Fresh start means no plan in place until 2020

County Hall in Morpeth.
County Hall in Morpeth.

The Northumberland Local Plan, a key document which details where development should take place, is not likely to be adopted until 2020.

In the summer, the county council’s new Conservative administration withdrew the Local Plan Core Strategy to review a number of aspects of the document, primarily due to concerns that numbers for the proposed level of new housing were too high.

Opposition councillors accused the Tories of playing politics and said that it would be a free-for-all for developers while there is no plan in place.

The local authority said that the necessary work would be done as quickly as possible so the strategy can be resubmitted as soon as is practicable.

But now, a report to next week’s meeting of the council’s decision-making cabinet says that the legal advice has led a working group to agree that the preparation of the plan should essentially be restarted.

A timetable to be approved by the cabinet shows that the draft plan would not even be submitted until summer 2019 with adoption a year later.

However, the report does explain that this is a full Local Plan, ‘rather than the previous two-phased approach of a core strategy followed by a detailed delivery document’.

It says that this ‘negates the need for two separate phases of document preparation and double examinations and cuts the overall plan preparation process by at least 18 months to two years’.

An updated position statement states that the policies in a number of documents put in place by the former county council and district/borough councils will be used to guide development proposals.

However, the newest of these are from 2007 and some are up to 20 years old. While they are the starting point for decisions, limited weight can be given to them where the policies do not fit with the NPPF, the national framework introduced in 2012.

The NPPF and its ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ will therefore play the main role in decisions, without any up-to-date local guidance except in those communities which have neighbourhood plans in place. Alnwick, Allendale and Morpeth have made plans, Ponteland’s has passed referendum and is set to be made next week, while another 21 are in various stages of preparation.

Next week’s report also features an update on the five-year housing land supply, which the council is required to identify and update annually. It says that a deliverable supply of housing land can be demonstrated equivalent to 6.5 years (enough for 9,116 homes).

As part of this, even the properties considered to be deliverable from existing planning permissions would provide a 5.2-year supply – 7,337 homes.

In total across Northumberland, there are around 13,400 dwellings with planning permission, plus another 6,100 currently minded to approve.

Coun John Riddle, cabinet member for planning, housing and resilience, said: “We are committed to providing a sustainable and prosperous future for our county as we work on the Local Plan. This is an extremely detailed and comprehensive piece of work which will detail our planning policies for the next 20 years and it is imperative we get it right.”