BMSDC Joint Local Plan Consultation Document (Interactive)

Ended on the 10 November 2017
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(5) Functional Clusters

Key Evidence

  • BDC Functional clusters - The Babergh Local Plan (2011 – 2031) Core Strategy and Policies (Map 4).
  • The Mid Suffolk Functional Clusters Study

Introduction and context of issue 

The Babergh Local Plan (2011 – 2031) Core Strategy and Policies identified ‘functional clusters’ as part of the spatial geography of the District which form a cornerstone of the settlement hierarchy.

Clusters are based on how communities inter-connect and access and use of services and facilities.

The Districts of Babergh and Mid Suffolk comprise largely rural areas with distinctive settlement patterns of the urban areas edging Ipswich, Diss and Bury St Edmunds and the market towns and larger settlements located across the District which serves a large rural network of villages, hamlets and the wider countryside.  The many small villages depend on the larger settlements as localised services and facilities to meet their daily needs. In this context the areas have an interconnected geography between settlements. This geography is formally identified in The Babergh Local Plan (2011 – 2031) Core Strategy and Policies (Map 4). The Council is proposing a minor refinement to the Babergh functional cluster designations to ensure that all parishes identifiy to a single functional cluster on a ‘best fit’ basis. This will improve monitoring accuracy and ensure consistency of approach across the wider Babergh and Mid Suffolk areas. The Babergh functional clusters are shown on the map in Appendix 2.

A similar mapping exercise has been undertaken for Mid Suffolk District (as set out in the Mid Suffolk Functional Clusters Study, June 2017). In Mid Suffolk, The District is a predominantly rural area with a distinctive settlement pattern, containing one main town, a handful of large villages that serve a wide catchment, and a small number of villages on the fringe of the urban area of Ipswich.  The largest town is Stowmarket, which includes the neighbouring parishes of Combs, Haughley, Onehouse and Stowupland, situated in the centre of the district.  The settlement pattern beyond Stowmarket is influenced by the way in which places relate to each other and the natural day-to-day connections that are made between settlements because of the geography of an area. As a rural district, the many small villages depend on the larger settlements and town centres for many of their needs.  In this context the role provided by the major centres beyond the district is also recognised, with the north of the district looking to Diss and Bury St Edmunds, and to a lesser extent Harleston. The eastern parts look to Ipswich and to a lesser extent Saxmundham, Framlingham and Woodbridge. 

Following initial consultation the Council has mapped the geography of the clusters across Mid Suffolk. This information has also informed the settlement hierarchy review for the Districts. The proposed Mid Suffolk functional clusters are shown on the map in Appendix 2.


(118) Q 74.    Do you consider the approach to identifying functional clusters appropriate for  Babergh and Mid Suffolk? If not, please explain what would be your preferred               approach?


(11) Settlement Boundaries


Settlement boundaries are recognised and generally accepted as an essential tool for managing the location of development, as they demonstrate where the principle of development has been established.Land outside of settlement boundaries is defined as ‘the countryside’ where only certain types of development are allowed. Settlement boundaries can provide confidence to developers and the community about the location of development. It can also help prioritise investment within towns and villages whilst restricting the endless sprawl of settlements into the open countryside. However, tightly drawn settlement boundaries and restrictive policies can limit scope for growth and investment, particularly in smaller rural areas without Local Plan allocations for new development.  

The settlement boundaries for Babergh were established during the 2006 Local Plan process. The majority of Mid Suffolk settlement boundaries were established during the 1998 Local Plan process, however since adoption of the 2008 Mid Suffolk Core Strategy some settlements have been re-classified as ‘countryside villages’ where settlement boundaries no longer apply. Due to their age, many settlement boundaries do not relate to the now established built-form of settlements as they have expanded over time. The new Joint Local Plan provides an opportunity to comprehensively review all settlement boundaries within the districts. Suitable flexing of rural settlement boundaries will allow for further appropriate small scale development opportunities, where historic land has now been used up. This will help to promote rural vitality and diversity of housing market opportunities across the plan area.

New ‘committed boundaries’ have been identified which demonstrate the current built-form of settlements. Committed boundaries were established using the following methodology:

  • A desk top exercise using aerial photographs and the most up to date Ordnance Survey map to establish land use.
  • The planning history of sites around the current settlement boundaries were reviewed. Any allocated sites and current planning permissions granted before 31st March 2017 have been included within the new settlement boundary. Any planning permissions granted after this date have not been included within the new committed boundaries.
  • Some small communities (such as hamlets) have been identified and given boundaries, where there are more than 10 well-related dwellings fronting a public highway and the community has its own distinct characteristic.

The following review principles have been used to assess settlement boundaries:

  • Where possible settlement boundaries should follow physical boundaries such as roads and hedges. Exceptions have been made where following a physical boundary would create an irregularity in the settlement boundary. Where development is on one side of a road, the boundary should follow a physical boundary on that side of the road.
  • Employment land should be included if it adjoins a settlement.
  • Edge of settlement playing fields, open spaces and churches are excluded from the settlement boundary unless effectively enclosed by development.
  • Anomalies from previous settlement boundaries have been amended, including extensions to properties beyond the settlement boundary, and redrawing the existing boundary to meet the criteria set out above.

The Councils have taken the approach that Urban Areas, Market Towns and Core Villages will have new growth identified and allocated in the new Local Plan through the allocation of new housing sites. At the next consultation stage of the Joint Local Plan Hinterland Villages, Hamlets and Countryside villages will have boundary flexing to accommodate sites deemed appropriate for development. Maps identifying ‘committed boundaries’ and potential SHELAA sites can be viewed in Appendix 3 and 4.


The options identified are set out below:


(20) Option BND1 – Review and designate boundaries for all settlements above a threshold of 10 dwellings adjacent to or fronting an existing highway


The alternative would be to revoke settlement boundaries and rely upon new land allocations being made. However, this approach is not considered realistic, as it would likely make the Joint Local Plan too prescriptive with the loss of flexibility reducing opportunities for suitable windfall development.

Initial preference

The Councils’ initial preferred approach is BND1 where settlement boundaries will be created for every settlement of at least 10 well related dwellings adjacent to or fronting a public highway. This is favoured as it will enable consistency and certainty across all communities as to where the identified built up area is, and where the principle of development would be acceptable.


Consultation Questions:


(113) Q 75.    Do you consider the proposed new settlement boundaries to be appropriate? (please               explain your answer)

(48) Q 76.    Are there any other settlements that should be given new settlement boundaries?  (please explain your answer)

(92) Q 77.    Is the threshold (10 well related dwellings) for identifying settlement boundaries  appropriate?



(75) Potential Land for Development

The Plan will identify and allocate sufficient land for development to accommodate the Districts’ development need and requirements. The location of the allocations will be dependent upon the spatial distribution to development (see ‘spatial distribution’ section of this document) and the suitability and deliverability of development proposals.

In 2014 and 2016 the Council undertook two rounds of ‘call for sites’ through which landowners and developers and other interested parties were invited to submit sites which they considered were available for development.

All sites received have been assessed to consider their technical suitability for development and their potential to be allocated in the Plan. The assessments are included within the supporting evidence document, the Strategic Housing & Employment Land Availability Assessment (SHELAA). 

Your views are sought on the suitability of the sites identified in this consultation. Please note many of the sites presented in this consultation will not be needed to meet the development needs of the Districts and not all will be taken forward in the Plan into allocations. The selection of allocations will be informed by consultation outcomes, evidence and appraisals.

The residential and employment sites identified in Appendix 3 and 4 of this consultation document are considered technically suitable for development and views are now being sought on whether the locations and sites are considered appropriate for development. Please note that where more than one reference number appears to relate to one site, this is where both a residential and an employment (marked with an *) use has been proposed.

Consultation Questions:

(78) Q 78.    Do you consider the sites identified to be appropriate for allocation or  inclusion               within the settlement boundary? (please explain why and quote the settlement and               site reference numbers ie. SS0001)

(105) Q 79.    Are there any other sites/areas which would be appropriate for allocation? (If yes,  please provide further information and complete a site submission form)



(23) Community Choice & Neighbourhood Plans

Neighbourhood Plans were introduced by the Localism Act 2011.  They provide local communities with the power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development and growth of their local area.  They give local communities the ability to choose where they want new development to take place, to say what new buildings should look like and what infrastructure to be provided.  Neighbourhood Plans have to be prepared in consultation with the local community and be the subject of a local referendum before they are “made” (adopted).  They should support the strategic needs set out in the Local Plan and plan positively to support local development.  When made they become part of the Development Plan and are considered alongside the District Local Plan when planning applications are determined. 

As at July 2017, neighbourhood plans have been made in Babergh for the parishes of East Bergholt, Lavenham and in Mid-Suffolk for the parish of Mendlesham.  A further 14 parishes have been the subject of area designation and plans for these parishes are at various stages of preparation.  Full details are available on the District Councils’ website.  Neighbourhood plans can be brought forward at any time and can be developed before or at the same time as the local planning authority is producing its Local Plan.  It is for the local planning authority to work closely with neighbourhood planning groups to minimise any conflicts between policies in the neighbourhood plan and the emerging Local Plan. 

There is an opportunity for local communities to bring forward sites for development in neighbourhood plans in parallel with the developing local plan process and in accordance with the emerging level of growth agreed with the local planning authority and share evidence the evidence being prepared by the Local Planning Authority and vice versa.  Where there is a “made” neighbourhood plan the local community will also benefit from enhanced Community Infrastructure Levy contributions.  The Councils therefore encourage local communities to prepare neighbourhood plans, particularly where those communities are identified for growth.  If there is any conflict between plans the decision maker must favour the policy which is contained in the last document to become part of the development plan.  

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