Rhondda Cynon Taf Revised Local Development Plan 2022 - 2037 Preferred Strategy

Ended on the 17 April 2024

Section 7 – Spatial Strategy Options


7.1.1 As well as determining how much RCT needs to grow, another crucial element of the Preferred Strategy is where this growth will be accommodated. Although housing is an essential element of the plan, the overall growth considered through the Preferred Strategy is not limited to just homes but also to economic and social development over the plan period.

7.1.2 When developing the Spatial Strategy Options for the RLDP, many factors were considered. Firstly, the spatial options had to accord with national policy, such as the NDF and Planning Policy Wales, which sets out the 'gateway test' in which plans and proposals must be assessed against the strategic and spatial choices issues and the national sustainable placemaking outcomes. This key gateway test ensures that important issues are explored with opportunities identified, along with potential mitigation measures.

7.1.3 The spatial options also have to move in the same direction as other local policy and strategy. These include the Well-being Plan, the RCT Corporate Plan and multiple other strategy documents.

7.1.4 Further, in order to develop the Spatial Strategy Options, the performance of the current LDP was taken into account. This provided excellent evidence of what elements of the previous spatial strategy had worked, what had not and what should be considered to be changed. This was achieved through the analysis of the Annual Monitoring Reports and the LDP Review Report, which shows where development has occurred and is being delivered.

7.1.5 During the visioning and engagement processes mentioned earlier (and in considerable detail in the accompanying evidence base documents of the Pre-Deposit Consultation Report and the Vision, Issues and Objectives Paper) a number of specific location-based issues were identified. These were used to inform the development of the Spatial Strategy Options for the Preferred Strategy, which in turn has to deliver the Vision and Objectives of the RLDP.

7.1.6 Other sources of background and evidence that informed the Spatial options included:

  • Candidate Sites submitted and Candidate Site Methodology
  • The Settlement Hierarchy and Assessment Paper
  • The Urban Capacity Study
  • The Growth Options Paper
  • The Housing Supply Paper
  • The Employment Land Review
  • The Viability Reports
  • The Local Housing Market assessment
  • The Housing Strategy
  • The Transport Modelling Study

7.1.7 Also considered is what is evolving on the ground and what could be derived from them; such as the significant investment and development of the South Wales Metro, the growth in the tourism industry and the changing nature of the town centres.

7.1.8 A series of Spatial Strategy Options were formulated based on all the above, concluding with the following:

  • Option 1: Continuation of the Current LDP Strategy
  • Option 2: Strategic Highway Network considering the Principal Settlements
  • Option 3: Town Centre First
  • Option 4: Southern Growth Strategy
  • Option 5: Metro and Public Transport Nodes
  • Option 6: Key Strategic Site in the South
  • Option 7: Urban Containment
  • Option 8: Local Needs Strategy

7.1.9 A comprehensive description, analysis and assessment of these options can be found in the Spatial Strategy Options Paper.

Background to the Spatial Strategy Options and their Assessment

7.1.10 All options were considered and assessed against the comprehensive evidence base as listed above. However, a key determining factor was the deliverability of each option, particularly in terms of the scale of land availability. While brownfield-only development in existing urban centres/areas may perform well in sustainability terms; if the approach cannot deliver the required amount of housing and commercial land, it is not realistic.

7.1.11 The Spatial Strategy Options are intrinsically linked with the Growth Option Paper and its requirements and conclusions. Failing to deliver the required jobs and homes would also negatively impact upon RCT. It may result in higher levels of trip generation as people are forced to live and work further apart. Therefore, a key challenge for RCT is to balance sustainability aspirations with the realistic deliverability of development under each option, bearing in mind the attractiveness of the southern area to developers compared with the north. The Housing Supply Paper, which considers the landbank of available housing land; the Candidate Sites that have gone through early assessments; and the Windfall Sites analysis, also heavily influences the decisions on options.

7.1.12 The Spatial Strategy Options were further considered against the Integrated Sustainability Appraisal (ISA), which used the ISA objectives for assessment. The full results of this process can be found in the ISA of Spatial Options Paper. Overall, the ISA identified a wide range of positive and negative effects across the options. Further RLDP objectives were also considered against the options.

7.1.13 Another key factor in terms of deliverability of options is the market viability of different parts of the County Borough. High-level viability assessment, in the Viability Reports was commissioned to provide information on viability/market areas to inform the RLDP.

Option 1: Continuation of the current LDP Strategy

7.1.14 The current LDP strategy is a hybrid strategy, which provides development in locations that meet local needs whilst promoting sustainable growth. The strategy area is divided into two distinct parts, North and South where a different policy approach is taken for each. Development in the current strategy is focussed around the Principal Towns and Key Settlements, as set out in the Settlement Hierarchy, whilst also allocating large scale mixed-use development on eight Strategic Sites.

7.1.15 It is clear from the monitoring of the LDP that some elements of this strategy have worked and others have not. The current Strategy has seen a considerable 7,784 new houses built during the plan period. A total of 3,050 dwellings were built in the Northern Strategy Area and 4,734 in the Southern Strategy Area. However, this was only just over half of the allocated amount.

7.1.16 The completion rate on all allocations was low, (both housing and employment) and particularly so on a number of Strategic Sites that were heavily relied upon for delivery. Development has continued in earnest on the Llanilid site in recent years and development has occurred on the employment element of Robertstown/Abernant and preparation of the employment element at Land South of Hirwaun. Recent advancements should see further development on Mwyndy/Talbot Green and Abernant in the near future. The fact remains that at least three brownfield Strategic Sites cannot currently be relied upon for high-density development. The Strategy has however seen substantial development on non-allocated/windfall sites, particularly brownfield sites that have contributed greatly to the objectives of the LDP and its policies. This has also been witnessed with regards to commercial development and redevelopment within existing employment sites.

7.1.17 In assessing this option, the north/south split element and intentions of the Strategy are still relevant, alongside the settlement hierarchy. This current Strategy may not be fully appropriate to be taken forward in its entirety, although there are clear positive elements that should remain.

Option 2: Strategic Highway Network considering the Principal Settlements

7.1.18 This option proposes development in those parts of the County Borough that benefit the most from their proximity to the M4, A470 and A465 corridors. This generally aligns with the Principal Settlements of Talbot Green/Pontyclun/Llantrisant, Pontypridd and Aberdare, being at the head of the Settlement Hierarchy.

7.1.19 To a certain extent, this could be classed as an option, which further promotes car use as it is based around the strategic highway network. This of course would not be in line with national policy, which promotes a modal shift away from car-based development. However rather than just a car-based strategy, it seeks to expand the ongoing regeneration in and around these Principal Settlement corridors. This includes the boost in tourism in the northern Cynon Valley, the regeneration seen in Pontypridd and the market demand in the Taff Ely area. With regards to the A465 'Heads of the Valleys' road in particular, the considerable investment by the Welsh Government in the northern valleys corridor was intended to increase economic prosperity in this sub-region. This is clearly something that the RLDP must maximise the benefits of, which should include general economic growth and the strengthening of the evolving tourism economy in the north of RCT.

Option 3: Town Centre First

7.1.20 This option seeks a town centre first approach to the location of development, with a sequential approach used. It identifies development sites which are in close proximity to the Principal Settlements and Key Settlements, as set out in the Settlement Hierarchy. This option promotes sustainable travel by locating development close to public transport and close to employment opportunities, services and facilities to achieve sustainable living and modal shift.

7.1.21 This option would clearly accord with national policy and fit in with the wider Settlement Hierarchy. It is very sustainable, being close to facilities whilst it would be an efficient use of land and minimise the need to travel. Thus providing sustainable transport options, when transport is required. It would also support the continued regeneration of RCT's town centres. However, it is very apparent that there is not enough suitable land to achieve the objectives of the RLDP, and in particular the necessary scale of development growth, with this strategy option alone. A Town Centre First approach, as set out in national policy, should always be a strong premise in an LDP and should be set out in the plan's policies. In particular, the Urban Capacity Study evidence base document indicates the limitations of this option.

Option 4: Southern Growth Strategy

7.1.22 This strategy option focuses on locating growth in the southern area of RCT (Taff Ely area) with a particular focus on the M4 corridor. The key elements of this option are to locate the majority of growth in the south, which would require greenfield release. This would see limited growth in the northern areas, which would just accommodate local need.

7.1.23 The major benefit with this option is that it can deliver the required level of growth and has a proven track record of delivery, whilst also being an area of demand that is viable. This option would allow the ability to improve community and other infrastructure and could deliver more affordable housing. This area of RCT is more limited in public transport infrastructure and some areas are not very sustainable.

Option 5: Metro and Public Transport Nodes

7.1.24 This option would focus development around public transport hubs, corridors and existing stations and maximise development within walking or cycling distance to Metro stations and hubs, which in general accords with the Settlement Hierarchy. It would seek growth in those areas best served by public transport and reduce the need to travel by private vehicle.

7.1.25 This would have significant, positive effects associated with sustainable and active modes of travel and providing access to jobs without being so reliant on car use; ultimately reducing the need to travel. The reasonably dispersed development that would occur under this option would also have positive effects in terms of stimulating regeneration in different parts of the County Borough, as well as supporting retail and commercial centres. However, it is very apparent that there is not enough suitable land to achieve the objectives of the RLDP, and in particular the scale of growth, with this strategy option alone.

Option 6: Key Strategic Site in the South

7.1.26 This option would see the allocation of a large Key Site in the south of the County Borough, which would accommodate a significant majority of the new housing and other development over the plan period supported by smaller allocations spread through the County Borough to address local need.

7.1.27 By allocating a Key Site in the south, which has a proven track record of delivery, it is likely that this option would deliver the majority of the growth needed for the plan period. By allocating a larger site it would be possible to deliver a mix of uses and to include appropriate infrastructure and facilities. Sustainability in some areas is a concern, as is limited public transport. There is also the risk with a large site that the delivery may be slower than multiple smaller sites. Furthermore, if a larger site fails to deliver, it will likely lead to the strategy not being met.

Option 7: Urban Containment

7.1.28 This strategy option seeks to deliver growth within the current urban area without the need to release new land for development. The key elements of this strategy seek to support the re use, conversion and redevelopment of empty, underused and derelict properties and land (i.e. development on brownfield land) within current settlement limits. The strategy would also be supported by windfall releases and current committed sites and follows the pattern of the Settlement Hierarchy.

7.1.29 This would have significant positive effects associated with facilitating more use of sustainable and active modes of travel within the existing communities. The reasonably dispersed development that would occur under this option would also have positive effects in terms of stimulating regeneration in different parts of the County Borough. It would also offer good opportunities for using brownfield land and delivering development close to existing services, facilities and transport links. However the strategy option would result in overall lower levels of growth, notwithstanding the fact that there is not sufficient land available to deliver this option.

Option 8: Local Needs Strategy

7.1.30 This option is based on the principle of addressing the needs of each individual settlement, which would result in a dispersed form of growth across RCT. This would result in proportionate development allocations to reflect the size and scale of associated settlements along with the affordable and market housing need.

7.1.31 This option would see growth where it is needed, which would reduce the pressure on other areas of RCT.

7.1.32 Given that future development would be within existing settlements, the option would have significant positive effects associated with more use of sustainable and active modes of travel and reduction of car use. The reasonably dispersed development that would occur under this option would also have positive effects in terms of stimulating regeneration in different parts of the County Borough. However there is not sufficient land to deliver the required growth in many of the areas of need. Viability in some of these areas would also reduce the likelihood of sufficient delivery of affordable housing.

Potential Preferred Spatial Strategy

7.1.33 In conclusion, the analysis of these options highlight that there are very positive aspects to each one. However, no single option would be appropriate on its own to meet the necessary levels of growth, and the breadth of the Vision and Objectives of the RLDP.

7.1.34 However, it has been determined that the fundamental elements of the current LDP Spatial Strategy remain appropriate, as a sound foundation for the Revised LDP. The evidence base suggests that there remains a clear need for the continuation of a distinct difference in strategy approach for the north and the south of the County Borough.

7.1.35 The scale of growth that can be accommodated in the south over the whole plan period is shown to be greater than in the north; and at a scale that is necessary to meet our required housing and employment needs. Although there are more known opportunities for housing growth in the initial part of the plan period, the northern area would need to benefit from a varied approach to delivering growth over the whole plan period.

7.1.36 Nevertheless, in considering the evidence that has informed the Spatial Strategy Options, and the analysis of them; the positive aspects of each option would contribute to meeting the objectives of the LDP, and the distinct requirements and characteristics of the northern and southern parts of the County Borough.

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