Policy S/SB: Settlement boundaries

DRAFT version for various committee meetings.

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What will this policy do?

This policy will define the boundaries of settlements for planning purposes.

Proposed policy direction

The Local Plan will include settlement boundaries around settlements, identifying areas that are considered to be part of the settlement for planning purposes. The boundaries will be drawn on the Policies Map that will accompany the draft Local Plan for consultation.

We propose that boundaries are defined to take into account the present extent of the built-up area as well as planned new development. Buildings associated with countryside uses, such as farm buildings, would not normally be included within a settlement boundary. Boundaries would not be defined around small clusters of houses or areas of scattered development where such buildings are isolated in open countryside or detached from the main concentration of buildings within Cambridge or a nearby village.

Where planned developments, such as new settlements, have reached sufficient certainty regarding their exact boundaries, new settlement boundaries will be drawn. Within settlement boundaries a range of policies within the Local Plan will indicate what sorts of developments may be suitable. This includes residential development, as indicated in the settlement hierarchy policy approach (at S/SH).

Outside settlement boundaries, we propose that no development would be permitted except for:

  • allocations within Neighbourhood Plans that have come into force;
  • Rural Exception sites (see policy approach H/ES) which help meet local needs for affordable housing
  • development for agriculture, horticulture, forestry, outdoor recreation and other uses that need to be located in the countryside; or
  • development supported by other policies in the plan.

Why is this policy needed?

Settlement boundaries define where policies for the built-up areas of settlements give way to policies for the countryside. This is necessary to ensure that the countryside is protected from gradual encroachment, but in particular they help guard against incremental growth in unsustainable locations. An important element of the development strategy is to focus growth in the more sustainable locations of the area, and settlement boundaries help achieve this purpose.

In the countryside development is generally restricted to uses that need to be located there. The plan includes some flexibility for reusing existing buildings, for development which supports the rural economy, and for other uses which need a countryside location.

What consultation have we done on this issue?

The First Conversation did not ask a specific question on settlement boundaries, but it did ask how flexible the Local Plan should be towards development of both jobs and homes on the edge of villages. Responses were mixed. Many representors seeking site allocations cited the need for flexibility in order to provide flexibility to deliver the homes that are needed. Others, including some parish councils, said that frameworks should be explored more rigorously. It was also stated that settlement boundaries help in achieving rural exception sites for affordable housing.

What alternatives did we consider?

Not including settlement boundaries and adopting a more flexible approach to settlement edges – rejected as it would not provide certainty regarding development proposals, could impact on settlement character, and result in gradual expansion of settlements into the countryside.

Supporting evidence studies and topic papers

  • Greater Cambridge Local Plan: Topic Paper 1: Strategy

Existing policies in adopted 2018 Local Plans

South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018

  • Policy S/7: Development Framework

Cambridge Local Plan 2018 - None

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