The fragmented Dorset Heathlands are an important part of Purbecks tapestry of rich habitats across Purbeck, hosting a wide variety of protected species. Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace [“SANGs”] is a key tool in mitigating potential recreational pressures on the Heaths arising from new housing. SANGs are often delivered as an integral part of larger developments, but there is also a need to deliver SANGs that can cater for the myriad of smaller developments.
The emerging Purbeck Local Plan proposed a strategic SANG (i.e. one not related to any particular development) at Morden Park Corner allegedly enabled by the release of adjoining land for a holiday park. Both the proposed SANG and holiday park lie within the Green Belt. Whilst the SANG is an appropriate use, the facets of a holiday park are less clear cut and exceptional circumstances would need to be demonstrated.
Brett Spiller, Director of Chapman Lily Planning explained: ‘Dorset Council recently concluded consultation on main modifications as an extension to the Examination. The importance of the proposed SANG to the Local Plan, which is at a pivotal stage, cannot be underestimated. Curiously the Council appear to be having a significant wobble when it comes to the holiday park, putting the delivery of the SANG in jeopardy. I was always sceptical of the wisdom of the enabling argument as such development wouldn’t ordinarily be supported in this location, but there are rarely easy solutions and I had to admire the Council’s creativity. However the position appears to be unravelling. The Council has now indicated that further revisions will be needed, and has invited the Inspector to delete references to the release of Green Belt land for holiday homes.’
The Inspector has responded:
For me to consider the potential for further Main Modifications to address this matter the Council would need to clarify the following:
– the rationale and evidence underpinning its conclusion regarding the release of Green Belt land and the delivery of a holiday park at Morden Park.
– whether its position on the need for a strategic SANG to underpin sustainable housing delivery in the north of the area covered by the Purbeck Local Plan, and its contention that without the SANG it would not be able to demonstrate that a significant proportion of the new homes that are needed could be delivered, has changed since its evidence to the hearing sessions held in 2019. If the Council’s position on the above has changed the Council is requested to explain the rationale for this. Alternatively, if it has not changed, it will be necessary to understand where the strategic SANG would be provided and how it’s delivery would be facilitated.
– Natural England’s position on this matter. I would require the Council to prepare a Statement of Common Ground with Natural England.
The Inspector goes on to state:
If the Council decides to provide me with the above information, there will be a need for further consultation on the additional Main Modifications and on any potential different site for the SANG. It may also be necessary to hold further hearing sessions on this matter to fully examine the evidence and to ensure that interested parties are not prejudiced.
It seems to me that this is likely to be a lengthy process during which I am concerned that the evidence base relating to other parts of the Plan will be becoming increasingly out of date.
In addition, this will inevitably result in further expense to the Council and delay the adoption of the Plan. I am also mindful that the Council is progressing work on the Dorset Council Local Plan which is intended to be adopted by Spring 2023, ahead of the timeframe for the adoption of such plans as indicated under the local government reorganisation consequential arrangements, and that once adopted the Dorset Council Local Plan will replace the Purbeck Local Plan.
Therefore, whilst I do not suggest this lightly, the Council may, in the light of the above, wish to consider withdrawing the Purbeck Local Plan from examination as a potential way forward.
Brett Spiller added: ‘Other aspects of the Purbeck Local Plan have proved controversial – such as the second homes policy along the coast, so some won’t shed a tear if the plan is abandoned. However it is always troubling to see a plan falter at such a late stage as the cost in man hours alone will be hundreds of thousands of pounds. Either way lessons must be learnt and the Dorset Local Plan will need to ensure that SANG provision is aptly made’.
For more information about the emerging Purbeck or Dorset Local Plan please contact us.