Local Plan Watch: Inspectors give contrasting verdicts on two long-awaited plans

News of mixed fortunes for two troubled and long-awaited council development strategies features in this week's round-up of local plan news.

Local plan verdicts delivered: the Planning Inspectorate headquarters in Bristol
Local plan verdicts delivered: the Planning Inspectorate headquarters in Bristol

Earlier this week, planning inspectors rebuffed St Albans Council's attempt to save its troubled local plan by dropping its support for a 2,300-home garden village on a green belt site that has government permission for a rail freight interchange. Earlier this year, the inspectors concluded that the plan did not meet the legal duty to cooperate.

However, also this week, an inspector examining the South Oxfordshire District Council local plan backed its proposed housing target, spatial strategy and level of green belt releases.

St Albans last adopted a local plan in 1994 and has been preparing its current strategy since the previous draft failed the duty to cooperate in 2016.

Meanwhile, South Oxfordshire's current core strategy was adopted in 2012. It first consulted on its emerging plan back in June 2014.

In the St Albans examination, inspectors Louise Crosby and Elaine Worthing advised the council in April that the plan should be withdrawn from examination because of the council's failure to meet the duty to cooperate. They said this was in relation to matters including the plan's level of green belt release and its proposed allocation of a site earmarked by the government for a strategic rail freight interchange (SRFI) for the Park Street Garden Village.

In July, St Albans Council planning officers proposed a main modification to the plan that would "acknowledge the status of the SRFI and would remove the PSGV [Park Street Garden Village] allocation".

But the inspectors have now advised the council that it has not been able to address their concerns.

There was better news from the Planning Inspectorate in South Oxfordshire. The council's draft local plan was submitted for examination in March last year, but following a change in administration at the May 2019 local elections, the government and the authority have been in a stand-off on the issue.

In March, Jenrick lifted the direction but told South Oxfordshire that it must ensure the plan is adopted by December, threatening to take "further intervention action" if this had not happened. Examination hearings into the emerging plan began in July and ended in early August.

This week, inspector Jonathan Bore published his "preliminary conclusions and post-hearings advice" on the draft plan, backing the document's total housing requirement, its strategic land allocations and green belt release, and its spatial strategy.


Examination news: 

Oxfordshire: Cherwell District Council's local plan partial review was found sound by an inspector subject to modifications on 6 August.

Norfolk: Great Yarmouth Borough Council has submitted its final draft local plan part 2 to the secretary of state for examination 31 July. 

Consultation news:

South Yorkshire: Sheffield City Council started consulting on its local plan on 1 September for a period of six weeks.

Leicestershire: Rutland Council published a draft version of its local plan for consultation between 27 August and 9 October.

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