Buckinghamshire council withdraws local plan

A district council in Buckinghamshire has formally withdrawn its local plan after an inspector ruled it unsound for failing to meet the Localism Act's duty to cooperate.

The Vale of Aylesbury
The Vale of Aylesbury

Planning inspector Kevin Ward wrote to Aylesbury Vale District Council last month warning that he could not recommend the plan for adoption because the authority had failed to meet the duty to cooperate with neighbouring councils in drawing up the blueprint.

Ward said the plan, covering the period up to 2031, did not address potential housing need generated by neighbouring districts forming part of the local housing market – principally Milton Keynes.

He added that the 13,850 new homes the authority was proposing was too low to support the creation of the 6,000 jobs envisaged in the plan.

Following advice from planning officers, a full council meeting at Aylesbury Vale agreed to withdraw the plan last week.

A report provided to the meeting said there was no "realistic choice", other than withdrawing the plan and starting again. "The duty to cooperate cannot be put right retrospectively," it said.

"The need to plan for higher levels of our own generated growth, as well as contributing towards the needs of other authorities, will inevitably mean that the future local plan will be very different from the Vale of Aylesbury Plan (VAP) and will have to balance ‘bottom-up’ considerations and the aspirations of local communities with wider ‘beyond the district’ considerations in a very different way."

Council leader Neil Blake said that "continually changing messages" from central government during the drafting of the plan, which began in May 2010, had made the whole process "very difficult".

"The withdrawal of the VAP does not mean that the council has to go back to the start," he said. "Much of the evidence base is either up to date or needs only minor refreshing. However, we are going to have to develop beyond our original plans – meaning much higher numbers of new homes."

Hart District Council in Hampshire withdrew its local plan in September last year after the blueprint was declared unsound. Mid Sussex District Council has also withdrawn a plan declared unsound over the duty to cooperate in recent months.

Ward's letter to Aylesbury Vale can be found here.

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