Local Plan new schedule

If you follow the Local Plan saga you will know the plan has been delayed, again. Bottom line: there was no point taking the plan any further until it could be sufficiently differentiated from the one previously dismissed by the Planning Inspectorate.

It’s time for some hard truths. Conservative-run UDC administrations on three occasions since 2010 have tried to formulate a workable plan – and failed each time. That tells you it’s not an easy task. Since 2019 little has changed except the colour of the administration. The housing target has not changed. Nor has the district suddenly been endowed with transport and social infrastructure to make a significant volume of new housing sustainable.

A definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. So the plan needs considerably more work and a much improved evidence base.The new timetable is:

SUMMER 2023: The consultation draft Local Plan (known as Reg18) will be published, with events held to explain the proposals and answer questions.

AUTUMN 2023 TO SPRING 2024: The Council will consider all the comments received in response to consultation, and use these to help decide what changes should be made to form the plan.

SUMMER 2024: The proposed Local Plan will be published for consultation (the one the Council wants to adopt, known as Reg19).

AUTUMN 2024: The proposed Local Plan will be submitted for examination by an independent planning inspector along with all the comments received in that last round of consultation. The inspector will consider those comments, and use them to help decide whether the proposed plan is sound and meets government and legal requirements, and can therefore be adopted, or whether it must be changed before it can be adopted.

WINTER 2024: The Inspector’s examination continues until a formal decision letter is received by the Council as to whether the plan can be adopted.

OCTOBER 2025: Subject to successfully passing independent examination, the Local Plan is formally adopted by the Council and comes into force.

PLANNING RULES & HOUSING SUPPLY

On Dec. 5th the Secretary of State for levelling Up, Housing & Communities, Michael Gove, wrote to all MPs to set out proposed changes to the Planning system. It was a long overdue admission that the housing policy introduced by the Conservatives in 2010 and constantly fiddled with at the behest of developers has caused considerable harm to communities, especially in the south east.

So what will change? Some of what the letter says is simply restating existing policy but phrased more explicitly. Other proposals regarding the complexities of local planning and land supply rules should make it easier for Uttlesford to get a plan passed and thereafter ward off speculative development. Also, the protection offered by Neighbourhood Plans is to be enhanced.

However, about centrally mandated housing targets, Gove’s letter simply restates existing policy: that they are an advisory starting point, a guide that is not mandatory. It is up to local authorities to prove what they need and whether they have genuine constraints to development. What might change is a more flexible approach by Planning Inspectors towards assessing justification.

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