Northumberland Local Plan: Hold-up over blueprint for county's future

Northumberland’s key planning framework has fallen behind schedule, but could be in place by the end of the year.

By Ben O'Connell
Tuesday, 3rd March 2020, 1:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th March 2020, 2:49 pm
Northumberland County Council's County Hall
Northumberland County Council's County Hall

The final session in the first phase of hearings took place last week as part of the examination of the county’s Local Plan, which provides a blueprint for development up to 2036.

However, the county council has more work to do and there is a second phase of hearings to come as well as further consultation, meaning the original target for the document to be adopted by next month will be missed by a number of months.

A council spokeswoman said: “Once the examination of the local plan starts, the timetable is very much in the hands of the inspector who has been appointed to examine its soundness.

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“Extra hearing sessions have been held to enable the inspector to explore issues fully and allow for all parties to be actively involved in the examination process.

“At the moment, the council is working towards an adoption date late in 2020, however, we will have more certainty when the inspector sets the dates for the phase two hearing sessions, which could be in the summer.

“Following the phase two hearing sessions, there will then be a period of public consultation on any modifications to the plan.”

The March 2020 deadline was set following an intervention by the then Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid in early 2018.

In November 2017, Mr Javid had identified 15 local authorities which he felt had not made enough progress with their plans and outlined the possibility of government intervention.

In Northumberland, the original core strategy, a key element of the Local Plan, was withdrawn in the summer of 2017 after the Conservative administration took control at County Hall.

Mr Javid’s update in March 2018 informed the council that while he would not be intervening at that time, the possibility remained.

He claimed that the timetable, with summer 2020 as the then adoption target, could be accelerated by up to three months, based on advice from the Planning Advisory Service, and that it should also be made more clear by referring to specific months.