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Council in Battle with Government Inspector over Core Strategy

August 13, 2010 by  

Everything that Michael Hoy and I (John Mason) asked Rochford District Council to do in our recent Motion on the housing needs of our district has been borne out by a Governmment Planning Inspector.

On 27 July the Motion was defeated by the block vote of the Conservative Administration and consigned to the bin.

But on 2 August the Government Inspector charged with deciding whether the Council’s housing policy and strategy for 20 years is SOUND or UNSOUND raised exactly the same type of questions formally with the Council.

Here are some extracts.

“On the basis of what is said in your letter, I am of the view that such changes could not be regarded as minor, albeit that the main thrust of changes would relate to the timescale of delivery rather than the overall quantums. These changes will therefore need to be subject to consultation and SA [SUSTAINABILITY APPRAISAL]. The consultation period would need to be a minimum of six weeks and fulfil any requirements in the SCI [STATEMENT OF COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT].”

“I consider it would be of considerable benefit to the examination and its participants if these matters could be set out comprehensively in a Topic Paper.The paper should explain what account has been taken of the matters set out in PPS3 paragraph 33 and summarise the chain of reasoning for the revised figures by reference to any relevant documents such as the principal sources of evidence for the EEP, Strategic Housing Market Assessment documents (SHMA), Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment documents (SHLAA) and any other relevant main sources (links to relevant sections of the evidence documents would be welcome).”

“In the absence of a requirement to meet targets in a higher level policy, are there any exceptional circumstances (PPG2 paragraph 2.6 [GOVERNMENT GREEN BELT POLICY] to justify altering Green Belt boundaries in relation to housing and employment provision.”

From http://www.rochford.gov.uk/pdf/corestrat_letterinspector2aug.pdf

But the Council in its response seems set to try and defy the Government Inspector and NOT have any further full public consultation on the changes. Here are some extracts.

“From the Council’s perspective it is disappointing to see your conclusions about the proposed changes to the Core Strategy being considered as significant changes and that a further consultation should be carried out to gather views prior to consideration at the examination.”

“It seems entirely reasonable for the examination when reconvened in September to consider affordable housing and the proposed changes that result from the consideration of the implications of the revocation of the East of England Plan. Without there being a need for a further round of consultation.”

“Whilst in the final analysis I will advise the Council of the need to comply with your conclusions about reconsultation, I would be grateful for some further thoughts and advice on this matter, not least in relation to the delay in receiving your final report.”

From http://www.rochford.gov.uk/pdf/corestrat_response_rdc.pdf

But if the Council continues in its wish to rush things through without another full public consultation then The Government Inspector left the position open with the Council to negotiate with formal objectors to the affordable housing policy.
 
“If any of the proposed changes will have a bearing on affordable housing policies, it may be expedient to prioritise consultation on those changes and negotiate agreement of those making representations on this topic.”

So what I have done is become a formal objector on Affordable Housing within the timescale of 17 August to support the Government Planning Inspector so that the new housing policies can be properly assessed and explained with reference to a local housing needs study that was asked for in our Motion.

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