Durham County Council’s Cabinet members will be asked to agree the way forward for the County Durham Plan when they meet next week (6 April).
Following the Examination in Public of the County Durham Plan in 2015, the independent inspector’s interim report found that the economic growth set out by the council and its partners in the plan was over-ambitious. However, after negotiations with the inspectorate, during which the council also raised issues with the process that had been carried out, the authority felt it had no alternative but to challenge the report by way of a Judicial Review.
With the consent of the Government, this resulted in the interim report being quashed by the High Court and an agreement which saw the council withdraw the plan. This resolution meant that the council could then move forward with a local plan without the inspector’s interim report having any bearing on the way forward.
This was an unprecedented position requiring significant discussion with the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Planning Inspectorate, in addition to legal advice, to identify a way forward.
As a result, Cabinet will now be asked to agree a process and timeline which will mean the new County Durham Plan will come forward as quickly as possible. This will see the council working together with residents, businesses and other stakeholders to focus on understanding the issues and the opportunities for County Durham that lie ahead. Feedback from consultations will shape a preferred option for the County Durham Plan which will then be subject to further public discussion later this year.
Cabinet will hear that the significant work already done as part of the plan process will assist the council in moving forward with pace while ensuring it results in a sound and robust plan for County Durham. As well as providing further opportunities for everyone to have significant input into the new plan, it will also mean that the period the plan covers can be extended to 2033 to allow a full 15 year plan when adopted.
Cllr Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “The council and its partners fought for the plan because we believed that it was essential in ensuring that our county did not get left behind. The position we now find ourselves in is unique so we are extremely pleased to announce that, after a lot of hard work, we now have a way forward for the County Durham Plan.
“By ensuring we understand the issues and options available we can be sure that we have a firm foundation to work together with all parties in creating a plan that no longer has to be bound by a report that restricted the debate and thinking moving forward.
“We would like to thank those who supported us during this time and look forward to working with residents, businesses and all stakeholders in creating a new County Durham Plan that secures the future of our county for years to come.”
To ensure consistency while the County Durham Plan process is ongoing, Cabinet will also be asked to approve a policy position statement. The statement will provide guidance in respect of existing policies and national guidelines and the weight they will have when planning applications are determined.
As part of the council’s responsibilities to regularly review how residents, businesses and other stakeholders play a part in planning issues, members are also being asked to approve consultation on the 2016 Statement of Community Involvement. This statement sets out how the council ensures that people can get involved in all aspects of the planning processes including the County Durham Plan, neighbourhood plans and the planning application process.
Residents can find out the latest about the County Durham Plan, as well as the Statement of Community Involvement consultation at www.durham.gov.uk/CDP.
Cabinet is due to meet on Wednesday, 6 April at 10am at the Council Offices in Spennymoor.