Lancaster City Council submitted its local plan for examination in May 2018.
In December 2018, the authority was rebuked by inspector Richard McCoy for seeking to make changes to the plan post-submission. However, examination hearings went on to take place between April and May last year.
Writing last month to advise that the plan could be found sound, the inspector approved the council’s target of delivering 522 homes a year, equivalent to 10,440 homes over the plan period. The council had “striven to boost significantly the supply of housing” and had “rigorously assessed all opportunities” to meet demand for homes, McCoy said.
According to the inspector’s report, a study of Lancaster’s housing requirement, conducted in 2015 and reviewed in 2018, found an objectively assessed need of between 650 and 700 homes a year - equivalent to between 13,500 and 14,000 dwellings over the plan period.
However, the inspector noted that the district faces a number of constraints on housing delivery, including green belt designations, flood risk, and the need to protect Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Neighbouring councils were unable to help meet the district’s unmet housing need, he found.
“In my judgement, the council has demonstrated that it has rigorously assessed all opportunities to deliver its full objectively assessed need for housing and the housing requirement is realistic given the circumstances that prevail in the district,” he said.
The inspector advised the council that a 500-home green belt site allocation in South Carnforth should be removed from the plan, noting that future residents would be adversely affected by a nearby quarry and finding that the site currently served to prevent urban sprawl.
A policy supporting development of the planned 3,500-home Bailrigg Garden Village was also supported by the inspector.
Lancaster City Council said the plan will now be put to councillors for formal adoption, potentially later this summer.
Janice Hanson, cabinet member with responsibility for planning policy, said the inspector’s findings represented “a landmark moment”.
“It will not, however, be the end of the story and we will need to keep the plan up-to-date and reviewed to reflect current circumstances, not least those created by the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.
“Following its formal adoption we also intend to begin an immediate review of the plan to ensure that its policies appropriately and effectively address our stated aims in relation to the climate emergency.”