The next stage of consultation on Wyre Forest District Council’s proposed Local Plan looks set to take place in October.
The council had originally planned to carry out the Pre-Submission consultation in June, but due to delays in Government guidelines, the authority is revising its Local Plan adoption timetable.
As part of the Local Plan the council has to include the number of houses it will need to plan for. The standardised methodology for calculating this is being reviewed and was due to be agreed in April, but the Government has failed to keep to this deadline.
This has caused the council to revise its Local Plan timetable. The Government consulted on their proposed standardised methodology back in 2017 and suggested the council should plan for 246 units per year, but the council’s own figure (the Objectively Assessed Housing Need - April 2017) proposed 300 units per year. The council is still awaiting final confirmation of the Government’s proposed figure.
The proposed new timetable is being discussed at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 12 June.
Councillor Marcus Hart, Leader of Wyre Forest District Council, said: “I’m very frustrated and disappointed that the Government has been unable to confirm the standardised methodology that they expect councils to use when they set the number of new houses that they have to plan for in their Local Plans.
“Back in February 2017 the Government said that they proposed to have the methodology in place by April 2018 but it looks like we will have to wait until later this year, when they have finalised the current consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework, before we will find out what the proposed methodology for calculating housing numbers will be.
“This is very unsatisfactory and means we have had to delay our consultation and therefore the timetable for the next stages of our Local Plan review. Consultation with residents to date has been based on our Objectively Assessed Housing Need of 300 units, which is currently the only evidence based figure we have, but knowing that the Government is planning to announce their figure based on their standardised approach we want to make sure that we have the exact number before we go back out to consultation and to do that we must wait for the Government to issue new guidance.”
The consultation began in 2015 With the Issues and Options discussion document and the second stage of consultation on the proposed Local Plan, the Preferred Options consultation which took place last year, attracted almost 5,000 written comments. More than 1,800 people also attended special drop-in sessions held all over the district last summer. The plan to put back the next stage of the consultation process is to make sure that people can have a set of facts and figures on housing needs that meets the Government’s proposed methodology when making their comments.
Councillor Ian Hardiman, Cabinet Member for Planning & Economic Regeneration, said: “We think it would be very unfair and confusing for Wyre Forest residents if we went out to consultation on a proposed number of new houses without knowing whether the figure conformed to the new methodology.
“It is important that the council ensures at all times that its Local Plan is compliant with the National Planning Policy Framework. We can’t do that without waiting for the current consultation on it to be concluded. The decision to revise our timetable hasn’t been taken lightly as we all want to see the new Local Plan adopted as soon as possible. It will give everyone certainty about where new development is acceptable and where it isn’t, but we really don’t feel comfortable undertaking any local consultation against a national backdrop of uncertainty.”
Under the timetable that is being considered at the Cabinet meeting the proposal would see the Pre-Submission consultation taking place this autumn with a proposed submission to the Secretary of State in July 2019. This would mean the prospect of an examination in public being held by an appointed planning inspector in autumn 2019 and potential adoption of the new Local Plan in spring 2020.
The council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee will consider the proposal at the meeting on Thursday 7 June and will make recommendations for the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 12 June. The Cabinet meeting will be webcast and can be viewed at www.wyreforestdc.gov.uk/webcast