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Council's new planning blueprint nears approval?

24 December 2012

Following last month's conclusion of the public examination of Suffolk Coastal's Core Strategy (CS), it has now nearly achieved official approval. However an unexpected Government announcement means that a further urgent consultation is now underway delaying the vital document that sets out how the district can grow and be protected over the next 15 years.

The Government's Inspector in charge of the examination wrote to the Council on December 7 advising that having considered all the matters before him, the Council could now proceed with the required formal consultation into its proposed Main Modifications which, in the Inspector's view, would make the CS completely sound, and which have come about as a result of the examination process.

"Our Main Modifications incorporate all the changes in Government policy, and outcomes of relevant court cases on certain other Councils' Core Strategies, which have taken place since our CS was submitted in May. A significant element of these changes is the inclusion of a policy to undertake an early review of the CS, commencing by 2015, which can take account of the latest information then available, including the full results of the 2011 Census," said Cllr Andy Smith, Cabinet Member for Planning.

In addition, the Inspector has advised that, as the Council has confirmed through the Main Modifications, that the objectively assessed need for housing in the district up to 2027 is 11,000 homes (based on the survey by Oxford Economics), in order to comply with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the Council should undertake an additional Sustainability Appraisal to support the Main Modifications consultation. That Appraisal should consider 11,000 homes in the district, as part of that process, even though the CS itself is not proposing that level of growth at this time.

Separately, the Council is proposing further minor modifications which do not affect policy in any significant way, but reflect certain changes ‘on the ground’ since the draft was prepared, and would further improve consistency with the NPPF.

"This is all good news as it means that we would at long last have in place modern planning policies that would make it clear to potential developers exactly where and where not they could seek permission to build new homes or businesses in our district and the acceptable scale of such plans. However, on December 11, the Government unexpectedly announced that it had laid before Parliament an Order to revoke the East of England Plan, known as the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), and that this revocation would come into effect on January 3, 2013.

"This is a significant change in circumstances and the Inspector has written to all participants in the examination process seeking their thoughts on the impact of this change upon the CS. Any response on this matter should be submitted to the Programme Officer by January 21, 2013. The Council will have a further week after that to review and comment to the Inspector on any issues raised.

"We can only hope that this is just a last minor but not particularly helpful hiccup in our goal of getting in place an officially approved ‘sound’ plan as soon as possible to give our district the protection it needs to guard against speculative or ill-suited developments, while putting in place the carefully set out and managed framework that will balance future growth with the need to protect the treasured parts of our district," added Cllr Smith.  

A special meeting of the Full Council has been arranged for January 17, 2013 at 2pm at the Riverside Centre, Stratford St Andrew, to consider these issues. For full details of all the issues visit the LDF Examination pages on the Council's website www.suffolkcoastal.gov.uk/yourdistrict/planning/review/corestrategy/examination/