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Council responds to Local Plan concerns

Mansfield District Council has responded to concerns by the Government over the production of the district's Local Plan, which sets out where new housing and business development should take place in the coming years.

In November 2017, the council was identified by Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, as one of 15 authorities that did not have an adopted Local Plan in place as required by the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. 

His letter to the council stated that the 15 named planning authorities had until 31 January 2018 to respond, setting out any exceptional circumstances to justify why a Local Plan had not been prepared and the measures that the authority had taken or was intending to take to accelerate the adoption of the Local Plan.

A report setting out the council's response to the Ministry of Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is due to be presented to the Full Council on Wednesday 24 January.

Cllr Bill Drewett, Portfolio Holder for Safer Communities, said: "It has been an unfortunate series of circumstances that have led to the MHCLG being involved but we have made a lot of progress and we hope that our submission to the Government will prevent the need for any intervention because that would be very unlikely to deliver the Local Plan any faster and could even lead to a delay." 

Officers from the council met MHCLG officials in December 2017 to outline the key issues that the authority had faced in preparing the Local Plan and what measures were being implemented to both accelerate the production of the Local Plan and give assurance to the Secretary of State that the council could meet the key milestones in plan preparation without Government intervention. 

The report to Full Council on 24 January points to the Local Plan being on target to meet its production deadlines early in 2016. But there then followed an acute shortage of staff, which could not have been foreseen. It resulted in the department losing all but one of its officers and this staff shortage disrupted the progress of the Local Plan.   

By September 2016, a new planning team was in place but it found that a key piece of evidence - the Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment -required to support the preparation of the Local Plan, was out of date.

This needed to be reproduced to ensure soundness of the Local Plan and allow it to progress to a Preferred Options consultation, held between October and November 2017, in which 291 representations were received. 

Since 2016 the council has adopted a detailed project management approach to progress the Local Plan as quickly as possible. 

The following actions have been implemented to enable this to happen:

• A project manager appointed and project management system put in place to oversee the final stages of plan preparation.

• A government planning inspector appointed to provide a critical review of the process to prepare the Local Plan.

• An advisory meeting from the Planning Inspectorate requested for early March 2018.
• Additional resources put in place in the planning policy team with a senior planning policy officer appointed for six months, to support the team preparing the Local Plan, and a planning consultant appointed to oversee the final stages of drafting the Local Plan.

The first draft should be produced at the end of February 2018 and the Plan is scheduled to be signed off by the Full Council in July 2018 to proceed to the examination stage by a Government planning inspector in the autumn 2018. However, this schedule is dependent on there being no intervention by the MHCLG. 

Published on 23 January 2018

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