What are the key ingredients of a New Settlement?
A new settlement is unlikely to be located where there is sufficient existing infrastructure in place and will therefore need to provide for its own requirements in relation to:
- Sustainable transport links within the site and to key destinations within the region (bus routes, new railway station, cycle and pedestrian connections)
- Utilities (water, sewerage, electricity, gas (although this is fading out) and broadband)
- Access to jobs (either on site or sustainable connections to employment areas)
- Access to services and facilities within the site (shops, doctor surgery, dentist, community centre)
- Sustainable connections to larger services and facilities off-site
- Open space and recreation including sports pitches, play areas and parks
In order to deliver the above, sites will need to include either a significant quantum of homes or a significant quantum of employment, or a mixture of both. The scale required will depend upon the level of investment required. For example, if a new railway station is required, or a significant stretch of strategic road is needed, the investment is likely to be much higher. In order to attract this investment the scale of the new settlement will need to increase. Whilst there is Government funding available, this can be challenging to access and is unlikely to cover the full cost of infrastructure.
The aim of a new settlement in planning terms is to deliver a new community that can fulfil the majority of its day to day needs within the settlement itself, without a need to travel. In order to ensure their sustainability, new settlements need to provide access to employment opportunities. The increase in working from home assists greatly in meeting this objective. However, not everyone will wish to work from their home or have the space to do so. New settlements therefore may need to consider how new hybrid working will impact the requirements of their residents; are live/work units needed, could there be shared office space in the Local Centre?
An important part of reducing car trips is to ensure that education is provided for within a new settlement. Primary schools should be easily accessible by sustainable modes of transport (meaning that large new settlements may require multiple primary schools). Ideally a secondary school should be provided also to ensure increased internalisation. It is important that the Local Authority is committed to bringing forward these schools within the new settlement and that school openings are carefully aligned with the phasing of the development. If the schools open too early, there will be insufficient pupils meaning children outside the settlement will be brought in. Similarly, if the schools open too late, the new settlement pupils will be forced to travel outside the site (perhaps some distance) to school.
New settlements require careful planning and on-going collaboration between the promoter/land owner and the Local Authority. In our experience working on Land at the former Basingstoke Golf Course, which forms part of a new settlement to the south west of Basingstoke, we have found that collaboration between the applicant and the Council is an essential part of progressing the site. It is therefore important that strong relationships are forged at the site promotion stage with the Local Authority. Over time the Local Members and existing local residents should also be involved in the process.