The examination into Cherwell District Council’s submitted local plan has been temporarily paused to enable an increased number of homes to be included within the document.
Yesterday (Wednesday), Government planning inspector Nigel Payne formally suspended the examination until December to allow council officers time to consider proposed modifications to the plan in order to accommodate additional homes across the district.
Councillor Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “The inspector is asking us to look at a new housing target of 22,800 to deliver by 2031 which is 6,050 more than the submitted plan.”
At the time the document was submitted to the Government for examination in November, Cherwell was planning to accommodate 16,750 homes between 2006 and 2031. However in light of the recent publication of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) in April, the council has indicated its willingness to seek to accommodate an increase in housing.
Cllr Michael Gibbard, lead member for planning, said: “As part of his examination into whether the local plan is legally sound, Mr Payne has to consider three factors. The first is whether we have fulfilled our duty to cooperate with partner agencies, stakeholders and interested parties. The second is whether the sustainability appraisal of the plan is adequate. And the third factor is an objective assessment of housing need which examines whether we will meet the necessary housing demand.
“Subject to confirmation in a formal letter, Mr Payne is satisfied with the submitted plan on points one and two so far, but due to the publication of the SHMA figures in April, not in relation to new housing numbers on which he will consider modifications.
“While this delay is disappointing, it is important to note this is not a failure or a rejection; the inspector does have the power to stop the process and not proceed with the plan but he didn’t do that. We are not being asked to start again but to amend what we have already done to bring it up to date with figures which have been published since the plan was submitted last year.”
In revising the plan, council officers will work with interested parties and partner agencies with the aim of accommodating the increased housing numbers and providing supporting infrastructure. This will involve reviewing sites which have already received planning consent to see if they can be adapted to deliver additional homes and an obligation to revisit sites which had previously been dismissed as unsuitable to reconsider any development potential. However throughout this review, officers will continue to prioritise the development of urban and brownfield locations to preserve green spaces and villages.
Once the plan has been revised, the modified document will go out to public consultation in the autumn. It will then be presented to councillors for them to vote on whether to adopt the changes prior to the hearing in public reconvening in December.
If Mr Payne accepts the modifications the plan could be adopted by March 2015.