Report of the Corporate Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) on the Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan Timetable. The Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan has been submitted and is currently undergoingpublic examination by an independent inspector.
The timetable agreed in March 2019 was that the results and recommendations of this process would be presented to Councillors in September 2019 and the further hearing sessions would take place in November/December 2019. The unexpected receipt of 10,000+ representations to the public consultation in addition to site analysis work and updating evidence has unfortunately created too much work to be achieved in this time.
This item was considered urgent as Members needed to be aware of the unexpected workload generated by representation received as part of the public consultation on sites and the issues raised by examination Inspectors in respect the Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan and reporting timescales.
Report of the Corporate Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) on the Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan Timetable. The Welwyn Hatfield Local Plan had been submitted and was currently undergoing public examination by an independent Inspector. The report noted that the Inspector has indicated that the Plan does not currently meet the objectively assessed need for housing. The Council has therefore carried out a further call-for-sites exercise and published those sites for public consultation, before deciding whether to select any new sites for inclusion in the Local Plan.
The timetable agreed in March 2019 was that the results and recommendation of this process was scheduled to be presented to Councillors in September 2019 and the further hearing session would take place in November/December 2019. The unexpected receipt of 10,000+ representations from the public consultation in addition to site analysis work and updating evidence has unfortunately created too much work to be achieved in this time. Members were advised that previously there had been only 6,000 representations to such a consultation.
The report noted that at the time of writing in late July 2019 it had taken about two months to work through 4,000 representations. The Planning Policy team had therefore employed additional agency staff to speed up this process but it is likely that it will take another two months to complete the task. As a result it would not be possible to present a full summary of the issues raised by residents and others to Councillors in September 2019. Realistically it will be achieved by November 2019.
The examination Inspector for North Herts Local Plan had recently written to that Council to advise that further hearing sessions were required in light of new evidence presented to him as part of the Main Modifications consultation stage, including fundamental issue such as the Objective Assessment of Need for Housing and green belt evidence.
The examination Inspectors for the St Albans Local Plan had recently written to that Council to more fully understand the evidence gathering that has taken place to justify a green belt review and the assessment of individual sites.
In terms of suitable sites for the Local Plan, a Member sought clarification on the capacity for the primary school at Brookmans Park. The Chairman advised that this was beyond the content of the report under consideration and that discussion on sites and infrastructure issues would take place at a later date. It was noted that the Inspector would be retiring in March 2020.
1. That the Panel notes: the unexpected workload generated by 140+ sites promoted as part of the call-for-sites exercise; the unexpected workload generated by 10,000+ representations received as part of the public consultation on these sites; and the issues raised by examination Inspectors in recent letters to North Herts and St Albans councils regarding their Local Plans.
2. That the Panel accepts that it would be negligent to receive incomplete information in September and that all of the above issues necessitate an extension of the Local Plan timetable to allow sufficient time to fully understand the views of residents, site analysis and new evidence.
3. That the Head of Planning and Planning Policy and Implementation Manager contact the Programme Officer to explain the situation and seek the views of the Examination Inspector, with the intent of identifying a new timetable and then report back to this Panel.