Pickles to undertake 'landmark' review of inspector's local plan housing figures

Communities secretary Eric Pickles is to review a recommendation by a planning inspector to increase the housing target in a Somerset council's key planning document, in what the local authority described as a 'landmark' intervention.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles
Communities secretary Eric Pickles

North Somerset Council adopted its core strategy in April 2012 with a housing policy to plan for 14,000 homes by 2026.

But, following a legal challenge, the policy was found to be unlawful by the High Court and was passed back to the planning inspector.

The council put forward a new housing target of 17,000, but this was deemed insufficient by the inspector who recommended raising the figure to 20,985.

The council asked Pickles to intervene last month.

Prior to dissolution of Parliament, Pickles then wrote to Councillor Nigel Ashton, leader of North Somerset Council, confirming that he will "exercise the powers of intervention under section 21 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 in respect of policy CS13: housing requirement and supporting text of the North Somerset Council core strategy."

Pickles said the council’s core strategy had "undergone a complex and protracted examination at a time of transition in national planning policy" and added: "I wish to review and consider the inspector’s conclusions on Policy CS13 housing requirement to ensure national policy has been applied and reflected correctly. I wish to ensure that there is maximum clarity for the community on the outcome of the examination."

North Somerset Council described the move as a "landmark decision", saying it was the first time the secretary of state has reviewed an inspector's housing figure recommendation in this way.

David Turner, the council’s director of development and environment, said: "It is gratifying that the secretary of state acknowledges the unique set of circumstances that have prevented us from having an adopted plan, and that he considers it necessary to review the inspector’s conclusions."

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