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South Holland Local Plan - Adopted July 2006
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Chapter 2
An Overview Of South Holland
2.1 South Holland is an almost exclusively rural part of Lincolnshire, famous historically as a flower producing area.  The largest settlement and focus of administration is Spalding.  Spalding is supported by three market towns, Holbeach, Long Sutton and Crowland, and Sutton Bridge which developed as a port.  Extensive land reclamation over many centuries has created a flat landscape intersected by raised banks and corridors of watercourses, sea defences and roads.  South Holland is 74,238 hectares, consisting almost entirely of fenlands.  The area is of national agricultural significance, with 80% of the land being of Grade 1 quality.  This attribute has in turn produced an economy highly dependent on certain industries, with a large proportion of the workforce employed in the agricultural, food processing and distribution industries.  Unemployment rates are low, but there is a consensus of feeling that economic diversification is required to secure this trend in the long term.
2.2 South Holland’s economy is generally stable.  The District’s economy has in the past demonstrated a high dependency on agriculture, horticulture and related industries, which can be seen as the reason for such stability.  The agricultural sector makes a significant contribution to Lincolnshire’s Gross Domestic Product.  The road haulage distributors located in South Holland are intimately linked to food production.  As a distribution centre of food produce the District is also of national significance.  Further diversification is seen as the key to prosperity.
2.3 Overall employment levels are high, and traditionally the District has been a net importer of jobs.  In some parts of South Holland, the demand for workers exceeds the ability of the area to provide labour. Workers have in the past travelled from places as far away as Doncaster, although now much of the District’s labour needs are met by foreign workers resident in South Holland.  Unemployment levels are only around 1.5%, compared to a national average of 3%.  This can be explained in part by a deep tradition of self-sufficiency on the part of the inhabitants.
2.4 The encouragement of industrial, office, and warehouse provision within South Holland has seen recent success, with a strengthening of the economy and the growth of support industries.  Two major business areas have been identified: Spalding Enterprise Area, which has seen an acceleration of new build recently, and Wingland Enterprise Park, which has planning consent and is awaiting any significant development.
2.5 A range of projects are being considered under the Holland Rural Partnership, with funding via the Transitional Lincolnshire Objective 2 Programme forming one element.  The four main themes are to consolidate the food cluster, develop tourism, transport and distribution, and create a climate of investment.
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2.6 The rural nature of South Holland District, and the problems associated with this, has prompted the establishment of a Rural Action Zone (RAZ). The RAZ aims to deliver integrated solutions to the area’s economic weaknesses.  Increasing accessibility, both for passengers and freight, is a main priority in the area, and has been tackled by schemes such as Interconnect 505 bus service.  Other key RAZ work includes improving the markets available for food, including the promotion of local produce, and improving education standards.
2.7 Retail service provision has traditionally been a role of the market towns and to some degree continues to be due to the area’s rural character.  Spalding is the main retail centre, with other centres such as Holbeach, Crowland, Long Sutton and Sutton Bridge serving more limited catchments. Peterborough, to the south of the District, draws heavily on Spalding’s catchment, and competition from Boston, to the north, also has an impact.  Alongside such recent retail developments as Springfields Retail Outlet Centre, Spalding Town Centre has strengthened, showing low shop vacancy rates.  Similarly, the smaller area centres, whilst not supporting their traditional range of services and products, continue to provide for their surrounding communities.
2.8 Tourism is a sector of increasing significance and importance to the District and will play an important role in its economic prosperity. The increased temporary population allows for the provision and support of a wider range of services than would otherwise be viable.  The District Council have made some effort to market the area as unspoilt and undiscovered, and the high levels of in-migration amongst older age groups suggest that it is seen as offering a high quality environment.  An important long term project is the Fens Waterways Link recreational navigation project, linking the cathedral cities of Ely, Peterborough and Lincoln.  This ties in with the increasing emphasis placed on ecological and tourism development, highlighted as priority areas by the District Council.

Investment in road infrastructure, new developments and environmental improvements has helped to reinforce Spalding’s status as District centre.  However, poor transport connections in the East Midlands as a whole continue to deter further major investment in the District.  Agriculture related road haulage benefits the District’s economy, but the use of heavy goods vehicles on rural roads can detract from the quality of life enjoyed by residents.  The proximity of Peterborough to the south of the District encourages relatively high levels of out-commuting from that part of South Holland.  Transport concerns are reflected by the promotion, through the Lincolnshire Agenda partnership, of increased links from the ‘food hub’ of South Holland to the A1(M) and markets further south.  The proposed new A1073 between Spalding and Peterborough is a key element of this. Maintaining and improving rail services will also benefit the South Holland economy.

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Environment and Resource Use
2.10 The natural environment of South Holland is primarily that of fenlands, including features such as lowland damp grasses and fen meadows.  Recent Countryside Agency work characterised the entire District as lying within a wider Character Area entitled ‘The Fens’.  At a more local level, the South Holland landscape can be split into three types.  The northern and extreme south-eastern areas are more characterised by trees and hedgerows, and are subsequently less open in appearance.  The north-western area and the area extending from the south west through to the east are characterised by a lack of trees and hedgerows, being typical of cultivated fenland.  The coastal area is dominated by salt marshes and mudflats.  Drains and dykes act as the area’s ‘hedgerows’, in terms of wildlife habitats as well as serving as important obstacles to soil loss. This assessment of the District is borne out in the Strategic Landscape Capacity Study carried out by John Campion Associates Ltd for the District Council in July 2003.
2.11 Agriculture plays a major role in shaping South Holland’s character, and soil is one of the District’s primary resources.  Land use is predominantly arable with intensive cultivation on high quality soils. Turkey farming and flower and plant production also feature.  Approximately 80% of the land is of Grade 1 standard, with the remainder of either Grade 2 or 3a.  Such land is considered a national resource for the future, and soil quality will be a major issue whenever a switch from agriculture is considered.  The highest quality farmland benefits from very strong protection in national planning policy.  The 2000 Rural White Paper indicates that other factors, such as landscape and nature conservation, will be considered alongside agricultural importance, but strong support will continue to be given to the protection of high quality agricultural land.
2.12 Parts of South Holland are of significant importance in terms of wildlife habitats.  Following on from the Countryside Agency work, English Nature defined a Natural Area covering ‘The Fens’.  The Wash supports large and diverse populations of wetland bird species.  It is recognised at both national and international levels, being designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Ramsar site, a Special Protection Area, a Special Area of Conservation and Site of Community Importance (European Union) and a European Marine Site.  Lutton Outmarsh and north-east of the River Nene outfall within The Wash have additional recognition as National Nature Reserves.  Surfleet Lows in the north-west of the District is also an SSSI, as is Cowbit Wash.  There are no other inland SSSI’s or National Nature Reserves, attributable in part to intensive agricultural land use.  Recent projects such as the Vernatt’s Local Nature Reserve have transformed previously derelict land into valued habitats.  The rivers of South Holland are essential not only in terms of drainage, but also as havens for wildlife.
2.13 The low-lying nature of the area, much of which is close to current sea level, makes the District particularly vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather.  Historically, Cowbit and Crowland Washes were flooded each winter to protect Spalding.  Since the construction of the Coronation Channel this is no longer required.  However, the area remains a safety valve at times of flood risk.  In addition to the Environment Agency, there are five internal drainage boards responsible for land drainage and flood control.  Climate change may also affect soil characteristics and species distributions, although the precise impacts are difficult to predict.
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2.14 River water quality standards vary.  The River Welland, upstream of Spalding, is classified as fairly good by the Environment Agency. Downstream of Spalding, the Welland becomes tidal and it is difficult to measure quality with any degree of accuracy. The Nene also deteriorates downstream, with the tidal stretch being classified as ‘bad’ by the Coastal and Estuarine Working Party.  Air pollution levels, measured at a site in Sutton Bridge since 1998, were found to be fairly typical for both NO2 and O3 in rural areas and low compared to urban areas such as Lincoln.
2.15 Overall, open space provision across South Holland is in accordance with the Council’s own standard of 2.5 hectares per 1,000 population.  However, this figure masks considerable differences across the District’s five major towns. Spalding, Holbeach and Sutton Bridge all have a significant shortfall in provision of open space, while Long Sutton and Crowland both exceed the Council’s standards.  A second concern over open space relates to access to the countryside.  Due to the intensive agricultural use of the District, relatively limited access to the open countryside is available.
2.16 The historic built environment is a major feature of South Holland.  Many of the settlements have a unique character, which warrants special protection.  The geography and historic pattern of land reclamation from wetland areas dictates the settlement pattern of larger historic towns and villages being located on higher levels.  Some smaller settlements are found on the marshes. There are over 500 listed buildings, a total of 13 Conservation Areas and 29 Scheduled Monuments. Ayscoughfee Hall, the District’s only registered park and garden, and Crowland Abbey are examples of some of the historic attractions.
2.17 The South Holland Recycling Strategy covering 1999-2006 outlines the objectives for waste recycling. In 2003 - 2004 15.1% of the District’s waste was recycled.  However, the strategy acknowledges that a great deal must be done to reach the Government’s future targets.  Kerbside recycling has been introduced to 85% of the District in order to maximise the amount diverted from the waste stream. South Holland is a net exporter of waste, to both Boston and Caythorpe near Sleaford.  Waste from the food industry is a major issue to be addressed.
2.18 The region has a great capacity to develop biomass energy production, mainly through energy crops, poultry litter and straw.  The high agricultural waste production in the area represents a relatively untapped resource.
2.19 Between the 1981 Census and 2001 Census South Holland’s population grew by 23%.  Since the 1991 Census the population has increased by 13.4%, and is predicted to grow by 9.1% between now and 2010.  The latest ONS mid-2003 population estimate is 79,425 people, with 30% living in Spalding according to the 2001 Census. Population density is low at 1 person per hectare compared to an average for England and Wales of 3.4.
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2.20 The area is characterised by out-migration of the young, and in-migration by older people.  Information from Lincolnshire County Council demonstrates that, over the ten year period to 1998, there was a significant out-migration amongst the 15-24 year age group but that all other age groups showed in-migration, resulting in net population growth.  The proportion of pensioners in the population is considerably greater than the national average, 25% compared to 18.5% for England and Wales.  The spatial pattern of growth varies from settlement to settlement.  Some rural villages are growing rapidly, whereas others are stable with very low expansion rates.
2.21 Indicators of cost of living show marked differences from the national averages.  According to HM Land Registry figures covering July to September 2004, the average cost of a two-bedroom semi-detached house is £112,126 in South Holland, compared to £128,225 for the East Midlands.  National figures for 2003 from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister show the average cost as being £143,698.  Wages are currently low at 18% below the national average.
2.22 A range of social issues are crucial to the District’s Rural Action Zone work.  South Holland’s workforce is relatively low skilled, as shown by 10.2% being qualified to degree level or higher compared to an average in England and Wales of 19.8% (2001 Census).  Social exclusion is also evident from problems arising which can affect people’s quality of life and health and sometimes lead to anti-social behaviour.  Lincolnshire has high rates of road traffic accidents, with mortality rates above the national average, although the figures are improving.  Again, this is considered to be a product of the area’s rural nature.  Crime rate per 1,000 population has risen gradually, from 54 in 2001/02, to 69 in 2002/03, and 70 in 2003/04, compared to a county average in 2003/04 of 92 and an East Midlands average of 117 for the same period.
2.23 South Holland has had an oversupply of housing land in recent years. In particular there have been a large number of planning permissions in rural areas where there are few, if any, services and facilities close to hand. The Local Plan has sought to address this and is now on target for conforming to the Lincolnshire Structure Plan. The need for affordable housing to meet the needs of local people has increased. This is exacerbated by the fact that few, if any, of the large number of planning permissions in the rural settlements include provision of specifically affordable housing.
2.24 Very limited amounts of brownfield land are available within the District, and South Holland consequently has a low target of only 18% of new housing on previously developed sites for 2004/05.  Recently, affordable housing has become an issue in the expanding rural settlements, possibly due to the choice of locations available to developers of more expensive housing throughout the District.
2.25 Accessibility to and within South Holland is an issue.  As with other rural areas, public transport is poor, and car ownership consequently high.  The resultant need is for private transport in an area with limited public transport services.  The high number of cars per household in particular exacerbates the problem, as well as reducing the apparent wealth advantage accrued from relatively low house prices.
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2.26 The A1073 links the area with Peterborough, and is renowned for traffic congestion and a poor safety record. Between 1986 and 1997 the A17 experienced a 54% increase in traffic flow on some sections of carriageway, compared to a national average of 40%, and as such was the busiest route in the area.  Traffic growth continues, and between 2000 and 2004 the level of growth on major roads in the District averaged between 15% and 19%.
2.27 For a District of relatively large geographical area, South Holland experiences quite a large degree of commuting, both into and out of the District.  Commuters travel to and from Peterborough, Bourne and Boston amongst others, and with the fairly significant distances involved, rurality of the District and the generally poor provision of public transport, there is increased reliance on private car usage and a concurrent pressure on parking.
Relationship To Other Plans And Strategies
2.28 The Government is committed to sustainable development. The Development Plan Regulations require local authorities to have regard to environment, social and economic considerations when preparing development plans. In all cases, it is necessary to consider the interaction of policies within the plan, so that, for example, the environmental and social considerations of policies designed to encourage economic development are fully considered.  Progress towards sustainable development can only be made if the various objectives are considered in a holistic way.
2.29 As explained in Chapter 1, the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 has formally set as an overarching objective for the planning system that it should contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. This reflects emphasis within Government policy and programmes on sustainable communities. We have undertaken a Sustainability Appraisal of this Local Plan as we did with the earlier draft and the adopted plan. These have helped inform preparation of the policies. The most recent appraisal is available as a background paper.
2.30 Strategies for achieving sustainable development are now falling into place at regional and sub-regional levels with the revision of Regional Planning Guidance 8 (now RSS8) and the preparation of a new Lincolnshire Structure Plan. Those documents contain strategic core objectives and policies. It is not the purpose of the Local Plan to repeat those but to work within and towards them at a local level.
2.31 As well as complying with higher level planning guidance it is important that the strategy of the Local Plan is consistent and integrated with other relevant policy areas on a broad front.
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2.32 There is a whole raft of District Council strategies, including the Corporate Plan and the Community Plan, targeted at achieving high quality service delivery within the district in terms of regeneration, democracy and representation, reducing inequality, creating a sustainable environment, reducing crime and the fear of crime, increasing health levels and facilities and promoting equal opportunities.
2.33 There are other strategies and plans at regional and sub-regional levels too. For example, The Wash Estuary Management Plan and the Lincolnshire Local Transport Plan (LTP). The LTP is a five-year plan setting out Lincolnshire County Council's policies for the development of travel and transport. The maintenance of good, efficient and safe networks for personal and commercial transport, encouraging change to more sustainable travel choices and reducing the impact of transport on the environment is seen as vitally important for the development of the economy and inclusive communities.  The LDS sets out other plans and strategies that the Local Plan will aim to link with.
2.34 The Development Plan has a key role in delivering Community Plan objectives. Many of the elements of the Community Plan have spatial aspects that can be addressed through the planning system. The Local Plan therefore has a role to play in providing a planning, development and land use policy and proposal framework to help in achieving a number of aspirations identified within the Community Plan. The Local Plan should aim to reflect Community Plan actions and targets that are relevant and appropriate in the context of a land use plan.
2.35 In readiness for preparation of our first Local Development Framework, this Local Plan has therefore been prepared having particular regard to the South Holland Community Plan (2003-2011) and the Council’s Corporate Plan (2005-2008).  The three documents have a common vision:
“To develop and promote South Holland as a thriving,
living and working rural community”.
2.36 To help with the development and promotion of this vision the Corporate Plan sets out the four themes of our mission statement.  These are:
  • Providing – to provide a safe, secure and healthy place to live.
  • Developing – to develop a thriving rural community.
  • Leading – to be a leading edge authority providing value for money, quality services.
  • Listening – to listen and involve the community and work with partners.
2.37 The Community Plan presents a vision of how the quality of life for all the people of South Holland can be improved over the next 10 years. The actions and targets within the Plan have been put together by the Local Strategic Partnership or Rural Action Zone (RAZ), a strategic alliance of major organisations within the District, following extensive consultation with local people. The priorities for action are set out under key themes which have recently been revisited, and are now expressed as :
  • Economic Development and Regeneration;
  • Health;
  • Learning;
  • Sustainable Communities;
  • Thriving and Safe Communities.
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2.38 Both the Corporate Plan 2006-2009 and the Community Plan: Action Plan 2006-2009 can be viewed on the Council’s website
Objectives And Priorities
2.39 There are a number of objectives of the Local Plan. These are numbered for ease of reference and this is not any indication of priority:
  (1) To safeguard and enhance the quality and amenity of the built environment and the district's cultural heritage.
  (2) To safeguard, enhance and extend the amenity, wildlife and landscape quality of the district.
  (3) To conserve and enhance the water environment and to protect inland and ground waters from pollution and derogation and to minimise the risk of flooding.
  (4) To protect the countryside as a natural and economic resource.
  (5) To help meet housing need.
  (6) To seek a balance between the provision of jobs, services and housing.
  (7) To secure the role of market towns and their centres.
  (8) To safeguard rural services.

To support the rural economy.

  (10) To develop and extend the range and accessibility of tourism, recreation, leisure and arts facilities.
  (11) To facilitate the use of public transport, cycling and walking and railfreight and to reduce the reliance on the private car, particularly in the towns.
  (12) To locate new development to maximise accessibility to jobs, services and cultural activity and to reduce the need to travel.
  (13) To promote and support road schemes which enhance economic development, safety and local amenity and which minimise any adverse environmental impacts.
  (14) To maximise returns from existing investment and infrastructure.
  (15) To make the most beneficial use of existing built up areas and particularly to promote the development of unused, underused or derelict land, the reuse of buildings and the better use of underused buildings.
  (16) To promote the development of renewable energy schemes and energy conservation measures.
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2.40 The following have emerged as particular priorities and we have, where necessary, worked up the relevant policies in this latest Local Plan:
  • Achieving a sustainable distribution of new development.
  • Improving the economic output of the District.
  • Meeting accommodation needs, especially through more affordable housing provision.
  • Seeking provision of services/ facilities in step with housing and employment growth.
  • Widening the range of services/ facilities available and improving accessibility to them.
  • Achieving a high quality built environment.
  • Safeguarding the amenities of the District.
  • Contributing to the better use of valuable resources, including land and energy.
  • Safeguarding and enhancing the natural environment and reversing the decline in biodiversity.
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