"Early engagement is the key to successful planning outcomes."

Cllr Toby Savage, leader of South Gloucestershire Council, was special guest speaker at MPC’s breakfast briefing yesterday morning. Cllr Savage gave a thought-provoking speech on the current development landscape in South Gloucestershire, followed by a question and answer session, in which there was certainly no shortage of questions from the large number of attendees present.

Cllr Savage gave a brief update on the state of the West of England Joint Spatial Plan (JSP), which is still on track to go to inspection in late May. The JSP has been created by the constituent members of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) Bristol City, Bath & North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire as well as North Somerset. In May the JSP will be the first of its kind, a regional spatial plan, to be considered by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) and it was noted that there was merit in not “going first” in terms of PINS consideration, as there is no precedent for this form of collective planning document.

Cllr Savage spoke of his approval that more homes are being built in South Gloucestershire than ever before, but that there was of course more that could be done, given ever increasing housing pressures. The number of affordable homes that have been built and are currently in the pipeline for South Gloucestershire is a particular highlight for the leader of the council, who was pleased to note that the authority was building more homes than it ever had done before.

Asked of what he considers to be the most important element a developer can include in their application process; Cllr Savage answered that early engagement is the key to ensuring successful planning outcomes for all concerned: developers, local authorities and communities. Cllr Savage also emphasised to the packed event that community engagement should not be regarded as a cost and compared to technical and statutory exercises that need to be carried out by other consultants, and instead entreated attendees to view community and stakeholder engagement as an investment in their overall project.

Matthew Roberts - Account Executive