Reading Council blasts Brokenshire and PINS over 'unacceptable' local plan delay

The deputy leader of a Berkshire authority has accused the housing secretary and senior government officials of "hypocrisy" over "unacceptable" delays to its local plan examination at a time when councils are being called upon to speed up the delivery of new homes.

Reading Council: upset with PINS and MHCLG over local plan delay
Reading Council: upset with PINS and MHCLG over local plan delay

Reading Borough Council's Tony Page told its strategic environment, planning and transport committee meeting last night: "We get hectored and lectured by government ministers about delays in the planning process and about delivery issues. Yet when it comes to the same strictures, central government exempts itself."

The Labour councillor was speaking in response to an update from planning officers which advised that consultation on revisions to the council’s local plan would be delayed because main modifications to the document have not yet been confirmed by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS).

Principal planning officer Mark Worringham told councillors that inspector Louise Gibbons had informed the council that main modifications would be required to make the plan sound and these would be provided by 1 March. However, the modifications have not yet been received, he added.

Page said: "You have [housing secretary] James Brokenshire saying that we should be upping our game, yet upping our game doesn’t apply to the Planning Inspectorate, it doesn’t apply to [the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)], and the rank hypocrisy of ministers and senior civil servants is something that I think is quite unacceptable."

Worringham told the committee that the council has written to PINS "expressing its concern at the time this process is taking, particularly in view of the government’s exhortations to councils to make progress on local plans".

Page added: "If we don’t hear very soon, then I can ensure colleagues we will be escalating it at the political level."

A spokesman for PINS said: "We are sorry for the delay in sending the list of main modifications to the council. The inspector is currently considering these and will be writing to the council in the coming days."

MHCLG declined to comment.

Reading consulted on its draft local plan between 2016 and 2018 and submitted the document for examination in March last year. The council’s existing core strategy was adopted in 2008 and amended in 2015.

The authority has a history of disputes with PINS, having written to the inspectorate in 2017 to complain about the "high degree of inconsistency" in decisions on affordable housing provision.

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