Council set to withdraw core strategy following new housing need study

A council in Surrey is set to withdraw its key planning document after carrying out a study that indicated it would have to 'significantly' raise its proposed annual housebuilding target.

New homes: Waverley Borough Council's draft core strategy proposes a target of 230 homes a year up to 2028
New homes: Waverley Borough Council's draft core strategy proposes a target of 230 homes a year up to 2028

A report asks Waverley Borough Council members to withdraw the authority’s core strategy because the authority’s head of planning services believes it "will be found ‘unsound’ by the Planning Inspectorate when assessed against the National Planning Policy Framework".

Waverley Council’s draft core strategy proposes a target of 230 homes a year up to 2028, a figure taken from the old South East Plan regional spatial strategy and based on a 2009 housing need study.

Following an examination hearing in June, planning inspector Michael Hetherington said the council needed to update its housing need evidence base before the plan could be found sound.

Hetherington said the best course of action would be for the council to withdraw the document, carry out a new strategic housing market assessment (SHMA) and then resubmit the local plan for examination.

But in July, the council asked that its core strategy examination be suspended instead while it commissioned an updated SHMA because this would offer the "best opportunity to get the new plan in place as soon as possible".

However, the report to be considered by the council on Tuesday 15 October, recommends following the inspector’s initial advice and calls for the strategy to be withdrawn "in the light of the findings of the emerging SHMA".

The report states: "Although the SHMA is not finalised, the clear indications are that the new figure for housing need will be in the region of 470 homes a year.

"Work has not yet taken place to ‘test’ whether this level of housing can be accommodated in a sustainable way.

"However it is inevitable that planning for levels of housing significantly above that proposed in the submitted core strategy will result in changes that cannot be accommodated within the plan as it is currently drawn up.

"Continuing with the present examination will cause further delay and cost as it is clear that, in the light of the SHMA findings, there is no prospect that the plan will be found to be ‘sound’ by the Planning Inspector."

Withdrawing the document and starting a "process of review and amendment" would be the "quickest route to getting a new plan adopted", the report adds.

It goes on to reassure members that withdrawal "does not mean that the council has to go back to the start". It says a "number of the policies are likely to remain relatively unaffected" while "much of the evidence base is either up-to-date or needs only minor refreshing".

An exploratory meeting with the inspector due to take place tomorrow has been cancelled by the council as a result.

Waverley’s decision comes just days after North West Leicestershire District Council announced it was set to withdraw its draft core strategy, after a meeting with the same inspector failed to resolve his concerns over a housing land supply shortfall.

Details of Waverley’s core strategy examination can be found here.

john.geoghegan@haymarket.com


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