Warwick defies inspector's warning to seek more time to fix local plan

A district council is seeking permission to suspend its local plan examination until May 2016 so that significant issues with its housing need can be fixed - even though a planning inspector cautioned such a move was unlikely to work.

Warwick: inspector has issued initial findings on local plan (picture by Elliott Brown)
Warwick: inspector has issued initial findings on local plan (picture by Elliott Brown)

Inspector Kevin Ward warned Warwick District Council earlier this year that its draft local plan lacked a clear strategy to meet the objectively assessed housing need for the wider Coventry and Warwickshire housing market area (HMA).

After initial examination sessions, Ward said measures to deliver an additional 234 homes a year would be required for the plan to proceed, and recommended that Warwick either voluntarily withdraw the plan from examination or receive a report recommending non-adoption.

Ward said amending the existing draft plan would "take too long, [be] likely to result in a plan substantially different from that submitted and [be] unlikely to facilitate the adoption of a sound local plan in a timetable that is significantly shorter than the other options open to the council".

But the council has now written to the inspector proposing a suspension of the process, and citing a newly-endorsed memorandum of understanding for the HMA that would add 218 new homes a year to its annual requirement.

Its previous draft local plan target was 714 - made up of 606 to meet demand from within the district and 108 homes to meet need from the wider HMA. Warwick's new figure proposes 600 homes to meet its own need and 332 from the HMA area.

In a letter last week, council leader Andrew Mobbs said a £30,000 contingency budget for additional work had been agreed and that resuming the examination in May next year was a timescale that could "realistically be achieved".

Mobbs said the council and its HMA neighbours had made substantial progress in recent months and were confident that a sound plan could be delivered. However, he accepted that the council was currently unable to identify how its increased housing target would be delivered.

"One risk my officers have highlighted to me is the challenge associated with the five-year housing land supply in the context of a housing requirement of 932 dwellings per annum," he said.

"Until the council has identified its shortlist of sites to meet the additional housing requirement, we are unable to identify exactly how this will be met."

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