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Chapter 2
BACKGROUND
 
2.1 Introduction
   
2.1.1 The review and replacement of the Local Plan has not been carried out in isolation. It has taken account of the broader planning framework and national strategy of sustainability, and also detailed background papers and surveys that are specific to just Harlow District or a localised area. This ensures sufficient detail and depth of study. It enables provision to be made that ensures the Local Plan interprets and supports the wider strategic aims of the government, but still gives proper consideration to examining localised land use provision and issues to enable the town’s resources to best meet the needs of the local communities.
2.1.2 The following have been given particular consideration:
  a) National Strategy;
  b) National Planning Policy Guidance;
  c) Regional Planning Guidance;
  d) Essex and Southend-on-Sea Replacement Structure Plan;
  e) Background papers, strategies and plans by Harlow District Council and other relevant bodies.
 
2.2 National Strategy
   
2.2.1 The principle of sustainability is at the core of the Government’s policies and strategy for the environment. It is thus at the heart of planning. It focuses on the simple idea of providing a better quality of life for everyone, both now and for generations to come.
2.2.2 The Local Plan has an important role in encouraging sustainable and environmentally sound development, therefore fitting into the overall strategy that all levels of governance strive towards. This is embodied in the broad national guiding objectives of:
  a) Maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment;
  b) Social progress which recognises the needs of everyone;
  c) Effective protection of the environment;
  d) Prudent use of resources.
 
2.3 Planning Green Paper - Delivering a Fundamental Change
   
2.3.1 The Local Plan is the core document that promotes the visions and aims of the Council through land use issues whilst ensuring statutory planning controls and legislation are fully met. However work is being carried out by government to review, change and improve the planning system; these findings are described in the Planning Green Paper ‘Planning: Delivering a Fundamental Change’.
2.3.2 The future implications of the report are that the current development plan hierarchy is proposed to be simplified. The Essex Structure Plan and corresponding local plans may be replaced by a single plan known as the Local Development Framework to be prepared by each district authority in conjunction with a new Community Strategy Plan. Wider strategic planning, it is proposed, will be carried out at the regional level.
2.3.3 The reasons for this are to simplify the plan hierarchy, making it more responsive, more flexible, faster to review and amend, and easier to engage business and communities in consultation. This new approach is still in consultation and development and will not start to be implemented for a number of years. Until then the current system that embraces this Local Plan with its statutory role will continue to implement existing government planning guidance at all levels of strategic, geographic and community involvement.
 
2.4 National Planning Policy Guidance
   
2.4.1 The Local Plan has regard and consideration to government’s planning policy which is set out in Planning Policy Guidance Notes, Mineral Planning Guidance Notes, Circulars and other publications such as White Papers. There have been a number of major changes in government policy since the previous Local Plan was adopted. The most fundamental change is the emphasis on sustainability, which has embodied itself significantly in many policy areas of the Local Plan. A specific chapter on sustainable development is also included to relate this to land use planning issues.
 
2.5 Regional Planning Guidance for the South East
   
2.5.1 The Government, in March 2001, published the current Regional Planning Guidance (RPG) for the South East. The key themes of the guidance are:
  a) Promoting urban renaissance;
  b) Economy in the use of land;
  c) Integrating land use and transport.
2.5.2 This affects Harlow and its Local Plan policies in the major areas of housing provision and distribution, transport strategy, regeneration and employment.
2.5.3 The Structure Plan, to which the Replacement Local Plan has to conform, has been prepared in the context of Regional Planning Guidance for the South East 9 (RPG9) issued in March 1994, and it is the housing figures in that RPG which forms the basis for the Adopted Structure Plan. The 1994 RPG proposed a County wide rate of 5,333 dwellings a year to 2006 and indicated that this rate should remain unchanged to 2011. The latest RPG9 issued in March 2001 states that Essex should provide on average 5,240 new dwellings each year until such time as a different rate is set in a review.
2.5.4 RPG has significant implications for transport planning. The car will no longer be accepted as the only realistic means of mobility. Decisions relating to design, and the spatial distribution and mix of land use, need to underpin and enhance the viability of passenger transport. The delivery of this through a high quality, integrated transport system is set out in the Regional Transport Strategy.
2.5.5 Harlow has been designated by the RPG as a Priority Area for Economic Regeneration (PAER). Harlow is listed in the top quarter of the government’s index of deprivation and is the most deprived former New Town in the south-east. This presents the opportunity for securing partnership funding for regeneration initiatives and programmes across the District.
2.5.6 There are a number of significant studies currently being undertaken such as the London-Stansted-Cambridge Study, emerging Regional Planning Guidance, SERAS, and related studies. These matters have yet to be finalised and are for the period to 2021. They will be reflected in the Local Development Document which will replace the Local Plan and roll it forward to 2021.
 
2.6 Replacement Essex Structure Plan
   
2.6.1 The content of the Local Plan is closely linked and influenced by the Essex and Southend-on-Sea Replacement Structure Plan (Structure Plan), adopted April 2001. The Structure Plan forms one part of the development plan for Harlow, providing strategic, county-wide policies. This Local Plan complements and expands on the Structure Plan, rather than duplicating it.
2.6.2 The Structure Plan specifies the allocations that each district should meet for additional housing and employment development. For Harlow the adopted Structure Plan proposes:
  a) 5,450 houses should be developed in Harlow over the period 1996-2011;
  b) 50 hectares of employment land should be provided for development in the period 1996-2011;
  c) Harlow town centre has a role of sub-regional importance and is suitable for large scale office development.
2.6.3 These quotas are further explained within the relevant chapters of the Local Plan, together with indicating the land identified for such development.
 
2.7 Essex and Southend-on-Sea Minerals Plan and Waste Plan
   
2.7.1 The Minerals Plan deals with matters such as sand and gravel extraction, whilst the Waste Plan addresses the planning issues related to the disposal of waste including landfill, recycling sites and energy recovery site. These plans form another part of the development plan for Harlow. The Local Plan does not duplicate the Minerals Plan or Waste Plan.
 
2.8 Background Papers, Strategies and Plans
   
2.8.1 The Local Plan has drawn on information gained through surveys and studies from a wide range of sources. These examine more explicitly issues relating to Harlow and provide sufficient detail and depth for the preparation of the Local Plan. These include:
  a) Employment Land Availability;
  b) Harlow Area Transportation Strategy (HATS);
  c) Housing Needs Survey;
  d) Playing Fields Assessment;
  e) Residential Land Availability;
  f) Retail Frontages;
  g) Sustainability Appraisal;
  h) Town Centre Strategy;
  i) Urban Capacity Study;
  j) Wildlife sites.
2.8.2 There are many issues that have been addressed by other organisations or agencies, or by other functions of the Council. The Local Plan reflects the land use aspects of other such strategies and plans. These include the:
  a) Community Strategy, Harlow 2020 Vision;
  b) Local Transport Plan;
  c) Local Agenda 21;
  d) Biodiversity Action Plan;
  e) Economic Development Strategies;
  f) Housing Strategy;
  g) Health;
  h) State of Play;
  i) Cultural Strategy for Harlow;
  j) Crime and Disorder Strategy;
  k) Regional Economic Strategy.
   
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