Ashfield District Council has been advised to withdraw its Local Plan after the planning inspector found ‘significant concerns’ that would lead to it being found ‘unsound’.
There are now fears that this will pave the way for housing developers taking advantage of Ashfield’s lack of housing supply land, with developments being pushed through on appeal after the council has refused them planning permission.
Sutton councillor Jason Zadrozny said it was ‘no surprise’ the inspector was calling for the plan to be withdrawn.
“It must be two years plus that the Chad has consistently been doing stories on applications getting decided by appeal because the Local Plan is out of date,” he said.
“Although I am very worried about other applications coming in and having to be determined while we have not got one, it’s a good opportunity to start from scratch and get it right.”
Planning inspector Jeremy Youle held an exploratory meeting on the Local Plan last month to hear the council’s response to concerns he had previously raised.
However he was not convinced by all of the explanations put forward and has now written to the authority stating his ‘significant concerns’ with the Plan.
These centre on the assessments carried out in order to select development sites and evaluate the Green Belt.
The inspector said the Plan does not make clear why certain sites have been selected and others rejected.
He also stated that he ‘was not entirely convinced’ by the council’s arguments for not having a 15-year plan period.
Mr Youle said that there is ‘a significant risk that the Plan would be found unsound’ due to these concerns.
He states that a suspension of the examination of the Plan would not be suitable in this case as further work to address these concerns ‘could lead to different conclusions about which sites should be preferred for allocation’.
“The most appropriate course of action would, therefore, be for the council to give serious consideration to withdrawing the Plan,” he concludes.
“I feel it is the only realistic way forward.”
In its response, Ashfield District Council said it is ‘extremely disappointed’ that the inspector has recommended the withdrawal of the Local Plan.
The authority said that in writing its Local Plan, it has ‘worked hard to alleviate concerns of many residents whilst trying to support economic growth, in the context that two-thirds of Ashfield is located in the Green Belt’.
It will be writing to the inspector and planning minister to express concerns about the Local Plan process.
“Whilst the council may not agree with all the inspector’s comments, it has started to work through these matters rather than press forward to examination at this stage,” it said.