Sustainability Appraisal Main Modifications Report

Ended on the 5th May 2021
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(1) Chapter 1 - Introduction

Please go to Chapter 7 to make a comment on the modifications of this document.
1.1 This report has been prepared by LUC on behalf of Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) as part of the Sustainability Appraisal (SA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan.

1.2 This report relates to the proposed Main Modifications to the Local Plan (March 2021) and it should be read in conjunction with the Local Plan as proposed to be modified.

Most of the SA work presented in this report has been previously published and consulted on during earlier stages of Local Plan preparation. Aside from Chapter 7 which addresses the proposed Main Modifications (which have not previously been subject to SA), no new appraisal work is presented here. A green shaded summary box at the start of each of the SA findings chapters (Chapter 4-8) explains whether the contents of the chapter in question have been published previously or whether any new SA work is included.

The Central Bedfordshire Local Plan

1.3 The Local Plan sets out a long-term vision and objectives for how Central Bedfordshire will develop over the period up to 2035. It addresses future needs and opportunities in relation to housing, the economy, community facilities, and infrastructure as well as setting out the principles that will guide and support future development. It sets out the overall level and strategic direction for new development in the area during the life of the plan, as well as identifying site allocations for housing and employment development and addressing the needs of Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople.

1.4 CBC began developing the new Local Plan in February 2016 with a Call for Sites. Since early 2016, the Council has gathered evidence to inform the preparation of the Local Plan including commissioning various technical studies to identify the needs for housing, employment, supporting infrastructure and community facilities for the area up to 2035.

1.5 CBC has also considered whether Central Bedfordshire is able to help meet housing needs arising from outside the plan area, since there are major urban areas with intensifying growth pressures adjacent to Central Bedfordshire. In particular, Luton is severely constrained by its boundary and has major housing pressures affecting Central Bedfordshire in the south-east, and development in Milton Keynes is now approaching the M1 with potential issues for the north-west of Central Bedfordshire.

Contents of the Local Plan

1.6 The Local Plan that was submitted for Examination in April 2018 set out an overall vision for Central Bedfordshire, supported by 13 strategic objectives divided into themes including growth and infrastructure, local character, jobs and business, homes, transport and environment.

1.7 The overall strategy for the submitted Local Plan is to deliver at least 24,000 new jobs and around 39,350 new homes (including 23,528 homes that are already planned for or built). Sixteen strategic policies set out the key elements of the strategy, including strategic allocations for housing and employment development. Allocations for small and medium development sites are made separately, through policy HA1.

1.8 A further 64 core and development management policies are then set out within the following sections of the Local Plan:

  • Housing
  • Employment and economy
  • Retail and town centres
  • Transport
  • Environmental enhancement
  • Climate change and sustainability
  • High quality places
  • Historic environment
  • Development in the countryside

1.9 The Main Modifications to the Local Plan which are now being consulted on propose various changes to the submitted Local Plan, including the deletion of a small number of policies and some changes to policy wording.

Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment

1.10 Sustainability Appraisal is a statutory requirement of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. It is designed to ensure that the plan preparation process maximises the contribution that a plan makes to sustainable development and minimises any potential adverse impacts. The SA process involves appraising the likely social, environmental and economic effects of the policies and proposals within a plan from the outset of its development.

1.11 Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is also a statutory assessment process, required under the SEA Directive[1], transposed in the UK by the SEA Regulations (Statutory Instrument 2004, No 1633). The SEA Regulations require the formal assessment of plans and programmes which are likely to have significant effects on the environment and which set the framework for future consent of projects requiring Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)[2]. The purpose of SEA, as defined in Article 1 of the SEA Directive is "to provide for a high level of protection of the environment and to contribute to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of plans….with a view to promoting sustainable development".

1.12 SEA and SA are separate processes but have similar aims and objectives. Simply put, SEA focuses on the likely environmental effects of a plan whilst SA includes a wider range of considerations, extending to social and economic impacts. National Planning Practice Guidance[3] shows how it is possible to satisfy both requirements by undertaking a joint SA/SEA process, and to present an SA report that incorporates the requirements of the SEA Regulations. The SA/SEA of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan is being undertaken using this integrated approach and throughout this report the abbreviation 'SA' should therefore be taken to refer to 'SA incorporating the requirements of SEA'.

The Implications of Brexit

1.13 Following its departure from the European Union on 31st January 2020 the UK entered a transition period which ended on 31st December 2020. After that date, EU law no longer directly applies to the UK and the UK is free to repeal EU law that has been transposed into UK law. As set out in the Explanatory Memorandum accompanying the Brexit amendments[4], the purpose of the Brexit amendments to the SEA Regulations is to ensure that the law functions correctly after the UK left the EU. No substantive changes are being made by this instrument to the way the SEA regime operates.

Sustainability Appraisal and Plan Making

1.14 National Planning Practice Guidance[5] sets out the key stages and tasks for SA and their inter-relationships with plan-making stages and tasks. This is illustrated in Figure 1.1 overleaf.

1.15 Sustainability Appraisal is an iterative process that informs plan-making by assessing developing elements of the Local Plan, evaluating and describing the likely significant effects of implementing the plan, and suggesting possibilities for mitigating significant adverse effects and enhancing positive effects. As the Local Plan develops, stages and tasks in the SA process may be revisited, updated or refreshed in order to take account of updated or new evidence as well as consultation representations. The SA of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan has been undertaken in this iterative way.

Figure 1.1: SA and plan-making stages and tasks

Figure 1.1

1.16 Table 1.1 below summarises the stages of Local Plan preparation and the accompanying SA Reports that have been prepared and consulted on.

Table 1.1: Local Plan and SA stages and consultation documents

Local Plan Consultation Stage and Documents

SA Consultation Stage and Documents

Call for Sites February 2016

Consultation April-May 2016

Full List of Sites Submitted published 25 May 2016

Evidence Gathering February – December 2016

Draft SA Scoping Report June 2016 (consultation August-September 2016)

Final SA Scoping Report October 2016

Community Planning Events

October 2016-March 2017

Evidence Gathering continues through 2017

N/A

Draft (Regulation 18) Local Plan June 2017

Vision and Objectives; Spatial Strategy and Strategic Policies; Approach to Strategic Growth Locations; Core and Development Management Policies

Consultation: 4th July – 29th August 2017 (8 weeks)

Initial SA Report June 2017

Including technical appendices detailing initial SAs of options and emerging elements of the Draft Local Plan.

Consultation: 4th July – 29th August 2017

Pre-Submission (Regulation 19) Local Plan

Including proposed site allocations

Consultation: 11th January – 22nd February 2018

SA Report for the Regulation 19 Local Plan (December 2017)

Consultation: 11th January – 22nd February 2018

Submission to the Secretary of State

April 2018

SA Screening of Proposed Minor Modifications to the Local Plan (April 2018).

Regulation 19 SA Report Submitted with the Local Plan in March 2018.

Examination

Ongoing

Supplementary SA Report (May 2020)

Supplementary work on the SA of strategic options for the Local Plan.

SA Report for the Main Modifications (this report).

Health Impact Assessment (HIA) and Equalities Impact Assessment (EqIA)

1.17 CBC has chosen to integrate the Health Impact Assessment (HIA) and Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) processes, as well as SEA, within the overarching SA process. HIA is not a statutory requirement but is good practice in plan-making. In terms of the EqIA, public bodies have a duty to assess the impact of their policies on different population groups to ensure that discrimination does not take place and, where possible, to promote equality of opportunity.

1.18 For the SA of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan the integration of health and equality considerations has focused on ensuring that these issues are well represented in the SA framework (through objectives and thresholds of significance) against which the emerging strategic options, policies and sites have been assessed. Health and equality issues have been addressed iteratively as the appraisal process has progressed. Details of the EqIA have been reported separately to demonstrate compliance with the Equality Act (2010) and can be found in Appendix VIII of the Regulation 19 SA Report (December 2017).

Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA)

1.19 CBC is also required to undertake a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) of the Local Plan. The aim of the HRA is to assess the potential for the Local Plan to have adverse effects on the integrity of European designated nature conservation sites. The initial screening stage of the HRA considers whether the Local Plan is likely to have significant effect on these sites either alone or in combination with other plans and projects. If likely significant effects cannot be ruled out at the screening stage then an Appropriate Assessment must be carried out.

1.20 The HRA process has its own legislative drivers and requirements and, while the HRA findings may inform the SA, it is important that the HRA remains distinguishable from the wider SA process. The HRA has been undertaken in parallel with the SA and the detailed methodology and findings are reported separately. The most recent HRA report for the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan is the August 2018 report, which concluded that the submitted Local Plan would not have adverse effects on the integrity of any European sites around Central Bedfordshire. Further HRA work has now been carried out to address the proposed Main Modifications to the Local Plan and is reported on separately.

Structure of this SA Report

1.21 This report is the SA report for the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan taking into account the proposed Main Modifications (March 2021). Table 1.2 below signposts how the requirements of the SEA Regulations have been met within this report.

Table 1.2: Requirements of the SEA Regulations and where these have been addressed in this SA Report

SEA Regulations' Requirements

Where covered in this SA report

Preparation of an environmental report in which the likely significant effects on the environment of implementing the plan or programme, and reasonable alternatives taking into account the objectives and geographical scope of the plan or programme, are identified, described and evaluated (Reg. 12). The information to be given is (Schedule 2):

  1. An outline of the contents, main objectives of the plan or programme, and relationship with other relevant plans and programmes

Chapters 1 and 3 and Appendix B

  1. The relevant aspects of the current state of the environment and the likely evolution thereof without implementation of the plan or programme

Chapter 3 and Appendix A

  1. The environmental characteristics of areas likely to be significantly affected

Chapter 3 and Appendix A

  1. Any existing environmental problems which are relevant to the plan or programme including, in particular, those relating to any areas of a particular environmental importance, such as areas designated pursuant to Directives 79/409/EEC and 92/43/EEC.

Chapter 3 and Appendix A

  1. The environmental protection, objectives, established at international, Community or national level, which are relevant to the plan or programme and the way those objectives and any environmental, considerations have been taken into account during its preparation

Chapter 3 and Appendix B

  1. The likely significant effects on the environment, including on issues such as biodiversity, population, human health, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, cultural heritage including architectural and archaeological heritage, landscape and the interrelationship between the above factors. (Footnote: These effects should include secondary, cumulative, synergistic, short, medium and long-term permanent and temporary, positive and negative effects)

Chapters 4-8

  1. The measures envisaged to prevent, reduce and as fully as possible offset any significant adverse effects on the environment of implementing the plan or programme;

Chapters 7 and 8

  1. An outline of the reasons for selecting the alternatives dealt with, and a description of how the assessment was undertaken including any difficulties (such as technical deficiencies or lack of know-how) encountered in compiling the required information;

Chapters 2 and 4-6 and Appendices C and D

  1. a description of measures envisaged concerning monitoring in accordance with Reg. 17;

Chapter 9

  1. a non-technical summary of the information provided under the above headings

A Non-Technical Summary of this SA Report has been published separately.

The report shall include the information that may reasonably be required taking into account current knowledge and methods of assessment, the contents and level of detail in the plan or programme, its stage in the decision-making process and the extent to which certain matters are more appropriately assessed at different levels in that process to avoid duplication of the assessment (Reg. 12(3))

Addressed throughout this SA report.

Consultation:

  • authorities with environmental responsibility, when deciding on the scope and level of detail of the information which must be included in the environmental report (Reg. 12(5))

Consultation on the SA Scoping Report was undertaken between August and September 2016.

  • authorities with environmental responsibility and the public, shall be given an early and effective opportunity within appropriate time frames to express their opinion on the draft plan or programme and the accompanying environmental report before the adoption of the plan or programme (Reg. 13)

Consultation on the Draft (Regulation 18) Local Plan was undertaken between July and August 2017, accompanied by the Interim SA Report.

Consultation on the Regulation 19 Local Plan was undertaken between January and February 2018, accompanied by an updated SA Report.

  • other EU Member States, where the implementation of the plan or programme is likely to have significant effects on the environment of that country (Reg. 14).

N/A

Taking the environmental report and the results of the consultations into account in decision-making (Reg. 16)

Provision of information on the decision:

When the plan or programme is adopted, the public and any countries consulted under Reg. 14 must be informed and the following made available to those so informed:

  • the plan or programme as adopted
  • a statement summarising how environmental considerations have been integrated into the plan or programme and how the environmental report , the opinions expressed, and the results of consultations entered into have been taken into account, and the reasons for choosing the plan or programme as adopted, in the light of the other reasonable alternatives dealt with; and
  • the measures decided concerning monitoring

To be addressed after the Local Plan is adopted. A draft statement prepared by CBC is included in Chapter 9.

Monitoring of the significant environmental effects of the plan's or programme's implementation (Reg. 17)

To be addressed after the Local Plan is adopted. A draft Monitoring Framework is included in Chapter 9.

Quality assurance: environmental reports should be of a sufficient standard to meet the requirements of the SEA Directive.

This report has been produced in line with current guidance and good practice for SEA/SA and this table demonstrates where the requirements of the SEA Regulations have been met.

1.22 This chapter has introduced the SA process for the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan. The remainder of the report is structured into the following sections:

  • Chapter 2: Methodology describes the approach that is being taken to the SA of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan.
  • Chapter 3: Sustainability Context describes the relationship between the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan and other relevant plans, policies and programmes; summarises the social, economic and environmental characteristics of the plan area and identifies the key sustainability issues.
  • Chapter 4: Sustainability Appraisal Findings for the Spatial Strategy Options presents the SA findings for the reasonable alternative spatial strategy options that have been considered throughout the plan making process.
  • Chapter 5: Sustainability Appraisal Findings for the Strategic Site Options presents the SA findings for the reasonable alternative strategic housing and employment site options that have been considered for allocation in the Local Plan.
  • Chapter 6: Sustainability Appraisal Findings for the Small and Medium Site Options presents the SA findings for the reasonable alternative small and medium-scale site options that have been considered for allocation in the Local Plan.
  • Chapter 7: Sustainability Appraisal Findings for the Local Plan as Proposed to be Modified summarises the SA findings for the Local Plan, taking into account the proposed Main Modifications.
  • Chapter 8 Cumulative Effects describes the likely cumulative effects of the Local Plan as proposed to be modified.
  • Chapter 9: Reasons for Choosing the Plan and Monitoring sets out the Council's reasons for selecting Local Plan policies in light of alternative options and describes the approach that should be taken to monitoring the likely significant effects of the Local Plan and proposes monitoring indicators.
  • Chapter 10: Conclusions summarises the key findings of the SA of the Local Plan as proposed to be modified and describes the next steps to be undertaken in the Examination process.

1.23 The main body of the report is supported by the following appendices:

  • Appendix A presents the baseline information and key sustainability issues for Central Bedfordshire.
  • Appendix B presents the review of plans, policies and programmes that are relevant to the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan.
  • Appendix C presents audit trail tables relating to each group of strategic options.
  • Appendix D presents information about the Council's reasons for selecting or rejecting the small and medium site options.
  • Appendix E sets out the schedule of proposed Main Modifications (only those relating to Local Plan policies and site allocations) and identifies where these modifications change the SA findings reported previously.

[1] SEA Directive 2001/42/EC

[2] Under EU Directives 85/337/EEC and 97/11/EC concerning EIA

[4] Explanatory Memorandum to the Environmental Assessments and Miscellaneous Planning (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 No. 1232

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