Local Plan Watch: Wirral’s 12,000-home plan set for further delay due to Covid-19

Wirral Councll’s long-emerging local plan plus another development strategy in Suffolk are both set to be delayed due to disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Birkenhead on The Wirral (Pic: Getty)
Birkenhead on The Wirral (Pic: Getty)

Wirral Council said in a statement that it has informed the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government that it expects to need more time to complete the preparation of its local plan.

The document proposes building 12,000 homes by 2035, or 800 homes a year.

According to a timetable announced in January, it was due to be submitted for examination by November.

But the council said it had "extended time for people to comment on the options proposed after the coronavirus lockdown announced by the government in March". It also needed more time to "complete essential  new evidence studies required to address issues raised  in the consultation", it added.

Details of the extended local plan programme would be published "as soon as practicable", the statement went on to say.   

The original local plan in 2018 allocated the same number of homes, but included 50 development sites on green belt land.

A new draft strategy in January 2020 removed 48 sites from the green belt and instead focused on the regeneration and development of urban and brownfield locations, primarily on the eastern side of the district in Birkenhead and Wallasey.

“We want to protect our beautiful green spaces – which are the reason many choose to live in the borough,” said Anita Leech, cabinet member for the local plan.

“We have had an impressive response to the consultation we ran at the start of the year, and despite the obvious difficulties resulting from the global Covid-19 pandemic we have been working hard to collate and analyse the responses.

"We have also been undertaking several evidence base studies and on-site assessment work but this has been unable to happen at the pace we initially anticipated due to the restrictions in place.”

While it concedes that it may not be possible to meet all housing needs using only brownfield sites, the council wants to increase the land supply in urban areas before building on green belt land.

It says it is working with landowners and developers to ensure that privately-owned brownfield sites are made available.

The council was one of three authorities threatened with central government intervention in March 2018 over its failure to adopt a local plan.

In other local plan news, the joint local plan being developed by Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils has been delayed until the end of 2021 at the earliest.

The plan was due to be adopted at the start of 2020, and was initially pushed back to spring 2020 before this latest delay.

The councils cited the coronavirus as well as changes to national planning policy as the reasons for the delay.

The current draft indicates that around 17,500 new homes will be needed across the two districts by 2035, or around 976 homes annually, which is more than 30 per cent higher than current levels of housing delivery.

LOCAL PLAN UPDATES

ADOPTION NEWS

Cumbria: Allerdale’s Local Plan (Part 2), which allocates land to deliver the objectives set out in the Local Plan (Part 1), was adopted on 22 July.

Yorkshire: The North York Moors Local Plan was adopted on 27 July.

London: Hackney Council’s local plan was adopted at a full council meeting on 22 July.

CONSULTATION NEWS

Lancashire: Fylde Borough Council has published its proposals on its emerging local plan for a consultation between 23 July and 3 September.

EXAMINATION NEWS

Devon: The inspector’s report on the Mid Devon District Council Local Plan was issued to the council on 26 June. The inspector found that the plan was sound, provided modifications were made.

Staffordshire: The inspector’s report on the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council Local Plan was issued to the Council on 18 June. The Inspector found that the plan was sound, provided modifications were made.


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