Sustainability Appraisal Main Modifications Report
Chapter 3 - Sustainability Context
3.1 In order to establish a clear scope for the SA of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan, it is necessary to review and develop an understanding of the baseline conditions of the plan area and the wide range of plans and programmes that are relevant to the plan. Consideration also needs to be given to the key sustainability issues facing the plan area and their likely evolution in the absence of the Local Plan.
3.2 The SEA Regulations require the collation of baseline information to provide the background to, and evidence base for, identifying sustainability problems and opportunities in the Plan area and providing the basis for predicting and monitoring effects of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan. To make judgements about how the emerging content of the Local Plan will progress or hinder sustainable development, it is essential to understand the economic, environmental and social circumstances in the plan area today and their likely evolution in the future. The aim is to collect only relevant and sufficient data on the present and future state of the plan area to allow the potential effects of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan to be adequately predicted.
3.3 The SA/SEA Guidance produced by Government proposes a practical approach to data collection, recognising that information may not yet be available and that information gaps for future improvements should be reported as well as the need to consider uncertainties in data. Collection of baseline information should be continuous as the SA process guides plan making as new information becomes available.
3.4 The SA Scoping Report (October 2016) considered and reported the baseline conditions for the plan area, structured around the following themes:
- Economy and employment
- Health and equalities
- Transport and movement
- Air quality
- Energy and climate change
- Water: resources, quality and flooding
- Soil and land
- Biodiversity and geodiversity
- Landscape and townscape
- The historic environment
- Minerals and waste
3.5 It is necessary to review and update the baseline information throughout the SA process, to reflect the most recent situation and up-to-date sources of data. As part of the preparation of the Supplementary SA Report (May 2020) work was undertaken to update the baseline information and further updates have been made during the preparation of this report. As well as taking into account the most recent evidence sources, the baseline information updates reflect recent developments. The updated baseline is presented in Appendix A of this report. At the end of each topic section it includes a summary of the key sustainability issues and their likely evolution without the Local Plan.
3.6 In order to establish a clear scope for the SA of the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan, it is necessary to review and develop an understanding of the wide range of policies, plans and programmes that are relevant. This includes international, national, regional and local-level policies, plans and strategies. Reviewing the aspirations of other relevant policies, plans, programmes and sustainability objectives promotes the systematic identification of the ways in which the SA could help the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan to fulfil them.
3.7 During the preparation of the Supplementary SA Report (May 2020) the review of relevant plans, policies and programmes that was originally presented in the 2016 SA Scoping Report was updated and this is now presented in Appendix B of this report, having again been updated where necessary.
3.8 The key relevant plans, policies and programmes are outlined, along with a summary of the implications for the SA. The duty to co-operate places a legal duty on local planning authorities to engage constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis to maximise the effectiveness of Local Plan preparation in the context of strategic cross boundary matters, and as such the surrounding development plans have been reviewed to identify any potential growth constraints in the neighbouring authority areas. The implications of these development plans for the SA have been summarised in Appendix B.
 Department for Communities and Local Government (2014) National Planning Practice Guidance - Strategic Environmental Assessment and Sustainability Appraisal. Available at: www.planningguidance.planningportal.gov.uk/blog/guidance/