The Braughing neighbourhood plan group are allocating sites in their neighbourhood plan. As part of this they undertook a site assessment exercise to select sites. Through technical support, AECOM reviewed the work they undertook and made recommendations to make sure their site selection process was both robust and defensible.
Braughing has a population of just over 1,100 people and lies in the narrow valley of the River Quin.
The Parish Council started preparing their neighbourhood plan with a view to improving the parish, providing new facilities and allocating key sites for development.
The neighbourhood plan is being produced while East Hertfordshire District Council (the local planning authority) are in the process of preparing their local plan. The emerging local plan does not include any site allocations for Braughing. Braughing is expected to allocate its own sites for housing to meet a population growth of 10%. The neighbourhood plan is being used as a tool to do this.
The neighbourhood planning group has made good progress in identifying potential sites for development. The group had initially considered 25 potential sites for inclusion in the neighbourhood plan. This was reduced to 12 using a set of criteria.
Having undertaken this site assessment work, the group felt it would be beneficial for an organisation independent of the group to undertake an objective review of the site assessment process and conclusions they had made to date. Consequently, they applied for the site assessment package of technical support.
Byron Smith, Chairman of the Council, explains:
“The purpose of the support was to provide advice on the housing site identification and selection process for the emerging plan [that the group had already undertaken]. AECOM reviewed all aspects of the groups site assessment: the criteria, the matrix and the results and produced a final report.”
As part of this process, AECOM first reviewed the criteria the group used to assess whether a particular site would be suitable for an allocation in the neighbourhood plan. The criteria included:
- Is the site in or adjacent to the village boundary?
- Would development affect a locally or nationally designated wildlife site?
- Is the site in an area of flood risk?
AECOM commented on each of the criteria used by the group and where necessary, suggested improvements to make the criteria more robust.
Overall AECOM noted that the criteria developed and used by the group was very good and led to making robust and consistent conclusions.
Having reviewed the criteria used to shortlist potential sites, AECOM then reviewed the conclusions made by the group on each of these sites in terms of determining whether the rationale for deciding whether a site was appropriate for shortlisting was sufficient. AECOM concluded that these conclusions were largely sound and made a few recommendations to help make them more robust. For example, AECOM noted that there were some sites that were shortlisted that would benefit from further justification.
Byron Smith, commented on how the technical support helped the group move forward:
“The outcome for Braughing Parish Council is the confidence that the housing site assessment process is robust enough to meet the Basic Conditions required by an Independent Examiner and withstands any legal challenges.”