Busy time at Falmouth Neighbourhood Plan Drop-in session No1.

The first ‘drop-in’ session about the draft Falmouth Neighbourhood Plan was held on 24th January at the Municipal Buildings/Library and was well attended. Over fifty local people came in to chat with a member of the Neighbourhood Plan Team, each receiving ten minutes or more of guidance. Lots of very helpful comments and suggestions were made, that we can look at including in the submitted version of the Plan.

Three more sessions are planned:

Tuesday 7th February – (11am to 3pm) – Falmouth Watersports Centre
Saturday 11th February – (11am to 3pm) – on The Moor
Wednesday 15th February – (6.30pm to 8.30pm) – The Library at Falmouth School

You can also see the Plan and make comments on-line or at Falmouth Library.

Drop in
Residents and team members discuss the draft Plan.
Dop in 3
Grand setting for the drop-in session No1
Drop in 2
Exhibition panel showing the sustainable neighbourhoods concept

 

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Dont miss your chance to comment on the draft Falmouth Neighbourhood Plan

There are three more drop in sessions where you can also put questions to members of the Neighbourhood Plan team about the policies and proposals in the Plan:
* Tuesday 7th February – (11am to 3pm) – Falmouth Watersports Centre
* Saturday 11th February – (11am to 3pm) – on The Moor
* Wednesday 15th February – (6.30pm to 8.30pm) – The Library at Falmouth School

 

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Neighbourhood Plan Press Release 21/11/16

ftc-armsYour chance to influence Falmouth’s future

Following extensive community engagement during 2015 and 2016, Falmouth Town Council (FTC) is preparing to share the first draft of its Neighbourhood Plan in a second phase of consultation.

The drafting process has already involved local residents completing a questionnaire and participating in working groups with stakeholder organisations to gather evidence, carry out research and recommend the themes that need to be addressed in the Neighbourhood Plan.

This first draft will now be considered by FTC’s Planning Committee, after which local people will be invited to review it to ensure that it accurately reflects their needs and concerns. Incorporating any amendments, the Plan will then be formally endorsed by FTC, submitted to Cornwall Council and an independent assessor for further scrutiny, and become the subject of further public consultation and a referendum next year.

If local people vote in favour, the Neighbourhood Plan will be ‘made’ in law, form an integral part of the planning process and be considered alongside all applications that are decided by Cornwall Council, planning inspectors, or the Government. It is hoped that the Neighbourhood Plan will be fully ‘made’ by June 2017.

“The Neighbourhood Plan provides everyone in Falmouth with the opportunity to influence the decisions that will affect the town’s future: from the way that land is used for housing, business, shops and leisure to the protection of green spaces, the design of buildings and the tackling of local issues,” explains Cllr Candy Atherton who chairs FTC’s Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group. “By consulting widely across all sections of our diverse community and working collaboratively, we can alleviate pressures, resolve problems, create resilience and provide a framework for prosperity whilst protecting our exceptional natural environment and other town assets.”

The objectives set out in this first draft include enhancing the town and its special qualities up to 2030 and beyond; balancing the competing needs for growth and development with conservation and improvement; and promoting development that is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.

It highlights policies to create a balanced community; accommodate growth, housing need and university expansion in a sensible manner; manage any increase in the student population to minimise problems; promote the marine, creative and digital industries; regenerate the town centre; protect valued green space; promote leisure, recreation and culture; ensure adequate provision of infrastructure; and strike the optimum balance between growth and protecting the aspects of the town that make Falmouth so special.

The Plan also outlines the need for further physical realm improvements both in the main streets and specific areas of the town.“The aim for Church Street car park would be to transform it into a desirable destination with restaurants, cafes, marine activities and public space so that residents and visitors could take full advantage of some of the best views in Falmouth,” explains Professor Mike Jenks from Falmouth Civic Society who leads the Neighbourhood Plan’s Spatial Strategy, Integration & Design Guidance working group. “We are suggesting limiting the amount of parking spaces in Church Street but increasing capacity at the Quarry and former Territorial Army site on Bar Road, pedestrianising the main streets for part of the day and supporting the town’s shuttle bus, all of which would be essential to the successful realisation of this vision.” In addition, the Plan recommends developing the Quarry car park and former Territorial Army site to include housing for local people and/or students; proposes a green corridor between Tregoniggie Woodland and Swanpool; and emphasises the benefits of environmental improvements at Pendennis Point and to the seafront that would arise if a supporting application for grant aid from the national Coastal Communities Fund was successful.

It also recognises the role of Falmouth (and Penryn) as a key economic driver for Cornwall; supports the dredging of Falmouth Harbour; the generation of new enterprise in the maritime, advanced engineering and energy sectors; and the provision of small workshops and an innovation/home business support centre. In relation to tourism, it proposes the revival of Prince of Wales Pier and the enhancement of The Moor; a new skate park at Dracaena Fields and measures to enhance Falmouth’s festival culture by attracting major international events to the town.

On the subject of student accommodation, the Plan offers further policies to complement the recently-approved Article 4 Direction that prevents further conversions of dwellings into Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in certain areas and ensures that any sites identified for purpose-built accommodation conform to clear rules on issues such as parking, on-site management and contributions to off-site policing.

“With much of Falmouth’s expansion taking place outside the town’s boundaries, the Neighbourhood Plan also offers recommendations about the integration of any new estates with the town’s infrastructure that we hope Cornwall Council, Budock Parish Council and Penryn Town Council will respond to,” concludes Falmouth Mayor, Grenville Chappel. “Whilst Article 4 restricts growth, the Neighbourhood Plan enables it but in a controlled way that will benefit our community so it is vital that everyone in our town who is enrolled on the electoral register speaks out during our comprehensive consultation process.”
This second phase of consultation will take place for a minimum of six weeks between early December and mid-January. A leaflet summarising the key points of the proposed Neighbourhood Plan will be distributed to local residents, who will also be invited to attend two drop-in sessions to find out more. Residents will be able to view the Plan on a dedicated Neighbourhood Plan website or in Falmouth Library, where hard copies of the Plan and summary leaflet will also be available to view. The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group is also offering to present the Plan to local organisations upon request. Further details will be announced in the local print and broadcast media, and via FTC’s Twitter and Facebook feeds.

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Falmouth Area Coastal Community Team contributes to the Neighbourhood Plan

The Falmouth Area Coastal Community Team (FACCT) is a newly created body which brings together representatives of the public, private and charitable sectors working for the advancement of Falmouth. It was formed in July 2015, supported by funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The area covered by FACCT is the entire administrative area of Falmouth plus the marine area to the east between the town and Carrick Roads. Whilst the emphasis of projects is on the core waterside leisure, commercial, harbour and tourism areas, this wider definition provides the opportunity to tackle related economic issues on the seafront and peripheral areas.

FACCT is also acting as the Economy and Employment Working Group for the Neighbourhood Plan, and will be identifying policies and land requirements to meet Falmouth’s business needs for the future.

The FACCT Team have already produced an overarching Falmouth Economic Plan June 2016

FACCT members include:

A&P Ports (Falmouth)
Cornwall Council
Cornwall Marine Network
English Heritage (Pendennis Castle)
Falmouth Bay Residents Association
Falmouth BID
Falmouth Civic Society
Falmouth and District Hotels Association
Falmouth First CIC
Falmouth Harbour Commissioners
Falmouth Tall Ships Association
Falmouth Town Council
Falmouth Town Team
National Maritime Museum Cornwall
Pendennis Shipyard
Falmouth Neighbourhood Plan Stakeholder Group

You can find out more at www.falmouthcoast.org

FACCT is also a member of the Coastal Communities Alliance: http://www.coastalcommunities.co.uk/

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Progressing the Article 4 Direction

In 2014 Cornwall Council agreed to follow up Falmouth Town Council’s request to make an Article 4 Direction to control HMO development in Falmouth. It was agreed that this would occur alongside the development of a Neighbourhood Plan to contain policies to help implement the Article 4.

Since then a considerable amount of work has been done by Cornwall Council in preparation, including obtaining the necessary permissions to proceed, legal assessments, legal drafting, evidence gathering, policy discussions etc. Falmouth Town Council and the Neighbourhood Plan team have been assisting this process throughout, for example by affixing the necessary legal notices to more than 100 locations around the town during May 2016.

The process has now come to a conclusion and the Article 4 Direction has been made.

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Making the Article 4 Direction

The following steps were involved in the Article 4 Direction.

Step 1 – CC ‘made’ the A4D.

Step 2 – the making of the A4D was advertised through a newspaper advert and by display of notices throughout the area affected by the A4D for a period of not less than six weeks.

The notice —

  • Described the A4D and the area it relates to
  • Said where a copy of the A4D could be inspected
  • Gave a period of at least 21 days, stating the date on which that period began, for representations to be made to the Local Planning Authority and
  • Gave the date on which the A4D will come into force, which must be at least 28 days but no longer than 2 years after the date given above.

Step 3 – A copy of the A4D and the notice was be sent to the Secretary of State on the same day that notice of the A4D was first published.

Step 4 –  The local planning authority (Cornwall Council) took into account any representations  received and decided to confirm the Direction on 16th June 2016.

Step 5 – After the Direction was confirmed the local planning authority gave notice of the confirmation and the date on which the Direction will come into force; and sent a copy of the Direction as confirmed to the Secretary of State.

The Article 4 Direction was made and advertised in  May 2016. It was confirmed on 16th June 2016, and will come into full effect on 16 June 2017.

More details can be found on Cornwall Council’s website here: CC Website on A4D

 

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What will the Neighbourhood Plan policy on HMOs achieve?

When the A4D comes into full effect, the Falmouth Neighbourhood Plan’s policies can help assess the planning applications that result from the effect of the Direction.

They will for example,

  • prevent further changes of use to HMO in the areas already significantly affected by HMOs if they would cause harm to amenity or community balance;
  • set positive criteria for planning permissions for changes of use to HMO in other areas, subject to an upper limit.

The Neighbourhood Plan could also be the basis of ‘Good Practice Guidance’ relating to HMOs, focusing essentially on design issues but bringing attention to licensing and regulations issues also.

As part of a broader strategy to manage the distribution of student bedspaces, the Neighbourhood Plan also introduces a policy that complements those in the Cornwall Local Plan an d the Allocations Development Plan Document, by setting more detailed criteria for development of purpose built student accommodation aimed at ensuring that they have minimal impact whilst bringing positive additional benefits to the town.

 

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Community Engagement Views on HMOs

In the May/June 2015 Community Engagement conducted by the Neighbourhood Plan Stakeholder Group information on the community views of HMO issues was collected. The initial questions were carefully drafted not to point specifically to student HMOs but to the identification of ‘any areas of Falmouth where the balance of the community or character of the area are at risk of being harmed by changes in accommodation and occupancy type’.

Respondents were asked to score what aspects did they think harm the character of the area? Choices were parking conflict, care and maintenance of buildings, conflicting hours of activity, refuse storage, care and maintenance of gardens and communal areas, and other issues.

Respondents were also asked whether they would support the principle of an Article 4 direction that would control the spread of houses of multiple occupation in Falmouth.

Those replying to the question on whether there are areas affected by HMOs was 696 (53.2%). Of those commenting on which aspects were affected, 91% said that community balance was harmed, and 81% said the character of the area had been harmed.

With regard to the main areas where the problems associated with student HMOs are most experienced, clear ‘hot-spots’ such as Marlborough Road, Trelawney Rd, Budock Terrace, Albany Road, Kiligrew Street, Trevethan Road, Wood Lane, Old Hill, New Street, and Lister Street came through. These correlated well with the known distribution from the January 2015 CC Survey.

Respondents also identified individual streets all across the town, and 25% said the whole town was affected. There would not seem to be any areas which are perceived as being immune to the pressure for subdivision into HMOs. The fact that 826 (63% of all respondents) expressed support the A4D also suggests it’s a fairly widely recognised issue, and that those so far not affected fear that the issue will spread to their areas.

Some 659 respondents (50.4%) answered the question on the issues involved, scoring each (on a Likert scale where 1 is low level of harm and 5 is high level). The result is a weighted average for each issue as follows:

  • Care and maintenance of gardens etc: 4.2
  • Care and maintenance of buildings: 4.1
  • Conflicting hours of activity: 3.9
  • Refuse storage 3.9
  • Parking conflict 3.8

Comments added to these responses add some further detail, referring to the seagull problem from unmanaged refuse areas, damaged or missing curtains which add a sense of dereliction, general littering, and proliferation of letting boards.

Some 1069 (81.7%) respondents answered the question ‘would you support an A4D?’ Of these 77.3% were in favour of the A4D.

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Article 4 Directions & Houses in Multiple Occupation

Use Classes and Permitted Development

Planning law deals with different land and building uses through the system of ‘Use Classes’. Some changes from one ‘Use Class’ to another require planning permission from the local planning authority (i.e. Cornwall Council), whilst others do not. The ones that don’t are called “Permitted Development’ because they automatically get planning permission under the planning law.

An Article 4 Direction is a direction under Article 4 of the General Permitted Development Order under which the local planning authority can withdraw specific ‘Permitted Development’ across a defined area.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are covered by Planning Use Class  ‘C4 Houses in multiple occupation’ – small shared houses occupied by between three and six unrelated individuals, as their only or main residence, who share basic amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom.

Large HMOs, i.e. occupied by more than 6 residents, don’t fall into a specific use class, and they are called ‘sui generis’ in planning language, which means ‘Of its own kind; in a class by itself; unique’

Change of use from Use Class C3 (i.e. an ordinary dwelling house) to C4 (an HMO) is a ‘Permitted Development’, for which a planning application and formal planning permission is not required. Equally, change from C4 back to C3 is also ‘permitted development’.

If more than 6 occupants are involved, than as a ‘sui generis’ use a planning application and planning permission is always required.

Thus it is possible for property owners to convert an entire property into accommodation for up to 6 individuals without the need for a Planning application and the scrutiny that goes with the planning process.

Using an Article 4 Direction to control HMOs

However, if a Local Planning Authority wishes to bring HMOs under local planning control, to positively manage the location of new HMOs in order to create sustainable, healthy and inclusive communities and to avoid further increases in concentrations in certain streets, it can use an Article 4 Direction, often referred to as an ‘A4D’, to withdraw ‘Permitted Development’ for them. This means that Planning Permission would be required for an HMO regardless of its size.

A4Ds have been used to bring HMOs under local Planning control by Exeter, Brighton and Hove, Leeds, Charnwood (Loughborough Uni), Nottingham, Oxford and Cheshire West and Chester Councils.

Why is the link with the Neighbourhood Plan important?

As Planning Permission will be required for new HMOs, there needs to be Planning criteria against which such planning applications can be assessed. Most councils have adopted policies in their Local Plans specifically focused on HMOs, with some adding Supplementary Planning Guidance, and in one example at Exeter St James, a Neighbourhood Plan has included policy on HMOs.

Its important to note that Planning can only be about ‘Land Use’ issues so can only control issues such as physical impacts on adjoining property (e.g. standards of daylighting, sunlight, outlook or privacy),  highway and traffic impacts, appropriately located on site provision of amenity space, refuse storage and car and bicycle parking, etc. It can’t control matters of personal behaviour, noise, site cleanliness etc, which are controlled through other laws.

The use of A4Ds to control HMOs may have the unintended consequence of reducing the supply of lower cost accommodation for non-students, leading to increased rent levels and housing stress, more rough sleeping, ‘dossing’ or ‘sofa surfing’, squatting, and so on.

Therefore it is important that the specific planning policies riding with an A4D requiring planning permission for HMOs should be carefully balanced, to ensure that whist further HMOs in ‘saturated’ areas may be resisted, they will be permitted in other areas where there is the capacity for more, subject to appropriate planning conditions.

See also: Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) and the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (as amended)
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