Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options) October 2010

Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options)

Determination of the South Somerset Settlement Hierarchy

Issues and Options Report and Consultation

4.14 The Issues and Options report sought views on potential settlements as to suitability for the respective levels in the hierarchy and how growth (non Yeovil) should be distributed amongst these settlements. A number of settlements were suggested for positioning in the hierarchy and these broadly represented the status quo represented by the former District Wide Local Plan and a range of views expressed about the levels of growth in respective settlements. It was considered best to take these comments forward in the context of the evidence provided by the Settlement Role and Function Study[1] commissioned by the Council as a key part of its Core Strategy evidence base.

1. Settlement Role and Function Study, Baker Associates, April 2009 [back]

Evidence Base Review

4.15 The South Somerset Settlement Role and Function Study was commissioned by the Council to:

  • Develop a methodology to identify the current role and functional relationship of settlements and their potential future roles
  • Provide recommendations on settlements classification as defined in the RSS
 
The report was concluded in April 2009.
 

4.16 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:

1. Settlements with a strong employment role:
  • level of employment (no of jobs);
  • economically active population and employment density.
2. Identifying important retail and community services centres:
  • Level of retail provision;
  • Position in the retail hierarchy;
  • Level of community service provision.
3. Sustainable travel opportunities and self containment:
  • Employment self containment;
  • Travel to work pattern;
  • Cycling, bus and rail services including demand responsive services.

4.17 Population forecasts, employment growth and other anticipated changes were also looked at to see how these indicators might change in the future.

4.18 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. Settlements with a strong employment, retail and community role should be recommended for Market Town status and were identified as:

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

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

  • Ilchester
  • South Petherton
  • Martock
  • Bruton
  • Milborne Port
  • Stoke Sub Hamdon

4.20 It is considered that the bulk of growth outside Yeovil and the Market Towns should be located in 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. This issue is addressed further below when dealing with other settlements. The Settlement Role and Function Study makes clear that RSS development criteria for lower order settlements (i.e. Rural Centres or Policy C as originally identified in the RSS) are open ended and if clear justification for additional development can be identified that meets the relevant criteria then future development could be directed towards other settlements with similar roles and functions.

Consideration of the Settlement Role and Function Study

4.21 The findings of the Settlement Role and Function Study have been discussed with Town and Parish Councils in a series of workshops (Cluster Workshops) that were focussed around establishing a settlement hierarchy for the District and the distribution of growth within that hierarchy. The implications of not being one of the named settlements in the hierarchy, in terms of limitations to development, were also discussed.

4.22 There was, and is, broad (but not complete) support for the settlement hierarchy put forward by the Settlement Role and Function Study. In relation to Market Town designation Somerton has been supported as such, despite some local concern raised, by virtue of its breadth of employment and service provision. It is also important to have a settlement to take growth in the north of the District to secure the benefits of growth and maintain services in that area. The absence of a secondary school in the settlement is mitigated by the closeness of the school at Huish Episcopi.

4.23 Langport/Huish Episcopi conversely is considered too constrained by flooding issues near its centre to sustainably take the level of growth expected of a Market Town, and is thus considered more suited to Rural Centre status.

4.24 Castle Cary/Ansford Market Town status, whilst locally queried, is considered fully merited by its good retail, employment and services provision.

4.25 In relation to Rural Centres, the limited level of growth proposed at Stoke Sub Hamdon is considered to reflect and mitigate concerns relating to the settlements' setting, its Conservation Area status and internal road capacity. Ilchester is proposed for Rural Centre status and a level of provision that is constrained to reflect local circumstances. It is felt that some growth will support the maintenance of local services and take advantage of the large local employment opportunities associated with the Royal Naval Air Station nearby. Any growth will be subject to caveats explained in Chapter 7.

Sustainability Appraisal

4.26 The determination of the settlement hierarchy by settlement role and function renders use of a sustainability appraisal for determination of the hierarchy inappropriate (although entirely appropriate for determining the distribution of growth within the hierarchy - see below). The settlement hierarchy for South Somerset is set out below in policy SS1.

Policy SS1 Settlement Hierarchy
 
Yeovil is a strategically significant town and the prime focus for development in South Somerset.
 
The following are Market Towns where provision will be made for housing, employment, shopping and other services that increase their self containment and enhance their roles as service centres:-
Castle Cary and Ansford, Chard, Crewkerne, Ilminster, Somerton and Wincanton
 
The following are Rural Centres which are those market towns with a local service role where provision for development will be made that meets local housing need, extends local services and supports economic activity appropriate to the scale of a settlement:-
Bruton, Ilchester, Langport and Huish Episcopi, Martock, Milborne Port, South Petherton and Stoke sub Hamdon.
 
All other settlements will be considered as part of the countryside to which national countryside protection policies apply (subject to the exceptions identified in Policy SS2).

4.27 The settlement hierarchy is shown in diagrammatic form in the Key Diagram below which also shows key characteristics of the District and main constraints.

Figure 4: Key Diagram of District
 
Figure 4: Key Diagram of District (P)