Housing Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed that the Government will look to intervene into Wirral Council’s lack of Local Plan, due to “consistent failure” and “no exceptional circumstances to justify why your Council has made such little progress”.
In November, Javid approached 15 councils across the UK who were yet to have a plan in place, to “express concerns” and highlight his plans for Government involvement to speed up the process. Councils had until 31 January to put forward any exceptional circumstances. Wirral and Liverpool were the only councils in the North West to be contacted.
On Friday, Javid wrote to Cllr Phil Davies, leader of Wirral Council, confirming that despite exceptional circumstances outlined by Wirral, plans for an intervention would continue.
“There has been a consistent failure to produce a Local Plan since the last Plan was adopted in 2000. The council has failed to meet milestones in published Local Development Schemes at least six times since 2004,” Javid said.
Wirral’s defence was that plan-making had been delayed by the abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies and withdrawal of Government funding, but highlighted progress in that the council was forming part of the Liverpool City Region’s Single Spatial Plan.
However, Javid replied: “These do not appear to be exceptional circumstances. These circumstances are not unique to Wirral.
“Enabling development in the short-term without a plan is not a justification for failure to produce a plan as this undermines the plan-led system, and many other councils have prepared a Local Plan from existing budgets.
“There are no exceptional circumstances to justify why your council has made such little progress over the years… there is no justification for the length of time your council is proposing to take on further evidence gathering.”
Javid confirmed the intervention process would continue, which will “involve a team of experts, led by the chief planner, providing me with advice on next steps”. Javid also said his officials would begin discussions with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority with the option of inviting it to prepare a Local Plan for Wirral on its behalf.
Meanwhile, Javid backed down from intervening with Liverpool’s Local Plan process, due to progress made since he last contacted the council. However, his letter to Mayor Joe Anderson remained stern: “I will hold you to account for your Council’s actions. Your council needs to continue to your published timetable… Any further significant delays will cause me to have considerable doubt as to whether your council is doing everything that is necessary in connection with the preparation of its Local Plan.”
Wirral Council has been contacted for comment.