Out-Law News 2 min. read

Aylesbury Vale draft Local Plan unsound, Inspector warns

A planning inspector has advised Aylesbury Vale District Council to withdraw its Local Plan from examination after finding that the plan does not meet the duty to co-operate. 

The inspector also warned that the document, which sets out plans for 13,850 homes and 6,000 jobs until 2031, was not sound in relation to its overall provision for housing and jobs. He wrote to the Council following initial examination hearings in December and advised that he would be recommending non-adoption of the plan.

The inspector said in his letter (8-page / 131KB PDF) that the Council had failed its duty to co-operate during the preparation of the plan. He said that adjoining local authorities present at the initial hearing had considered their involvement in the Council's work on a housing study to inform the plan had been "essentially that of consultees". "They did not consider that they had been actively or directly involved in its preparation," he said.

"The extent to which engagement, particular of the limited form undertaken, could have genuinely influenced the overall level of housing provision appears to have been minimal," the inspector said. He said there were "significant issues" in terms of potential unmet housing needs from other authorities which the Council had been aware of "from early in the plan preparation process, if not before".

"Whilst noting the lack of specific evidence on potential unmet needs from other authorities and accepting that collaboration and joint working is a two way process, it is the Council’s duty, as the authority submitting the plan for examination, to have sought to address these issues through constructive, active and ongoing engagement," the inspector added.

In relation to plan's housing provision, the Inspector said that it was "clear" that the Council was planning for a level of housing "well below" that indicated by its evidence in terms of potential economic growth.

He said that the plan had "significant" strategic housing issues which need to be "effectively resolved as soon as possible through the plan-making process following genuine co-operation and collaboration with other authorities". He concluded that the plan had "not been positively prepared" in relation to housing provision. "It is not justified or effective and it is not consistent with national policy. It is therefore not sound," he said.

The Inspector advised the Council that it could choose to proceed with the examination, but that "given my findings, I must recommend non-adoption of the plan". He recommended that the Council should withdraw the plan.

“We are incredibly disappointed and surprised at the inspector’s conclusions," said Council leader Neil Blake in a statement. "We believed our plan was in the best interests of the local area and created the right balance of new housing, for the development of the area. We also felt the Vale of Aylesbury Plan followed the Government’s localism agenda by reflecting the views of the local community rather than housing numbers being imposed on us by others."

“Unfortunately, we’ve had mixed messages and changing requirements from central Government throughout the process. We now have no choice but to move on from what we believed to be the best plan for the Vale. Moving forward we will be able to use much of the technical work already done,” Blake said.

The Council said it would make a decision on how to proceed with the plan at a full council meeting on 5 February.

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