Local Plan Update

The provisions in the Levelling Up Bill and the NPPF consultation, which concluded last week, have led to many councils having second thoughts about their local plans. More than 13 councils have abandoned, paused or delayed work on their local plans and 2021 saw the lowest number of local plans adopted for a decade.

Earlier last year, Castle Point Council voted not to adopt its local plan after the inspector had approved it, Basildon Council voted to withdraw its local plan when it was mid-examination, Hertsmere Council abandoned its local plan at Reg 19 stage awaiting clarification on Government policy, Dacorum Council adopted a long programme, as did neighbouring St Albans Council, which pushed back its programme by several years due to “resourcing issues”. The Welwyn Hatfield local plan has been in examination for four years and has just asked to extend further. Uttlesford Council, which has its development management powers taken away last year, has a similarly long programme, which it has extended further, although it has yet to publish how far but certainly later than 2025.

According to Local Government Lawyer, South Staffordshire Council, North Somerset Council, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, Horsham District Council and Teignbridge District Council all paused their local plans because of the NPPF consultation and the implications. Teignbridge Council, which was one of the first to delay, then subsequently adopted it to avoid speculative applications. Most of the others remain paused.

Earlier this year, Mole Valley Council, which had already submitted its plan, wrote to the inspector asking for all the green belt sites to be removed. The request was refused as the basis of the request was on emerging, not actual guidance. The inspector offered to pause the examination until there was clarification, although it is likely the council will be considering withdrawing the local plan altogether.

Lichfields reviewed “eight councils and found that c.70,000 homes were caught in these plans which represented a combined construction value of £10.14 billion (using Lichfields Evaluate): supporting 1,000’s of jobs, generating economic output, and delaying the operational and expenditure impacts that arise from new development.” See the full article here.

But there is some good news, Epping Forest Council approved its local plan on 6 March after two years of wrangling and a change of inspector. This is roughly 12,000 homes to be built by 2033, releasing 500 hectares of green belt which is 1.86% of the district’s total.

This added to interest rate rises over the last year, because of policy mistakes, coming out of COVID and the war in Ukraine, have hit the housing market hard. Although, the governor of the Bank of England has indicated that the base rate is at or near its peak.