Inspector issues Rushcliffe local plan warning

A Nottinghamshire council has warned that it may have to allocate land in the green belt for housing after a planning inspector expressed 'serious concerns' over its draft local plan, particularly in respect to housing.

Countryside: council leader warns authority may be forced to 'undertake the very difficult task of allocating more land'
Countryside: council leader warns authority may be forced to 'undertake the very difficult task of allocating more land'
In an exploratory note published by Rushcliffe Borough Council this week, inspector Jill Kingaby said: "I have some serious concerns about this core strategy and whether it meets all the legal requirements and soundness criteria, especially in respect of housing policy."

The inspector said that the draft local plan’s target for 627 new homes per year is "substantially fewer" than sought by the East Midlands Regional Plan, which called for 750 dwellings per annum.

Kingaby said that, while the government has stated its intention to abolish the regional strategies at the present time, it remains necessary for local plans to be in general conformity with regional strategies.

"Neither in terms of overall housing numbers nor spatial distribution is the core strategy in general conformity with the regional plan," the inspector said.

Kingaby added that the council’s draft core strategy did not meet a requirement in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) for local planning authorities to use their evidence base to ensure that the local plan meets the full, objectively assessed needs for market and affordable housing in the housing market area.

She said: "The core strategy aims to provide a minimum of 627 dwellings per annum on average, which appears to be insufficient to meet the full, objectively assessed need."

Kingaby added that the numbers in the draft strategy fell "well short" of the NPPF’s requirement to identify a five-year housing land supply.

She said: "The justification for the proposed numbers of new housing is unclear. These figures would not significantly boost the supply of housing and it is questionable whether they would meet the full future need for housing."

The inspector also raised concerns over whether the draft plan is in compliance with the Localism Act’s duty to cooperate, which requires councils to consult and engage with neighbouring councils in the preparation of local plans.

The inspector’s note said that representations on the core strategy from Derbyshire County Council, Nottingham City Council, Nottinghamshire Council, Broxtowe Borough Council, Ashfield District Council and Gedling Borough Council "are all critical of the plan’s housing policy".

The note said that these representations had pointed out that Rushcliffe’s housing figures "were not produced in co-operation with other neighbouring authorities".

Rushcliffe Borough Council leader Neil Clarke said that the local authority would provide a "robust response" to the inspector’s comments later this week.

He said that the fact that the regional plans have yet to be abolished is a "huge frustration" for the council.

"We may now have to withdraw our plan and accept some delay whilst the government completes the lengthy process of abolishing the ridiculous and unjustified housing targets imposed by the regional plan," he said.

Clarke added: "I am extremely concerned and angry that if the inspector doesn’t feel that we have provided for enough housing to meet the need, then we will be forced, against our residents’ wishes, to undertake the very difficult task of allocating more land, which will probably have to be in the green belt."

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