 23:

What is your view on the Consultant’s recommendations regarding Option C?

To respond please use the separate Issues and Options consultation questionnaire

6.7.12 Option D - Regeneration-led

Option D
Please note distributions of development are purely illustrative. Source: Scott Wilson

6.7.13 An alternative approach examined the identification of areas of search and distribution of new housing based upon securing the greatest potential regeneration benefits for locations within Harlow. This again focused on growth to the north of Harlow but with smaller but similar distributions to the east and south with a small amount to the west.

Consultant’s findings:

6.7.14 The Consultant’s suggested that this option is not considered a reasonable option due to transport and sewerage constraints associated with high levels of development to the north. As a result, the Consultant concluded that there is an unacceptable risk that the option might not be fully implemented.

6.7.15 The Consultant’s also suggested that the limited capacity for the local road network to the south of Harlow to accommodate the levels of growth prescribed for this option may not be feasible unless a southern bypass or an extremely innovative solution to transport could be provided.

6.7.16 The Consultant also questioned whether the scale of development to the east would be of sufficient size to bring forward a new link road providing access to an M11 junction to the north west of Harlow.

Question 24:

What is your view on the Consultant’s recommendations regarding Option D?

To respond please use the separate Issues and Options consultation questionnaire

6.7.17 Option E - Sustainable transport-led

Option E
Please note distributions of development are purely illustrative. Source: Scott Wilson

6.7.18 This approach is based upon the identification of potential broad locations for new housing and distributions based upon areas that can benefit from existing or enhanced transport provision. This focuses growth to the east of Harlow with smaller distributions to the west and north. It shows distributions that have sufficient critical mass that would support regeneration and the provision of key infrastructure close to existing rail stations together with enhancement of cycleways and footpath links.

Consultant’s Findings:

6.7.19 The Consultant’s suggested that this option is not a reasonable option primarily in light of transport and sewerage constraints associated with high levels of development allocated to urban extensions in the northern half of Harlow’s urban fringe. As a result, the Consultant’s suggested that there is an unacceptable risk that the option might not be fully implemented. The Consultant’s also raised concern that this option could also lead to coalescence between Harlow and Roydon.

Question 25:

What is your view on the Consultant’s recommendations regarding Option E?

To respond please use the separate Issues and Options consultation questionnaire

Consultant’s Suggested Approach

6.7.20 Having examined the range of potential options as described previously and assessed their implications against socio-economic and environmental considerations the Consultant’s suggested the spatial approach (above) to accommodate housing growth around the town.

Option F
Please note distributions of development are purely illustrative. Source: Scott Wilson

Question 26:

What is your view on the Consultant’s suggested approach to accommodating growth?

To respond please use the separate Issues and Options consultation questionnaire

6.7.21 Once the overall level of growth in the district has been established the Council will use the information in the Options Appraisal, alongside the views of the wider community and other evidence, to set out the overarching principles for accommodating growth in and around the town. The Council will set out its preferred approach in subsequent drafts of the Core Strategy.

6.7.22 Once the Core Strategy has confirmed the broad approach to growth and the key delivery mechanisms (including infrastructure provision) the details of growth will be set out in a separate Development Plan Document. Any urban extension(s) will need to deliver a range other uses and infrastructure to support the new community uses including open space, education and health facilities.

Question 27:

Do you have any other comments on the approach to growth around Harlow?

To respond please use the separate Issues and Options consultation questionnaire

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