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Nottinghamshire council resolves to withdraw local plan from examination

Out-Law News | 30 Jul 2014 | 4:57 pm | 1 min. read

A Nottinghamshire council has resolved to withdraw its local plan from examination four months after a planning inspector said that there was a significant risk that the plan would be found unsound.

Ashfield District Council submitted its local plan, the document on which it proposed to base local planning decisions until 2024, for examination in December. In a letter to the Council (10-page / 239 KB PDF) dated 26 March, examining inspector Jeremy Youle raised serious concerns in relation to the evidence base used in drawing up the plan and recommended that it be withdrawn.

Youle said that it was not clear from the evidence provided by the Council why the sites allocated for development in the draft plan had been selected and other sites had been rejected.

"The National Planning Policy Framework requires that to be sound the plan should be the most appropriate strategy when considered against the reasonable alternatives, based on proportionate evidence," wrote Youle. "The courts have confirmed that it should be clear from the [evidence] why the preferred option came to be chosen and this should be based on analysis on a comparable basis of the preferred option and reasonable alternatives."

Youle said that it was not clear from the evidence provided by the Council "what the key factors were in making individual site selection choices or how these factors were weighed against others to reach conclusions". He raised particular concerns about the lack of evidence that the Council had considered "the relative merits of site options in terms of landscape and visual effects" or the projected impact that development at different sites would have on town centres.

The inspector was also concerned that the Council had concluded that six sites should be removed from the Green Belt and allocated for housing development without having demonstrated the 'exceptional circumstances' that must exist to justify the alteration of Green Belt boundaries or the "robust and compelling justification" necessary "for allocating Green Belt land for housing in preference to sites which are not in the Green Belt".

Youle did not consider suspension of examination of the local plan, in order to allow further evidence to be gathered and consult on any resulting modifications, to be appropriate since this would "further delay the adoption of a plan which already has a short time horizon". The inspector said that he considered withdrawal of the plan to be "the only realistic way forward".

The Council confirmed in a statement that "a resolution to withdraw the local plan publication was made on 24 July 2014 by a decision of the authority's full council". 

The Council said that it had "started work on updating the evidence base for the local plan" and that it expected to produce a schedule setting out the anticipated timetable for drafting a new local plan in the autumn.