Dorset districts should continue work on individual local plans, new unitary authority decides

The shadow executive committee of a new Dorset super-council has decided that its five constituent districts should continue work on their individual local plans until the merged unitary authority comes into being next year.

Swanage: Purbeck district is one of five forming new unitary authority in Dorset
Swanage: Purbeck district is one of five forming new unitary authority in Dorset

A meeting on Monday of the Shadow Dorset Council’s executive committee agreed to a recommendation that progress on the constituent district's emerging local plans should carry on.

Dorset Council will form on 1 April 2019 from a merger of five existing districts in the county, and will sit alongside a second unitary authority in the county, which will be focused on the urban area of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch.

The five districts forming the new council are Weymouth and Portland; West Dorset; North Dorset; East Dorset; and Purbeck.

The shadow council was set up earlier this year to prepare for the reorganisation.

At Monday’s meeting, the Shadow Dorset Council’s executive committee agreed that work should progress on local plans in the county in advance of a decision being made by the new council on the future planning framework for the area when it comes into being.

"The shadow executive is invited to recognise the importance of the new Dorset Council making an early decision about how local plan reviews should be progressed, in order to avoid delays to progress," the officer report to the meeting said.

"Existing adopted plans will remain as the elements of the statutory development plan for the new council on 1 April, but maintaining progress is essential in order to avoid a loss of control over planning decisions."

"The decision about how to progress local plans after local government reorganisation will be for the new Dorset Council, but whatever approach is taken, the work currently being carried out on the individual local plan reviews will be an important input and should be continued in the meantime," the report says.

The officer report also outlines four options for future planning arrangements to be considered by the new unitary authority next year. The first option would see work continuing on all of the district’s local plan reviews though to adoption, and then work beginning immediately on a new plan for the whole new council area.

The second option was to start immediately on the preparation of a new plan for the whole Dorset Council area, and the third was to progress the adoption of the Purbeck local plan plan only - which the report says is the most advanced of the current district plans.

The fourth option was to start developing a higher-level strategic plan covering both unitary council areas in Dorset, alongside work on more detailed local plans.

"This would focus on the key strategic issues including in particular the numbers and distribution of homes across the area," the report says.

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