At a packed meeting at the Purbeck School, Purbeck District Councillors made a commitment to thoroughly review the current partial review of the Purbeck Local Plan.
The announcement was made at a meeting which followed this summer’s consultation on the Partial Review.
The Purbeck District Local Plan Part 1 was adopted by the council in 2012 and the Partial Review is a requirement of an independent planning inspector who stated the council was not meeting the district’s housing need.
Legislation requires councils to prepare a local development plan (Local Plan) to shape future development and the use of land in their area by guiding development and determining planning applications.
One of the major issues the Partial Review is required to address is the potential for additional housing growth over and above that identified in the Purbeck Local Plan Part 1. When the independent inspector agreed the current Local Plan in 2012, it was on condition the council would review it to see whether more development was possible in the future.
The consultation sought views on options to deliver around 3,080 extra homes in the district over the next 17 years to 2033, on top of 2,520 homes already identified in the Purbeck Local Plan Part 1.
District Council officers and councillors have been analysing the 3,300 responses to the consultation, which highlighted a number of concerns. Issues raised included a significant level of objection to the overall number of new homes proposed; the location of new housing sites; the need for more affordable homes for local people; and concerns about flooding and loss of Green Belt and AONB land.
Around 350 people attended the meeting of Partial Review Advisory Group, which advises Purbeck District Council on plans for future development in the district.
At the start of the meeting 22 residents and representatives from local groups spoke, before councillors debated the issues and made a commitment to conduct a series of reviews related to the issues raised during the consultation.
Councillor Peter Wharf, Chairman of the Purbeck Local Plan Partial Review Advisory Group, told attendees the process would be paused before an additional consultation takes place later in 2017.
He said: “People made their views quite clear during the consultation and they reiterated their concerns at this evening’s meeting. We are grateful so many people have taken the time to have their say.
“It is clear that many people have concerns about the proposals set out in the consultation. We will pause the current partial review and Purbeck District councillors and officers will work together to try to address these concerns. At the start of the consultation we said we will listen and that is what we will do.”
The council made a number of pledges at the meeting, including to review housing numbers; environmental constraints in the district; flooding; AONB; Green Belt; impacts on the transport network; and second homes; and to relook at boundaries and smaller developments. Information would also need to be updated in light of new economic data, including the implications of Brexit.
During public participation, speakers reiterated that genuine affordable housing for local people is needed across the district. Councillors agreed the actions it takes must be balanced against the need for more affordable housing for local people.
The government’s view is that there is a national housing shortage, and the district council is required to plan for this. Population growth and people living longer means more homes will be needed.
Additionally, in Purbeck, there is a disparity between wages and house prices, with many local working-age people forced out of the district because of a lack of suitable affordable housing. The district needs a plan which will address the current shortage of suitable affordable housing, but which also looks towards 2033 to try to ensure there will be suitable homes for the next generation.
Councillor Wharf made it clear there will be risks associated with undertaking further work on the Partial Review as this will delay the process. The council originally committed to complete the Partial Review by the end of 2017, as required by an independent planning inspector, and there is a risk that some current local plan policies could be considered out of date if the Partial Review is not completed on time.
Councillor Wharf said: “Pausing the process does not come without risk. By doing this additional work, we could be left without an approved up-to-date Local Plan.
“The district would be more vulnerable to development ‘by appeal’ as the council would have less ground to object to development.”
This means a planning inspector could overrule the council’s decision to turn down a planning application and grant planning permission somewhere that the council would not want so many houses to be built and which would not provide the necessary infrastructure.
Councillor Wharf continued: “However, in light of the huge number of responses this is a risk we must take, and it is important we do it right.”
Active campaigners, parish councils and residents groups were urged to work with the council. Councillor Wharf concluded by saying: “A lot of people are clearly passionate about the area in which they live – 98% tells its own story. We need you to work with us so that we can develop revised figures based on solid evidence.”
The council says a series of actions will now take place which will lead to a report to the Partial Review Advisory Group in March 2017. Once the outcomes of the various studies are known it will be possible to give more detailed consideration to likely implications for the timescales of the Partial Review. This will be subject to a separate report to the March 2017 Advisory Group meeting. There will then be further public consultation later in the year.
Councillor Gary Suttle, Leader of Purbeck District Council, explained that the council would also consider commissioning an independent review of the Partial Review process in order to ensure that any revised proposals were the most appropriate approach for the district. He said: “Should the housing numbers currently proposed show no significant reduction when the council’s review is complete, I will commission an independent review of the entire process.”