Council cites 'staff departures' in bid to avoid Javid intervention

One of the 15 local authorities facing ministerial intervention for having failed to make progress on its local plan has argued that it had faced 'exceptional circumstances' in producing the document, including the loss of all but one member of its planning policy team.

Mansfield (pic: Stephen McKay via Geograph)
Mansfield (pic: Stephen McKay via Geograph)

In November, the communities secretary Sajid Javid said that he would take control of plan-making at 15 local authorities that had failed to make progress on their local plans.

Saying his "patience has run out" with local authorities that had failed to get plans in place despite repeated deadlines, Javid said he was commencing action to remove their plan-making powers to prevent them "failing the people they serve."

Councils affected include Mansfield District Council in Nottinghamshire. 

A report to be presented to Mansfield Council’s cabinet today says that the council has until 31 January 2018 to respond to Javid "setting out any exceptional circumstances to justify why a local plan has not been prepared and the measures that the authority has taken or is intending to take to accelerate plan publication".

The report, which sets out the council's response to the Ministry of Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), argues that the local plan had been "on target" to meet its production deadlines early in 2016.

But it says that during 2016 the planning policy team "experienced significant disruption with a number of staff departures".

"This meant that the planning policy team lost all but one of its professional officers over a short period and at a critical stage, which had a significant detrimental impact on the progress of the local plan", the report says.

According to the council, by September 2016 a new planning team was in place, but it found that a key piece of evidence - the Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment - required to support the preparation of the local plan, was out of date and needed to be revised to ensure soundness of the local plan and allow it to progress to a preferred options consultation, held between October and November 2017.

Since 2016 the council said it has adopted a "detailed project management approach to progress the local plan as quickly as possible".

This had included additional resources being put in place in the planning policy team, with a senior planning policy officer appointed for six months to support the team preparing the local plan, and a planning consultant appointed to oversee the final stages of drafting the plan.

The document says that the draft plan is now at an "advanced stage" with work "well advanced on the preparation of the publication version of the document". 

It says that the council hopes to submit the plan for examination in October. 

Cllr Bill Drewett, portfolio holder for safer communities, said: "It has been an unfortunate series of circumstances that have led to the MHCLG being involved, but we have made a lot of progress and we hope that our submission to the government will prevent the need for any intervention because that would be very unlikely to deliver the local plan any faster and could even lead to a delay."


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