Local Plan Round-up – April 2017


Harlow District, Essex

The drama of Harlow continues with the council now agreeing to 16,000 new homes in ‘greater Harlow’ which will become the Gilston and Harlow Garden Town. This after the council had objected to a third of the homes last August.

In a Special Full Council meeting in March, Harlow Council reversed a decision it made last August to oppose the development of three sites south and west of the town, allocated in the Epping Forest Local Plan and agreed between the councils previously in the area cooperative group. The council voted in favour of an MOU with all neighbouring councils which would involve the development of a total of over 16,000 new homes in and around Harlow, significantly increasing the size of the town from its existing 35,000 homes.

Harlow Council has also been dragging its feet in bringing forward its own local plan since its Regulation 18 consultation in 2014. A draft submission local plan is due to be presented to Cabinet in June with the Regulation 19 consultation expected later this year.

The opposition parties are still pushing for a second Regulation 18 consultation as the local plan has changed significantly since 2014, and only 126 responses were received at that time. Epping, which did an additional Reg 18 consultation, received 3,100 responses to its public consultation.

Of course, an additional consultation would put the Harlow local plan even further back, probably into 2018.

Guildford, Surrey

Guildford Borough Council has published the latest iteration of its Local Plan this week, in advance of a special scrutiny committee being held on 20 April. The new plan features a 1,400 reduction in the number of homes it requires over the course of the plan period until 2034. This equates to a reduction in the delivery rate from 690 per year to around 650.

The big loser in the reshuffle was the 1,100 home site at Normandy / Flexiford which has been removed from the plan following the inclusion of a secondary school at the University’s strategic site at Blackwell Farm. This was always on the cards after the ward member for Normandy had a clause inserted the previous draft stating the site could be removed if an alternative location for a secondary school could be found.

Elsewhere in the borough the amount of Green Belt land in the south west of the borough (Ash & Tongham) will be increased – as will housing numbers. The main strategic sites remain: Wisley Airfield, Gosden Hill and Blackwell Farm albeit with a recognition that the latter two will deliver some of their homes outside the plan period.

Responses to the previous version of the Local Plan will still stand, leaving the council to carry out a targeted public consultation on the plan between 9th June until 24th July.

Epping Forest, Essex

Epping councillors let out a sigh of relief at the news that Harlow is now supporting its local plan allocation of some 3,100 new homes to the south and west of the town. Harlow had agreed to them in the cross-border council cooperative group, then agreed to them within the garden town application submitted jointly with East Herts last July, but then objected to them in Epping’s Reg 18 consultation at the end of last year, calling into question whether the duty to cooperate had been fulfilled. Despite voting to oppose the sites in August last year, a further full council meeting in March this year overturned that decision, agreeing to Epping’s and other neighbouring local council allocations adjoining Harlow.

Epping is pushing ahead with its local plan, although have been a little overwhelmed by the response to its latest consultation. Cabinet was due to review the results of the Regulation 18 consultation which concluded just before Christmas at its meeting in March but this was delayed due to the volume of responses (over 3,000).

Thurrock, Essex

Highways England today announced the form and route of the new crossing and link roads. After extensive consultation, it has chosen Option C, a bored tunnel between Tilbury and Gravesend, and then route 3, through Orsett joining with the M25 between junctions 29 and 30 at North Ockendon.

This will be a relief to Thurrock council as it has been unable to progress its local plan until the route had been announced.

Whichever route chosen will have resulted in opposition, and there is expected to be a backlash from this announcement over the coming weeks as the route, through necessity, goes through greenbelt and open countryside. However, many acknowledge that the new crossing and road is necessary to relieve the pressure on the Dartford Crossing which is now regularly congested.

Waverley District Council, Surrey

Local Plan Inspector, Jonathan Bore, is considering Waverley Council’s response to his initial questions and has yet to announce a timetable for the examination in public. He will also be mindful that the Secretary of State has called in the decision to consent 1,800 new homes at Dunsfold, which has an impact upon deliverability of the local plan.

A recent appeal locally has revealed that due to a past lack of delivery of housing, Waverley does not have a five-year land supply, requiring a 20 per cent buffer now instead of the current five. This will also impact upon the Inspector’s deliberations. See full story here.

Wealden, East Sussex

Wealden Council published its local plan in March, reducing its target to 14,101 new homes, from 19,509 before. The revised figures are due to the sensitive environmental issues across the District, particularly Ashdown Forest. The revised figures take into account the results of the latest nitrogen deposition monitoring that has been taking place on Ashdown Forest from vehicles and other sources.

It is not clear whether this will be accepted by the Inspectorate or DCLG. Wealden is following the path it needs to follow according to the EU legislation, but does it prevail over housing need?

The Inspector will have a view. The local pan will go out for Regulation 19 consultation shortly ahead of submission. See full story here.

Basildon, Essex

The Regulation 19 pre-submission consultation which was scheduled to take place in the first quarter of this year will now happen in Q3 instead. Apparently, Basildon Council has blocked-book a venue for the EIP from September through to November. A suggestion that officers may wish to revise the booking was rebuked by the portfolio holder.

There is another potential delay for Basildon and that will be the council structure change, transferring from the portfolio system back to the committee system. The Conservative Group have held all the portfolios despite there being no overall control. The Labour and UKIP groups joined forces in December last year and voted for the change, reverting to the traditional system, allowing the opposition groups to have a say in the decisions made. With the balance of power between the Conservatives, Labour and UKIP, this will lead to some interesting meetings after May when the new arrangement comes into force. See full story here.

East Hertfordshire

The District Planning Executive Panel, Cabinet and Full Council all approved the draft local plan and it was expected to be submitted with the inspector by the end of March. The EIP is expected to happen over the summer.

East Herts is also the lead authority in delivering the Harlow and Gilston garden town. It is in the process of appointing a project manager and team to take the master planning of the new garden town forward. This will prove interesting as the garden town includes three planning districts: Epping, Harlow and East Herts.

St Albans, Hertfordshire

All remains quiet in St Albans as the council waits to hear whether its application for a judicial review of the inspector’s report can go ahead. This decision is expected in June.

Central Bedfordshire

Following a temporary pause in December due to the impending Housing White Paper, the draft local plan for Central Bedfordshire will now be published for consultation at the end of June 2017.