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Joint Core Strategy Issues and Key Questions

2. Policy Context

2.1. Although the Joint Core Strategy will be the key document in the three Councils' Local Development Frameworks, it is important to understand that it also needs to conform to national and regional policy. In addition and importantly, one of the changes brought in by the new planning system in 2004 is that documents produced at a local level should not repeat national and regional policy. This document aims to understand what local issues are dealt with sufficiently by national and regional policy and what are those that need a policy at local level?

What is National Planning Policy?

2.2. The new planning system brought a change to the way the Government sets out its approach to planning policy at a national level. This change essentially replaced previous guidance in the form of Planning Policy Guidance Notes, with a set of Planning Policy Statements. These Planning Policy Statements are now policy and are backed up by a range of Practical Guides that explain how policy should be implemented.

2.3. Planning Policy Statement 11 - Regional Spatial Strategies and 12 - Local Spatial Planning set out how regional and local bodies should prepare regional and local planning policy.  For more information on national planning policy, please visit

What is Regional Policy?

2.4. Regional Spatial Strategies are planning policy documents prepared at a regional level and set the strategic policy framework for development across the region. Regional Spatial Strategies form part of the statutory development plan for every local planning authority in the region that they cover. As such, all local level planning policy documents have to be in general conformity with the Regional Spatial Strategy. In practice, this means that Regional Spatial Strategies set out broad policies for the future of their region, such as the number of new homes to be built in each area, the number of jobs to be provided and what level of infrastructure (such as roads, schools and hospitals) is required. It is then for local authorities to decide how best to implement these plans in their local area. The Joint Core Strategy area is situated in the South West region and, therefore, must be in general conformity with the Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West, when it is published.

What is the timetable for the Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West?

2.5. The Draft Regional Spatial Strategy was first published in June 2006 and was subject to Examination in Public between April and June 2007. Since the Examination, a Panel Report was published in January 2008, followed by the Secretary of State's Proposed Changes to the draft in July 2008. The Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West was due to be finalised and published in June 2009 but this has been delayed. As yet, no revised publication date has been set.

What does the Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West - Secretary of State's Proposed Changes propose for the Joint Core Strategy Area?

2.6. In the absence of a finalised Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West, Government advice is that local authorities should base their plans on the Secretary of State's Proposed Changes version published in July 2008.

2.7. The Draft Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West sets out draft policies on the development of the south west region; including policies on transport, infrastructure, community facilities, affordable housing, renewable energy, flooding, sustainability and gypsy and traveller accommodation.

2.8. To accommodate this development the Secretary of State's Proposed Changes sets out five areas of search for extensions to existing urban areas. These areas of search are mainly in Tewkesbury Borough but relate to the existing urban areas of Gloucester and Cheltenham; both of which are designated as Strategically Significant Cities and Towns in the Draft Regional Spatial Strategy. This relationship is one of the key reasons for working together on a Joint Core Strategy. Indicative locations for the proposed urban extension are illustrated on the diagram below.

Figure 2: Indicative locations of the Regional Spatial Strategy Areas of Search for the South West - Secretary of State's Proposed Changes


JCS Locations

What is the three Councils' position on the Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West?

2.9. In 2008 the Councils of Gloucester City, Tewkesbury Borough and Cheltenham Borough decided to prepare the Joint Core Strategy. This will have many benefits to planning a sustainable future for all three Council areas.

2.10. This consultation document is the first stage in producing the Joint Core Strategy and has been prepared on the basis of the latest draft of the Regional Spatial Strategy called the Secretary of State's Proposed Changes. The Regional Spatial Strategy has still not been formally published, however, the Government advises that the Secretary of State's Proposed Changes should be used as a material planning consideration in the planning process when considering applications for proposals contained within it. The development industry, therefore, may not wait for the Government to publish the Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West and the Planning Inspectorate is likely to come under pressure to make decisions on planning appeals in advance of its publication. To some extent this has already occurred with appeals being granted for housing development at Bishops Cleeve and Longford (North Gloucester).

2.11. Gloucester City, Cheltenham Borough and Tewkesbury Borough Councils have various significant objections to key aspects of the Regional Spatial Strategy - Secretary of State's Proposed Changes, particularly in relation to what are considered unjustified urban extensions and unnecessary incursions into the Green Belt and countryside arising from its proposals for increased growth.  Although the Councils remain opposed to the conclusions contained in the Regional Spatial Strategy, it is vital to put plans in place to help secure proper infrastructure should applications come forward for proposals within it.

2.12. It is also necessary, for the good planning of the area, to ensure that an up-to-date development plan is in place to guide future sustainable development and safeguard environmental, social, economic and other key interests.

2.13. In publishing this document the three Councils are inviting local communities and stakeholders to present their views and engage fully in the process of preparing the Joint Core Strategy.

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