Certainly a busy week in Wareham for Inspector Ms Beverley Doward BSc BTP MRTPI. This was the first week of the Local Plan examination hearing sessions, which sat for full days Tuesday through to Thursday and continued onto the Friday morning.
Of particular interest to many will be the discussion on the housing numbers - as this is the first Local Plan tested following the end of the transition arrangements under the old NPPF. A key issue was establishing the baseline - Purbeck District Council had used the 2016 year as the starting point for their calculations, but others felt either the 2018 or 2019 years should have been used. Having looked at the NPPG wording, the Inspector indicated that she was minded to use the 2018 figures as the latest confirmed at the time of submission (in early 2019), with the 2017 affordability ratio (as published in March 2018) for the same reason. Using these, the annual housing target will have to go up to at least 180 dwellings per annum (rather than 168dpa) with further consideration still to be given to whether there are exceptional circumstances to raise this further, including the likely shortfalls in Christchurch and the New Forest.
There was also a lot of debate around the sustainability appraisal and habitats regulations, and Green Belt release (particularly the large-scale release proposed at Morden Park, which has been included to facilitate a holiday park that in turn will enable a strategic SANG to be delivered and additional environmental improvements made within the park).
From a Neighbourhood Plan perspective there was a clear steer from the Inspector that the District Council should consider further which policies are truly strategic (rather than 'all') and how wording could be modified so that Neighbourhood Plans are not needlessly over-ridden or curtailed by the new Local Plan.
The hearing sessions will resume in early August for a further week, focusing on the site allocations and the controversial 'small sites' policy that certainly received a lot of flack this week. For more information the examination webpage is https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/planning-buildings-land/planning-policy/purbeck/local-plan-review-purbeck/local-plan-review-purbeck.aspx