Draft Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) - 2015

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3. Planning Policy Documents

3.1 A council's statutory 'Local Plan' is its principal planning policy document. It provides the basis for all decisions on planning applications, as well as for the production of any supplementary planning guidance. In fact, legislation 1 recognises its pivotal role and prescribes minimum standards for publicity and consultation. The Council will always meet these requirements and, where appropriate and where resources allow, will seek to go beyond them to secure wider-ranging involvement in plan-making.

(1) 3.2 The various plans prepared by the Council, each with particular processes for preparation and public involvement, are:

  • Local Plans - these are statutory plans that together set out the principal policies and proposals for land use and development in the District. In Rother, the Local Plan is being prepared in two parts:

    1. The Core Strategy, which sets the overall vision and objectives for the area, the related development strategy and core policies

    2. The Development and Site Allocations Plan (DaSA), which allocates sites for development and contains detailed policies to elaborate on those in the Core Strategy

  • Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) - these support particular local plan policies by providing guidance on either particular subjects or specific, normally more complex, sites

3.3 While the Council has already adopted its Core Strategy, this SCI will apply to the whole process of preparing the DaSA Plan and any new SPDs. It would also apply to any review of the Core Strategy, whether in whole or in part.

3.4 The programme for work on planning policy documents which the Council intends to produce over the forthcoming three-year period is set out in its Local Development Scheme (LDS). The LDS is reviewed periodically to ensure that it is always up-to-date.

(3) 3.5 Although not covered in detail here or in the LDS (as they are not prepared by the District Council), there are other forms of plans that may be of interest:

  • Neighbourhood Plans are an alternative means of developing policies and proposals at the local parish or neighbourhood level. In parished areas, they can be prepared by the relevant town or parish council; elsewhere, by a duly constituted 'neighbourhood forum'. Like local plans, regulations cover their preparation, including consultation requirements. The Council's role is to provide advice and support, but at least up to submission of the final draft ('proposed submission') plan, it is the town or parish council (or forum) that is responsible for public consultation and engagement in its preparation.

    After the plan is submitted to the District Council, it will undertake a formal public consultation for a minimum of six weeks. It will make the 'proposed submission' neighbourhood plan and supporting documents available online and at its offices. The Council will also liaise with the preparing body to make the plan available to view locally.

    At this stage, Rother District Council will provide its own representations, especially on the plan's general conformity with the Core Strategy. All representations will be forwarded to an independent examiner.

    The examiner's findings will be considered by the Council in deciding the Plan to put forward to a referendum of residents living in the area covered by the neighbourhood plan (and any other people considered appropriate to include by the examiner). At least a half of voters need to support the Plan for it to be approved.

    Further information about neighbourhood plans, including current Plans, is viewable on the Council's 'Neighbourhood Plans' page.

  • Waste and Minerals Plans are the responsibility of East Sussex County Council. The District Council will be a consultee on such plans. Further details about the programme of preparing these plans and the opportunities for involvement in that are published on the county Council's website at: Minerals and Waste

3.6 The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a related planning document, which establishes acharge that the Council will levy to raise funds from developers undertaking new building projects. Charges set out in a 'Charging Schedule' are used to fund infrastructure needed to support new development.

3.7 Preparation of a CIL is subject to separate legislative and consultation requirements. Details of the progress of the Council's CIL are viewable onlineat www.rother.gov.uk/cil.

(1) Who can be involved in plan-making?

3.8 There will be opportunities for everyone to participate in the production of all planning policy documents, as shown above.

(1) 3.9 Regulations2 also specify a number of bodies which local planning authorities must consult when preparing planning policy documents. These include 'specific consultation bodies' and various types of 'general consultation bodies' namely voluntary bodies active in the area and those bodies which represent the interests of different racial, ethnic or national groups, different religious groups, disabled persons, and of persons carrying on business in the area.

(1) 3.10 The full range of organisations and individuals who should be involved in developing planning policy can be categorised into the following groupings:

A - Local groups and individuals This group includes residents, community groups, voluntary groups and specific interest groups (for example chambers of commerce, conservation societies) as well as interested individuals.

B - Parish and town councils, Bexhill Town Forum, adjoining parish councils Town and parish councils have a particular role to play in representing the views of their communities in the planning process.

C - Utility and service providers This group includes water, sewerage, gas and electricity companies, health providers and emergency services.

D - Government bodies/neighbouring local authorities and collaborative bodies This group includes the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, the High Weald Joint Advisory Committee and the East Sussex Local Nature Partnership, as well as East Sussex County Council, neighbouring district and borough councils and relevant Government departments.

The 'duty to cooperate' introduced in the Localism Act 20113 and reflected in the NPPF, gives added emphasis to constructive and ongoing cooperation with neighbouring councils and other public bodies to ensure that strategic issues are appropriately addressed across local authority boundaries. There needs to be particular collaboration with Hastings Borough Council given common economic and housing markets.

E - East Sussex and Rother Local Strategic Partnerships

F - National organisations and agencies There are a range of national organisations and agencies which have specialist expertise to input. Examples of such groups are Heritage England, English Nature, the Environment Agency, Highways England and the Sports Council.

G - Developers, landowners, planning consultants

(1) 3.11 A more expansive list of consultees, set out in the groups identified above, which the Council will contact as part of any relevant public consultation on an emerging planning policy document is held by the Council and is available to view on the website. This is a "live" list as it is subject to continuous update and change.

How we will notify, consult and involve groups and individuals

(7) 3.12 The range of methods that will or may be used to help inform and engage the community about planning policy formulation are:

  • Web-based consultation The Council will advertise all consultations on its website, with full details and relevant documents available to view on dedicated pages, accessible via www.rother.gov.uk/planningpolicy

    (NB A facility is provided to listen to the website. This is clearly marked by the word 'Listen' on the top right hand of the webpages.)

  • Written notifications The Council will make direct contact by email or letter with known consultation bodies and those who have asked to be notified that a consultation is taking place and will invite participation in that consultation. Details of the consultation, including the availability of documents, will be explained within the notification.

    Organisations and individuals can ask to be added to the consultation list at any time by contacting the Planning Strategy & Environment team by email to planningstrategy@rother.gov.uk or by calling 01424 787634.

  • Making documents available As well as publishing draft documents and supporting material online (see above), hard copies will made available for inspection at the Town Hall, Bexhill-on Sea. They will also be available to view online via public access computers at Battle and Rye libraries.

    Consultation documents will also be available to purchase, at 'cost' price.

    Documents can be provided in large print, Braille, on audio tape or CD, and translated into other languages upon request.

  • Public notices Public notices will be placed on the Council's website and, where appropriate, in local newspapers at key stages of plan production.

  • My Alerts 'My Alerts' is a weekly email service providing information for Rother residents and businesses. Notice of consultations will be included in these. To subscribe, go to My Alerts

  • Social media The Council make use of social media and will post information via its Twitter and Facebook accounts www.facebook.com/RotherDC and @RotherDC and/or @RDCconsult respectively. However, during formal consultations, comments will not be accepted via social media.

  • Press releases/briefings Newspaper features may be promoted via press releases and/or briefings to convey information about the scope and timing of consultations to a wide audience.

  • Posters/Leaflets Dedicated posters and/or leaflets may be used to gain wider public awareness of a consultation.

  • Exhibitions Exhibitions may be held to convey information about an emerging planning policy document and both publicise the opportunity for public involvement and enable face-to-face discussion about issues and options.

  • Meetings/Focus Groups These may be selectively used as a means of bringing different perspectives together to discuss a particular theme in a structured way. Meetings may be appropriate to discuss issues of a technical nature, such as with specific statutory bodies and service providers, or with key stakeholder groups, including parish councils.

    NB Whenever a public exhibition or meeting is held, the venue chosen should have disabled access and be located as conveniently as possible for the expected audience.

Involvement at each stage of plan-making

3.13 The stages for producing the Local Plan and Supplementary Planning Documents are set out in Tables A and B respectively below. The final column identifies the opportunities for community involvement at each stage.

3.14 It can be seen that Local Plans (i.e. the Core Strategy and the Development and Site Allocations Plan) are subject to an independent examination in public before they can be adopted, whereas SPDs are not.

3.15 The tables also highlight the various stages of the Strategic Environmental Assessment/Sustainability Appraisal (SEA/SA) process, as an SEA/SA Report is itself subject to public consultation.

3.16 Such assessments must be carried out alongside an emerging local plan under EU law to ensure that the social, economic and environmental consequences of the policies and proposals in plans are fully taken into account. SPDs do not usually require such an assessment because they will normally relate to a policy or site that has undergone an SEA/SA as part of a local plan. However, the progress of a SEA, if needed, is still shown for completeness.

(3) Table A - Local Plan preparation and opportunities for involvement

Stage/ Progress of the Plan Progress of the SEA/SA4 Opportunities for involvement

Pre-Production

Background Information and Evidence Gathering.

Technical studies and topic papers may be prepared and options identified, drawing on monitoring of existing policies, any strategic requirements and data.

Collect baseline social, economic and environmental data.

Draft 'Scoping Report'.

Publish 'Scoping Report'.

Targeted involvement of agencies and service providers.

Normally also informal consultation with key stakeholders, such as Parish Councils, relevant interest groups, landowners and developers.

Questionnaires may be undertaken.

Formal consultation with Natural England, Heritage England and the Environment Agency on the SEA/A Scoping Report.

Production of a draft Plan

This is approved for the purposes of public consultation and sets out the key issues and options for addressing them, with preferred options where appropriate.

Initial SEA/SA report.

Public consultation on the scope of the plan, issues and options and, where identified, preferred options, as well as on the initial SEA/SA report.

Wide-ranging publicity as well as public notices will advertise the public consultation, which may also be supported by events.

An additional +consultation period may be held on further policy approaches or sites that are reasonable options but have not previously been considered.

Publication of the Proposed Submission Plan

This is the final draft Plan that takes account of comments made during the previous public consultation on options. Responses to commentsmade are contained in a separate 'consultation statement'.

This is the plan that the Council proposes to adopt.

Final SEA/SA Report, taking into account changes arising following consultation.

Formal minimum six-week consultation period on Proposed Submission Plan and final SEA/SA Report.

Formal adverts and notifications will be sent to consultees and others who have asked to be kept informed.

Representations at this stage must relate to specific tests of the robustness of the plan. They will be forwarded for consideration by an independent inspector who will examine the plan.

NB Comments made in response to consultation on an earlier version are not carried forward. If anyone is not satisfied with the latest version they need to respond again.

If, following receipt of representations, the Council believes changes are necessary before submission for examination, there would be a further opportunity to consult on those changes.

Examination

The Council submit the Plan (including Policies Map if relevant), SEA/SA Report, an updated Consultation Statement, supporting documents and the representations made to the inspector.

Examination in public, during which all representations are considered by the inspector. He/she may hold hearing sessions, to which participants will be invited.

Written submissions carry equal weight to those presented at hearings.

Main Modifications

If during the examination, the Inspector advises that changes are needed to the Plan to achieve soundness, the Council may propose such modifications.

Public consultation on any proposed main modifications and, if needed, any changes to the SEA/SA Report. The arrangements for this would be agreed with the inspector.

Adoption

Upon receipt of a favourable Inspector's Report, the Council may adopt the Local Plan.

There is a six-week period for legal challenge after adoption (Legal advice is urged if this being considered).

Table B - Supplementary Planning Documents

see Local Development Scheme for detail of SPDs to be prepared)

Progress of the Plan Progress of the SEA/SA Opportunities for public involvement

Pre-Production

Baseline information and evidence gathering.

Undertake further technical work; identify reasonable options

Screening to determine whether a SEA/SA is required.

If so, publish Scoping Report.

Targeted informal community involvement on scope and content of SPD, dependent upon subject matter, as well as consultation with relevant agencies, service providers and, where appropriate, parish/town councils.

Production of a Draft SPD

This will identify the basis of preferred options, for public consultation.

SEA/SA Report if required, although this will only rarely be the case.

Minimum 4-week public consultation period on draft SPD and SEA/SA report.

Depending on the nature of the SPD, local publicity as well as public notices will advertise the public consultation, which may also be supported by events.

Further consultation may be undertaken if responses lead to a significant change of direction.

Adoption of the SPD

This is the final document, including any revisions in light of consultation on draft and sustainability report.

(1) Comments and formal representations

(3) 3.17 In relation to making comments and representations:

  • Comments/representation forms will normally be provided.
  • The Council will normally facilitate, and encourage, comments to be submitted via its online consultation system, the link to which will be made available on the website in relation to the relevant consultation (This makes it easy to keep a record of views submitted and be in a form that allows them to be readily considered by the Council).
  • Comments may be submitted in writing and submitting either by email or by post.
  • All comments received during formal consultations will be acknowledged.
  • The use of representation forms will be expected when making formal representations on 'Proposed Submission' plans (see below), as they should address the specific tests which a local plan is assessed against.
  • A clear deadline for the receipt of comments will be given. Comments must be received by the date/time given.

(1) Consideration and feedback

3.18 An important aspect of community involvement is to offer feedback to those who have taken the trouble to be involved in shaping plans.

(1) 3.19 'Consultation statements' will be compiled identifying the nature and extent of comments/representations made on emerging plans. These will be available on the Council's website and in hard copy at the Town Hall, Bexhill. These will also show how the Council has effectively engaged to plan for cross-boundary matters under the 'duty to cooperate'.

(1) 3.20 The Council will take account of the comments made in progressing planning policy documents and will give reasons for its decisions in the light of comments made.

3.21 At the 'proposed submission' stage of local plan preparation, the regulations provide for representations to be considered during the examination process, so feedback is not normally given prior to the examination.

3.22 The arrangements for reporting to Members are set out in more detail in the Council's Local Development Scheme.


1 The Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 2 The Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 3 Section 110 of the Localism Act, incorporated into Section 33A of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 4 See paragraph 3.16
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