Inspector praises local housing planPublished Monday, 14th July 2014
Rotherham's housing plan for the future has been given the green light by government inspectors - including the go-ahead to set a local housing target.
The Council has worked closely with local people to make sure that a realistic number of houses are built in the next 15 years, and the final plan now has 10,000 fewer homes than originally suggested.
The Inspector was challenged by the Council on the amount of homes that needed to be built and the potential effect on the green belt. The recognition that the local plan - formulated following extensive consultation with local people - should go ahead is a triumph for the Council, working together with local people, to get what is best for Rotherham.
In his Final Report the Planning Inspector has ruled that Rotherham's Core Strategy is 'sound' - making it one of only a few councils to have achieved such recognition for a strategy submitted since the National Planning Policy Framework emerged. The result is that there will be less loss of green belt land than the Inspector had first suggested.
The consultation period had seen a strong campaign by local Rotherham residents against building on the green belt and the final plan is recognition of the issues raised by communities.
Rotherham’s Local Plan consists of two documents; the Core Strategy - which sets out the broad amount and distribution of future growth - and the Sites and Policies document - which sets out the detailed sites and development management policies to deliver this growth.
Councillor Gerald Smith, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Development, said, "This is excellent news. Cabinet Members have always supported the recommendation that the authority should continue to fight for a housing target that is lower than the previous government-imposed regional target because we recognised the concerns of local residents about loss of green belt and we wanted to do what was right for Rotherham.
"Our local communities were very clear that they supported this approach and we felt strongly that this would allow us to choose the right sites at the right time in settlements across the borough.
“This approach has now been vindicated by the Planning Inspector, and the Council’s Planning Policy team can feel rightly proud of their hard work in putting together and presenting such a convincing case.”
He added, "This means we can now move forward on the local plan for the borough. This decides not only the amount and distribution of future growth but also most importantly, the housing target for the borough, which will be based on our own local assessment and not the regional one. The inspector also endorsed our employment land figures, helping us to have the opportunity to create new jobs. These key building blocks give certainty to the development industry and show that Rotherham is a place to do business. We listened to what people wanted and there will actually be 10,000 fewer houses built than in the original plans.
"The Inspector agreed with our arguments about setting a local housing target. He has clearly given great weight to the evidence we submitted and the arguments we presented at the examination hearings. Throughout his report he commends the council on our evidence and approach. Much of this is down to the commitment and dedication of our planning officers, who should be commended for their hard work over a very long period of time.
"We are one of the very few authorities who have submitted a Core Strategy since the National Planning Policy Framework to have achieved a sound plan. The majority have been found unsound, been withdrawn or suspended for further work.
"Even more uniquely, we are one of only a handful of authorities to get through a housing target lower than the previous regional strategy figure and also be allowed to make up any shortfall over the whole plan period, rather than during the first five years. This is a significant achievement and will help keep the loss of Green Belt to a minimum while still providing an ambitious target to support our growth agenda."