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Chapter 6
HOUSING
 
6.1 Objectives
   
  1. To allocate sufficient land to meet the housing requirements in the Structure Plan. The requirement includes allocated sites, conversions, demolitions, changes of use and predicted windfalls.
  2. To identify vacant, poorly used and under used land and property, such as vacant commercial buildings or housing above shops.
  3. To ensure that new residential development is sustainable, of high quality, uses land efficiently and where achievable incorporates a mix of uses. Where possible sites will be close to the Town Centre or public transport nodes. If this is not possible, public transport accessibility will be planned into any new residential development.
  4. To release residential land on a sequential basis, so that land which has previously been developed is used before green field land.
  5. To ensure that on allocated residential sites provision is made for a range and mix of dwelling types and sizes to meet the needs of all sectors of the Harlow community, including affordable housing, and special needs housing to create a mixed community.
 
6.2 Introduction
   
6.2.1 The Local Plan aims to ensure that an adequate supply of housing land is available to meet Harlow’s needs as set out in the Structure Plan.
6.2.2 In particular the Local Plan aims to ensure that everyone has the opportunity of a decent home, by meeting the housing needs of all sectors of the community in a sustainable manner.
6.2.3 Essex County Council has allocated 5,450 new dwellings up to 2011 to Harlow. Government guidance requires the Council to build on previously developed land in the first instance. The Council have commissioned consultants to carry out an “Urban Capacity Study” to look at how the existing urban fabric of the town can contribute to satisfying housing needs. Guidance also requires that the housing sites identified should not be significantly more than that is required in the Structure Plan and to ensure that housing development is closely monitored. This is known as “Plan, Monitor, and Manage”, and is a move away from the previous “Predict and Provide”.
6.2.4 The housing allocation in the Adopted 1995 Local Plan has now been met and part of that allocation now contributes to this requirement in the Local Plan. The requirement from the Structure Plan has to be catered for in a sustainable fashion, meet the housing requirements of government guidance, and the aspirations of local people.
 
6.3 Meeting the Housing Needs
   
6.3.1 The Structure Plan allocates 5,450 new dwellings to Harlow for 1996-2011. Between 1996 and 2003, 2,758 dwellings were completed with a further 651 with planning permission (committed) as calculated at April 2003. Based on these figures land will have to be allocated for an additional 2,041 dwellings between 2003 and 2011.
6.3.2 New housing sites allocated will have to take into consideration the objectives set out in the Introduction above.
6.3.3 Sites have been identified as part of the Urban Capacity Study, prepared independently by consultants during 2001 (with the Town Centre surveyed early 2002). This study is based on guidelines consistent throughout all the districts in Essex. In undertaking the study close attention has been paid to the government publication “Tapping the Potential – Assessing urban housing capacity”. The Urban Capacity Study is a supporting technical document to the Local Plan.
6.3.4 The study shows there are opportunities to develop previously developed land and other capacity sources in the town which identified a range of 768 to 1,115 dwellings at 35 and 45 dwellings per hectare respectively.  Identified larger sites (10 dwellings or more) have been included as allocations. The remainder of the capacity is assumed to have potential as windfall, to contribute towards development between 2001 and 2011, the progress of which will be a factor in determining the phasing of development.
6.3.5 Government guidance (PPG3) advises that encouragement should be given to housing developments that make efficient use of the land. A density range of between 30 (dphn) and 50 (dphn) and in some instances higher (for example town centre or neighbourhood centre) will be sought, although this should be compatible with the character of the area and urban design policies and guidance. A high quality of design and layout must be maintained within high density development, and the character of the surrounding area must not be compromised.
 
 
H1 To avoid the inefficient use of land new residential development should be built at a density of 30 dwellings per hectare net or more.
 
6.4 Housing Allocations
   
6.4.1 The Structure Plan allocated 5,450 dwellings to Harlow between 1996 and 2011. Provision at 1st April 2003 is calculated as follows:
 
Dwellings
a Structure Plan Requirement 1996 – 2011 5,450
b Net Completions 1996 – 2003 2,758
c Structure Plan Requirement 2003 – 2011 (a)-(b) 2,692
d Commitments at April 2003 651
e Total Allocation required (c)-(d) 2,041
6.4.2 To achieve the allocation required a number of sites have been identified which are set out in Policy H2.
 
 
H2 The following sites of 10 or more dwellings net are identified to meet the housing requirement between 1st April 2003 and 31st March 2011
 
  Site
(Note 1)
Area
(Ha)
Indicative Site Capacity (Note 2) Indicative
Density
dph
      Gross
(Note3)
Net  
H2/1 Harlow Sport Centre 11.4 530 530 46
H2/2 Harlow Swimming Pool 1.3 60 60 45
H2/3 Old Harlow Area of Opportunity 1.0 25 25 25
H2/4 Faircroft Little Bays 0.6 27 20 45
H2/5 Northbrooks Regeneration Area 10.5 420 53 40
H2/6 Sherards House 0.4 18 10 40
H2/7 Rye Croft Garage Site 0.4 14 14 35
H2/8 Marshgate Farm Depot 0.5 10 10 20
H2/9 Newhall 25.0 750 750 30
Average
H2/10 Wych Elm 0.99 110 110 111
H2/11 Ram Gorse Playing Field 3.7 110 110 30
    SUB TOTAL 1692
  Urban Capacity Study Windfall (note4)   400 400 40
    TOTAL 2092  
  Note:
 
  1. Only sites with an estimated capacity greater than 10 units are allocated.
  2. The indicative capacities do not reflect a maximum for the site.
  3. Gross is the total number of dwellings on a site. Net dwellings are the change in number of dwellings when losses are taken into account. A positive figure indicates an increase in dwelling stock.
  4. Windfall estimate of 50 dwellings per annum
   
6.4.3 In addition to the planning requirements that will need to be met to comply with the other policies in the Local Plan there are specific requirements on some of the above sites which need to be taken into consideration when an application is made.
6.4.4 The development of Harlow Sport Centre will require all current leisure uses to be replaced either at Harlow College, at other allocated sites or at other appropriate locations to ensure that the range of leisure provision is maintained. The children’s nursery will also need to be replaced either within the site, if it cannot remain at the current location, or at another appropriate location. Developers will be required to prepare a Development Brief to guide development and set out how the developer will address Local Plan policy requirements.
6.4.5 In the case of Harlow swimming pool, the nearby nursery within the park will need to be either relocated within the site or at another appropriate site close by. This will enable the removal of an intrusive building within the park and achieve an enhanced nursery provision for the existing users and the new inhabitants. Developers will be required to prepare a Development Brief to guide development and set out how the developer will address local plan policy requirements. The Development Brief will need to take into consideration the importance of the site as a backdrop to the Town Park and address the issue that the existing car park is used by the park users.
6.4.6 In the case of Faircroft Little Bays and Sherards House consideration will need to be given as to whether it is appropriate to retain the existing houses. Faircroft Little Bays has been identified as a key development in the Old Harlow Area of Opportunity. It is therefore expected that the development of this site, along with Sherards House, will help facilitate environmental improvements and the restructuring of the land uses within the area. Due to the character, setting and nature of the Old Harlow Area of Opportunity, a housing density below that expected in PPG3 is sought.
6.4.7 A Master Plan shall be prepared for the Northbrooks Regeneration Area to secure planned redevelopment and regeneration for the benefit of the local community. It will set out how the developer will address the Local Plan policy requirements.
6.4.8 The development at Rye Croft Garage site will need to take into consideration the parking requirements of the properties fronting or backing onto this area and provide appropriate alternative facilities for those occupying the garages. The development at Marshgate Farm will be expected to be within the existing walls of the site and not to be any higher than the existing buildings because the site is in a sensitive location at the edge of the park. Due to the character, setting and nature of this site, a housing density below that expected in PPG3 is sought. A Development Brief shall be prepared to guide development on this site.
6.4.9 The ground floor of the Wych Elm allocation will consist of commercial development. The design of the buildings should establish and enhance the links with town centre, reflect its prominent location and help contribute to the overall regeneration of the area. It should take into account any emerging guidance on the redevelopment of the town centre and help contribute to the overall strategy.
6.4.10 The allocation of Ram Gorse for housing will result in the displacement the rugby club. To ensure the requirements of PPG17 are met suitable replacement facilities are required before the housing development commences. Development of the playing field at Ram Gorse should be designed to ensure that the character and views of St. Mary’s Church are preserved.
6.4.11 The Urban Capacity Study has indicated, in addition to the allocated sites that windfall dwellings will come forward. The number of these windfall dwellings is expected to be around 400 based on the findings of the Local Public Inquiry.
6.4.12 If the previously developed sites identified in Policy H2 come forward and the windfall sites in the Urban Capacity Study, the dwelling potential for the town on previously developed land would be 1202 units. Therefore 750 dwellings at Newhall, and 110 dwellings at Ram Gorse are required to be developed in this Local Plan period.
6.4.13 The Urban Capacity Study indicates that around 650 windfall dwellings may come forward in the period up to 2011. However, when balancing local characteristics and the unpredictable increase in these dwellings, windfall development in the town is anticipated to be around 50 dwellings per annum. This will achieve 400 dwellings between 2003 – 2011. PPG3 expects that Urban Capacity Study identified sites will encourage more potential to come forward. The figure therefore from the Urban Capacity Study has been used.
6.4.14 Policies in the Local Plan aim to maximise the potential of previously developed land. Local Plan allocations will be continuously monitored, updated and rolled forward after five years.
 
6.5 Strategic Housing Site
   
6.5.1 Government Guidance (PPG3) recognises that strategic housing sites on green fields, due to the lead in time, are unlike other green field sites and can be developed before previously developed land housing allocations are completed. However a balance between the previously developed and green field allocations needs to be maintained to achieve the government target of 60% of housing completions on previously developed land.
6.5.2 Newhall is designated a Strategic Housing Site as it is an essential part of the strategy to meet housing requirements in Harlow. To maintain continuity of the development at Newhall, a Master Plan will need to be prepared.
6.5.3 To provide the developers of the Newhall Strategic Housing site with an assurance that the Council are committed to the long term development of the area and to provide certainty for the determination of planning applications, the Proposals Map indicates a boundary of land committed for development beyond this plan period.
 
 
H3 Land is shown on the Proposals Map for the further development of the new neighbourhood of Newhall. This land will not be released for development until after 2011, or until it is shown as an allocation in the Local Development Document whichever be the earlier.
 
6.6 Housing Needs
   
6.6.1 Everyone should have the opportunity of a decent home. This phrase underlines the main thrust of government housing policy and is fully supported by the Council.
6.6.2 New housing areas will be required to have a mix of housing types for all sectors of society. For example, there will be a requirement for different tenures, different house sizes, affordable homes, homes for elderly people with mobility difficulties and supported housing. This accords with the existing new town which was planned with a housing mix. The larger housing areas should include the opportunity for providing mixed use, employment and retail that are compatible with residential areas; this is addressed in the Sustainable Development Chapter.
 
6.7 Housing Types
   
6.7.1 Government Guidance (PPG3) states that Local Authorities should secure a mix of dwelling type and size. The Housing Needs Survey identifies that existing households in housing need show some quite distinct characteristics that are:
  a) Households living in a flat or maisonette are disproportionately in need;
  b) Over half of all households in need live in terraced accommodation;
  c) Households with 3 or more children were disproportionately found to be in need whilst just over 40% of all households in need contain 2 or more adults with no children;
  d) Households requiring larger (i.e. 4 or more bedrooms) accommodation are noticeably more likely to be in need than the population as a whole;
  e) Almost 56% of households in need require one-bedroom properties.
6.7.2 The survey shows that there is a requirement for one-bedroom properties for those in need, and developers should incorporate this type of housing. However, it is important to ensure that there is a mix of house types, to cater for all sections of the community.
 
 
H4 New housing development and conversions will be required to accommodate a range of dwelling types which reflect the housing need requirements for Harlow.
 
6.8 Affordable Housing
   
6.8.1 A Housing Needs Survey has been undertaken by consultants to identify the type of housing required in the town. The 1999 Housing Needs Survey undertaken by Fordham Research Limited is a supporting document to the Local Plan.
6.8.2 Fordham concluded that for the five year period 1999 to 2004 around 825 additional affordable dwellings would be required to meet Harlow’s needs. This equates to 165 dwellings per annum. Over the remainder of the Local Plan period 1320 affordable homes would be required to meet the need in full. This comprises some 63% of the total 2,041 allocation. The Council therefore needs to maximise the number of affordable dwellings, within the guidelines set out by government in PPG3 and Circular 06/98 “Planning and Affordable Housing”
6.8.3  Councils are encouraged by government advice to set targets for the proportion of affordable housing which they will seek from house builders and landowners on qualifying sites. Up to date housing need assessments will indicate the proportion of low cost market housing and subsidised housing, which can have a role to play in meeting housing need in Harlow.
6.8.4 Circular 06/98 “Planning and Affordable Housing” sets site thresholds below which a developer does not have to provide affordable housing. In doing this, the Circular does allow Local Authorities to adopt a lower threshold should there be exceptional local constraints. Harlow is an exceptional case as the allocation of housing need of 1320 comprises only 63% of the total allocation of 2092. Applying the 30% requirement there would be a shortfall of around 692affordable dwellings.
6.8.5 However, only seven allocated sites in Policy H2 are 25 dwellings or above, this would provide around 491 affordable dwellings, a shortfall of nearly 829affordable dwellings. To maximise the number of affordable dwellings in a District, where the opportunities are limited, the threshold to which the 30% applies has been reduced to 15 dwellings. This may also increase the affordable housing provision from windfall sites. This requirement increases the number of sites eligible for affordable housing to 9 and the number of affordable houses to 501.
6.8.6 This approach is supported by the Council’s Housing Strategy 2002 to 2006, which has the following Strategic Aims:
    To ensure a growing supply of decent affordable homes within the town that match emerging demands by:
    Maximising new social housing development;
    Making best use of existing social housing;
    Promoting low cost home ownership schemes.
6.8.7 The Council considers that Harlow is an exception and therefore requires affordable houses to be provided on sites of 15 dwellings or 0.5 hectares or more.
 
 
H5 To meet the affordable housing requirement, on residential development sites of 15 or more dwellings or 0.5 of a hectare or more irrespective of the number of dwellings, the Council will negotiate the provision of intermediate housing and/or social rented housing, based on the prevailing housing needs assessment. Negotiations will take into account the economics of provision and site suitability.
  There is a presumption that provision will be made on site. However, in exceptional circumstances and by mutual agreement between the developer and Council, a financial or other contribution may be agreed for provision to be made on another site within the district.
  Note:
 
  1. 30% is a base line for negotiation by the Council.
  2. This policy does not preclude developers providing affordable housing on sites that do not meet this policy’s criterion. The Local Planning Authority will therefore endeavour to achieve affordable dwellings on all sites through negotiation.
   
6.8.8 Affordable housing is defined, as “Housing which is accessible to people whose income does not enable them to afford to buy or rent for their needs on the free housing market The monthly cost of housing should not exceed thirty percent of the household’s net monthly income.”
6.8.9 Intermediate housing is defined, as “Any form of housing that is more expensive than social rented housing but is still cheaper and more affordable than a property of a similar kind on the open market. This may be because either the rent and/or mortgage is set at below market levels.” Social rented housing is defined, as “housing where rents are set and regulated by either the Housing Corporation for registered social landlord stock, or the Local Authority for Local Authority Stock.”  
6.8.10 The table below shows the allocated sites which will provide affordable housing in accordance with policies H5 and H6.
 
 
Table 1 The following allocated sites will provide affordable housing in accordance with Policies H5 and H6:
 
Ref. No. SITE AREA INDICATIVE
NUMBER OF
AFFORDABLE
HOUSES
H2/1 Harlow Sport Centre 11.4 159
H2/2 Harlow Swimming Pool 1.3 18
H2/3 Old Harlow Areas of Opportunity 1.0 8
H2/4 Faircroft Little Bays 0.6 6
H2/5 Northbrooks Regeneration Area 10.5 16
H2/8 Marshgate Farm Depot 0.5 3
H2/9 Newhall 18.0 225
H2/10 Wych Elm 0.99 33
H2/11 Ram Gorse Playing Field 3.7 33
    TOTAL 501
  Note:
 
  1. The figures in the table are an indicative level of provision.
  2. The total number of affordable houses provided may change following monitoring of housing land and negotiation with developers.
   
6.8.11 Where a Registered Social Landlord will not be managing affordable housing, Policy H6 applies to ensure housing remains affordable in perpetuity.
 
 
H6 On housing sites where a Registered Social Landlord will not be involved in the management of affordable housing, housing for successive occupants will be secured by the use of planning obligations. The legal agreement will restrict the occupancy to those who cannot compete in the housing market.
 
6.9 Special Needs Housing
   
6.9.1 Housing provision should be geared towards particular groups in the population that have special needs. These include the elderly, the disabled, single people and the homeless. The Council has increasingly provided for sections of the community requiring specialist dwellings. It will be important that development of this kind is integrated into new housing areas as part of the initial planning. Land designated for housing should include such housing sites located throughout the town, and major new developments should include special needs houses in the dwelling mix. Developers should give consideration to applying Lifetime Home Standards, promoted by Joseph Rowntree Foundation to all new housing developments.
6.9.2 The Housing Needs survey has identified the proportion of people in the town with Special Needs. The survey concluded:
  a) 13.4% of all the District’s households (4,475) contain special needs members. ‘Physically disabled’ is the main category of special needs;
  b) 2,715 (61.6% of special needs housing) households with physically disabled household members;
  c) 1,112 (24.8% of special needs housing) with ‘frail elderly’ household members;
  d) Only 14% of special needs are other categories of special needs;
  e) Special needs households are disproportionately constituted of only one or two persons, which have implications for caring patterns;
  f) A high proportion of households with special needs members are found in the social rented sector (22.2% of Local Authority households and 18.2% of Housing Association households contain special needs members);
  g) Special needs households are characterised by greater than average age, below average household size and income and are more likely to be living in unsuitable housing (and in housing need).
6.9.3 In view of the demonstrated requirement for housing for people with special needs, new housing developments will be required to include provision for them.
 
 
H7 All new housing development proposals will be required to take account of the needs of those with disabilities and special needs.
  The Council will negotiate the provision of housing to meet the requirements of special need groups in order to create a mixed development catering for a variety of housing needs. Negotiations will take into account site suitability, together with the demand for and economics of provision.
   
6.9.4 The Housing Needs Survey identified a requirement for housing for elderly people. The sites identified in Policy H8 are those that it is felt can provide this type of housing in close proximity to community facilities and shops.
 
 
H8 Legal agreements will be required to provide dwellings for elderly people, and other supported housing as part of those developments proposed at:
 
H8/1 Newhall
H8/2 Old Harlow Area of Opportunity
H8/3 Northbrooks Regeneration Area
 
6.10 Provision for Travellers and Travelling Showpeople
   
6.10.1 Essex County Council has two permanent sites within the District, together providing 44 pitches. The Council is not currently seeking to establish further sites for settled occupation. Government advises in Circular 1/94 that authorities should set out clear, realistic criteria for the provision of sites should planning applications arise. Provision should protect local amenity but be appropriate to travellers’ accommodation needs, allowing for ancillary business activity and providing access to services such as shops and schools.
6.10.2 The Council has been approached on a number of occasions by individual travelling showpeople and the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain requesting winter quarters. So far it has not been possible to identify such a site. The following policies and criteria will assist the Council in assessing any proposed sites that may come forward.
 
 
H9 Planning permission will not be granted for residential caravans or mobile homes in locations other than Fern Hill Lane and Flex Meadow, unless the proposal satisfies all of the following criteria:
 
  1. The development proposed is for the stationing of caravans for recognised travelling families and travelling showpersons and/or storage, repair and maintenance of equipment for travelling showpersons;
  2. The development proposed has no adverse impact on the Green Belt, Green Wedge or other identified open space, does not cause harm to the natural environment and does not cause serious harm to the living conditions or operational efficiency of adjoining properties;
  3. The development proposal is made compatible with the character and appearance of the surrounding area through landscaping;
  4. The site is, or can be, adequately screened in a manner in keeping with the character of its surroundings;
  5. The development proposed is not prejudicial to highway safety and efficiency;
  6. The site would offer satisfactory accessibility to local services, in particular primary school, shopping and public transport facilities.
 
6.11 Existing Housing Areas
   
6.11.1 The planned nature of Harlow generally means there are few opportunities for redevelopment or infill in the existing housing areas, except in Old Harlow. Demand for new housing puts pressure on the existing housing stock for conversion or infill developments.
6.11.2 Infill development is generally on previously developed land, and as such is actively encouraged by government guidance. Whilst in itself this is not an issue it is important that the amenities and character of existing residential areas are not compromised and that housing is not lost unnecessarily. Sub-division of existing house plots to provide new dwellings on garden areas can provide extra land for new dwellings. Where there are groups of gardens that might be more efficiently developed together it would not make best use of land if this potential is blocked by a development of one garden in isolation and such proposals will be refused.
 
 
H10 Planning permission for residential infill development, including the sub-division of garden plots, small redevelopment schemes and the development of vacant plots, will be granted if all of the following criteria are met:
 
  1. The development proposal would not have an unacceptable adverse effect on the character of the locality, the appearance of the street scene, or the amenities enjoyed by the occupiers of neighbouring dwellings;
  2. Off-street parking and access arrangements can be provided for both existing and proposed dwellings, in accordance with the Essex Design Guide and adopted Vehicle Parking Standards;
  3. The development proposal does not prejudice the potential for comprehensive development of adjacent land.
   
6.11.3 There are a number of businesses that can be run satisfactorily from home although there are some that can cause annoyance to neighbours. However the growth of information and communication technology is likely to increase the occurrence of home working. The Council will accept the use of part of residential properties for commercial purposes in the interests of improving employment opportunities and promotion of mixed uses for sustainability purposes providing the amenities of neighbouring properties and the wider locality is protected in respect of noise or increased traffic.
 
 
H11 Commercial activities within the curtilage of individual residential properties will be required to meet all the following criteria:
 
  1. The business or non-residential use of the property is ancillary;
  2. The part of the home used for business purposes must not change the overall character of the property used as a dwelling;
  3. Pedestrian or vehicle traffic must not be more than would be expected in a residential area and to the property in particular;
  4. There must be no noise or nuisance which will adversely affect the amenities enjoyed by the occupiers of neighbouring or nearby dwellings;
  The use will not give rise to the bulk storage of materials associated with the approved use within the curtilage of the dwelling.
   
6.11.4 Conversion of existing dwellings can be a valuable source of affordable dwellings for small households to rent or purchase. Government guidance (PPG3) recognises the contribution that conversions can make to the housing stock. Converted dwellings can be adapted to help meet the requirements of special needs groups such as elderly people or disabled people.
 
 
H12 Planning permission will be granted for the conversion or adaptation of dwellings to provide separate units of accommodation. Where separate units are to be formed, all the following criteria must be met:
 
  1. Each unit must be self-contained with its own entrance off a common area, and with its own bathroom, w.c., kitchen, and dustbin store;
  2. The development proposal must comply with the principles of the Essex Design Guide for Residential and Mixed Use Areas and adopted Vehicle Parking Standards and Supplementary Planning Guidance;
  3. Conversions for people with disabilities should be built to mobility standards.
   
6.11.5 To meet the dwelling allocation in the Structure Plan losses of dwelling stock is generally discouraged. The retention of existing housing or land in residential use is therefore desirable. However, government guidance (PPG3) supports more efficient use of existing residential areas and regeneration. Consequently there may be instances where demolition of houses may open up a new area for development or development at higher density.
 
 
H13 Planning permission for development proposals, including the demolition of satisfactory residential accommodation, or a change of use of buildings or land in residential use, or allocated for residential development, will be granted if one of the following criteria is met:
 
  1. The proposal will facilitate the development of additional housing, or redevelopment at a higher density except where the development proposal facilitates regeneration;
  2. The change of use is necessary to secure the preservation of a threatened listed building;
  3. The existing building is unfit (i.e. statutorily unfit for human habitation) or substandard (i.e. not unfit but lacking in one or more of the five basic amenities) and cannot be economically improved and brought into housing use;
  4. The development proposed is essential for providing/supporting public open space;
  5. The development proposed is essential for providing new public amenities.
   
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