Sevenoaks Local Plan is dead

by Michael HardwareDirector of Planning and Property 

The council has received further bad news – not only has the Sevenoaks Council failed in its duty to cooperate, the inspector also has serious concerns over the overall soundness of the local plan. Is the plan dead?

The inspector, Karen Baker, submitted the final report to Sevenoaks council earlier this month revealing several areas of concern, areas where she would have wanted further evidence had the examination in public progressed.

This was on top of her ruling that the council had failed in its duty to cooperate with its neighbours. The council hotly disputes this, and it does not appear any of the adjoining authorities have been complaining too much about the lack of cooperation – possibly because such cooperation may have resulted in them having to take some of Sevenoak’s numbers.

The inspector outlined several broad areas of concern, most of which were known about. These included the sustainability appraisal, green belt assessment, the approach to the definition of exceptional circumstances, justification of the housing requirement being significantly lower than the housing need, the deliverability or develop ability of some allocations and the simplistic phasing.

The council now has a decision to make: whether to accept the inspector’s views and withdraw the plan, or to mount a challenge through the courts. Statements made by the Secretary of State last week about local authorities having up-to-date local plans and delivering housing need may well sway the council’s decision.

In light of this and the inspector’s comments, it is reasonable to expect the council will accept that the plan is dead and withdraw it. This will have implications for neighbouring authorities as future discussions with Sevenoaks, in order to fulfil the duty to cooperate, may well result in them having to take additional numbers. In any case, Sevenoaks will have some work to do if they are going to meet the new 2023 deadline.