All planning authorities must produce a local plan to guide growth in their area. In the Greater Norwich area, Broadland District Council, Norwich City Council and South Norfolk Council have worked together to produce this joint strategic plan, the Greater Norwich Local Plan (GNLP). This also includes working closely with Norfolk County Council and the Broads Authority.
The GNLP identifies the strategy for growth in this first part of the plan, the GNLP Strategy. The sites to deliver the strategy are in the second part of the plan, the GNLP Sites document. The plan will be used to help to assess planning applications.
The plan runs from 2018 to 2038. It provides up-to-date policies to guide development in rapidly changing times and meets Government requirements set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
This plan has been prepared under transitional arrangements ahead of the implementation of the new system for plan-making Government has committed to introducing. It is highly likely that the GNLP will be superseded by a subsequent local plan produced under the new planning system within a very few years of its adoption3.
Therefore, the GNLP will play a key role in guiding the transition to the new planning system, helping to ensure sustainable housing and jobs growth in Greater Norwich.
Setting the scene – a vibrant place to live and work
The Greater Norwich economy draws on Norwich’s role as the regional capital, the dynamism of other strategic employment locations such as Norwich Research Park, excellent higher education facilities including the University of East Anglia and Norwich University of the Arts, as well as rapidly improving transport links.
Our strengths also include the excellent quality of life on offer, our wonderful natural environment, and our heritage - from the vibrant and historic city centre of Norwich to our dynamic market towns and villages. Combined, these will play a pivotal role in Greater Norwich’s economic success.
In 2020 Covid-19 is having a major economic impact and there may be further short-term impacts from Brexit. However, Greater Norwich is well-placed to bounce back and play its part in national economic recovery over the short, medium and longer term. In putting this plan together, we must take a long-term view of our development needs to allow the housing, jobs, services and infrastructure we need to be provided at the right time and in the right places. Such a long-term plan-led approach is both good planning and required by Government.
The GNLP both continues and adds to the long-term and successful approach set from the second decade of the century in the Joint Core Strategy for Broadland, Norwich and South Norfolk (JCS), and provides an excellent basis for the new approach to strategic planning that the Government intends to introduce.
Planning to our strengths
Greater Norwich is recognised nationally as a key engine of growth and one of the fastest growing parts of the country. It is an area establishing itself as a leader in science, technology and advanced manufacturing with strong connections to Cambridge as part of the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor. We must continue to build on our strengths and are committed to help turn world class knowledge and ideas into world class jobs, particularly in life sciences and biotechnology, agri-tech, food and drink, information and communication technology (ICT), digital creative industries and high-value engineering. These are all significant growth sectors, but we also need to support and boost other sectors underpinning our economy such as financial services, culture and tourism.
To do this, we must make the most of our main strengths whilst also planning flexibly for new jobs, homes and infrastructure. The GNLP must also assist the move to a post-carbon economy and protect and enhance our many environmental assets. It needs to ensure that we can deliver well-designed new development to create attractive, sustainable, resilient and inclusive new communities. This will ensure that Greater Norwich continues to be both a great place to live, work and visit, as well as a place capable of attracting new investment and jobs.
Making sure that jobs, infrastructure and housing developments take place is key to the success of the GNLP. In recent years, significant new infrastructure such as the Broadland Northway road and public transport and cycling improvements have been delivered, with more planned, while jobs growth has been strong and there has been a major recent increase in housebuilding.
Planning flexibly for a changing world
We live in a world of rapid technological, economic, population and climate change. This provides both challenges and opportunities, with Greater Norwich in a strong position to make a major contribution to the UK’s transition to a post-carbon economy and a world needing to recover from the Covid pandemic. Our world leading role at the forefront of food and health research at Norwich Research Park, fast growing digital creative industries in the city centre and high value engineering at Hethel are just some of the examples of how we are well placed to play a leading role in clean growth.
The proposed 2025 ban of heating new homes with fossil fuels, the proposed 2030 ban on petrol and diesel engines and the nation’s 2050 commitment to achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions will be major factors affecting development through the plan period, particularly in relation to energy policy and transportation. It is therefore essential that we plan flexibly for this changing world.
How the GNLP fits in with other planning bodies and strategies
Our ambitions for delivering sustainable growth through the GNLP must reflect the Government’s requirements for local plans set out in the NPPF. This, along with other national, regional, county and local strategies, agreements, initiatives and priorities, provide the context for development in Greater Norwich.
Projects of national significance, such as infrastructure linking offshore windfarms to the national grid and improvements to trunk roads (the A11 and A47 in Greater Norwich), are assessed at the national level.
At the regional level important strategies and initiatives include the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership’s existing Norfolk and Suffolk Economic Strategy (NSES), the emerging Norfolk and Suffolk Local Industrial Strategy, which builds on the NSES, and the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor initiative. These set the context for economic growth.
At the county level, the Norfolk Strategic Planning Framework (NSPF) is an agreement between planning authorities on approaches to strategic infrastructure, housing and jobs numbers and common policy approaches. Importantly, the NSPF, along with agreements with neighbours in Suffolk, states that Greater Norwich will provide for all its housing and jobs growth needs within its own boundaries as will its neighbours. It also states that Greater Norwich City Deal growth requirements, agreed with Government in 2013, will be met through the GNLP. The NSPF and work with Suffolk authorities meet the Government’s requirement for a Statement of Common Ground and the “Duty to Co-operate”.
Transport priorities which influence the GNLP are set out in several other strategies including: the Norfolk Local Transport Plan; the Norwich Area Transportation Strategy; the emerging Transport for Norwich strategy and Transforming Cities4. These are in addition to national and regional rail and road investment strategies and programmes.
Norfolk County Council is the Minerals and Waste local authority. It is preparing a local plan review to consolidate its three current adopted plans into one and to extend its plan period to 2036. The GNLP therefore does not cover minerals and waste issues.
At the local level the district councils’ visions, objectives, priorities and ambitions have influenced this strategy, mainly through the GNLP Vision and Objectives. These documents are the Norwich City Vision 2040 and Broadland and South Norfolk’s Our Plan 2020 to 2024.
The GNLP and other local plan documents
The currently adopted strategy plan to 2026, the JCS, along with adopted Site Allocations Plans, Area Action Plans (AAPs) for the Growth Triangle, Long Stratton and Wymondham and Neighbourhood Plans in each of the three districts, already set out where a high proportion of the housing (74%) and jobs growth required by the GNLP to 2038 will be located.
When adopted, the GNLP will supersede the current JCS and the Site Allocations Plans in each of the three districts, except for the smaller villages in South Norfolk that will be addressed through a new South Norfolk Village Clusters Housing Allocations Local Plan and the Diss, Scole and Burston area, for which a Neighbourhood Plan is being produced which will allocate sites. The great majority of the undeveloped sites in the Site Allocations plans are re-allocated through the GNLP5.
The GNLP will not replace existing adopted Area Action Plans (AAPs) for Long Stratton, Wymondham and the Growth Triangle (NEGT), though in some cases additional allocations are made through the GNLP in these areas. The GNLP will be used in conjunction with the adopted AAPs, Development Management Plans for the three districts and Neighbourhood Plans.
Further detail on superseded and retained plans, including new allocations affecting the AAPs, is in appendix 4.
While the GNLP sets out plans for the additional growth needed to 2038 and identifies the best ways for establishing long-term growth, we also need to take account of the Government’s commitment to simplified rules based local plans and increasing housing supply, particularly in areas with high affordability pressures, which will assist in increasing home ownership and providing for affordable rents. The GNLP does this by setting a strategy that can be sustainably added to, providing locations that can be zoned for growth, renewal and protection in the longer term, and by providing for sufficient growth to both meet currently established needs and to set us on the path to meeting the higher long-term housing needs Government aims to provide for.
This document proposes a broad locational strategy for sites and contains thematic strategic policies covering crucial issues such as supporting the economy, environmental protection and good design.
With the exception of sites in smaller villages in South Norfolk (see below) and the Diss area, the GNLP Sites document details the proposed sites for growth. This includes those that have already been identified which are being carried forward, together with new ones.
The GNLP promotes housing choice and supports economic activity within the rural parishes that surround market towns and key service centres. It also aims to provide a greater degree of opportunity for smaller builders to develop with their local supply chains and bespoke designs. Such development helps address rural housing need and demand and supports and sustains local services and facilities in the rural area, such as village schools, community venues, shops, pubs and bus services. Recently, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have strengthened the shift to ‘working from home’ and reduced the need to travel frequently to central locations to work. The wider availability of faster and more reliable broadband has resulted in a change in the desirability of more rural properties in village locations.
South Norfolk has twice as many parishes as neighbouring Broadland, more market town catchments (including around Beccles and Bungay in Suffolk), significantly less urban fringe, and a substantially larger rural territory. Rural South Norfolk includes two key strategic employment areas, at Hethel and Wymondham, and has a number of villages associated with the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor.
Consequently, South Norfolk Council is preparing a separate and complementary village clusters plan covering sites for small-scale housing in the rural parishes of South Norfolk that collectively form primary school clusters. The Broadland village clusters form part of this Greater Norwich Local Plan.
South Norfolk District Council is at an advanced stage with its Village Clusters Housing Allocations Local Plan. The Regulation 18 preferred options consultation is anticipated in Spring 2021. There is an aspiration for every village cluster to have new housing sites allocated, with a focus on smaller sites, and to be in accordance with the overarching GNLP strategy which identifies sites for a minimum of 1,200 additional homes on top of the existing commitment of 1,392 homes. Therefore, it is not one of the objectives of the GNLP to identify the village clusters in South Norfolk and consequential housing allocation sites in these areas.
The GNLP should be read as a whole for development proposals, so all relevant policies will be considered for planning applications.
All policies in the GNLP Strategy document are strategic6. The GNLP Strategy and Sites document identify and allocate strategic mixed use/housing locations and sites, as well as location and sites for employment, and provide for environmental protection and enhancement. Other allocations in the Sites document provide the housing sites and other sites to meet the strategic needs set out in the GNLP strategy, without being strategic in themselves.
This means that the GNLP policies provide the strategic background for:
- existing local plan policies;
- future revision to local plan documents and
- policies and proposals in Neighbourhood Plan, which should be in conformity with the GNLP.
3The commitment to a new system of the local plan making was made through the "Planning for the Future" white paper in August 2020. As drafted in late 2020, the transitional arrangements for the next round of local plans require such new plans to be adopted either 30 months from the legislation being brought into force, or 42 months for those who have adopted a local plan within the previous three years or where a local plan has been submitted to the Secretary of State for examination. Whatever the content of the final transitional arrangements and the timing of the adoption of the GNLP, it is thus very likely to be superseded within a few years of adoption. +
4Transforming Cities is a national fund for sustainable travel improvement which Transport for Norwich secured £6.1 million from in early 2019 and is bidding for further funding.
5Subject to evidence of delivery by 2038
6This is in line with National Planning Policy Framework paragraph 23. Neighbourhood Plans can allocate sites.