Proposed Submission Local Plan 2006-2028

Determination of the South Somerset Settlement Hierarchy

Evidence Base Review

4.18 The South Somerset Settlement Role and Function Study[1]was commissioned by the Council to:

  • Develop a methodology to identify the current role and functional relationship of settlements and their potential future roles; and
  • Provide recommendations on settlement classification as defined in the RSS.

4.19 The methodology employed was to undertake a statistical analysis of employment, housing, retail and community use provision within settlements and evidence of sustainable travel opportunities and self-containment (people living and working in the same place). Key indicators considered were:

  • Settlements with a strong employment role;
  • Identifying important retail and community services centres; and
  • Sustainable travel opportunities and self-containment.
Population forecasts, employment growth and other anticipated changes have also been looked at to see how these indicators might change in the future.

4.20 The outcome of this analysis was a recommendation for settlements to be identified to accommodate growth of local significance (Market Towns) and other settlements (Rural Centres) identified where development meeting local need should be accommodated. The Market Towns are identified as having a strong employment, retail and community role and were identified as:

  • Chard
  • Crewkerne
  • Ilminster
  • Wincanton
  • Somerton
  • Langport/Huish Episcopi
  • Ansford/Castle Cary

4.21 Other settlements with a defined retail and community role were put forward as Rural Centres and identified as:

  • Ilchester
  • South Petherton
  • Martock /Bower Hinton
  • Bruton
  • Milborne Port
  • Stoke Sub Hamdon

4.22 All other settlements would be considered to be within open countryside and identified in generic terms as 'Rural Settlements' but are not identified by place name[2].

4.23 This hierarchy forms the basis of this Local Plan as it is considered that the bulk of growth outside Yeovil should be in the Market Towns and Rural Centres in order to take advantage of employment and service opportunities available in these places, minimising the infrastructure investment requirements across the whole District and taking up the opportunities for improved self containment.

4.24 However, it is acknowledged that there is a significant difference between the functions and roles of these settlements and in particular there is a marked difference between the size and opportunities which can be offered by the Market Towns. Chard is the District’s second largest settlement and has significant potential for growth based on the work undertaken as part of the Chard Regeneration Framework and as such has growth identified which will go beyond the current plan period of 2028.

4.25 Ansford/Castle Cary, Langport/Huish Episcopi and Somerton are the three smallest of the identified Market Towns and whilst their role and function in the provision of employment and service opportunities indicates that they fulfil this role in terms of their surrounding areas at present, their potential for growth is more limited than some of the other larger Market Towns.

4.26 The difference between Primary and Local Market towns status is therefore recognised in the lower scale of growth in housing, employment and retail provision that is proposed in these 3 settlements so that their role and function can still be strengthened and not be disproportionate to service and employment provision nor having an adverse impact on local infrastructure provision and recognising environmental constraints. As a result these three settlements are referred to as Local Market Towns with the 4 settlements of Chard, Ilminster, Wincanton and Crewkerne being called Primary Market Towns where a differentiation is required between the two.

4.27 A similar difference in role and function is seen in the Rural Centres where Stoke Sub Hamdon and Ilchester have particular constraints to growth and the level of provision in these locations reflects local circumstances. Stoke Sub Hamdon has particular constraints in its road network and also lies in close proximity to Yeovil where higher level of services can be offered. In the case of Ilchester, there is significant influence from the nearby Royal Naval Air Station at Yeovilton, which is a major employer and some growth here can assist with supporting and maintaining existing services.

4.28 Rural settlements are considered as locations where there will be a presumption against development unless key sustainability criteria can be met. This is explained in more detail below under Policy SS2. These settlements will no longer have identified development areas and will be considered to be within open countryside for planning purposes.

1. Settlement Role and Function Study, Baker Associates, April 2009 [back]
2. See section following titled Rural Settlements [back]