The key document, which provides a blueprint for the county up to 2036, will form the basis of how planning applications are decided and aims to support the creation of 15,000 new jobs.
Given the ongoing pandemic and to avoid any further delays, phase two, which will see hearings taking place over four weeks, will be conducted virtually with the public able to watch on YouTube.
Topics due to be covered include housing land supply, specific sites allocated for housing, environmental policies, and connectivity and movement, including Newcastle Airport.
The hearings start at 10am on Tuesday, October 20, and are provisionally timetabled to take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week, apart from the week of November 2, up until Thursday, November 19.
The local plan was submitted to the Government in May 2019, before the examination phase started in October.
During the first phase of hearings, including the separate sessions in February 2020 dealing with minerals, waste and renewable energy, the planning inspectors requested various pieces of further information and evidence from Northumberland County Council.
These submissions were then subject to an eight-week consultation that ended in early September.
This second phase of hearings will be followed by another public consultation on any proposed modifications to the plan, meaning it is not likely to be in place until well into 2021.
As previously reported, even before the impact of Covid-19, the target date for adoption had already slipped from March this year – set following an intervention by the then Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid in early 2018 – to the end of 2020, but this was based on the phase two hearing sessions taking place over the summer.
The original core strategy, a key element of the local plan, was withdrawn in the summer of 2017 after the Conservative administration took control at County Hall, resulting in a warning over the delayed timescale from Mr Javid in November 2017.
And there could be further disruption through changes proposed in the Government’s Planning for the Future White Paper, which is out for consultation until Thursday, October 29.
One of the proposals is for local plans to be overhauled so that they ‘set clear rules rather than general policies for development’; they would be visual and map-based, significantly shorter in length, ‘limited to no more than setting out site or area-specific parameters and opportunities’.