Agenda item

Local Plan - Main Modifications (Agenda item 13)

Report of Councillor Gordon Bambridge, Executive Member for Growth.


Due to its size, the Appendix to this report, the Schedule of Main Modifications, has been attached as a separate document.


Councillor Gordon Bambridge, the Portfolio Holder for Growth presented the report.


He informed Members that the Council had agreed to sign-off the proposed Submission version of the Local Plan on 27 July 2017 for its final pre-submission publication (6 week consultation) and submission for Examination in Public. The Council delegated agreement of modifications during the Examination to Officers in consultation with the Leader and Portfolio Holder.


The Local Plan had been in Examination during the summer and, during the course of the Hearings the Inspector had requested a number of modifications be made to the Plan to ensure that it could be found sound. The full list of modifications had been set out in Appendix A to the report.


The vast majority of these modifications were relatively minor and uncontroversial and in many cases, helpful to the Council. However, in some areas these modifications were more significant. Councillor Bambridge highlighted the significant modifications (as below):


·        Use of an alternative method of calculating the housing land supply (the ‘Sedgefield method’) – this had the effect of increasing the housing requirement in the next 5 years as any backlog built up had to be dealt with more quickly;

·        An early review of the Plan to consider the housing numbers, employment policies and gypsies and travellers; and

·        Changes to the Council’s proposed rural housing policies (HOU4 and 5).

In light of these significant modifications, he felt it to be appropriate not to utilise the delegation, and that the matter be brought back to Full Council for Members’ consideration.


There were three options available to Members and the report set out the potential implications of each option, based on both planning advice and separate legal advice.


Option 1 was for Members to agree the modifications and in doing so, would result in a six week consultation process to begin in the New Year; this would allow the examination to progress.


Option 1 would allow the Council to progress with the Examination leading to having an adopted and up to date Plan, including new land allocations, to assist with day-to-day decision making.


The detriment of this option was that there would be a need to move forward with an early review of the Plan in an ambitious timeframe. This would also include policies where there could be wording introduced by the Inspector that the Council would have preferred not to have included.


Option 1b was essentially as Option 1, but this option sought to reopen the Hearing sessions to allow further discussion to take place on the modifications to the rural housing policies.


Option 1b would allow a proper consideration of the amended text of the rural housing policies to take place.  However, legal advice had confirmed that this was unlikely to be accepted by the Inspector as there was no guarantee of a different outcome. This approach would extend the Examination with the likely result that other areas of the Plan would need to be updated - potentially adding further delay to progress the Plan.


Option 2 was to not agree to the modifications; this would mean that the Plan would be found unsound and would need to be withdrawn.  This option was not recommended as, although the Council would still have policies in place through the existing Local Development Framework, these policies were either out of date or very dated.  This option would not allow the Council to have a set of up to date policies for use by the Planning Committee or provide new residential allocations to include within the Council’s land supply. It would also leave other key sites such as Snetterton Heath without a confirmed allocation of land for growth, potentially harming growth of a key site on the A11 corridor. This approach would also result in the Council having greater reliance on National Policy rather than its own locally developed policies.


Councillor Bambridge pointed out that whilst there were pro’s and con’s associated with each option, in his opinion, Option 1a was the one that should be approved and he urged Members to support it.


Councillor Borrett congratulated all Members and Officers who had been involved in the preparation of the Local Plan.  Many meetings had been held and had attracted a great deal of local support. However, he had been very disappointed that the Inspector had altered the Plan particularly in relation to Policy HOU5 on page 38 of the Appendix where much of the criteria that had previously been agreed by all involved, had been removed. He urged Members to support this Local Plan and commended Option 1a to the Council but he stressed the need to engage in the consultation process and inform the Inspector of the damage that could be done if Policy HOU5 remained as amended.


Councillor Clarke said that he would be endorsing Option1a and he had, with some reservation, agreed with Councillor Borrett’s remarks.  However, he felt that the affordable housing data needed to be refreshed and the localism agenda should be taken into account when delivering sustainable transport and economic growth.  Councillor Bambridge agreed and would continue to press this matter forward.  He would also ensure that the Housing data was refreshed.


Councillor Gilbert also supported Councillor Borrett’s comments and he too was disappointed that all the work that had gone into these policies had been ignored by a Government Inspector.


Councillor Kybird pointed out that in order for a Plan to be found sound it needed to be correct.


Councillor Jermy asked if it was normal to receive this number of modifications.  Councillor Bambridge understood that Breckland’s modifications were roughly in-line with others.  He also agreed with the fact that a great deal of time had been invested in getting Policies HOU4 and HOU5 right for Breckland and although this was going to be difficult, he urged Members not to give up.


Councillor Joel, also in support of Councillor Borrett’s comments, felt that housing was very important and was different in Norfolk compared to many other counties.  He asked when the consultation was likely to take place, if Option 1a was agreed.


Councillor Carter drew attention to page 55, section 2.4 of the report as it did not make sense.  It was agreed that the word ‘to’ should be added after the word ‘ability’ and the word ‘producing’ be amended to ‘produce’.


The Leader asked how the consultation was going to be carried out.  Stephen Ottewell, the Director of Planning & Building Control, advised that, if Members were mindful to approve Option 1a, there would be a formal six week consultation process starting early in the New Year.  Correspondence would be sent out to all town and parish councils and relevant stakeholders and would also be extensively advertised. 


RESOLVED that Option 1a of the report be endorsed, the modifications be accepted, and consultation on the main modifications be progressed.

Supporting documents: