STOP PRESS: Council intervention on the cards…

By Michael Hardware, Director of Planning and Property

Castle Point council this week voted its draft local plan down. As the council is on the Secretary of State James Brokenshire’s ‘naughty list’ it looks likely that the Government will intervene and the south Essex authority will become the first in the country to have its plan-making powers taken away.

Councillors were expected to approve the draft local plan for 4,800 homes so it could go to Regulation 19 consultation and submission for inspection in January, keeping within the timetable set out. But councillors voted 16-15 to reject the local plan as it stands.

Castle Point were issued a warning in November last year requiring it to complete its local plan by January this year. It did not conform so in March MHCLG wrote advising that ‘intervention’ would take place if completion did not materialise. The scene is now set for the Government to take over.

There are plans in place for Government to pass the plan-making powers from any failing local authority to the respective county council, although it not clear how that will happen. As Essex County Council does not really have the experience or expertise to take this on, it is likely planning consultants will be appointed under its auspices to undertake the task. Whether that would be under the cabinet member responsible for planning or the Development and Regulation Committee we will wait and see.

It has been rumoured that MHCLG has been looking to make an example of a local authority as that would have the impact of bringing many of the other wayward local authorities into line. Some have viewed the Government’s threat as simply that, but now we will see just how sharp MHCLG’s teeth are.