We previously reported about some issues with the progress of the Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan in our article Examination Chaos. The Inspectors examining the Plan published initial conclusions on Matter 1 – Duty to Cooperate in May this year, raising significant concerns that in preparing the Plan the Councils did not engage constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis particularly in regard to Slough’s unmet housing needs. This has been an ongoing issue during the preparation of the Plan – with Slough requesting that some of their housing needs be met within South Bucks.
Failing the Duty to Cooperate is a serious issue as it can’t be remedied during the Examination. Whilst the Council published responses strongly disagreeing with the conclusions of the Inspectors and asked for a hearing session to discuss this, their approach is now changing.
A report from planning officers is going to a full Council meeting of the new Buckinghamshire authority on 21 October recommending that the Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan is now withdrawn from Examination. Several reasons for this are given, including ongoing costs, timescales and the fact that they may be forced to withdraw the Plan by the Inspectors in due course. The report accepts that this could potentially cause ‘serious planning problems’ for the area without an up to date plan in place to deliver the necessary housing.
If the Council does agree to withdraw the Plan – there will be an ongoing policy vacuum for some period of time as the existing plans covering the Chiltern and South Bucks areas are now considerably out of date. This may give an opportunity to progress speculative planning applications, however much of the area is Green Belt and/or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which means a case by case assessment will be needed to advise on the best approach.
The officer’s proposal is that resources are focused on a new Plan to cover the extent of the new Buckinghamshire authority which came into force in April this year (read more about the unitary authority here). Work has begun on this, however, it isn’t yet known what form this new Plan will take given the contents of the White Paper, which could bring significant changes to the contents of Local Plans.
We can advise about how this update on the Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan will affect your own land or potential sites in the area. Please get in touch for more information.