Local plan found sound following turbine policy consultation

A Merseyside council's draft local plan has been found sound after the government's new onshore wind power policy changes prompted a fresh round of consultation.

Knowsley Council’s core strategy for the years to 2028 was first submitted for examination in 2013, and went through rounds of public examination in that year, 2014 and again this summer.

In July, inspector Martin Pike suggested the draft plan would require further amendments following the introduction of new rules for consenting onshore wind farms in June.

They state that local authorities should only grant permission if a development site is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in a local or neighbourhood plan. Knowsley’s plan had a criteria-based policy to permit wind energy but did not identify locations.

Last month the council concluded a consultation on the wind energy changes, which make clear the plan policy does not apply to turbines.

Pike yesterday declared the local plan sound, subject to some modifications. Among the main alterations are changing Knowsley’s proposed green belt "reserve locations" for development to "sustainable urban extensions" and removing the phased release of green-belt sites to make more land available in the short term.

Also included in the list of main modifications is a reduction in the plan’s employment-land requirement, and reducing affordable-housing requirements in urban areas "to help ensure development is viable". Pike said all of the main modifications proposed had been suggested by Knowsley.

Borough regeneration lead Mike Murphy said the plan would be considered for adoption by a full meeting of the council on 16 December.

"The report clearly supports the fact that the council has considered the available evidence and the views of the community and stakeholders thoroughly," he said. "I am confident that Knowsley’s local plan is a sound foundation for the growth the borough in the future. 

If the plan is adopted next month, Knowsley will become the third authority in the Liverpool City Region to put a core strategy in place. The devolution deal agreed between Whitehall and the city region called for all six of the sub-region’s authorities to put local plans in place by "early 2017".

Sefton Council’s local plan is currently under examination, while Liverpool City Council and Wirral Council are further behind in the plan-making process.

The Planning Practical Seminar on Local Plan Assessment (North and Midlands edition) takes place in Manchester on 2 December from 1.30pm-5pm. The programme is available here

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