West of England joint spatial strategy in doubt as councils line up to withdraw

North Somerset Council has voted to withdraw from the West of England Joint Spatial Plan (JSP), with two of the three remaining authorities involved in preparing the document lining up to follow suit.

North Somerset Council. Image by Chris Talbot, geograph.org.uk
North Somerset Council. Image by Chris Talbot, geograph.org.uk

Last year, inspectors advised that the four councils behind the draft plan should withdraw the document from examination because of concerns over the evidence base for its proposed strategic development locations.

Last night, a full council meeting at North Somerset voted to withdraw the authority from the plan and pursue its own local plan instead. 

An officer’s report that went to the meeting said: "In the light of the issues raised by the inspectors it is considered that the advice should be accepted and the JSP should be withdrawn.

"The council will now prepare a new local plan for North Somerset under a duty to cooperate with neighbouring planning authorities."

Another participant in the JSP – Bath and North East Somerset Council - is set to follow North Somerset by withdrawing from the plan at a meeting next week.

And in a statement to Planning, another of the councils involved, South Gloucestershire, confirmed it would also vote on withdrawal at a meeting in February.

A spokesman for South Gloucestershire said: "The JSP is not viable in its current form and we will not pursue it.

"A new local plan was already being developed and would have sat alongside the JSP, however we are now examining how we will need to change the scope and how the new local plan works in the absence of the JSP."

A statement from Bristol City Council, the other participant in the JSP, said: "We remain committed to finding positive ways of addressing the city and region’s strategic planning needs by working with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and our neighbouring councils.’’

A statement issued by the West of England Combined Authority on behalf of the four councils said: "We remain committed to working with our neighbouring West of England councils and WECA on the best way forward for the region to positively address its strategic planning needs.

"Together we will be jointly commissioning a refresh of the strategic evidence base subject to budget approval in January."

Planning feature looking at the progress of England's five joint strategic plans, including the West of England, can be found here.

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