Local plan adoption delayed by Covid impacts on consultation

A development plan setting out where thousands of homes are to be built across the county will not be adopted until July 2022 after the process was delayed.

Shropshire Council says it now expects the plan to be adopted by July next year
Shropshire Council says it now expects the plan to be adopted by July next year

Shropshire Council’s new local plan was scheduled to come into effect in May next year, following examination by a government-appointed planning inspector.

But the authority says the timetable has been set back due to its decision to extend the final stage of public consultation earlier this year in response to the latest lockdown restrictions.

The revised timetable was agreed by the council’s cabinet at a dedicated meeting on Thursday.

Councillor Robert Macey, portfolio holder for housing and strategic planning, said: “Following the close of the recent ‘regulation 19’ consultation at the end of February, the proposed timetable provides a positive and achievable timetable for the council to fully assess all duly made representations.”

He said the move was also in line with “the government’s ambition for local authorities to maintain up-to-date and positive local plans for their areas and support a continuation of the plan-led approach to development”.

The extension to the consultation followed pressure from campaigners who argued the closure of libraries and council buildings during lockdown risked excluding people who did not use the internet from having their say.

The council resisted calls to pause the process until restrictions were eased, but agreed to a three-week extension until February 26.

Examination

This had a knock-on effect on the latter stages of the plan review process, and the final draft – which had been due to go before the full council this month – will now not be presented until July, following the local elections in May.

Examination by the Planning Inspectorate is expected to take up to 10 months, after which the final version of the plan will come back to the full council for formal adoption in July 2022.

Councillor Macey added: “It should be noted that the exact timetable post-submission is harder to predict as this is subject to the Planning Inspectorate, and this may need to be reviewed once we have entered into early conversations with the Planning Inspectorate.”

The plan sets out where 30,800 homes and 300 hectares of business land will be developed across Shropshire over the plan period, which runs until 2038.

At the same meeting, Shifnal councillor Ed Bird asked for cabinet’s assurance that there would be no U-turn on the council’s decision not to include proposals from Bradford Estates for a 3,000-home settlement on green belt land near Tong in the plan.

It followed objections raised earlier this week by Dudley and Walsall councils which called for the Tong scheme to be included to help address a shortage of housing land in the Black Country.

Councillor Macey said the council’s stance had not changed and added: “We will not be dictated to by other authorities.”

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