Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options) October 2010

Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options)

Rural Settlements

4.28 The Core Strategy focuses new development at the most sustainable locations in the District i.e. Yeovil, the Market Towns and the Rural Centres. However, the rural nature of South Somerset means that there are many smaller settlements scattered across the District that are not considered to be Market Towns or Rural Centres, but where some development to enhance the sustainability of these rural settlements would be acceptable. Examples of how the sustainability of rural settlements can be enhanced include the provision of local employment space, community facilities and housing to meet local needs.

4.29 In rural areas, most new development should be located in or on the edge of existing settlements where employment, housing (including affordable housing), services and other facilities can be provided close together.[1] Government policy states that policies should take into account the need to provide housing in rural areas (including the consideration of a Rural Exception Site Policy), in order to enhance or maintain their sustainability;[2] and although the focus should be existing towns and identified service centres, some new housing should be provided to meet identified local need in other villages.[3] At small rural settlements in particular, this should include consideration of the relationship between settlements to ensure growth is distributed in a way that supports informal social support networks, assists people to live near their work and benefit from key services, and minimise/improve environmental impact.[4]

4.30 Recent housing development in South Somerset has been dispersed across the District, with around 24% of new dwellings built between 2006-09 being located outside Yeovil, the Market Towns and Rural Centres. In order to meet the objectives of the Core Strategy, the criteria for allowing some development in the rural settlements must be carefully restricted to ensure that this dispersal of development does not continue, whilst allowing some appropriate development that will enhance the sustainability of the villages. The overall argument for delivering more sustainable development through the settlement hierarchy is explained above.

4.31 Small scale economic development should be supported where it provides the most sustainable option in villages or other locations that are remote from local centres, recognising that a site may be an acceptable location for development even though it may not be readily accessible by public transport.[5]

4.32 In 2008, Matthew Taylor MP carried out a review of how planning can support businesses and affordable housing in rural areas.[6] This study identified that regional and local plans have tended to prioritise certain narrow environmental indicators (namely to reduce energy use and emissions, measured almost exclusively by transport use) when interpreting what constitutes sustainable development. This emphasis on environmental criteria has been a particular barrier for rural development, at the expense of otherwise potentially beneficial housing and economic development. The study argues that a better balance of social, economic and environmental characteristics should be sought so that truly sustainable communities are created in rural areas (such as South Somerset).

4.33 The South Somerset Settlement Role and Function study states that development could be appropriate for settlements not identified under (now revoked) RSS Development Policy C (Rural Centres) if there is a clear justification, which could include:

  • supports rural diversification and provision of small scale employment opportunities in settlements with relatively high economically active population, a young population or limited sustainable transport opportunities;
  • maintains the viability of existing community services or adds justification for additional facility provision where there is an identified need;
  •  meets identified affordable housing need.

4.34 National policy guidance[7] recognises that the opportunities to deliver affordable housing in rural settlements can be more limited, and that the provision of affordable housing to meet local needs is important in rural areas where significant housing growth is not expected. An exceptions policy based approach is a well-recognised mechanism to enable the provision of affordable housing in rural settlements, in locations where housing may not generally be allowed.

4.35 For the purposes of this policy on rural settlements below, affordable housing is social rented housing and intermediate affordable housing as defined in PPS3.[8] Developments solely for affordable housing should remain affordable in perpetuity, enabling local people to continue to benefit from those homes in the long term, and should be limited to the number and type of housing which can be justified based on relevant available evidence. 'Local people' are either current residents or those who have an existing family or employment connection. On occasion there may be sufficient evidence from the Council's housing need register, however, this will need to be supplemented by a Local Housing Needs Survey to identify any additional need not identified in the register (often referred to as 'hidden need'). New and innovative ways of delivering affordable housing in perpetuity, that are acceptable within the national planning policy framework, will also be considered.

4.36 It is important to ensure that the occupiers of the new homes in rural settlements are able to live as sustainably as possible and that they are able to access basic facilities that provide for their day to day needs such a local shop or a primary school when family housing is proposed.

1. PPS 4: Planning for Sustainable Economic Growth [back]
2. PPS 3: Housing [back]
3. PPS 7: Sustainable Development in Rural Areas [back]
4. PPS 3: Housing [back]
5. PPS 4: Planning for Sustainable Economic Growth [back]
6. Living Working Countryside: Taylor Review of Rural Economy and Affordable Housing, 2008 [back]
7. Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (2006) [back]
8. Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (2006), Annex B: Definitions [back]