Examination Office

Inspector: Mr Roger Clews

Programme Officer: Mrs Andrea Copsey

Tel: 07842 643988

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Address: Examination Office, PO Box 12607, Clacton-on-Sea, CO15 9GN

FURTHER EXAMINATION HEARINGS, JANUARY 2020

GUIDANCE NOTE FROM THE INSPECTOR

Further hearings, as part of the examination of the Shared Strategic (Section 1) Plan, will open at 9.30am on Tuesday 14 January 2020.

Purpose of this note

1. The purpose of this Guidance Note is to set out the reasons for, the scope of, and the arrangements leading up to the further examination hearing sessions, including the arrangements for the submission of hearing statements.

2. I will issue another guidance note, dealing with procedure at the hearings, in December.

3. Please also read the following documents, which give additional relevant and background information:

Inspector’s Matters, Issues and Questions for the Further Hearings [IED019]

Further Hearings Programme [IED018]

Inspector’s Response to NEA015 [IED017]

Public Consultation – Inspector’s Explanatory Note [IED016]

North Essex Section 1 Plan Hearings Guidance Note [IED004] – paras 1-10

All these documents are available on page 4 of the examination website.

Annex A to this note provides a list of other relevant background documents and where to find them.

Reasons for the further hearing sessions

4. The original examination hearings in January and May 2018 considered the soundness and legal compliance of the North Essex Authorities’ [NEAs] Section 1 Plan. Following the hearings, I wrote a post-hearings letter to the NEAs on 8 June 2018 [IED011], identifying a number of shortcomings in the Plan and its evidence base, including the Sustainability Appraisal.

5. In response to my interim findings, the NEAs produced a series of additional evidence base documents, including an Additional Sustainability Appraisal. These were published, together with amendments to the Plan suggested by the NEAs, for public consultation in August and September 2019.

6. The purpose of the further hearing sessions is to enable me to gain additional information in order to be able to determine whether or not the Section 1 Plan is sound and legally-compliant. Accordingly, the further hearings will focus on the documents that the NEAs published for consultation in August and September 2019.

7. I have all the written comments made on the published documents during the public consultation, and I will take them all into account when coming to my conclusions on the soundness and legal compliance of the Plan. I will also take into account everything that was said at the original hearing sessions in January and May 2018, and in all the written representations that have been made since the Plan was published in June 2017. Consequently, there is no need for any of those earlier comments and representations to be repeated during the further hearing sessions.

8. My Matters, Issues and Questions [MIQs] document for the further hearings [IED019] sets out the topics for the further hearing sessions, the issues for consideration, and the questions on which I am seeking further information.

Participation in the further hearing sessions

9. Version 1 of the Further Hearings Programme [IED018] gives the dates for the further hearing sessions and a list of those I am inviting to participate, because I consider that their contributions will assist my consideration of the plan. I have allocated participants to the sessions according to the relevance of their comments to the matters, issues and questions for each hearing.

10. If you think you should have been included in the list of participants for a particular session (for example, because your comments bear directly on one or more of the matters, issues and questions for that session), please email or write explaining why to the Programme Officer [PO], Andrea Copsey, whose contact details appear above, by Friday 22 November 2019, and I will review the situation.

11. Anyone is welcome to attend the further hearing sessions and listen to the discussion, but only the invited participants may take part.

Hearing statements 

12. Participants in the further hearing sessions may submit hearing statements if they wish. However, this is not obligatory. Statements will only be helpful to me if you have something to add to what was said in your original response to the public consultation.

13. If you do submit a statement, please keep it as short as possible. It should deal only with any questions in my MIQs document that are relevant to your original response. If the answer to a question is contained in your original comments, please do not repeat them: just provide a reference to them. Statements should not contain new evidence unless that evidence was unavailable when your original comments were made. A separate statement should be submitted for each hearing session. See Annex B to this Note for further guidance on preparing and submitting statements.

14. Statements should be no more than 3,000 words long and must be received by email by the Programme Officer by 5pm on Monday 2 December 2019. Any statement not meeting these requirements will be returned. Please also provide one hard copy of your statement to the PO by the same date.

15. The NEAs are asked to respond to each of the questions in my MIQs document. For this reason, the 3,000-word limit does not apply to their statements. But they must be submitted to the Programme Officer by the same deadline of 5pm on Monday 2 December 2019.

16. Hearing statements will be published on the examination website on Tuesday 3 December 2019.

Responses to hearing statements

17. The NEAs and the other participants in the further hearing sessions may also submit responses to hearing statements. Responses should not be used to repeat what has already been said in hearing statements. You should only submit a response if you wish to address any new point(s) that have been raised in the statements. In doing so, please identify the point(s) you are addressing and the statement(s) in which they occur. Please do not submit any new evidence with your response.

18. Any responses to hearing statements, including from the NEAs, should be no more than 1,500 words long and must be received by email by the Programme Officer by 5pm on Monday 16 December 2019. Please also provide one hard copy of your response to the PO by the same date. 

19. Responses to hearing statements will be published on the examination website on Tuesday 17 December 2019.

Statements of common ground 

20. Statements of Common Ground, agreed between two or more hearing participants (including the NEAs), will be welcome. They should identify the points that are agreed by, or that remain in dispute between, those participants, so as to enable the hearing session to concentrate on the key issues that need further discussion. Any Statements of Common Ground should arrive with the PO by Monday 2 December 2019.

Further documents published on the examination website

21. To assist discussion at the hearing sessions, and in order that participants may take them into account in preparing for the hearings, I have arranged for a series of documents to be published on new page 10 of the examination website: Further Documents Requested and Accepted by the Inspector. They are:

    • The NEAs’ answers to my clarification questions on their additional evidence base documents – [EXD/049]
    • Further documents provided with the NEAs’ answers to my clarification questions – [EXD/050, 051, 052 & 053]
    • The Business Case for the NEAs’ successful bid to the Housing Infrastructure Fund for funding to support the proposed Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community [GC] – [EXD/054]
    • Documents referenced in the NEAs’ topic paper Build out rates in the Garden Communities [EXD/082] – [EXD/055, 056 & 057]
    • Additional viability assessments and additional details of submitted viability assessments – [EXD/058, 059, 060, 061, 062, 063, 068 & 069]. See paragraphs 35 to 45 below for further explanation of why these have been published, and of how they will be considered at the further hearing sessions
    • A redacted version of the PwC report North Essex Garden Communities (14 Dec 2016) together with relevant email correspondence between the PO and the NEAs [EXD/064]
    • Letters from CAUSE, the NEAs and NEGC about NEGC’s engagement programme [EXD/065]
    • The NEAs’ email to the PO of 5 November 2019 regarding Essex County Council’s consultation on proposals for a Rapid Transit System and A133/A120 link road, and Highways England’s consultation on A12 widening proposals [EXD/066]
    • November 2019 Update to EB/070 – Summary of land ownership in respect of the proposed garden communities [EXD/067]

22. Please contact the PO if you have any queries on the status of the published documents.

National planning policy and guidance

23. Because the Plan was submitted for examination before 24 January 2019, the policies in the version of the National Planning Policy Framework [NPPF] published in March 2012 apply for the purposes of my examination [1]. Similarly, any previous national Planning Practice Guidance which has been superseded since a new version of the NPPF was published in July 2018 will also continue to apply [2].

[1] See paragraph 214 of the current (February 2019) version of the NPPF.

[2] See https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/planning-practice-guidance

Suggested amendments to the Plan [EB/091]

24. One of the documents published for consultation in August and September 2019 is a list of suggested amendments to the Plan prepared by the NEAs [EB/091]. The document provides reasons why each amendment is being suggested. In some cases they flow from discussions at the original hearing sessions, or from the views I set out to the NEAs in my letters of 8 and 27 June 2018 [IED011 & IED012].

25. The suggested amendments are not part of the submitted Plan that I am examining. Any change that materially affects any of the submitted Plan’s policies may only be made if I consider it is necessary to make the Plan sound or legally compliant, and recommend it in my report on the examination. If I consider it necessary, I may decide to recommend changes to the submitted Plan which are not part of the NEAs’ suggested amendments. All the changes which I may propose to recommend (known formally as “main modifications”) will be subject to public consultation before I complete my report. 

26. Many of the NEAs’ suggested amendments are relevant to matters which will be discussed during the first two weeks of the hearing sessions. It is likely that those suggested amendments will be discussed at those sessions. I am also arranging a hearing session on Thursday 30 January 2020 specifically to consider the NEAs’ suggested amendments, and the need for any other changes to the Plan.

Scope of discussion at the further hearing sessions

27. The questions in my MIQs document [IED019] set the scope for the discussion at the further hearing sessions. Not all the issues that were raised in the comments on the NEAs’ additional evidence base documents will be discussed. In most cases this is because I consider that I already have enough information, from the original hearing sessions and all the written representations I have received throughout the examination, to reach a conclusion on those issues in my report. It may be helpful if I explain why I have decided not to include questions on certain issues. 

28. A large number of comments were about the consultation arrangements themselves, including what were felt to be difficulties in using the consultation portal, inadequate publicity, the volume and complexity of the documents, and the inconvenient timing of the consultation. I do not doubt the sincerity of those comments. Nonetheless, almost 1,000 responses were made directly to the consultation from a very wide range of organisations and individuals, and more than 2,000 further individual responses were collected and submitted by organisations including CAUSE, Residents of Kelvedon and of Braintree District, and Wivenhoe Town Council. 

29. Each of the NEAs has produced an addendum to their Consultation Statement [3] which makes it clear that they carried out the consultation in accordance with their Statement of Community Involvement. The consultation period lasted six weeks, the same as the statutory period allowed for representations to be made on a plan before it is submitted for examination [4]. While not every household may have received door-to-door distribution of publicity material, I consider it very unlikely that anyone’s interests have been substantially prejudiced through any lack of opportunity to comment on the NEAs’ additional SA, evidence base documents, or suggested amendments to the Plan.

[3] Documents SDBDC006a, SDCBC006a & SDTDC006a

[4] Regulations 17 & 19 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Development) (England) Regulations 2012 (as amended).

30. Having said that, I am aware of wider concerns about engagement raised by various respondents to the public consultation (for example, CAUSE, Mr M O’Connell, Wivenhoe Town Council). In view of the fact that community engagement is a principle of the North Essex Garden Communities Charter, in my MIQs document I have asked the NEAs to provide a written statement responding to those concerns.

31. A substantial number of comments were about detailed route options contained in the document Rapid Transit System [RTS] for North Essex: from Vision to Plan [EB/080], particularly the route options involving Lexden Road in Colchester and Flitch Way to the west of Braintree. Discussion of the RTS at the hearing session on Thursday 16 January 2020 will not be about detailed route options: that would not be appropriate at the examination of this Plan. Instead the discussion will be about the overall feasibility and viability of the RTS and the role it is expected to play in relation to the proposed garden communities.

32. The issue of housing need was examined at the original hearing sessions and I set out my views on it in my letter to the NEAs of 27 June 2018 [IED/012]. In that letter I reserved the right to modify my views in the light of any further evidence that might come forward before the examination ends. It is therefore appropriate to consider, at the further hearing sessions, whether there is any new evidence that might justify revising my view that submitted policy SP3’s housing requirements are soundly based. That might include, for example, further demographic evidence, including on the factors giving rise to Unattributable Population Change in Tendring, and further evidence on market signals and affordability. My questions for the relevant hearing session on Tuesday 14 January 2020 explore these issues.

33. However, I am not inviting discussion at the further hearing session on whether or not the housing requirements in the Plan should be based on the standard Local Housing Need [LHN] method set out in the February 2019 NPPF. The LHN method is not part of the March 2012 NPPF, whose policies apply for the purposes of my examination (see paragraph 23 above). Consequently, there is no expectation in national planning policy that the LHN method should be used as the basis for the housing requirements in the Plan.

34. As explained in my Guidance Note for the original hearing sessions [IED004], it is not part of my role to examine the soundness of “omission sites”: that is, sites which have been put forward by their owners or promoters, but which were not selected by the NEAs for allocation in the Plan, or in their Section 2 Plans. The merits of any such sites will not, therefore, be discussed in detail at the further hearing sessions. The focus of the further hearings will be on the implications of the NEAs’ additional evidence base documents for the soundness of the proposed garden community allocations in the Plan.

Viability evidence

35. One of the additional evidence base documents which the NEAs published for consultation was a Viability Assessment Update [VAU] by Hyas (June 2019) [EB/086 1/2 – Main Report, and EB/086 2/2 – Technical Appendices].

36. Unlike the original Hyas Viability Assessment [VA] of June 2017, the 2019 Hyas VAU assessed the proposed West of Braintree GC on the basis of total delivery of 12,500 dwellings – including an additional part of that GC in Uttlesford District that is proposed in the emerging Uttlesford Local Plan.

37. For consistency with the West of Braintree GC proposal in the submitted Plan, and with the 2017 Hyas VA, I have asked the NEAs to prepare an additional viability assessment of the West of Braintree GC based on total delivery of 10,000 dwellings. That additional viability assessment has been published in EXD/058 – Supplementary Information to the 2019 Hyas VAU.

38. Each of the proposed GCs was assessed in the 2019 Hyas VAU based on delivery of 300 dwellings per annum [dpa]. I have asked the NEAs to prepare additional viability assessments of each proposed GC based on delivery of 250dpa, as recommended in my post-hearings letter to the NEAs of 8 June 2018 [IED/011]. Those additional viability assessments have also been published in EXD/058.

39. Six other assessments, or model-based analyses, of the viability of one or more of the proposed GCs were submitted with, or referred to in, responses to the consultation on the NEAs’ additional evidence base documents: from GL Hearn on behalf of Andrewsfield New Settlement Consortium and Countryside Properties; from CAUSE; from WYG on behalf of Galliard Homes; from Carter Jonas on behalf of L&Q, Cirrus Land and G120; from North Essex Garden Communities [NEGC] Ltd; and from Mr M O’Connell. While these other viability assessments are not part of the evidence base on which the NEAs are relying, they are relevant to the consideration of the viability of the proposed GCs. 

40. I have asked for further details of these other viability assessments to be provided, in order to assist understanding of them. The further details are as follows:

EXD/059: Excel spreadsheets and explanatory notes provided by CAUSE to support their Consultation Response on EB/086 Viability Assessment.

EXD/060: Excel spreadsheets exported from the Argus Developer appraisals by Gerald Eve on behalf of Galliard Homes. The Excel spreadsheets show the cashflows for the appraisals summarised at Appendices 2, 3 and 4 of the Gerald Eve September 2019 viability submission (Appendix 1 to WYG’s Comments on NEAs’ Section 1 Viability Assessment on behalf of Galliard Homes). 

EXD/061: A Viability Analysis Report (October 2019) by Savills, as referred to in paragraph 6.6 of Carter Jonas’s Representations to the Braintree, Colchester and Tendring Technical Section 1 Examination Consultation on behalf of L&Q, Cirrus Land and G120. 

EXD/062: Appraisal summaries and worksheets, with explanatory notes, providing details of the Viability Evidence on behalf of North Essex Garden Communities by Avison Young, submitted with NEGC Ltd’s comments on the 2019 Hyas VAU.

EXD/063: Email dated 24 October 2019 confirming the NEAs’ position on the status of the NEGC viability evidence.

EXD/068: Full details of the viability appraisal by GL Hearn referred to in their Review of Hyas Viability Assessment, submitted with their comments on the 2019 Hyas VAU on behalf of Andrewsfield New Settlement Consortium and Countryside Properties. 

EXD/069: Further details of the sensitivity assessments of the 2019 Hyas VAU referred to in Mr O’Connell’s paper North Essex Garden Communities Viability – West of Braintree.

Viability technical seminar

41. Because of the volume of viability evidence submitted, and the different assessment methods and assumptions employed, I have decided to arrange a technical seminar on Tuesday 21 January 2020, the day before the hearing session on viability. The purpose of the technical seminar will be to provide clarification of the methodology and assumptions underpinning the viability evidence, thus saving time during the hearing session itself.

42. All the participants who are invited to the hearing session on viability are also invited to attend the technical seminar, and it will be open to anyone to observe. Those participants who have submitted viability assessments (the NEAs, Andrewsfield New Settlement Consortium and Countryside Properties; CAUSE; Galliard Homes, L&Q, Cirrus Land and G120, NEGC Ltd, and Mr M O’Connell) will be asked in turn to give a brief outline of the methods and assumptions they have employed, based on papers submitted in advance. I and the other participants will then be able to ask them questions of clarification. 

43. It will not be appropriate for parties to criticise one another’s viability assessments at the technical seminar. Discussion of the implications of the viability evidence for the soundness of the Plan will take place at the viability hearing session on Wednesday 22 January 2020.

44. See my MIQs document for details of the information which I am asking those participants who have submitted viability assessments to provide in their papers for the technical seminar. Papers should be emailed to the Programme Officer by 5pm on Monday 16 December 2019. They will be published on the examination website on Tuesday 17 December. 

45. Further details of the procedure for technical seminars appears in the Planning Inspectorate’s Procedure Guide for Local Plan Examinations – see Annex A below.

Roger Clews

Inspector

November 2019

 

ANNEX A

Sources of relevant documents and advice

A. Examination webpages

The Examination webpages are hosted by Braintree District Council and available via this link

If you do not have access to the internet, documents and other information can be obtained from the PO whose details appear on page 1 above.

B. National planning policy and practice guidance, and procedure guidance from the Planning Inspectorate

See: http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/planning/planningsystem/localplans, which provides links to the following:

    • The National Planning Policy Framework, March 2012 (see paragraph 23 above)
    • The series of national Planning Practice Guidance documents
    • Procedure Guide for Local Plan Examinations (The Planning Inspectorate, 5th edition, June 2018)

C. Relevant legislation

These documents can be found at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/:

    • Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004
    • Planning Act 2008
    • Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009
    • Localism Act 2011
    • Housing and Planning Act 2016
    • Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017
    • The Town and Country Planning (Local Development) (England) Regulations 2012 [SI No 2012/767]
    • The Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004 [SI No 2004/1633]
    • The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 [SI No 2017/1012]

This document can found at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eia/sea-support.htm:

    • European Directive on Strategic Environmental Assessment (2001/42/EC)

ANNEX B

Format for hearing statements and responses to hearing statements 

A. Anyone submitting a hearing statement should email an electronic copy in PDF or Word format, and send one paper copy to the PO for the Inspector.

B. Statements should be succinct, avoiding unnecessary detail and avoiding repetition of the original representation. No hearing statement should be longer than 3,000 words (except for the NEAs’). Longer statements will be returned by the PO for editing. A limit of 1,500 words applies to responses to hearing statements.

C. Statements should be prepared on A4 paper, printed on both sides and not bound, just stapled. Any photographs should be submitted in A4 format and should be annotated (on the back or front).

D. All the Submission Documents, the evidence base, additional evidence base documents and supporting documents for the Section 1 Plan are available on the Examination website. Participants should not attach copied extracts from those documents to their hearing statements, but should simply refer clearly to the document number or title and the relevant page or paragraph.

E. Please do not submit appendices to hearing statements unless they are essential. The statement should make it clear why they are relevant. Appendices should have a contents page and be paginated throughout. The 3,000-word limit does not include the text in appendices, but they should also respect the aim of succinctness.

F. All participants must adhere to the deadline for submitting statements:

    • Any hearing statements must be received by the PO by 5pm on Monday 2 December 2019.
    • Any responses to hearing statements must be received by the PO by 5pm on Monday 16 December 2019.

G. Late submissions and additional material are unlikely to be accepted after this deadline, including on the day of the relevant session, since it can cause disruption and result in unfairness to other participants, and could result in the hearing being adjourned.

Inspector: Mr Roger Clews

Programme Officer: Mrs Andrea Copsey

Address: Examination Office, PO Box 12607, Clacton-on-Sea, CO15 9GN

FURTHER HEARING SESSIONS, JANUARY 2020

INSPECTOR’S MATTERS, ISSUES AND QUESTIONS

Please see the Inspector’s Guidance Note for the further hearing sessions [IED020] for further information, and please note:

Apart from the North Essex Authorities [NEAs], there is no obligation on participants to prepare hearing statements. You should only do so if you have something to add to what you said in your original comments on the NEAs’ technical consultation.

If you do prepare a statement, please address only those questions relevant to your original comments. Do not repeat anything that is in your original comments: just provide a reference to it.

Please remember there is a 3,000-word limit per matter for hearing statements (excluding appendices, which should be kept to a minimum). This limit does not apply to the NEAS. Deadlines for statements are set out in the Inspector’s Guidance Note.

The Inspector will determine the manner in which discussion takes place at the hearings.

Tuesday 14 January 2020
9.30 am – 12.30pm

Matter 1 - Habitats Regulations Assessment

Issues

Is the Habitats Regulations Assessment [HRA] Report dated July 2019 [EB/083] compliant with the requirements of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 and any other relevant legislation and caselaw?

Will the Section 1 Plan, with the NEAs’ relevant suggested amendments, ensure that all the necessary mitigation measures will be implemented effectively?

Questions

(In responding to the questions, would the NEAs and Natural England please address the specific criticisms of the HRA Report and the Plan contained in the comments made by Dr Gibson on behalf of Wivenhoe Town Council.)

Questions for the North Essex Authorities and Natural England

1. Should the HRA have taken account of the implications for European sites (1) of development beyond 2033 proposed in the Section 1 Plan?

2. Does the HRA properly identify the sensitive areas of the Colne Estuary in terms of nesting, roosting and feeding for qualifying bird species?

3. How would funding of the mitigation measures proposed in the Essex Coast Recreational disturbance & Mitigation Strategy HRA Strategy Document [the RAMS document] (July 2019) [EXD/050] be affected if only two or one of the proposed garden communities were to be found sound?

Questions for all participants, including the NEAs and Natural England

4. Does the HRA take adequate account of the implications for European sites of the Section 1 Plan in respect of:

(a) water use and waste water?

(b) powered paragliding?

(c) loss of feeding grounds at Tendring Colchester Borders GC for lapwings and golden plovers?

5. Would implementation of the mitigation measures proposed in the RAMS document [EXD/050] ensure that the Section 1 Plan (either alone or in combination with other plans or projects) would not adversely affect the integrity of any European site?

6. Would the policies of the Section 1 Plan (including if necessary the relevant amendments suggested by the NEAs) provide sufficient certainty that the necessary mitigation measures will be implemented in order to ensure that the Section 1 Plan (either alone or in combination with other plans or projects) would not adversely affect the integrity of any European site?

(1) The term “European sites” is defined in regulation 8 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. In the RAMS document, European sites are referred to as “Habitats Sites”.

Tuesday 14 January 2020
1.30pm – 3.15pm

Matter 2 - Employment provision for the proposed garden communities

Issue

Are the employment land requirements for the three proposed GCs, set out in the NEAs’ suggested amendments to policies SP7, SP8, SP9 & SP10, supported by robust evidence, and are they consistent with the requirements of policy SP4?

Questions for the North Essex Authorities

1. What criteria were used to select the comparator locations identified on p55 of Cebr’s Economic Vision and Strategy for the North Essex Sub-Region [EXD/052]?

2. (a) Were the employment figures for each GC shown in Table 4 of Employment Provision for the North Essex Garden Communities (August 2019) [EB/081] calculated in the following way:

Reference case: The employment figure was assumed to be the same as the number of dwellings at each GC;

Investment-led scenario:

(i) The population of each GC was calculated by multiplying the number of dwellings by the ONS household size figure (as per para 2.6 of EB/081);

(ii) The population figure resulting from (i) was multiplied by 43.5/100 (para 2.4 of EB/081) to produce the employment figure?

(b) If not, what calculation method(s) were used?

3. (a) Are the employment figures for the West of Braintree GC shown in Table 4 of EB/081 based on a cross-boundary GC, including an area within Uttlesford District?

(b) What would the figures be if they were based on the West of Braintree GC as proposed in the Section 1 Plan, with a maximum of 10,000 dwellings?

4. How do the employment figures for the GCs shown in Table 4 of EB/081 relate to the annual jobs forecasts for the three NEAs set out in policy SP4, having regard to any differences in the methods by which they were arrived at?

5. Are the employment land requirements of policies SP7, SP8, SP9 & SP10 part of, or additional to, the employment land requirements of policy SP4?

Questions for all participants, including the NEAs

6. Is there clear justification for selecting the comparator locations identified on p55 of EXD/052, rather than other comparator locations?

7. Is it reasonable to assume that, in the inward investment-led scenario, North Essex increases its employment-to-population ratio to that of the comparator regions by 2036 (para 2.4 of EB/081, p116 of EXD/052)?

8. Is the percentage mix of employment sectors shown in Table 2 of EB/081 justified, having regard to the sectoral GVA shares identified in EXD/052, pp125-127?

Tuesday 14 January 2020
3.45pm – 5.30pm

Matter 3 - Housing need

Issue

Since the Inspector’s supplementary post-hearings letter to the NEAs, has there been a meaningful change in the situation regarding housing need in North Essex?

Questions for all participants, including the NEAs

1. Is there evidence to demonstrate that there been a meaningful change since June 2018 in the situation regarding housing need in North Essex, particularly in respect of:

a) published population and household projections?

b) the impact of UPC on population and household projections, especially in Tendring District?

c) market signals and affordability?

2. If so, what are the implications for the assessment of housing need and for the housing requirements in the Section 1 Plan?

Wednesday 15 January 2020
9.30am – 1.30pm

Matter 4 - Build Out Rates

Issues

Does the NEAs’ document Build out rates in the Garden Communities (July 2019) [EB/082] provide clear evidence to support build-out rates of 300 dwellings per annum [dpa] at each of the proposed garden communities?

Is there any new evidence, not available at the time of the original hearing sessions, that would justify a revision of the finding in my letter to the NEAs of 8 June 2018 [IED011] that: “… it [is] reasonable to assume that the planning approval process would allow housing delivery at any GC(s) to start within four or five years from the adoption date of the plan (or plan revision) which establishes the GC(s) in principle”?

Questions for the North Essex Authorities and NEGC Ltd

1. Would the NEAs and NEGC Ltd please respond to the critique of the Topic Paper Build out rates in the Garden Communities (July 2019) [EB/082] in:

a) the Review of NEA Build Out Rates Topic Paper report (27 Sept 2019) prepared by Lichfields (Appendix A to Gladman’s consultation response)?

b) representations from other participants?

2. Representations from a number of participants argue that lead-in times for the start of housing development at the proposed GCs would be longer than four or five years from the adoption date of the plan establishing their acceptability in principle.

a) What are the NEAs’ and NEGC Ltd’s responses to those arguments?

b) What is the NEAs’ and NEGC Ltd’s expected timescale for each key stage (including masterplan & DPD adoption, outline planning permission and reserved matters approvals) from the adoption of the Section 1 Plan to the start of development at each GC?

Questions for all participants, including the NEAs and NEGC Ltd

1. Would participants like to comment on:

a) The Homes and Communities Agency’s paper Notes on Build out rates from Strategic Sites (July 2013) submitted with the comments on EB/082 from GL Hearn on behalf of Andrewsfield New Settlement Consortium and Countryside Properties?

b) The Lichfields blogpost Driving housing delivery from large sites: What factors affect the build out rates of large scale housing sites? (29 October 2018) [EXD/057]?

c) The University of Glasgow report Factors Affecting Housing Build-out Rates (February 2008) appended to CAUSE’s consultation response on EB/082?

2. a) How many outlets would be needed at each of the proposed GCs in order to deliver (i) 250dpa (ii) 300dpa (iii) 500dpa?

b) Is there evidence to show that the required numbers of outlets could successfully operate at each GC?

Wednesday 15 January 2020
2.30pm – 5.30pm

Matter 5 - Delivery mechanisms and State aid

Delivery mechanisms

Issues

Does the Section 1 Plan provide an appropriate level of detail on the delivery mechanisms needed to ensure that its policy aspirations for the proposed garden communities are achieved?

Questions for the North Essex Authorities and NEGC Ltd

1. A number of participants argue that delivery of the proposed garden communities could be more effective if it were led by private-sector developers than by a public-sector body. Please respond to these arguments.

2. Is there justification for the proposed requirement in policy SP7 criterion (ii) for new models of delivery to be deployed where appropriate?

3. What is the evidence which supports the statements about the value of land acquired under compulsory purchase powers in:

(a) paragraphs 12-15 of the NEAs’ Position Statement on Delivery Mechanisms [EB/084]?

(b) paragraphs 17, 18 & 43 of the Viability Evidence by Avison Young submitted with the comments of NEGC Ltd on the June 2019 Hyas Viability Assessment Update [EB/086]?

4. Would the NEAs and NEGC Ltd please respond to each of the points on the use of compulsory purchase powers made in CAUSE’s Land Acquisition Strategy paper, submitted with CAUSE’s comments on EB/084?

Questions for all participants, including the NEAs and NEGC Ltd

5. (a) If the Section 1 Plan is neutral as regards who will be responsible for leading delivery of the proposed garden communities, how will the NEAs be able to ensure through their development management powers that any garden community proposal that comes forward meets all their policy aspirations for the garden communities?

(b) In this regard, do any further amendments need to be made to policy SP7 paragraph 3 (beginning “The Councils will need to be confident …”) and/or to policy SP7 criterion (ii)?

(c) Should the Section 1 Plan instead specify that delivery of the proposed garden communities should be led by a public-sector local delivery vehicle, a Locally Led New Town Development Corporation, or a private-sector developer?

6. (a) Would the existence of a viable alternative master developer with control over land allocated for a garden community restrict the ability of the Secretary of State to confirm a CPO on that land (see paragraphs 8.10-8.11 of the consultation response to EB/084 from Carter Jonas on behalf of L&Q, Cirrus Land Ltd and Gateway 120)?

(b) If so, what are the implications for delivery of the garden communities in accordance with the NEAs’ policy aspirations?

State aid

Issues

Does the NEAs’ Position Statement on State Aid [EB/085] provide reassurance that there would be no breach of state aid rules with regard to:

a) Infrastructure investment and associated borrowing?

b) Government investment?

c) Land acquisition?

Taking state aid rules into account, is it realistic to expect that a rate of 6% would apply to borrowing for investment in the proposed garden communities?

Questions for the North Essex Authorities and NEGC Ltd

7. Would the NEAs and NEGC Ltd please respond to the critique of EB/085 in Mr O’Connell’s paper North Essex Garden Communities State Aid Considerations (also submitted by CAUSE)?

8. What is the NEAs’ and NEGC Ltd’s response to Mr O’Connell’s view that a real interest rate of 8%-12% would necessarily apply to debt incurred by the garden community development vehicles in the first 10 to 20 years of the garden community projects (pp8-10 of his paper)?

Thursday 16 January 2020
9.30am – 1.00pm & 2.00pm – 5.30pm

Matter 6 - Transport and other infrastructure

Issues

Is there sufficient certainty over the provision of necessary infrastructure to demonstrate that the garden community proposals in the Section 1 Plan are deliverable?

Has sufficient evidence been provided to demonstrate the viability and feasibility of the proposed Rapid Transit System [RTS]?

Does the Section 1 Plan make sufficiently clear requirements about the provision, timing and phasing of necessary infrastructure, and are those requirements justified?

Road funding and programming

Questions for the NEAs and Highways England

1. Has funding been secured for the A120 improvement scheme between Braintree and the A12 through the Department for Transport’s RIS2 programme?

(a) If so:

(i) has a route for the scheme been approved?

(ii) what is the programme for the scheme and when will it be completed?

(b) If not, what are the consequences for the feasibility of the West of Braintree and Colchester Braintree Borders GCs?

2. Does the A120 improvement scheme above include the grade separated A120 junction which is identified as requiring external funding in the Additional Sustainability Appraisal Appendix 4, p45 (Confirmation of Site Proposals – NEAGC1)?

3. (a) Does the funding that was committed under the DfT’s RIS1 programme for the A12 Chelmsford to A120 widening scheme remain committed for the scheme?

(b) If so, would the full costs of each of the route options shown in the Highways England consultation (Oct-Nov 2019) be covered by that committed funding?

(c) Is the proposed alignment of the A12 between Feering and Marks Tey in route options 2 and 4 of the Highways England consultation (Oct-Nov 2019) [EXD/066] the same as the alignment shown in Figure 15 of the AECOM Infrastructure Planning, Phasing and Delivery [IPPD] document [EB/088]?

4. (a) Is there still a possibility that funding will be secured through the Housing Investment Fund [HIF] for a more southerly realignment of the A12 in the Marks Tey area?

(b) If so,

(i) what is the proposed alignment for which HIF funding is sought?

(ii) when will a decision on the HIF bid be made, and what would be the likely timescale for completion of the realignment scheme?

5. Funding has been secured through the HIF for a A120-A133 link road to the east of Colchester.

(a) Would the full costs of each of the route options shown in the Essex County Council consultation (Nov-Dec 2019) [EXD/066] be covered by the HIF funding?

(b) (i) Are any other highway improvements needed to cater for the traffic generated by the Tendring Colchester Borders GC?

(ii) If so, how would they be funded?

Questions for all participants, including the NEAs

6. What are the consequences of the answers to 3 (a), (b) & (c) for the feasibility of the West of Braintree and Colchester Braintree Borders GCs?

7. What are the consequences of the answers to 4 (a) & (b) for the feasibility of the Colchester Braintree Borders GC?

8. What are the consequences of the answers to 5 (a) & (b) for the feasibility of the Tendring Colchester Borders GC?

Other infrastructure and phasing

Question for the NEAs

9. Item 5.1 in section 3 of the Gleeds Infrastructure Order of Costs Estimate [EB/087] is described as 132kv connection to Primary Substation from Colchester Grid Substation and is estimated at £9.2M. Does that estimate include the cost of the primary sub station itself, or just the connection to it?

Questions for all participants, including the NEAs

10. Do the Integrated Water Management Strategy [EB/015] and the AECOM IPPD document [EB/088] provide sufficient certainty that adequate provision can be made for water supply and waste water treatment for the proposed GCs?

11. Is the approach to the phasing of infrastructure provision at the Gcs, set out in the AECOM IPPD document, justified and appropriate?

12. Would an alternative approach to phasing be preferable, such as that set out in the Infrastructure Delivery Plan by Create, submitted with the response to EB/088 from Carter Jonas on behalf of L&Q, Cirrus Land & G120?

13. (a) Are the Section 1 Plan’s policies sufficiently clear about what infrastructure needs to be provided, and by when?

(b) Should the Plan’s policies require funding for key infrastructure to be committed before planning permission is granted for any of the GCs?

(c) Should the Plan’s policies link the phased provision of infrastructure to defined trigger points in the phasing of development at the GCs?

Rapid Transit System for North Essex

Questions for all participants, including the NEAs

[In responding to these questions, would the NEAs please address the criticisms of the document Rapid Transit System for North Essex: from Vision to Plan [EB/079] contained in participants’ consultation responses, including the technical note by Walker Engineering appended to Mr O’Connell’s response, and the Technical Note by RPS which forms Appendix 3 to the response from Turley on behalf of Parker Strategic Land.]

14. Are the capital costs for the proposed RTS set out in section 5.1 of the Vision to Plan document [EB/079] realistic?

15. Have sources for all the necessary capital funding for the RTS been identified?

16. Do sections 5.2, 5.3 and 5.4 of the Vision to Plan document provide reliable estimates of revenue, operating costs and commercial viability for the RTS?

17. Funding has been secured through the Housing Investment Fund [HIF] for a bus-based RTS serving the Tendring Colchester Borders GC.

(a) Which elements of the RTS scheme proposed in the Vision to Plan document would be covered by the HIF funding?

(b) Would any additional funding be required to complete Route 1 of the RTS scheme as proposed in the Vision to Plan document?

(c) If so, how would that additional funding be secured?

18. How would connecting public transport services within the proposed garden communities be funded?

19. Is the proposed phasing of the introduction of the RTS system

(a) realistic?

(b) consistent with the proposed timing of development at the garden communities?

20. Does the Vision to Plan document provide sufficient reassurance at this strategic stage of planning that it would be feasible in physical terms to construct the proposed RTS system?

21. What are the implications for the GCs of the proposal not to build Route 4, linking the Colchester and West of Braintree sub-systems, until after 2033?

22. The Vision to Plan document proposes a bus rapid transit system initially, potentially to be replaced beyond the Section 1 Plan period by trackless trams. Are these proposals justified and consistent with the Plan’s aspirations for high-quality rapid transit networks and connections?

Mode Share Strategy

23. Are the refined mode share targets set out at Figures 7-1, 7-2 & 7-3 of the Mode Share Strategy document [EB/080] justified by the evidence contained and referenced in that document?

24. Should these (or other) mode share targets be included as requirements of the Section 1 Plan’s policies?

Tuesday 21 January 2020
9.30am – 1.00pm & 2.00pm – 5.30pm

Viability technical seminar

As well as the June 2019 Hyas Viability Assessment Update [VAU] [EB/086], viability appraisals and model-based analyses of one or more of the GCs have been submitted to the examination by six other respondents:

  • GL Hearn on behalf of Andrewsfield New Settlement Consortium and Countryside Properties;
  • CAUSE;
  • Gerald Eve on behalf of Galliard Homes;
  • Savills on behalf of L&Q, Cirrus Land and G120; and
  • Avison Young on behalf of NEGC Ltd;
  • Mr M O’Connell.

To assist participants at the further hearing session on viability to understand and compare the viability appraisals, would each of these respondents please prepare a short paper for the viability technical seminar containing:

1. A brief explanation of the methodology(ies) used in their appraisal(s), including in any model or software package employed (eg Argus Developer).

2. A list of all the input values* to their appraisal(s) which differ significantly from the corresponding input values to the relevant appraisal(s) in the Hyas June 2019 Viability Assessment Update [VAU] [EB/086].

* “Input values” in this context means all the land use assumptions, development and infrastructure costs, development value and profit rate assumptions, contingency allowances, assumed finance rate(s), assumed inflation rate(s) and discount rate(s) (where applicable) and any other relevant assumptions. The input values to the Hyas June 2019 VAU appear in the Technical Appendices volume [EB/086 2/2], sections 1, 2 & 3 and the first three pages (headed Worksheets 1, 2 & 3) of sections 4, 5 & 6.

3. An account of the approach they have taken to land value. For residual valuation appraisals, what benchmark land value (in £/acre) is assumed and what is the evidence base for it? For appraisals in which land value is an input, what is the input land value (in £/acre) and what is the evidence which supports that land value?

In dealing with points 1 & 3, it will be acceptable to provide references to the relevant paragraphs of documents already submitted, provided that those paragraphs give a full account of the information required.

Hyas are not required to deal with the above points, as their June 2019 VAU already covers them. However, would Hyas please prepare a paper giving a full account of their approach to calculating the Internal Rate of Return [IRR] for each GC, and addressing the criticism of their approach to IRR in section F (pp16-18) of Mr M O’Connell’s paper North Essex Garden Communities Viability – West of Braintree, submitted with his response to EB/086.

Please email papers for the viability technical seminar to the Programme Officer to arrive by 5pm on Monday 16 December 2019 to be published on the examination website on Tuesday 17 December.

Wednesday 22 January 2020
9.30am – 1.00pm & 2.00pm – 5.30pm

Matter 7 - Viability

Please note that references below to the June 2019 Hyas Viability Assessment Update [VAU] [EB/086] include the Supplementary Information to the VAU (November 2019) [EB/058].

Issues

Is there robust evidence to demonstrate that the proposed GCs are financially viable?

Question for the North Essex Authorities

1. (a) Is the viability of the proposed West of Braintree GC dependent on it being delivered as a cross-boundary development of 12,500 dwellings jointly with the area within Uttlesford District?

(b) If so, how can delivery of the Uttlesford part of the GC be secured through the Section 1 Plan?

Questions for all participants, including the NEAs

2. Is adequate provision made for the costs of infrastructure at the GCs in the 2019 Hyas VAU?

3. Apart from housing delivery rates and infrastructure costs (to be discussed under Matters 5 & 6), a number of other changes have been made to the inputs to the 2019 Hyas VAU compared with the 2017 Hyas VA [EB/013], including:

a) land-use and development breakdown

b) infrastructure costs

c) build costs

d) specific inclusion of flats in the development mix

e) plot external costs

f) sales values

g) plot developer profit rate

h) contingencies

i) proportions of affordable rented and intermediate housing

j) use of inflation rates

Are those changes justified?

4. Are sufficient contingency allowances built into the 2019 Hyas VAU?

5. Is 6%, as employed in the 2019 Hyas VAU, an appropriate rate for the cost of capital?

6. Accepting the assumption that land will be purchased two years before it is required for development, does the 2019 Hyas VAU correctly calculate interest on land purchase?

7. Is the assumption that land will be purchased two years before it is required for development a sound one to make?

8. In the 2019 Hyas VAU Grant scenarios:

(a) Is the value of the HIF funding accurately reflected in the adjustments made to the infrastructure costs, compared with the Reference scenarios?

(b) Is it safe to assume that the HIF funding will not have to be repaid to the government?

(c) What are the implications for the 2019 Hyas VAU of the reference to “recovery and recycling” of the HIF funding in the Business Case - HIF/FF/000365/BC/01 - Tendring Colchester Borders Garden Community [EXD/054], pp152-155?

9. Is CAUSE’s critique of the 2019 Hyas VAU Inflation scenarios valid? (Section 10.0, pages 22-25 of CAUSE’s Consultation Response on EB086 Viability Assessment.)

10. (a) Should the 2019 Hyas VAU have applied a benchmark land value to each of the GCs?

(b) If so, what should the benchmark land value(s) be?

11. (a) Does any of the other viability appraisals submitted to the examination provide a more reliable assessment of the GCs’ viability than the 2019 Hyas VAU?

(b) If so, what are the key differences in the method(s) and inputs employed in that other appraisal which make it more reliable?

Thursday 23 January 2020
9.30am – 1.00pm & 2.00pm – 5.30pm

Matter 8 - Sustainability Appraisal

Issues

Does the Additional Sustainability Appraisal [ASA] adequately address the shortcomings in the submitted SA that were identified in my post-hearing letter to the NEAs of 8 June 2018 [IED011]?

Does the ASA justify the selection of the preferred spatial strategy option for the Section 1 Plan?

Questions for all participants, including the NEAs

[In responding to these questions, would the NEAs please address the specific criticisms of the Additional Sustainability Appraisal [ASA] [SD/001/b] contained in the participants’ consultation responses, including those from JAM Consult Ltd on behalf of CAUSE, and from Lightwood Strategic on behalf of Monks Wood.]

1) (a) Is there adequate justification for the threshold of approximately 2,000 dwellings (ASA Main Report para 2.52) which was applied when selecting the strategic sites to be appraised at Stage 1 of the ASA?

(b) If not, what threshold should have been applied, and why?

2) Is the Stage 1 appraisal of alternative strategic sites based on sound and adequate evidence?

3) Has the Stage 1 appraisal of alternative strategic sites been carried out with appropriate objectivity and impartiality?

4) Does the ASA give clear and justified reasons (including in Appendix 6) for selecting the strategic sites that are taken forward from the Stage 1 to the Stage 2 appraisal, and for rejecting the alternative strategic sites?

5) In seeking to meet the residual housing need within the Plan period to 2033 (ASA Appendix 6, Principle 1), should the spatial strategy alternatives for the Stage 2 appraisal seek to provide land for:

a) 7,500 dwellings; or

b) 1,720 or 2,000 dwellings (the residual requirement identified in Appendix 6, Table 1); or

c) another figure?

6) (a) Is the allocation of residual housing need between West of Colchester and East of Colchester on a 2:1 ratio (ASA Appendix 6, Principle 3) justified by relative housing need and commuting patterns?

(b) If not, what alternative spatial allocation of residual housing need would be justified, and why?

7) (a) Is there adequate justification (including in Appendix 6) for the selection of spatial strategy options to be appraised at Stage 2 of the ASA?

(b) If not, what other spatial strategy option(s) should be assessed, and why?

8) Is there justification for basing the proportionate (hierarchy-based) growth spatial strategy options (West 2 and East 2) on different settlement hierarchies from those identified in the NEAs’ Section 2 Plans?

9) Is the Stage 2 appraisal of spatial strategy options based on sound and adequate evidence?

10) Has the Stage 2 appraisal of spatial strategy options been carried out with appropriate objectivity and impartiality?

11) Does the Stage 2 appraisal adequately and appropriately evaluate the spatial strategy options at both the end of the Section 1 Plan period and as fully built-out?

12) Does the ASA give adequate and appropriate consideration to:

(a) effects of overflying aircraft to and from Stansted airport?

(b) impacts on operations at Andrewsfield airfield?

(c) impacts on heritage assets?

(d) impacts on water quality?

(e) impacts on air quality?

13) Does the ASA give clear and justified reasons (including in the Main Report Conclusion and in Appendix 8) for selecting the preferred spatial strategy option and for rejecting the alternatives?

14) Does the ASA provide all the information required by Schedule 2 of the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004 (as amended), including identifying:

(a) cumulative effects on the environment; and
(b) measures envisaged to prevent, reduce and as fully as possible offset any significant adverse effects on the environment?

Thursday 30 January 2020
9.30am – 1.00pm & 2.00pm – 5.30pm

Matter 9 - Suggested amendments to the Section 1 Plan [EB/081]

Apart from the North Essex Authorities, I am not inviting statements from participants for this further hearing session, as I have sufficient information from the comments made by participants in response to the NEAs’ technical consultation.

Please would the NEAs prepare a statement responding to the comments made in response to consultation on their suggested amendments to the Section 1 Plan. The NEAs’ statement should be submitted to the Programme Officer by 5pm on Monday 16 December 2019, for publication on the website on Tuesday 17 December.

Would the NEAs also please advise in their statement if they consider that the proposed changes to their suggested amendments, proposed by the agencies listed below, are justified:

  • Anglian Water (policies SP6, SP7, SP8, SP98, SP10, paras 6.1, 6.24)
  • Essex Wildlife Trust (policies SP6, SP7, SP8, S10)
  • Environment Agency (policies SP5, SP6, SP7, SP8, SP98, SP10, paras 1.26, 2.4, 6.24)
  • Natural England (policy SP1B)

Discussion at the hearing session will focus on whether or not the NEAs’ suggested amendments, and/or any other changes to the Plan, are necessary in order to ensure that the Plan is sound and legally-compliant. It will take into account any relevant discussions of the Plan’s policies that take place at the earlier hearing sessions.

Written statement from the North Essex Authorities on community engagement with the Section 1 Plan

Concerns were raised in the consultation responses about the NEAs’ approach to community engagement in the process of preparing and consulting on the Plan (see also paragraph 30 of my Guidance Note). I do not propose to discuss community engagement during the hearing sessions, as the issues are sufficiently clear from the responses I have read. However, I would like to give the NEAs an opportunity to respond to the concerns raised.

Please would the NEAs prepare a statement responding to the concerns about community engagement raised in the consultation Responses, to be submitted to the Programme Officer by 5pm on Monday 16 December 2019.

Inspector: Mr Roger Clews

Programme Officer: Andrea Copsey

Tel: 07842 643988

Address: Examination Office, PO Box 12607, Clacton-on-Sea, CO15 9GN

To:
Emma Goodings, Head of Planning Policy & Economic Development, Braintree District Council
Karen Syrett, Place Strategy Manager, Colchester Borough Council Gary Guiver, Planning Manager, Tendring District Council

21 October 2019

Dear Ms Goodings, Ms Syrett and Mr Guiver

North Essex Section 1 Plan Examination

1. Thank you for your letter of 8 October 2019 in which you make some suggestions about arrangements for the further hearing sessions that will be held as part of the continuing examination of the Section 1 Plan. I have also been considering how the further hearings can be organised most effectively and your suggestions are helpful in this regard.

Subject matter for the further hearing sessions

2. As stated in my Explanatory Note [IED/016]1 which accompanied the Technical Consultation, the further hearing sessions will focus mainly on those aspects of the Section 1 Plan and its evidence base which I identified in my post-hearing letter of 8 June 2018 [IED/011] as requiring significant further work. However, they may include other topics as necessary to inform my assessment of the soundness and legal compliance of the plan.

3. In your letter you have identified most of the topics that will need to be discussed. I would also expect to discuss plan strategy (as part of the discussion on sustainability appraisal) and the North Essex Authorities’ [NEAs’] suggested amendments to the Publication Draft Section 1 Plan [EB/091]. I also envisage a discussion on whether or not there has been a meaningful change in the housing situation since June 2018, with regard to the implications of Unattributable Population Change for housing need in Tendring.

4. Other topics may need to be added when I have finished reading and considering all the comments on the additional evidence base documents.

Further clarification questions

5. I may have further questions of clarification for the NEAs arising from the comments that have been made on the additional evidence base documents. I would like to have the opportunity to put any such questions to the NEAs, as early clarification should save time later in the examination. Similarly, if I have questions of clarification for other participants it would be helpful for them to be answered at an early stage wherever possible.

6. I will arrange for the answers to any such questions of clarification, and any additional documents provided with them, to be published on the examination website by the time my matters, issues and questions are published (see below).

Structure for the further hearing sessions

7. I agree that programming the further hearing sessions on a thematic basis is sensible and I will take your suggested themes into account when deciding on the structure for the hearings. As you will appreciate, I will also need to take other factors, such as the length of time needed to discuss each topic and the number of invited participants, into account when deciding on the allocation of topics to hearing days.

8. I anticipate that it may also be necessary to hold a technical seminar on viability during the further hearing sessions, given the volume of evidence on this topic, involving a range of methodologies and assumptions. The purpose of a technical seminar is explained in the Planning Inspectorate’s Procedure Guide for Local Plan Examinations, as follows:

If a plan raises complex technical issues, the Inspector may decide to hold a technical seminar. The technical seminar will not test the evidence: that is the role of the hearing sessions. The purpose of the technical seminar is to provide the Inspector and other participants with a clearer understanding of the methodology and assumptions underpinning the technical evidence, thus saving time during the hearings.

If a technical seminar is required, the parties presenting the technical evidence will be asked to prepare the necessary explanatory material. The material will be circulated to the participants who have been invited to attend the relevant hearing session(s). Those participants may participate in the technical seminar and it will be open to anyone to observe. It should be publicised in a similar manner to the hearing sessions.

It will be appropriate for participants to ask questions of clarification during the technical seminar, but discussion of the implications of the technical evidence for the soundness of the plan should only take place at the relevant hearing session(s).

Matters, issues and questions and further hearing statements

9. I will be issuing matters, issues and questions [MIQs] to guide the discussion at the further hearings. While the context for the MIQs will remain the overall soundness and legal compliance of the Section 1 Plan, the MIQs themselves will largely focus on the extent to which the additional evidence base documents address shortcomings in the original evidence base, as identified in my post-hearings letter [IED/011].

10, Moreover, unlike the pre-submission consultation in 2017 which covered the full content of the Section 1 Plan and its evidence base, the representations received to the recently-completed technical consultation respond specifically to the additional evidence base documents prepared by the NEAs. This means that they are already relatively tightly-focussed and cover much of what will be discussed at the further hearings.

11. Accordingly, I would expect that most participants’ hearing statements will be brief and that their answers to many of my questions (where relevant to their representations) will, in most cases, be dealt with by reference to the representations they have already made. The NEAs’ statements are likely to be longer, however, as they will need to deal with all my questions and take other participants’ representations into account.

12. In that light I have considered your proposal for an iterative, three-stage process for the submission of hearing statements. As you will be aware, the Planning Inspectorate’s Procedure Guide advises, at paragraph 3.21:

Because the examination is an inquisitorial rather than an adversarial process, it is inappropriate for parties to make further submissions countering the arguments of others. In order to avoid this situation arising, the date for submission of hearing statements will normally be the same for all parties, including the LPA. However, the Inspector may invite further submissions on particular matters from the LPA or any other participant, if that is helpful to aid understanding of the issues.

13. In my view, the process of simultaneous submission of hearing statementsis fair to all parties to the examination, and in the circumstances I have described there are no strong grounds to warrant departing from the Procedure Guide’s advice in this respect.

14. Having said that, I acknowledge that occasionally new points may be made in hearing statements and that it may assist the efficiency of the further hearings if other parties are able to respond to them in writing beforehand. I would therefore be prepared to invite responses to hearing statements from the NEAs and the other participants, provided these are limited to addressing any new points raised in the statements, and are also submitted simultaneously.

Procedure at the further hearing sessions

15. In the third paragraph of your letter you refer to the desirability of ensuring that members of the public are fully engaged in the proceedings at the further hearing sessions. So that there is no misunderstanding by others who may read this correspondence, I should clarify that only the invited participants may actually take part in and speak at the hearing sessions. However, members of the public are of course welcome to attend the hearing sessions and observe the proceedings.

16. It may help members of the public to understand the context for the discussion if, as you suggest, the NEAs introduce each hearing session with a statement setting out their position on the key issues. At the same time, it must be borne in mind that the examination is primarily an inquisitorial process. The main purpose of the hearing sessions is to allow the Inspector to probe the evidence further by asking the participants to respond to specific points (See the Procedure Guide, paragraph 5.2). Reiteration of material already covered in written submissions is not generally an efficient use of time at the hearings. 

17. Taking all this into account, I have no objection to the NEAs preparing ashort opening statement for each hearing session, to set the scene for members of the public who are attending. But I would ask that the statement is kept as brief as possible – around a maximum of five minutes. Thereafter I will expect the discussion to proceed as described above.

18. To help members of the public follow the proceedings, I suggest that it would also be helpful for paper copies of the hearings programme and the matters, issues and questions for each session to be made available at the door. It would also be worthwhile making it clear on the examination website that hearing statements are available for members of the public to download and read in advance.

19. As you will recall from the original hearing sessions, it is normal practice at the end of each phase of the discussion for the Inspector to ask the plan- making authority to respond to the comments made by the other participants. I will follow the same practice at the further hearings.

Site promoters

20. I agree that it will be helpful for the relevant further hearing sessions to include input from the promoters of sites within the proposed garden communities. I will ensure that they have the opportunity to take part if they wish to do so.

Timetable for the further hearing sessions

21. I will publish the full timetable for the further hearing sessions, my MIQsand the deadlines for submission of hearing statements, as soon as I have completed my review of the responses to the technical consultation. The likely timescales are as follows – but please note that these may be subject to change:

  • Mon 11 Nov Publish MIQs, hearings timetable & Inspector’s guidance note
  • Mon 2 Dec Deadline for hearing statements
  • Mon 16 Dec Deadline for responses to hearing statements
  • Tue 14 Jan Hearings open

22. I expect the hearings to run for at least two weeks, Tuesday to Thursday, and it may be necessary for them to continue into the week beginning 27 January.

Conclusion

23. I hope that this letter addresses all the matters raised in your letter of 8 October, but please contact me again if there are any further points you would like me to consider.

 

Yours sincerely

Roger Clews

Inspector