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Motion to withdraw and review Northumberland Core Strategy


Jun 22, 2017

At its meeting on 5th July Northumberland County Council will consider a motion to withdraw the Northumberland Local Plan Core Strategy from Government and to carry out a review of some aspects of the document.

Members of the council’s conservative group have submitted the motion which is also asking officers to undertake a full review of the housing and employment numbers, and strategic land use allocations, for the plan period up to 2031.

In the motion members stress their support for economic and housing growth to support communities, as well as their commitment to the ambitions of the North East LEP strategic economic plan and North of Tyne devolution agenda.

They question however whether the housing numbers contained within the current core strategy are required to meet these ambitions, and wish to undertake a review and any required public consultation as soon as possible.

The proposed level of new housing in the County, at 24,320 by 2031 plus the inclusion of up to an additional 2,000 houses at Dissington Garden Village over and above objectively assessed need, are seen as significant issues.

In response to the motion a report to full council by Geoff Paul, the council’s director of planning and economy, sets out the key issues raised by the motion, and what the process for withdrawing the Core Strategy would be.

It highlights an opportunity to review the housing numbers required for Northumberland to deliver sustainable economic and housing growth through a recent refresh of the North East Strategic Economic Plan,  expected revisions to national planning policy and recent and anticipated national publications on housing and population projections.

Coun Peter Jackson, Leader of Northumberland County Council said:  “Our group has long questioned some of the assumptions which were used by the previous council in drawing up the Core Strategy.

“Information currently available, and anticipated for release by the Government later this year, suggests to us that the requirement for housing in our county may very well not be as high as has been proposed previously. We want to use this information from Government and take into full account the latest regional plan in the form of the NE Strategic Economic Plan, to review the need to build on acres of Green Belt land.

“The new council which we are leading is determined to support and protect our communities and to plan for a sustainable and prosperous future for our county and the wider region and we therefore wanted to propose a review at the first opportunity.

“I can promise that the most up-to-date available evidence will inform our review and that the new plan for our county will be produced as soon as possible.”

Cllr John Riddle, cabinet member for planning, housing and resilience at Northumberland County Council added:  “We have listened carefully to our communities and want to implement this review of the core strategy to ensure that it is truly fit to address the future housing and economic needs of Northumberland, whilst respecting the environment and protecting our beautiful county.”

Advice has been sought from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the report states that a local planning authority can withdraw a submitted plan at any time prior to adoption, at which point it would publish a statement about this and send notification to consultation bodies.

It would also need to determine at which stage in the plan-making process it would need to go back to in order to make any necessary changes, and discussions are currently taking place with DCLG  in an attempt to arrange a Ministerial visit to speak to the council leadership about the potential scenarios relating to the strategy.

Members have said that they would wish the work to be done as quickly as possible, so that the strategy can be re-submitted to Government as soon as is practicable.

Risks raised within the council report include the possibility of Government intervention in preparation of the plan due to the delayed timescale, and also of speculative or unplanned development in the county whilst changes are made to the plan.  There could also be the increased likelihood of planning appeals where the council has used the draft plan to resist development proposals. Some current applications may also require re-consideration by committee.

The full council will consider the motion and the report at its meeting at 3pm on Wednesday 5th July in County Hall, Morpeth.

By Emily