Wednesday, 11 March 2015

North Dorset Local Plan examination

First day of the North Dorset Local Plan examination - a sticky start?

The issues discussed were fairly fundamental - they included the plan period, the status of allocations and the broad locations for growth, and the relationship between part 1, the proposed part 2 and neighbourhood plans.
The Inspector (Mr David Hogger) made a number of observations.  In terms of the Duty to Cooperate, he was satisfied that the Council had met this test from his observations to date.  

The plan period came under considerable scrutiny.  The Inspector said he felt that the plan lacked the 15 year horizon advised by the national planning policy framework - particular as Part 2 (the site allocations plan) had yet to be prepared and would only last 9 years on adoption. Should the plan be halted whilst further work was done, could it be extended to 2031, or should there be an early review? Some of the participants noted that a new housing figure may be available this year from the work on the Strategic Housing Market Assessment - Poole and Purbeck had already published their draft figures. The District Council was asked to prepare further information on their thoughts about an early review.
There was also a lot of debate about how the rural housing needs were being addressed. Would the 230 homes allocation 'left over' from the towns really meet the needs of thriving rural communities? What would happen if rural areas had housing or other needs, but weren't prepared to do a neighbourhood plan or 'opt in' to Part 2? The Inspector said he was not sure there was enough in the local plan to provide a clear enough framework for rural communities undertaking neighbourhood planning, and that the 230 rural target had no relation to the rural needs. Furthermore they would not necessarily be built in the most appropriate locations. He was not convinced that this approach was sound. He asked the District Council to reassess their approach and look at both housing and employment needs for the rural areas to provide a stronger framework from which neighbourhood plans could evolve.
Day 3 should also be interesting - looking at the robustness of the Council’s objectively assessed housing need. This issue has tripped up many a Local Plan in recent years.

For more information on the programme go to

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