Local plan problems under spotlight again

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Problems caused by the delay to the High Peak’s local plan have again come under the spotlight.

During a speech at Westminster Hall last Thursday, High Peak MP Andrew Bingham raised the many issues the delaying of the vital document was causing in the borough.

He said: “Recent decisions by local councillors, who, I remind everyone, are elected by local people, have been overturned by the Planning Inspectorate, which is not. That flies in the face of everything that we believe about localism.

“My local council has yet to produce its local plan; indeed, it has delayed its anticipated completion. Delaying the local plan has created a window of opportunity for developers.

“No local plan has been completed, and developers are submitting speculative applications time after time — applications that may have been refused in the past. They see from previous examples that the Planning Inspectorate appears to be unmoved by local representations. I repeat that this is not nimbyism; my constituents and I are not against development. A well-constructed local plan should bring in proportion, but at the moment the Planning Inspectorate does not listen to our views.”

But after planning inspectors told some councils across England and Wales to withdraw their plans or suspend examinations to enable them to update their evidence, High Peak Borough Council leader Caitlin Bisknell said the council’s approach and time frame for developing its local plan is the right one.

Cllr Bisknell said it was vital the council ensured that the evidence was robust and would withstand scrutiny by planning inspectors. The revised time frame will allow the evidence that is needed to support the local plan proposals to be gathered, she added.

“I know that some people are concerned about the revised timescale for adoption but in light of the experience of other councils across the country I want to re-iterate that our approach is the right one. It is much better, much safer for our communities, to have a strong plan in development rather than one that doesn’t hold water and is likely to be rejected, and which would put us right back to the start of the process.”

The local plan will shape development across the borough until 2028. It was initially due to be adopted by September 2014 but earlier this year, councillors were told the timetable needed to be extended. The submission version of the plan will now be published in March, when comments on it will be invited, prior to examination hearings in October and adoption in February 2015.