In a statement issued today, Durham County Council said that, after carrying out an issues and options consultation on the County Durham Plan earlier this year, "we were aiming to seek cabinet approval to consult in the New Year on a preferred option".
But the statement added: "With the government set to announce full details of a white paper in January - which could fundamentally change the number of houses that councils are required to plan for - we've taken the decision to pause the process.
"This will ensure that residents are not consulted on a plan which may quickly become out of date and subject to further changes."
The statement said that the white paper may require the council to make significant changes to its work on the plan so far and that the process will now be paused "until there is clarity on the proposals in the white paper so that these can be taken into account before further consultation is carried out".
Neil Foster, Durham County Council's cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: "While we're obviously incredibly disappointed that we cannot proceed with the plan in line with our original timescales, the decision to pause the process now is the only one we could make given the fundamental changes that may be included in the white paper.
"Publishing a plan without understanding the impact of the white paper would be a risk which could leave the council being required to revisit parts of the process causing delay."
The publication date of the white paper has slipped. Last week, the communities secretary Sajid Javid revealed that the white paper will be published in January.
Ministers had previously said that the document would be published before the end of this year - the planning minister Gavin Barwell told MPs in November that the paper would be "coming out later this year" - and some observers had expected it to be published alongside the chancellor's Autumn Statement.
Barwell has said that the white paper will include the government's full response to the report of the Local Plans Expert Group.