Final hurdle for Rotherham's Local PlanPublished Thursday, 30th January 2014
Rotherham's Local Plan - the Council's planning blueprint for the next 15 years - has almost passed its final hurdle, providing the borough's housing target is increased.
The independent Planning Inspector, who led the three-week long public inquiry into the Council's Core Strategy, has recommended the Council should make up more of the housing shortfall from previous years in line with the national housing target. This will make the plan 'sound', and the Council can then adopt it to shape the area's future growth.
His decision means that Rotherham's overall target will have to increase from around 14,000 houses to around 17,000 over the 15-year life of the plan. It also means that the Council will have to consult on the Inspector's changes.
The implications of the Inspector's initial response will be discussed by the Cabinet on Wednesday 5 February.
Cllr Gerald Smith, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Development for the Council, said the authority put forward "a very strong case" in support of its strategy at the public enquiry held last October.
He added, "We welcome the Inspector's initial findings on the Local Plan, but unfortunately, to enable it to be fully-endorsed, we have got to make changes.
"Rotherham has long-recognised the concerns of local residents about the loss of greenbelt and we argued for a housing figure that is lower than the previous government-imposed regional target.
"Over the last few years, Rotherham has not seen as many new homes built as we would have liked. This is despite there being capacity for over 5,000 new homes with planning permission each year for the last 5 years. This shortfall is due to market conditions and not a lack of permissions on suitable sites.
"The Inspector agreed with our approach to setting the annual housing requirement but, despite this, he requires us to make up this shortfall in the new plan and has added this to our target. That represents land for an extra 3,000 homes over the next 15 years, taking the total to 17,000. This is still fewer than the 25,000 new homes the previous regional target would have required.
"We also promoted a phased approach to development to try and recycle brownfield land first before greenfield or greenbelt land. Our communities were very clear that they supported this approach, and we argued strongly that this would allow us to choose the right sites at the right time in settlements across the borough.
"However, the Inspector has concluded that this approach is inconsistent with the government's planning policy, and he has therefore recommended that our phasing policy is removed. The implication of this is that more difficult-to-develop sites in urban areas will be left, at the expense of more easily developed green belt sites. That is not what the Council nor the community wants."
Cllr Smith added that the authority will now have to consult on these changes and then forward on any consultation responses to the Inspector, who will take them into account when making his final report.
"The final decision will rest with the Inspector and not the Council. Once that decision has been made we will then be able to adopt the Core Strategy later in 2014. This will provide certainty for the development industry and encourage investment in Rotherham to provide much-needed new homes and jobs."
The Council will take stock of the Inspector's changes and what they mean for new housing sites in the Local Plan. There will be a full public consultation on development sites after the Inspector's final report is received. At this stage the, public and all interested parties can comment on the latest draft development sites that will reflect the inspector's changes to the Core Strategy.