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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Black

Local Plan Progress amid the NPPF Consultation

A quick update on matters concerning local plans following the Gove Ministerial Statement and the current NPPF Consultations.

One thing to note from reading the supporting document for the NPPF consultation is that Govey and his squad were at pains to reiterate their commitment to a plan led system…..

At present, fewer than half of local authorities have up-to-date plans (adopted in the past 5 years). Our proposed reforms create clear incentives for more local authorities to adopt plans. And our analysis shows that having a sound plan in place means housing delivery increases compared to those local authorities with an out-of-date plan, or no plan at all.

Later on they also say this

It is critical that work should continue on plans before the new system is in place, to ensure that the planning system can maximise its role in helping everyone shape the future of the areas they live in, maximising opportunities to enhance the environment and provide the jobs and homes needed locally. Ensuring a steady flow of plans will allow land continues to come forward and help to smooth the transition to the new system.

Our reforms create clear incentives………Critical that work should continue……is that so Mikey? Well the reports and feeling on the ground reveal quite the opposite.

More locally in the South East, Mole Valley were very quick off the block to vote in favour of asking the inspector to strike out the green belt sites in their plan that has already been through the examination process. The sentiment from that meeting was accurately and heartbreakingly captured in this linked in post from my former colleague Lucy Morris. A response to the letter is awaited but I for one very much hope the reply from the inspector will be the same as the one from the plaintiff in Arkell v Pressdram*.

In Tandridge, where the examination now enters its 4th year, they have continued to rearrange the deckchairs on their own Local Plan Titanic suggesting that they would like to shorten the length of the plan to 5 years. Something which they have been already told by the inspector that they cant do.

Epsom and Ewell will shortly vote to bring their local plan to reg 18 consultation which meets 50% of their housing requirement. E&E were always going to struggle due to their constraints and the council has said that the latest position and direction of travel from the government just confirms that they are taking the correct approach.

Chichester Council also voted this week to press ahead with their own reg 19 consultation. So it’s certainly not all stop but it’s hardly the start of a massive surge in plan making is it? Many of those plans mentioned have been a very long time coming and are in areas without an up-to-date plan for years.

I also wonder what the position is of other authorities who have a recently adopted a plan which meets housing need in full and particularly one where it met its need in full? What do the likes of Runnymede, Guildford and RBWM think about the situation where, had they waited a little longer, they might have been able to bring forward a plan which didn’t release green belt or meet need in full? In many cases the adoption of a controversial local plan has led to a change of control for councils at the next opportunity. No wonder Gove is worried. But should he be worried about a counter rebellion from MPs who have effectively been penalised where local authorities have made difficult local plan decisions? Wouldn’t a stand up battle between the Theresas be a thing to behold? Villiers v May? Now you’re talking**.

Anyway, I’d like to leave you with at least some comfort that it isn’t all doom and gloom. Step forward Spelthorne Council, whose officers have prepared an excellent presentation to guide councillors on the implications of pausing or withdrawing a plan. Their advice is clear and supported by a clear picture on the key risks in development management terms if members bottle it and ditch the plan. The presentation deserves to be read and shared. It’s a shame that other officers in other authorities were not given the same opportunity to make their positions clear to councillors.

Let what Lucy said in her linked in post be writ large in every Town Hall chamber in the country:

Housing numbers aren’t simply abstract numbers, they are people who need somewhere safe, warm and affordable to live in.

AB – my own thoughts

*If you didn’t know, this was the response from Private Eye to a libel case in the 1970s where their reply to the claim was as follows: We acknowledge your letter of 29th April referring to Mr J. Arkell. We note that Mr Arkell's attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of our reply and would therefore be grateful if you would inform us what his attitude to damages would be, were he to learn that the nature of our reply is as follows: f*ck off

** incidentally my money would be on May BTW. A round house from her with those kitten heals would take Villiers straight out.


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