The South Worcestershire Councils (SWCs) i.e. Malvern Hills, Worcester City and Wychavon started a review of the SWDP in late 2017. This is in line with Government requirements that local plans should be updated every five years. The review of the SWDP will address development needs for the period 2021-2041.
Since the completion of the SWDPR Preferred Options consultation in December 2019, work has been progressing on the Publication version of the SWDPR (Regulation 19). However, the review of the SWDP has been delayed due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and our ability to collect evidence. The intention was for the next Regulation 19 stage of the consultation on the SWDP Review to be undertaken in the autumn of 2020. However, lockdown restrictions have made it much more difficult to complete several technical assessments and evidence gathering needed to support the plan within the timeframe. Further, in updating the evidence base, legal advice from Counsel recommended that an additional round of consultation is factored into the SWDPR timetable prior to Submission of the plan for Examination to allow for updates relating to the Sustainability Appraisal to be made available for consultation.
Accordingly, an updated Local Development Scheme (LDS) for 2020-2023 was approved by each local authority in September 2020 (effective from 1st October 2020). The 2020-2023 LDS includes an updated SWDPR timetable, which has moved back the Publication version of the plan to October/November 2021. This allows for additional time to finalise the technical evidence base updates and also to include an additional further Regulation 18 (III) consultation to provide greater clarification and updates to elements of the Sustainability Appraisal evidence base work.
Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)
The Sustainability Appraisal is an on-going process which tests the plan’s sites and policies against a Sustainability Framework, with a report published at each stage of the plan-making process. The Regulation 18 (III) Sustainability Appraisal update will provide information to help clarify the report published during the previous Regulation 18 (II) Preferred Options consultation carried out in November/December 2019.
The Sustainability Appraisal (SA) report is a UK-specific procedure that examines the social, economic and environmental sustainability of the sites and policies of a Local Plan in detail and proposes mitigation measures to overcome any negative impacts identified.
A key purpose of the Sustainability Appraisal is to facilitate the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive’s required levels of environmental assessment, resulting in an integrated approach (the SEA Directive was transposed into English law by The Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004 (SEA Regulations)). This includes transparency, by sharing assessment information and plan-making detail with a public audience, which provides the opportunity to influence the Local Plan.
In line with the Planning Policy Guidance and requirements of the SEA Directive, there is a need to provide a clear and transparent process of identifying, describing and evaluating reasonable alternatives (Article 5(1) of the SEA Directive). This should be the case for any type of reasonable alternative raised through the plan making process.
Accordingly, the Sustainability Appraisal will provide updates to the following sections of the SWDPR (as was submitted at the 2019 Preferred Options Regulation 18 (II) stage), as relates to the analysis of, and reasoning for, the selection and rejection of reasonable alternatives:
- draft SWDPR policies;
- proposed strategic location sites and reasonable alternatives;
- proposed site allocations and reasonable alternatives; and
- proposed SWDP reallocation sites.
A full Sustainability Appraisal (Environmental Report) will be produced for the Regulation 19 stage of the plan making process. This version of the appraisal will assess the sustainability of the proposed submission version of the SWDP.
The public consultation will run for seven weeks from Monday 1 March to Monday 19 April 2021.
This Regulation 18 (III) consultation is focused on the Sustainability Appraisal and will be technical in nature:
- The consultation is not seeking views on an updated version of the SWDP.
- This stage is not a further opportunity to make comments on proposed site allocations or policies published in the SWDP Review Preferred Options (2019); any such comments will not be considered.
Therefore, the material published for this consultation only relates to updates to the Sustainability Appraisal evidence base.
Following this consultation, the Publication version of the SWDP Review will then be published for a further round of consultation in October/November 2021. It will then be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in early 2022, and subject to the Planning Inspectorates timetable, Examined over the course of 2022. The Inspector’s report is expected late 2022 with the aim to readopt the reviewed SWDP by April 2023.
The SWC have produced an Explainer Video explaining the current consultation and how it fits in with the wider SWDPR process.
Consultation Documents and How to Respond
The SWDPR Further Regulation 18 (III) Sustainability Appraisal Report can be viewed by following the link below:
pdf SWDPR Regulation 18 (III) Sustainability Appraisal Report (13.30 MB)
Representations can be made online by following the link below:
Representations must be received by 23:59pm on Monday 19 April 2021.
Town and Parish Council Briefing Session Recording
The SWC held a briefing session on the consultation with Town and Parish Councils on Monday 1 March 2021, the recording of which can be viewed by following the link below.