A Local Plan that ensures good growth for Bristol

Bristol's skyline is pictured, with cranes and building seen in the foreground.

When most people think about “planning”, they think about individual decisions right at the end of a planning process including architects, lawyers and councillors.

Bristol’s new draft Local Plan, published today, represents the very beginning of that process. A Local Plan is a blueprint for a city’s future and sets out the policies which individual applications are then assessed against. It is a guide for the delivery of a wide range of development in the city and a spotlight to where new homes and future jobs, as well as health and energy infrastructure, would be best located.

Our new draft Local Plan has been published ahead of a Full Council meeting on the 31 October. The meeting will be asked to agree for the plan to proceed to a full public consultation, which will get the views of local residents and the sectors involved with development. Then next year it would go to the government’s Planning Inspectorate to carefully review the evidence that our approach is based on. Once adopted after that by Full Council next year, it would replace the current plan agreed in 2014.

Writing and refreshing an entire city’s Local Plan is a long, detailed process and the new plan has been worked on for several years. A cross-party working group led by Cllr Nicola Beech, my Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, Resilience, and Floods, has been closely involved and helped to shape the proposed plan that is coming to Full Council at the end of the month.

Bristol is a rapidly growing city. As one of the fastest growing areas in England and Wales, our population has grown by 10% in the last decade. We have 42 square miles and aren’t getting any more land. We have 20,000 households on the housing waiting list and 1,300 in temporary accommodation. We anticipate our population reaching 550,000 by 2050. Building more homes, and even more affordable and social housing, is key to meeting this demand and continuing to tackle the housing crisis. That is at the heart of the plan, which would help deliver 34,650 new homes by 2040.

Bristol desperately need a Local Plan to make sure we grow well, with local communities benefiting from the change happening on their doorstep. Regeneration should bring city-wide benefits so that everyone can thrive and to ensure these changes are as positive as possible, we have a vision to create vibrant communities with sustainable, inclusive economic growth. Quality affordable homes and job opportunities must be in locations where we can have reliable, frequent public transport connections and be within walking and cycling routes.

As part of a growing economy, new commercial space forms a vital part of the new draft Local Plan, providing businesses with the space to expand and create excellent jobs and attract outside investment. This would include new offices and industrial buildings. The plan also expects proposals for all forms of workspace to make efficient use of land set for commercial development.

Environmentally sustainable growth is essential as we tackle the climate and ecological emergencies. Every home that is not built on brownfield land will increase pressure on all our other priorities, including nature. So, we must build to maximise efficiency, recycling previously used brownfield land rather than greenfield land, prioritising active travel.

Updating the Local Plan is an opportunity to refresh our standards in line with more modern building techniques. The plan means that homes and buildings constructed will be required to be built to high standards of energy efficiency and maximising on-site generation of renewable energy. Buildings and designs would be expected to minimise the inherent carbon in conventional buildings and make efficient use of natural resources.

We must have an up to date Local Plan to guide the development of our future city, and be purposeful about where best to locate homes, employment and leisure space. If a plan is out of date, developers can challenge and overrule existing allocations in favour of their own approach, maybe preferring cheaper greenfield development sites. Development can spiral in a haphazard way which builds in private car dependency, or even social isolation.

We don’t believe in leaving our city’s future to markets and quasi-judicial processes. It is our job to make sure these processes work for the ends we want which is why we must have a new, robust, and ambitious Local Plan for Bristol.