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Inspector asks if council should continue Borough Local Plan examination

Last chance to have your say on Borough Local Plan

The council has been asked to consider whether continuing the examination of its proposed Borough Local Plan is ‘prudent’ given ongoing work and reported issues.

The plan, which is meant to guide where housing can go in the borough to 2033, entered examination by the Planning Inspectorate in the middle of last year.

It was put into a lengthy pause after the council agreed to carry out extra work on issues such as the flood risk to sites chosen for housing.

But now the plan’s inspector, Louise Phillips, has invited the borough to ‘please consider whether continuing with the examination of the submitted plan is the most prudent course of action in light of the work you are doing and of the potential issues reported in our previous correspondence’.

“If you remain of the view that the examination should continue, please set out clearly the steps necessary before hearings can resume along with a realistic timetable for the process,” she wrote in a letter to the council’s head of planning, Jenifer Jackson.

Ms Phillips listed out key issues and where she understood the council’s progress to be.

The assessment of flood risk sites is due to take place this summer while the Environment Agency is now ‘satisfied’ with the soundness of how the BLP’s water quality assessment was prepared, Ms Phillips wrote.

But she assesses other issues as requiring more work and notes that no updates on progress have been received for some.

Cllr David Coppinger said the main hold-up was a review of the sites allocated for housing – which the council is co-ordinating on with the Environment Agency – and said it is ‘quite likely’ that some sites will be taken out and others added.

Those changes will be subject to a consultation.

“I think she (Ms Phillips) is frustrated, but our reply will be quite clear – we consider ourselves to be still on track.

“The election did not help. We had legal advice that it was covered by purdah [which prevents publication of certain statements in election time], surprisingly enough, which stopped us when we should have been doing a lot.”

An update on the BLP work is due to be sent to Ms Phillips next month. The Advertiser previously reported that further hearings may not take place until next year.

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