Agenda item

Local Plan - Inspector's Letter and Proposed Modifications to the Plan

Recommendation from the meeting of the Special Cabinet on 16 December 2022 on the Local Plan (Inspector’s letter and proposed modifications to the Plan).


The report considered by the Special Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel on 15 December 2022 can be found at


Recommendation from the meeting of the Special Cabinet on 16 December 2022 on the Local Plan (Inspector’s letter and proposed modifications to the Plan).


The Planning Policy and Implementation Manager provided a presentation detailing the history of the examination of the new Local Plan and the key considerations since the meeting of Council in July. This included a summary of the letters received from the Inspector and the proposed consultation on changes to the planning system which were released by the Secretary of State and progress to Main Modifications.


It was noted that the Council were nearing the end of the preparation of the Council’s Local Plan. Consulting on the Main Modifications is not starting again but is a final consultation, after modifications considered necessary by the Inspector to make the Plan sound.


The number of houses, now for a 10 year plan, were significantly less than the inspector’s requirement for 15,200 for the 15 year plan. If the Council were to withdraw the Plan, the Council might have to find a higher number of housing sites in the future and could be open to a greater likelihood of speculative applications on sites which are not included in the Plan. If the Council were to withdraw the Plan and issue a new call for sites, it would be extremely likely that the same sites would come forward to be considered again and it would be disingenuous to suggest that present sites would fall away.


The Council can withdraw the plan at a later date depending on the outcome of the consultation and any further assistance from legislation. It also gives the Council a certain amount of time to consider any new legislation and consider the results of the consultation.


Members raised concerns that there was little mention of schools in the areas. It was confirmed that schools are included in the plan on a site by site basis. The Portfolio holder explained that S106 money is used to fund infrastructure, schools, GP surgeries etc but that this money is not available until after the homes are built as the funding comes from housing profit.


Members wanted an increased number of social and affordable housing within the Borough and suggested adding something in the policy. It was noted that the Portfolio Holder had recently written to officers and had said when the Council carry out some of these large developments, wanted to see the Council’s full requirement for affordable housing.


Members commented that current rate of development in the borough is short of the amount required to keep up with net immigration to the UK, with that factor only being one component of population growth.


Members raised concerns over the accuracy of the minutes from the Cabinet Meeting on 16 December which state that the Council is “being compelled to consider consulting on a Local Plan which included three sites the Inspector has found sound and insists the council includes, against the Council’s wishes as expressed in recent years and recent decisions”. By way of clarification, it was noted that this was in reference to the Inspector’s letter to the Council in June 2021 following the stage 9 hearing sessions (EX 271). Paragraph 5 of the letter states: “There are circumstances whereby I could find the plan unsound if I consider there to be potentially sound sites that have not been submitted but are clearly more sustainable than ones that have and/or are likely overall to be less harmful to the green belt. I will make that judgement when I receive details of additional sites from the Council and have read the accompanying justification for the basket of sites that have been selected”.  The Inspector required the Council to submit those sites which are both sustainable and less harm to green belt in preference to the High Harm sites. The Inspector has not made any judgment in advance of those sites being submitted.


Members were concerned at the damage that would be caused by developments in areas that have been deemed as high harm or where it is clear that there will be substantial and possibly irreversible damage to natural ecosystems and existing green space.  Members wanted to protect the green belt and the heritage of the Borough.


Clarification was sought regarding the scope of the consultation and whether a decision specifically around the development of HS22, HS29 and HS30 would be included. Officers confirmed that the consultation would cover all the main modifications which the Inspector considers are required to make the Plan sound. The sites in question have been in the plan from the start, and with these modifications to the whole Local Plan, the community and stakeholders can now have their say. Following the consultation the inspector will take all views into account when writing their report for the council to consider.


It was confirmed that the consultation is proposed to run over a six week period from 4 January to 15 February 2023. People will be encouraged to use the consultation portal but paper copies will be available in libraries and other usual deposit points. Press releases, information in the local paper and social media will all be utilised to ensure residents and stakeholders are aware of the consultation. Members were encouraged to assist with getting residents engaged in the consultation and to highlight to officers any concerns about hard-to-reach groups.


It was noted again that the progression to consultation does not prejudice a future decision on the adoption of the plan as there were concerns that going out to consultation, including the three sites, automatically includes these within the local plan.


It was moved and seconded by Councillors S. Boulton and T. Kingsbury and





That a Main modifications consultation based on the housing supply of 13,392 dwellings with a 10 years supply of 9,209 dwellings be undertaken and that the public consultation takes place on the Main modifications to the Local Plan at the earliest opportunity once the Inspector has confirmed the content of the Main modifications required to make the Plan sound.

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