In breaking news this week, East Cambridgeshire district council has announced it is set to abandon its ill-fated draft local plan. The move follows the receipt by the council of the Planning Inspector’s list of the main modifications she wants to the plan before it can be accepted as ‘sound’.
The council is saying that it intends to withdraw the draft plan and rely instead on the previous (2015) plan. That is the one, residents will remember, that was adopted in April 2015 and then torn to shreds within three months by a successful appeal by speculative developers Gladman, against the council’s refusal of 128 houses at Field End in Witchford.
The changes required by the Inspector (apparently – the council has not published the Inspector’s modifications at the time of writing, despite having issued a lengthy press statement about them) include:
- increasing the housing numbers on allocated sites and the removal of the protection of green spaces in Witchford (the most significant increases in housing numbers are in Soham, Littleport and Sutton)
- deleting the policy that requires development to respect the needs and characteristics of a particular named settlement
- deleting the policy for community-led development [the council’s ‘Community Land Trusts’]
- deleting the policy for higher disability access standards.
The Full Council meets on Thursday 21 February at 6:00PM, and councillors will be asked to agree that the Local Plan be withdrawn and that the Council revert to using the 2015 adopted local plan. I’m sure many issues will be raised at that meeting, but just a few of them are:
- How will local communities across East Cambridgeshire be protected from speculative development using only the 2015 local plan, which was shown to be as much use as a chocolate teapot within three months of its being adopted?
- What effect will this have on the validity of the (adopted) Fordham Neighbourhood Plan, on the Sutton Neighbourhood Plan which is inching towards its referendum, and on other Neighbourhood Plans currently in various stages of development such as Witchford’s?
- How will the council ‘be able to demonstrate a five year land supply in April 2020’ as the council says in its press statement – and what does this mean in practice?
- And not least, how much has this farrago cost the council tax-payer to date, and how much will it cost to put it right?
More news, I am sure, in the days, weeks, months, and probably years to come.
UPDATE 1 (13/2/19 at 13:12): Inspector’s letter and modifications (finally) online at https://www.eastcambs.gov.uk/local-development-framework/examination-documents
UPDATE 2 (13/2/19 at 13:43): it now appears that the Inspector sent her local plan modifications to the council on 19 December and wrote to the council on 25 January to complain that they had not been published. The council has sat on this news for almost two months.