Public examination of Bury's core strategy, the plan to guide and control development in Bury for the next 15 years, has been suspended by the independent inspector due to lack of evidence.
In the first three days of the hearing, which started last week, the council said that Bury could only accommodate 400 new houses a year without compromising the Green Belt. Development activity was to be focused around East Bury and Radcliffe. However, housebuilders and developers argued that Bury should provide for between 800 and 1,000 houses a year to satisfy housing need in the area.
Inspector Malcolm Rivett raised concerns and indicated that the council needed to do more work on its evidence to justify its approach. He suspended the hearing yesterday.
Cllr Sandra Walmsley, cabinet member for resource and regulation, said: "People in Bury want us to protect the Green Belt, and we have brought forward a plan which reflects those views in the light of increasing developer pressures to release green fields in some of the most attractive parts of the borough. Developers already have permission to build 3,000 new houses in Bury but have not yet done so.
"The council has been put in a very difficult position, as Government planning guidance continues to change and seeks to force local authorities to find more and more land for housing to increase house-building rates across the country, regardless of local constraints and public opinion."
The inspector will write to the council over the next few weeks to explain his concerns in more detail. The council will then consider how it wishes to proceed.
Conor Vallelly, principal planner at HOW Planning, said: "The development industry participants at the examination, including our clients Himor Group, have held serious concerns regarding the council's approach to establishing its objectively assessed housing needs, amongst other important issues. Whilst it is regrettable that the local plan core strategy will now need to be reworked and this will cause further delay and additional costs to all parties, the Bury example demonstrates it is imperative that local authorities advance sound and credible evidence on housing needs at the point of submission to the Secretary of State."