Inspector rebukes Lancaster Council over post-submission plan changes

A local authority in Lancashire has been given a dressing down by an inspector after suggesting post-submission changes to its local plan.

Lancaster. Image credit: Jay-jerry, Flickr.
Lancaster. Image credit: Jay-jerry, Flickr.

Lancaster City Council submitted its local plan in May this year, but then wrote to the examination programme officer in July to advise that work on its evidence base was ongoing.

The authority said it was continuing to compile evidence on transport, viability, and air quality.

"Circumstances and evidence have inevitably changed since our local plan [documents] were published and accordingly their soundness could be improved by edits to refine and update policies and supporting text," it said.

The council proposed an informal consultation on suggested modifications between September and October 2018 and said responses would be provided to the inspector.

Inspector Richard McCoy agreed that the examination could be delayed and both parties agreed examination would begin on 7 January 2019.

However, the council failed to provide the consultation evidence in October as agreed and later told the inspector that its consultation timetable had slipped and would conclude in November.

McCoy has now written a letter telling the council that it cannot make changes to its plan without withdrawing the document.

"I would point out that the plan being examined is the submitted plan," he wrote, adding: "The local planning authority must not submit until they think it is ready for examination."

McCoy advised that the council could submit proposed changes required to make the plan sound but said he would reserve judgement on whether these were appropriate and whether further modifications were also necessary.

"The plan being examined is therefore the originally submitted and not the revised plan. My report will recommend main modifications to the originally submitted plan, but only where necessary to achieve soundness," he wrote.

"It is for me to consider how any suggested modifications to the submitted plan should be addressed and therefore, whether they are necessary for the soundness of the plan and acceptable.

"I would like to know at this stage if the council considers, as a result of the additional work undertaken, that any aspect of their plan is unsound and if so what they propose to do to remedy the situation?"

The inspector advised that any additional evidence would need to be consulted upon and requested the council "set a clear timetable for this to take place".

"I would prefer that the council does not engage in carrying out any further evidence work or suggested changes to the plan before first discussing and agreeing that work with me," he said.

Lancaster City Council has been approached for comment but had not responded at the time of publication.

In other local plan news, Castle Point Council in Essex is facing central government intervention after councillors last week refused to authorise a consultation on its draft local plan plan ahead of its submission for examination.

Last month, Thanet Council in Kent, another authority facing Whitehall intervention, submitted its draft plan for examination.

Meanwhile, Sevenoaks Council in Kent last month dropped eight out of 12 green belt sites that had been earmarked for development in an earlier version of its draft plan.


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