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Inspector finds flaws in Telford & Wrekin Council's planning blueprint

Telford | News | Published:

"Serious concerns" have been raised by an inspector over Telford & Wrekin Council's planning blueprint for the next 14 years.

The authority has been asked to review several aspects of its local plan, with Government Inspector Michael Hetherington warning that the selection of sites for housing is "flawed".

Telford & Wrekin Council's local plan covers its aspirations for the economy, jobs, growth and housing development up until 2031. It identifies sites where certain types of development can take place.

An interim examination of the plan has identified concerns over the predicted level of job creation and supporting evidence for the choice of housing sites.

The council's deputy leader Councillor Richard Overton said it was normal procedure for issues to be raised before the final plan is approved.

The inspector stated: "I advised that I would contact the council if I identified serious soundness concerns with the potential to affect the examination programme. Unfortunately I have identified such concerns. The purpose of this note is to highlight the issues involved and to suggest possible courses of action to enable the examination to proceed.

"For the avoidance of doubt, all comments set out in this note are interim only and are made subject to the contents of my final report."

The report states that a clear audit trail is required to show how the council arrived at decisions over potential housing sites being selected for development.

The council's opposition Tory leader Councillor Andrew Eade said it was unacceptable for the council to be in the situation at this stage of the process.

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"It has been seven years since the Labour administration took back control of the council, but despite our continued and robust warnings over the urgent need for renewed and updated planning policies, they have done little but sat back and twiddle their thumbs. Only over the past three they have tried to cobble planning policies together which have now crashed around their ears, leaving our communities reeling from unwanted and disproportionate housing development.

"The inspector has agreed with my group's submission to the inquiry that the level of forecast jobs growth, which is 40 per cent above what is predicted nationally, cannot be supported by enough workers and is "insufficiently robust", Councillor Eade said.

But Councillor Overton said: "It is hard to guess what is going to happen in 2031 and the government has even recognised that and they are supposed to be bringing forward some options in the autumn to make it easier for councils.

"We are the second biggest growing town in the West Midlands and UK because of our business winning, business supporting council attitude. We have seen the likes of Magna come to this town creating hundreds of jobs."

He said that there were a number of sites in public ownership had been given the planning permission many years ago and that there were brownfield sites for development that were due to be reviewed.

Councillor Overton said the inspector had given the council an opportunity to address his concerns before the final submission is made.

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