Proposed Submission Local Plan 2006-2028

Settlement Hierarchy

4.2 The Local Plan needs to make clear spatial choices about where development should go in broad terms and to identify broad strategic locations for new development reflecting sustainable development principles.

4.3 In planning for new growth for both employment and housing there needs to be evidence of demand and need for the growth proposed and it should be located to develop and support mixed and sustainable communities, reflecting the spatial vision for local areas. New development also needs to be accessible by all forms of transport wherever practical, designed to reflect advances in technology for renewable and low carbon forms of energy, be able to address any physical constraints and provide any additional necessary infrastructure.

4.4 It is important to ensure that the most sustainable option for growth is considered. Sustainability Appraisal of alternative settlement strategy options have been undertaken to ensure that the strategy is appropriate in terms of environmental, economic and social implications, and cost, benefit and risks. The Sustainability Appraisal for the whole Local Plan, including its policies, has been published alongside this Proposed Submission Local Plan as a separate report and appendices. The Sustainability Appraisal affirms the suitability and appropriateness of the hierarchy set out below.

4.5 The Secretary of State’s Proposed Changes to South West Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) identified a requirement for the period 2006-2026 to deliver 19,700 (21,670 if projected to 2028) new homes in South Somerset - 6,400 in Yeovil urban area, a 5,000 dwelling urban extension to Yeovil and 8,300 elsewhere in the district. In addition to this there is a requirement to provide about 10,700 jobs in the South Somerset Housing Market Area[1] of which 9,100 should be within the Yeovil Travel to Work Area (TTWA). The report recommends that some 43 hectares of employment land should be made available mainly focussed on Yeovil.

4.6 The Government is committed to the revocation of Regional Spatial Strategies and have made provision for this through the Localism Act. However, the Court of Appeal has confirmed that until legislative changes are enacted, development plan documents must be in general conformity with the regional strategy. The South West Regional Spatial Strategy therefore remains a material consideration but, given that it was never approved and the Government have indicated their intention to withdraw it (subject to Environmental Appraisal), the Council has considered it prudent to establish locally evidenced employment and housing targets to inform the Local Plan. It is therefore these locally evidenced figures which have informed this document.

4.7 The RSS principle of a hierarchy of settlements to meet sustainable development objectives accord with sound planning principles and remains appropriate. Most new development is proposed at Yeovil, identified as a Strategically Significant Town. Yeovil offers a wide range of services with good choice of retailing and leisure activities which are fundamental to quality of life. The need for travel can also be catered for by better and more reliable public transport. The town can achieve further development sustainably and promote a better balance between job growth and where people live and already has an existing high level of self containment. Critical mass, economies of scale and better use of existing infrastructure can be secured through Yeovil's continued designation as a Strategically Significant Town in this Local Plan.

4.8 Yeovil already acts as the focal point for economic activity in the district and has good manufacturing links with high tech industries and advanced engineering, building in particular, upon the strong links to the aeronautical industry. Growth in these sectors and in green technologies features prominently in the proposals of the Local Economic Partnership (LEP) for the town.

4.9 Outside Yeovil there is to be more limited growth at the other larger settlements within the District which act as focal points for their area. These are identified as Market Towns and Rural Centres. Market Towns should provide locally significant development and meet the following criteria:-

  • Have an existing concentration of business and employment with potential for expansion;
  • Have shopping, cultural, faith, educational, health and public services;
  • Have sustainable transport potential.

4.10 The designation of Market Town is based on identifying the important roles of settlements in their local settings in particular where they are able to provide jobs and services for their residents, and the residents of the surrounding areas and elsewhere[2]. These towns should be the focal points for locally significant development including the bulk of the District housing provision outside Yeovil. This growth should increase the self- containment of these settlements and enhance their service role reflecting the aspirations of national policy in promoting stronger communities.

4.11 The Market Towns however, do differ significantly in their ability to accommodate further growth based on the scale of provision of services and employment opportunities and thus a differentiation has been drawn between the larger of these, to be called Primary Market Towns and the smaller centres identified as Local Market Towns and the levels of growth attributed to these reflect their smaller size.

4.12 It is considered that whilst the local communities of Ansford/Castle Cary, Langport/Huish Episcopi and Somerton have expressed a desire for a lower status than Market Town they clearly wish to maintain the community facilities already available in the settlements. Market Town status, but with a commensurate scale of growth, is considered to be the mechanism to help ensure that these facilities are maintained.

4.13 Development elsewhere in smaller but still sizeable settlements is likely to be less sustainable and so should be geared to meet local needs and address affordable housing issues. Small scale economic activity is not considered out of keeping in these settlements which, according to the soon to be revoked RSS, should accommodate development that:

  • Supports economic activity that is appropriate to the scale of the settlement;
  • Extends the range of services to better meet the needs of the settlement and immediate surrounds;
  • Meets identified local needs.
These settlements are referred to as Rural Centres.

4.14 The RSS did not distinguish additional levels in the hierarchy merely drawing attention to strict control of development in the countryside[3] as set out in national planning policy and there is still a strong rationale for this. However, it is important to acknowledge that some growth in the countryside outside the identified settlements will be appropriate but limited to that which brings about local benefit. By allowing for some growth in these Rural Settlements[4] this effectively provides an additional tier within the hierarchy, to be known as Rural Settlements.

4.15 The above hierarchy of settlements, based on their role and function, still presents a strong planning rationale for determining the settlement strategy for growth, based on the national policy principles of sustainability and aspirations of the community. As such it is considered that the basic principles of the settlement hierarchy framework are robust for continued application in the development of the settlement hierarchy for South Somerset.

4.16 The hierarchy of settlements reflects the Sustainable Community Strategy (SCS) which identifies Yeovil as the prime economic driver for the District and a centre for employment and services. Outside of Yeovil the SCS seeks Market Towns and Rural Centres to promote the basis of a thriving and diversified economy and be a local focus for their surrounding areas.

4.17 The settlement hierarchy, by focussing development and growth in these settlements through the settlement hierarchy, will serve to help deliver this Vision. It will be through the settlement strategy and hierarchy that sustainable communities will be delivered, services provided, the economy promoted, jobs encouraged, access improved and a balanced housing market achieved to delivery key strategic objectives of this document.

1. Corresponds with South Somerset District [back]
2. Settlement Role and Function Study, Baker Associates, April 2009 [back]
3. ‘Countryside’ refers in this case to all locations outside of Yeovil and the Market Towns and Rural Centres [back]
4. Rural Settlements is a generic terms for all smaller settlements not identified as Market Towns or Rural Centres [back]