Climate change tops council’s local plan agenda

People are being urged to submit their views on Gosport Borough Council’s first draft of its new local plan. Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas outlines the main points to look out for…

GOSPORT Borough Council’s Local Plan 2038 is now out for the first of two public consultations and topping the agenda is combating the impact of climate change while promoting economic and social prosperity.

The National Planning Policy Framework states: “The planning system should be genuinely plan-led. Succinct and up-to-date plans should provide a positive vision for the future of each area; a framework for addressing housing needs and other economic, social and environmental priorities; and a platform for local people to shape their surroundings.”

The plan includes a set of policies which guide the approval – or refusal – of planning applications by indicating where residential and commercial development can and cannot take place, and the implications for housing, jobs, green spaces and, in the case of Gosport, its heritage sites.

In discussions at meetings of the borough council’s Regulatory Board – which considers planning applications – reference is frequently made to the policies contained in the local plan.

The ‘Vision’ for Gosport in 2038

The current plan – Local Plan 2011-2029 – does include the importance of mitigating the impact of climate change but it comes in the last sentence of the ‘Vision’ and listed as objectives 21 to 26 under the heading, ‘Creating a sustainable environment’.

However, first – known as ‘Regulation 18’ – draft of the revised local plan has as its first key issue to be addressed: “The Borough needs to adapt to, and mitigate the impacts of climate change and contribute to the national requirement of net zero carbon by 2050.”

And the vision for Gosport in 2038 begins with: ‘A sustainable and healthy environment, adapting well and mitigating the impacts of climate change’; also, the first five objectives listed set out the priorities to achieve it.

This emphasis should not be read to the detriment of the aims, objectives and policies which seek:

  • an enhanced sense of place and high-quality regenerated sites
  • a successful place where people choose to live and work
  • an economy making the most of its coastal location
  • reduced out-commuting and sustainable ways of getting around.

Economic and social challenges

Among the economic issues that the draft plan highlights are the peninsular location of the borough which limits access, 80 percent of the land is built on and so there is a need to preserve existing green spaces such as Alver Valley, and the ratio of jobs to the working age population living in the borough – ‘job density’ – is only just over 50 percent leading to a high level of out-commuting.

Although the borough’s population is not expected to rise significantly – a 0.1 percent increase by 2038 – this hides major changes in the age structure, with the percentage of those of working age projected to decrease from 61 percent in 2021 to 55.7 percent in 2038.

Approval for the public consultation of the first draft was given by the council’s Economic Development Board at its September meeting and the officer’s report notes there are a number of uncertainties surrounding housing targets, and Government policy on planning in general.

Housing shortfall of 2,100 dwellings

The council proposes: “Making the most effective possible use of land and prioritising brownfield sites in accessible locations.” These include MoD sites which are due to close – Blockhouse and HMS Sultan.

The officer’s report states that, “it has been possible to identify sites for approximately 3,500 dwellings”. However, the Government’s Standard Method for determining the borough’s housing needs sets a target of 5,576.

This 2,076 shortfall could mean the borough council would have, “to approach neighbouring authorities to request them to consider taking this unmet need as part of the Duty to Cooperate responsibilities”.

The chair of the Economic Development Board, Councillor Stephen Philpott, told The Globe: “The criteria for housing needs assessment does not take into account the ability of the local authority to meet that number.

“We are going to make representations to the Secretary of State and we are having conversations with our partners in South Hampshire. All have housing needs but the question is whether they can accommodate extra from Gosport.”

He also pointed to pages 44 and 45 of the draft Local Plan 2038 which details where the council has identified land for residential development and the number of dwellings each could accommodate, saying: “I would like people to take into account that the majority of the land is not owned by the council and so will be private development.”

‘We’d really like to hear your views’

Both Mr Philpott and council Leader Graham Burgess urged residents to take advantage of the consultation, by viewing the draft plan and submitting comments.

Councillor Burgess said: “Whether you’d like to support a policy in the plan, object to something or ask for an amendment, we’d really like to hear your views.

“This is a very important document, setting out what the borough could look like in 2038, and it’s important that we all help to get it right.”

The first draft of Gosport Borough Council’s Local Plan 2038 can be viewed here. The website also has a brochure which summarises the main points of the 426-page document.

There are unstaffed displays, including copies of the draft plan and paper response forms, at the Town Hall (Mon–Tue 9am–5 pm, Wed–Fri 10am–2pm), the Discovery Centre, Bridgemary Library, Elson Community Library and Hub, Lee Hub, and Gosport Leisure Centre.

The local plan team can be contacted by email – planning.policy@gosport.gov.uk – or (023) 9254 5461. Their postal address is: Planning Policy Team, Gosport Borough Council, High Street, Gosport PO12 1EB.

This first consultation ends on December 3, after which the council will re-draft the document taking into account residents’ comments, changes in Government policies and other external factors.

It is planned that the final draft will go out for public consultation in September and October, 2022, and submitted to the Secretary of State in Spring 2023, before being adopted in the Autumn of 2023.

Image (top): front cover of the Local Plan 2038 document.