‘Significant concerns’ raised over Ashfield’s local plan

"No houses here" Banner on the A60
"No houses here" Banner on the A60

A special meeting is set to be held to discuss Ashfield District Council’s proposed Local Plan after the planning inspector revealed he had ‘significant concerns’ about its soundness and legality.

The exploratory meeting will take place on 11th March and its purpose is to discuss a number of concerns that inspector Jeremy Youle has raised with the plan.

These concerns relate to the duty to co-operate, gypsy and traveller sites, objectively assessed housing needs, the plan period, the sustainability appraisal, green belt and Sherwood Forest.

The inspector states that though he has not reached a definitive conclusion that the plan is unsound or not legally compliant, these issues are ‘fundamental’ and need to be discussed before a decision can be made on whether to proceed with further examination of the Local Plan.

Following the exploratory meeting, there are several possible outcomes - which range from the concerns being resolved, to the plan having to be withdrawn completely.

A spokesman for the council said that it was ‘common practice’ for an inspector to set up an exploratory meeting when there are some questions raised by his initial reading of the submitted documentation.

“This practice reduces the amount of examination time taken on certain matters.

“Ashfield District Council is currently responding to the questions raised by the inspector and will be sending the reply in written form next week so that he can consider this in advance of the meeting on 11th March,” he said.

However Sutton North councillor Jason Zadrozny disputed that the raising of so many significant concerns was common practice.

“It was evident all along that it was a shambles and that the plan was going to be challenged,” he said.

Coun Zadrozny said that he fears that a delay to the plan being adopted could result in more developer-led planning applications being passed on appeal, such as the one off Pleasley Road in Skegby.

Selston councillor Gail Turner echoed this sentiment, also accusing the council of ‘failing to co-operate and listen to people’.

“We have our own significant concerns about [the plan], not least how many houses and where they are going to be,” she said.

“We have been bulldozed and told where they are going to be and not given any rationale of why.”

According to the Planning Inspectorate, inspectors will only call an exploratory meeting if they have ‘serious concerns’ about some aspect of a submitted Local Plan.

The exploratory meeting will involve the local planning authority - Ashfield District Council - and invited representors who have made significant points about the issues that are causing concern. They are public meetings.

Inspector Jeremy Youle has set out a list of questions which identify the main points for discussion. While not testing the evidence, the Inspector may voice concerns about an incomplete or inadequate evidence base and say what additional material is necessary.

An exploratory meeting is an unscheduled element of the examination programme of a local plan and will cause a delay into this.

The exploratory meeting is at 11am at the council’s main committee room at its offices on Urban Road, Kirkby.