Joint Core Strategy - Proposed Main Modifications

6 Appraisal of overall spatial distribution of development

Reasons for selecting the alternatives

6.1 This component of work focused on three options:

  • Option A – distributing growth widely around the edges of the urban areas in many locations where development is found to be feasible.
  • Option B – focusing growth in a small number of larger development areas.
  • Option C – new settlements in sustainable locations including brownfield land in the countryside.

6.2 Options A and B were originally considered by the JPU as part of the Emergent Joint Core Strategy in 2009, as alternative overall approaches to delivering the development required in the plan area.  Option B was the preferred option and has been taken forward in each version of the JCS, including the JCS as submitted (expressed as Policy S1).

6.3 Option C was identified during the Examination process because stakeholders put forward two options for potential new settlements to be considered, as shown in Figure 6.1.1 and 6.1.2 in Appendix 15.  The first new settlement option, Site SA51, is located in South Northamptonshire District, between the villages of Blisworth to the south and Milton Malsor to the north.  It is a relatively small site of approximately 12ha in size.  The second new settlement option, Site SA38, lies approximately 1.3km to the west of the village of Sibbertoft to the east and 1.3km from the village of Welford in the south west.  Approximately two thirds of the site is located in Daventry District and the remaining third lies in Harborough District.

6.4 These new settlement alternative locations were considered by stakeholders to be an alternative way of delivering some of the development required in the plan area.  Therefore, the two proposed new settlement locations have been appraised and the SA findings presented in this chapter, but the three options compared in this chapter relate to comparing the principle of creating new settlements (Option C) with the alternatives of distributing growth around the edges of the urban areas (Option A) or focusing growth in a small number of larger development areas (Option B). 

Comparison between Option C ( New Settlements) and Options A and B

6.5 As described above, the 2009 SA Report for the Emergent Core Strategy assessed the likely effects of Options A and B (referred to in the 2009 SA Report as Options 1 and 2 respectively).  It was concluded that Option B performs better than Option A, as larger areas of development enable the provision of community facilities, affordable housing, transport infrastructure, environmental mitigation and enhancement measures and green infrastructure.  It was noted that under Option A it may be easier for development to integrate with the character of the landscape, due to its smaller scale nature.  However, due to the lack of information about the specific areas that would be developed under Option A it was not possible to be definitive about the likely effects of either of the options.  It was also noted that Option B would make it more possible to implement centralised efficient new forms of energy for developments such as combined heat and power (CHP).

6.6 Now that a third option (Option C) has been identified, as described above, it is necessary to consider the relative effects of that Option in comparison to those of the existing Options A and B.  On their own, the two new settlements that have been proposed would not provide sufficient housing to meet the identified level of need in West Northamptonshire and they have no logical relationship with the overall spatial strategy (i.e. focusing development in and near to the main urban areas and following the settlement hierarchy).  In order to provide the housing needed for the JPU area over the Plan period, more than just two new settlements would need to be identified in other rural locations. 

6.7 However, regardless of the specific locations chosen, the principle of providing development through new settlements under Option C has generally less positive sustainability effects than both the preferred Option B and the alternative Option A.  This is because the new settlements would not be able to make use of the better transport links, services and facilities that exist in and around the urban areas and would require significant new infrastructure provision if they were not to result in very high levels of car use amongst residents, which could in turn have negative effects in relation to air quality and noise.  However, depending on the size of the individual new settlements, the provision of extensive new infrastructure may not be viable if the new settlement was too small.  The likely effects of Option C on many of the SA objectives would depend on the specific location of the new settlements to be delivered, as the type and sensitivity of potentially affected receptors will be different in different locations.  The findings for the two specifically proposed new settlements are described in detail below, and show how the sustainability effects can differ depending on the location of the settlement, for example in relation to biodiversity, cultural heritage, and flood risk.  However, in general, more dispersed development further outside of the main urban areas (as would be delivered under Option C) could be more likely to have a negative effect on landscape character and may represent less efficient use of land.

Reason for selecting the preferred alternative

6.8 The JPU has decided to continue with Option B (focusing growth in a small number of larger development areas, i.e. the SUEs around the four main towns), because the JPU still considers it to be the most appropriate approach to delivering the quantum of housing and employment needed in the plan area.  Many more than two new settlement locations would be required to meet the quantum of housing and employment needed, and these would also need to be capable of accommodating around 1,000-2,000 new dwellings, which is not considered realistic within the plan area.

Approach to the appraisal

6.9 The two new settlement options proposed by stakeholders have been appraised against the SA framework, drawing on the assumptions set out for the SUE locations appraisal (see Appendix 5). 

6.10 Options A and B were already considered by the JPU as part of the Emergent Joint Core Strategy, and the sustainability effects were assessed in 2009 by Environ.  This assessment was recorded in the Draft Sustainability Appraisal Report of the EJCS [GLD07] as Option 1 and Option 2, and did not need to be updated as part of this SA Addendum work.  However, the conclusions have been drawn on when comparing the SA findings for Option C, and whether the JPU’s reasons for choosing Option B as the approach to overall spatial distribution for the JCS remain valid in the light of the selected quantum option.  

Findings of SA of New Settlement Options

6.11 Table 6.1 below summarises the SA scores for these two new settlement options, and the full appraisal matrices are presented in Appendix 4.

Table 6.1: Summary of SA scores for the two new settlement options proposed 


SA Objectives



1.       Air Quality and Noise



2.       Archaeology and cultural heritage



3.       Biodiversity, flora and fauna



4.       Crime and community safety



5.       Education and training



6.       Energy and climatic factors



7.       Health and wellbeing



8.       Labour market and economy



9.       Landscape and townscape



10.    Material assets



11.    Population



12.    Social deprivation



13.    Soil, geology and land use



14.    Waste



15.    Water




6.12 A number of negative effects have been identified for these two new settlement options, several of which are due to the relatively rural location of both site options.  The fact that both sites are located away from existing urban areas means that the potential for sustainable transport use by residents is likely to be limited and longer journeys are likely to be necessary to access employment opportunities, services and facilities.  This is particularly the case for site SA51 which is smaller in size and so less likely to be able to support a good range of services and facilities within the new settlement itself.  Therefore, minor negative effects have been identified for both sites in relation to SA objective 1.  However, in both cases there are likely to be no effects in relation to the air quality part of the objective, as neither site is within close proximity of an AQMA.

6.13 Both sites could have potential negative effects on cultural heritage (SA objective 2), with the effects of SA38 being potentially significantly negative due to the fact that the site is adjacent to a Scheduled Monument (Old Sulby Medieval Settlement).  The effects of SA51 are more likely to be minor negative, as the site is mainly in an area that is classed as having no known heritage assets/issues, and only a small area in the south is classed as being of medium sensitivity in respect of cultural heritage.  Both sites could have a potential significant negative effect on biodiversity (SA objective 3) due to their proximity to designated biodiversity sites - SA38 includes three potential Local Wildlife Sites within the boundary of the site itself, and SA51 is located approximately 50m from a potential Local Wildlife Site.  However, the proposals for SA38 include limited specific information about restoring the surrounding countryside/woodland/lakes and there is also the potential for the proposals at SA51 to involve improvements to green infrastructure; therefore, there could be some positive effects for biodiversity, and overall mixed effects are likely for both sites in relation to this objective.

6.14 Neither of the sites would have an effect on crime and community safety (SA objective 4) or energy and climatic factors (SA objective 6) as the achievement of these objectives would not be influenced by the location of new development, rather it would depend on the specific design of the new settlements which is not yet known.

6.15 SA51 could have a minor positive effect on education (SA objective 5) as it is within reasonable walking distance (considered to be 800m) of an existing school, while a potential minor negative effect is associated with SA38 as that is not the case for that site.  While new school places could potentially be provided as part of the new settlements proposed, there is no indication at present that this would be the case and the relatively small size of site SA51 in particular indicates that the provision of an entirely new school would be unlikely to be viable.

6.16 Both sites could have a minor positive effect on health and wellbeing (SA objective 7) as they are both within walking distance of existing footpaths and/or bridleways which could encourage active modes of travel, but are not within walking distance of existing doctor’s surgeries or hospitals.  While there is potential for new healthcare facilities to be provided as part of the new settlements proposed, this is uncertain at this stage and the same issues as for education would apply in terms of the small size of site SA51 in particular potentially making this less viable.

6.17 The likely effects of both sites on the labour market and economy (SA objective 8) are mixed and uncertain.  Both sites are currently at least partly in use for employment-generating purposes and it is assumed that even if employment land were to be integrated into the new settlement, a net loss of employment land would occur at both sites.  However, integrating residential and employment development in that way would have a positive effect on reducing commuting distances, resulting in a mixed effect overall for both sites.

6.18 The likely effects of SA38 on the landscape (SA objective 9) are uncertain as the site lies outside of the area covered by the Daventry Landscape Sensitivity and Green Infrastructure Study[1] , and the sensitivity of the landscape in that area to new development cannot be assessed.  SA51 lies in an area of medium sensitivity; therefore may have a minor negative effect on this objective although this is uncertain depending on the exact design and layout of the proposed development which is not yet known.

6.19 Both sites would have mixed effects on housing (SA objective 10) as they would provide some new housing, which it is assumed would be of an appropriate mix and high quality; however the rural location of the site options means that the new houses would not be well-linked in terms of community services and facilities and sustainable transport routes.  Therefore, the new communities could easily become fairly isolated, with high levels of car use amongst residents.  In the case of SA51, only 250 new homes could be accommodated, with even fewer proposed at SA38 (approximately 50).  For the same reasons, both sites could have a minor negative effect on both population (SA objective 11) and social deprivation (SA objective 12).

6.20 SA51 is a historic landfill site, and therefore an uncertain effect has been highlighted in relation to potential land contamination issues (SA objective 13) which are currently unknown.  The site is on Grade 3 agricultural land which would be lost under new development; however the fact that the site is brownfield could also result in a positive effect in terms of preventing soil loss through development on greenfield land elsewhere.  SA38 is also on Grade 3 agricultural land; however the fact that it is largely greenfield means that the potential positive effect of SA51 in relation to preserving undeveloped land is not likely here.  The fact that SA51 is a brownfield site also means that a potential positive effect is likely in relation to waste (SA objective 14) while a negligible effect is identified for SA38 as effects on waste will be determined by onsite waste management practices and not the location of the site.

6.21 SA51 is likely to have a significant negative effect on flood risk (SA objective 15) as the western and central parts of the site are located in flood zones 2 and 3.  Given the relatively small size of the site it may be difficult to avoid developing those areas.  While a very small area in the west of SA38 is within flood zones 2 and 3, the majority of the site is outside of those flood risk zones and so a potential minor negative effect is identified.

1. Daventry Landscape Sensitivity and Green Infrastructure Study. URS, January 2009. [back]

Reasons for selecting or rejecting options

6.22 Following the SA of the reasonable alternative new settlement options, the JPU undertook a wider planning assessment of whether each new settlement option should be included in the JCS or not.  This involved considering whether the new settlement option complies with the JCS Vision, Objectives and overarching policy S1, taking the SA findings into account, as well as other deliverability issues.  The JPU Planning Assessment is set out in a separate document: “Site Selection Report” (December 2013), but a summary of the JPU’s conclusions regarding whether to select or reject each of the new settlement options from further consideration is provided at the end of Appendix 4 (after the SA matrices for the new settlement options).