Effective delivery of strategic sites: Knowsley

Akin to many of the councils in the Merseyside area, Knowsley’s urban area is constrained by Green Belt at its edges. 

Fact file

Type – new community, greenfield site.   

Local Planning Authority – Knowsley Council 

Landowner – over 40 landowners on site, with varying scales of landholding and experience of development (eg from housebuilders to garden plots) 

Promoter / Developer – various, due to landownership position. 

Housebuilder – various (not all site is optioned) 

Scale – residential led, 1,600 homes, 22.5ha employment land, country park 

Key infrastructure requirements – improvement of nine highway junctions, primary school  

Status – given ‘Garden Village’ Status and funding in 2017. First planning applications submitted in 2018.  

Inception and strategy 

Akin to many of the councils in the Merseyside area, Knowsley’s urban area is constrained by Green Belt at its edges. Therefore, when the decision was undertaken to provide growth as part of effective local plan making, it was clear that the Green Belt would need to be reviewed and sites released from it in order to deliver sustainable development at the most appropriate locations.  

However, rather than seeking to allocate the bare minimum of land to meet their own needs, the council made the corporate decision to allocate more land to ensure ample land availability to enable choice in the market and to provide enough homes to meet needs into the longer term. This led to the allocation of nine urban extensions, all of which required Green Belt release, which were secured through the local plan process.  

Land for the Halsnead Garden Village was allocated in the Knowsley Local Plan Core Strategy 2016 Policy SUE2c.  

Supplementary planning guidance  

Given the complex landownership position on the site, the council took a hands-on co-ordination role, leading the production of the Halsnead Garden Village Masterplan Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) (produced by consultants).  

The SPD covers the entire Garden Village site and set out clearly the infrastructure requirements and connections for development parcels brought forward by individual landowners and developers so everyone is aware of the infrastructure required to be provided on their land to ensure comprehensive delivery of the site.  

It does not prescribe phasing, relying on landowners and developers to collaborate and demonstrate that deliverability is not prejudiced where strategic infrastructure will be required to cross ownership boundaries. 

Skills and resources 

Halsnead Garden Village is one of several strategic sites allocated in the same local plan to be developed concurrently. In order to provide the necessary skills and resource to deal with the large number and complexity of planning applications on these sites, a ‘Major Development Team’ was formed. 

This team consisted of not only planning officers, but also highways and drainage officers, ecologists, regeneration officers and officers from other council departments (as a unitary authority there is the ability to control a wider range of statutory functions). These officers worked exclusively on these major sites, which enabled both skills and in-depth knowledge of the sites to be developed.  

The council placed great weight on the value of the Major Development Team and has succeeded in maintaining the team in the face of increasing pressure on resources and staffing.