Another local plan hits the buffers

By Michael Hardware, Director of Planning and Property

The joint Chiltern and South Bucks local plan has joined the growing list of failing local plans in the south east.

It joins Uttlesford, St Albans and the joint north Essex local plan (Braintree, Colchester and Tendring) which have all been condemned by inspectors recently.

Chilterns and South Bucks councils submitted their joint local plan to inspectors last September. It included proposals for 15,000 homes to be built across the two districts over the next 20 years. But it is what it did not include which has attracted the inspectors’ ire: an unmet housing need of up to 10,000 new homes in the neighbouring Slough Borough Council (SBC).

Inspectors criticised the councils for failing to engage “constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis” with SBC over its unmet housing need. The report indicated that representatives from the councils and from SBC met just three times between October 2017 and June 2019.

It went on: “It is evident that the issue of SBC’s unmet housing need was raised early in the preparation of the Chiltern and South Bucks local plan, as far back as 2016. From dialogue in October 2017 and January 2018, no further meetings were held with SBC for almost 18 months, until after publication of the submission version local plan”.

SBC is restricted in how many houses it can build within its planning boundary. It was seeking to have homes built near to Slough in South Buckinghamshire, but these were not included within the Chilterns/South Bucks local plan.

The inspectors concluded: “Based on the evidence provided we, therefore, have very serious concerns the councils have not engaged actively, constructively and on an ongoing basis in relation to a strategic matter in the plan’s preparation.”

The two authorities are now part of the wider unitary Buckinghamshire Council, but will still have an opportunity to consider the inspectors’ findings and decide the next step. But the inspectors note “there is a strong likelihood the only option will be for the council to withdraw the plan”.

Whatever the final decision, it is clear the local plan will have to accommodate some of SBC’s housing need and the local plan will be delayed significantly.