The planning inspector overseeing Lancaster’s Local Plan has delayed examination into the draft, which had been scheduled for January, due to the council not delivering evidence on time and consulting on amends to the plan after it had been submitted.
The council put forward its plan to the Secretary of State in May 2018, outlining the potential for 12,000 homes and employment sites for 9,500 jobs. Hearings were initially scheduled for November, and then were shifted to January, in order to allow for the council to finish work on the evidence base for transport, viability and air quality.
According to a letter from inspector Richard McCoy to Lancaster City Council, he had been assured all work would be done and delivered to him by mid-October.
However, the additional information “was not submitted as promised… I expressed my concerns to the council regarding the lack of details coming forward and the implications for the timetable.”
The letter goes on to describe how the council then told the inspector that it had just embarked on a four-week consultation on draft suggested modifications to the plan, following its further research into the evidence base.
This news provoked a stern response from the inspector, who stated: “I would point out that the plan being examined is the submitted plan… and the local planning authority must not submit until they think it is ready for examination.
“I would also remind the council that it is for me to consider how any suggested modifications to the submitted plan should be addressed and therefore, whether they are necessary for the soundness of the plan and acceptable.”
He goes on to the point out that a Local Plan can’t be revised once it’s submitted as, “there is no provision in statute that allows the council to revise and re-submit a plan that has already been submitted without first withdrawing it.”
The council’s work on the additional evidence base also raised further questions for McCoy, asking: “I would like to know at this stage if the council considers, as a result of the additional work undertaken, that any aspect of their Plan is unsound and if so what they propose to do to remedy the situation?”
The inspector finished his letter by telling the council that it would not be possible to hold hearings on the plan until the consultation had been concluded. A new date for the examination is yet to be announced.
On the news that the Local Plan examination would be delayed, Dan Mitchell, partner at planner Barton Willmore, said: “This latest setback to the Lancaster Local Plan is frustrating. It comes at a time when the city needs more certainty over the release of land for businesses, new jobs and much needed new homes.”
Lancaster City Council has been contacted for comment.