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Bury Core Strategy examination suspended after three days of hearings

An independent planning inspector has suspended his examination of Bury Council's Core Strategy after three days of hearings, finding that it was "highly unlikely" that the figure given as the borough's objectively assessed housing need would be "found sound".

Bury Council submitted its Core Strategy for examination in December 2013 and hearing sessions were scheduled to run until 3 July.

The Council had proposed a figure of 538 dwellings per year as its objectively assessed housing need, although it acknowledged that a figure of 875 dwellings per year was "contended by some representors to be the objectively assessed need" in the matters for discussion (12-page / 67 KB PDF) it published prior to the hearing sessions.

After the first three days of hearing sessions, inspector Malcolm Rivett issued a statement suspending the examination.

"Having read and heard ... the relevant evidence the inspector has concluded that it is highly unlikely that he would be able to find that the figure contended by the Council as the objectively assessed need for housing in Bury is soundly based", said the inspector in his statement. "Moreover, he considers that there is not currently a basis on which he could recommend evidence-based modifications which would make the plan sound in this respect."

The inspector recommended that "it would be most appropriate to suspend the examination" because there was "such little prospect of the plan as a whole being found sound".

The inspector had previously raised concerns about certain elements of the Core Strategy before an exploratory meeting in February, listing the objectively assessed need for housing and "the reliance on neighbouring authorities to meet some of Bury's housing needs" as issues that might have implications for the document's soundness.

However, according to a statement on the Council's website, the inspector had at that stage concluded that there was "a sufficient prospect of the plan being found sound either in its current form or subject to modifications, for it to be worth continuing with the examination."

The inspector is expected to publish his examination letter on the Council's website in due course.

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