Swanage aims to take back control over town planning

Work has begun to create a neighbourhood plan for Swanage which is likely to include new policies on affordable housing, second homes and new building developments.

It’s a legal document which will inform future planning decisions for Swanage, detailing what is acceptable to local people and what is not.

Grammar school building site

New housing is being built on the site of the old Swanage Grammar School

Local referendum

Central to the neighbourhood plan will be input and ideas from local residents and at the end of the process there will be a local referendum to vote on whether to accept the new plan or not.

At a meeting at Swanage Town Council on Wednesday 26th October 2022, specialist planning consultants outlined the steps to create a neighbourhood plan with the aim to create a joined up sustainable vision for Swanage.

Swanage Bay aerial view
Michael King

Swanage is a popular place to live by the sea

Joined up sustainable vision for Swanage

The neighbourhood plan will detail where any new development should be and where not, as well as what type – residential, leisure, business or retail.

It can say what proportion of new housing should be affordable and whether it should be allowed to be sold as second homes or not.

The plan will also look at the local infrastructure and calculate whether new development will require additional facilities.

Affordable housing at Compass Point in Swanage

Affordable housing was included as part of the recently built Compass Point development just off Northbrook Road in Swanage

Help Swanage control its own destiny

Neil Homer from the planning consultants Oneill Homer, who will be providing the specialist expertise to assist Swanage Town Council with the process, said:

“A neighbourhood plan will help Swanage control its own destiny from a planning and development perspective. Local communities are best placed to judge what their needs are and to balance some of the often conflicting requirements.

“For instance, does the town need more housing or more retail space or a mixture of both? Local people can apply a lot more time, attention and focus on getting things right for their community than local council planning authorities that already struggle with their workload.”

The expectation is that the new neighbourhood plan will be significantly based on the Swanage Local Plan that was created in 2017 and covers the period to 2027.

However, creating a new neighbourhood plan will allow for an update to reflect local changes and hold more weight in terms of planning law because it will meet the latest legal criteria.

Grammar school building site

The neighbourhood plan is intended to create a strong foundation for all future planning decisions

Creating task teams

One of the first steps is to set up three teams, each one tasked to look at housing, conservation and environment, or town centre economic development.

Swanage Town Council is actively seeking local residents with a keen interest and knowledge in these areas to take part in these groups and is asking anyone who would like to be part of this process to contact the Town Hall.

Expected timeline

  • October 2022 – Launch of steering group
  • December 2022 to March 2023 – Task teams meetings
  • Spring 2023 – First draft presented to the community for feedback
  • Summer 2023 – Formal draft completed
  • Autumn 2023 – Formal community consultation
  • Spring 2024 – Neighbourhood plan referendum
Swanage seafront overlooking Prince Albert Gardens

Preserving the heritage of the seaside town will be part of the plan

“It will take time and care to get it right”

Former town mayor, councillor Avril Harris is chairing the Swanage neighbourhood plan steering committee. Speaking after the meeting she said:

“We need to ensure that we continue to enhance our town. Development is going to happen – external factors will force change but we are going to do all that we can to positively influence any future development.

“The plan should give us a good overview of what we want for our town, with lots of input from local residents and community engagement. It will take time and care to get it right but we’re determined to achieve this.”

One of the fields in Swanage, where housing in proposed

This field next to the allotments in Swanage is earmarked in the Dorset local plan for housing but Swanage could make alternative suggestions

Purbeck local plan and Dorset local plan

Once adopted the Swanage neighbourhood plan will sit alongside the Purbeck local plan which it’s anticipated will be adopted in spring 2023 and the Dorset local plan that is currently planned to be submitted to the planning inspectorate in 2025.

While these planning policy documents don’t provide a cast iron guarantee that development won’t occur contrary to the plans, they do provide a first line of defence against development that the community deems unsuitable. They can also encourage developers to build or redevelop areas that the community wants to be improved by making the planning process easier.

Arne adopted its neighbourhood plan in June 2021, followed by Wareham in November 2021.

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