District Dispatch –Why the Local Plan is vital in protecting our area
Over the past couple of weeks, I have read with interest the articles claiming that we must ‘delay the local plan,’ and I felt I needed to respond to explain why this is the worst thing we could do.
There is one thing all of us have in common – we all want to protect our district for years to come and retain its character and beauty. The only way we can achieve this is by having a Local Plan, because it is the only way we can control development – and this is why it is so important we continue to progress with this important piece of work.
The message from Government has never been clearer – progress your plan or risk losing local control over the plan. The Secretary of State has powers to intervene in the production of the Plan, where he considers that a local planning authority is failing to prepare, revise or adopt a Plan. I’m sure that you will agree that we must not reach this point and it is vital that we keep this control locally.
You may also remember that we have already strongly requested an extension of time in which to prepare our plan from the Government, pointing out the unique character of the area and the challenging environmental constraints we face. We have also made strong representations to the Government about the proposed changes to the planning system. Unfortunately, as things stand, no extension has been given to us and we wait to see with interest how the Government proceeds with its proposals for the future planning system.
In one of the articles written it suggested that a moratorium must be imposed on all new large housing developments. This isn’t possible. Even if we could delay investment in homes and jobs, under the law, developers have the right to submit planning applications which must be determined within agreed timescales. If not, they have a right of appeal to Planning Inspectors and we would be likely to be found to have acted unreasonably, with applicants appeal costs awarded against us.
Now, let us focus on what the Local Plan can deliver. Firstly, it is a chance for us all come together to protect our area and take control of how we want our district to look in the future. The issues raised by the Harbour Trust and its campaign – nitrates, sewerage capacity and roads infrastructure - require long term thinking that a Local Plan provides.
But the Plan is not just about housing. There are proposals for jobs – something that is more vital than ever – wildlife corridors and other environmental improvements. These all need the Plan to proceed.
The Plan gives us the chance to take control and to make sure that we access the infrastructure we so desperately need. Without the Plan, we will not be able to access the funding for this. This type of funding pays for roads, schools, medical facilities, community facilities, parks and more.
By progressing with the Plan, we are testing the evidence to see whether we can deliver our identified development needs in a way which will have weight with Government Planning Inspectors. This will strengthen our case with Developers, Planning Inspectors and the Government, when considering development proposals and making the case for investment in our area, which is vital for the future of our children and grandchildren.
Unfortunately, planning issues are never simple. To get through them, we need to work together, look at the evidence and build a plan that will protect our local plan area while delivering much needed jobs, housing and infrastructure.Your views and involvement are at the heart of this – which is why we consult with you regularly throughout the whole process. We are aware that concerns have been raised that decisions around the A27 are being taken in secret. You can be absolutely assured that this is not the case. Any proposals that are part of the Chichester Local Plan will be fully consulted on with both our partners and our communities.
What you can be sure of is that our priority is to get the very best outcome for our district, our residents and our businesses – and with your help, I believe that we can achieve this.
Cllr Susan Taylor
Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning at Chichester District Council