Out-Law News | 14 Jul 2014 | 5:14 pm | 2 min. read
The Council consulted on the 2013 version of its local plan documents in autumn 2013. Changes were made to the document in response to the consultation and a new version incorporating the changes was submitted for examination in March 2014. The schedule of changes made to the consultation version of the plan extended to more than 180 pages and included an increase in housing numbers proposed for the borough and changes to the sites allocated for development.
In a letter to the Council (11-page / 45 KB PDF) on 9 May, independent planning inspector Jeremy Youle raised concerns that the extent and nature of the changes made to the documents following consultation meant that many of them could not be included in the examination without first undergoing further public consultation.
In his letter the inspector explained that he must consider the consultation version of the plan to be the version under examination and that any significant changes, or 'main modifications', recommended by an inspector following the submission of planning documents must be necessary to make the plan sound and must have been requested from the local planning authority (LPA) on that basis.
"A change of preferred approach by the LPA to a policy or a site allocation cannot be accommodated unless the policy or site as submitted is, in the inspector's view, unsound or not legally compliant and the proposed change would make the plan ... sound/compliant," wrote the inspector.
The inspector explained that the only alternative to main modifications was 'additional modifications' which "do not materially affect the policies in the plan" and can be made by the LPA prior to adoption. In the inspector's opinion, certain of the modifications made to the consultation version of the plan, in particular the increased housing numbers, went beyond 'additional modifications'.
Aside from procedural difficulties, the inspector said that accepting the more significant changes to the plan without further consultation "would breach the principles of natural justice".
"People and organisations might reasonably expect to be given the opportunity to comment on the more significant changes, for example, the housing numbers and in respect of amended or new policy requirements and changed allocations, whatever the justification might be for those proposed changes," wrote the inspector.
The inspector recommended that the plan be withdrawn in order to allow for consultation on the new version. The only alternative, the inspector said, was to examine the version that was consulted on in 2013, "a version of the plan which you no longer appear to support and which by implication you may, therefore, now consider to be unsound".
At a meeting of the Council's executive on 7th July, it was resolved that the plan should be withdrawn from examination and a timetable for producing a new plan should be approved.
The Council expects to publish a revised local plan document by October, with submission scheduled for 2015.