The Inspectors who have been examining the Chiltern and South Bucks Local Plan recently published initial conclusions on Matter 1 – Duty to Cooperate. They raised significant concerns that in preparing the Plan the Councils did not engage constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis having particular 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 has serious implications as it can’t be remedied during the Examination. The Inspectors advised that there is a strong likelihood that the only option will be for the Council to withdraw the Plan.
The Council strongly disagrees with the conclusions of the Inspectors and has asked for a hearing session to discuss this, which has been agreed. They have requested for this hearing to be held in person, rather than virtually, which cannot currently be arranged, leading to further delays to the Examination.
Our assessment is that withdrawing the Plan is not the only option for the Council – they could also ask the Inspectors to write up their report recommending non-adoption of the Plan – as happened recently in Sevenoaks. Sevenoaks District Council have been given permission to pursue a judicial review against this decision through the courts, which would be an option for Chiltern and South Bucks if they continue to disagree with the Inspectors.
If the Council ultimately withdraw the Plan – there will be a policy vacuum for a period of time and the existing Plans covering the Chiltern and South Bucks districts are now considerably out of date. This may provide an opportunity to progress speculative planning applications in the area.
Whether or not this Local Plan progresses, any new Local Plan for the area after this one will cover the extent of the new Buckinghamshire authority which came into force in April this year. Work has begun on this and it has to be adopted within 5 years. We understand that this may be a strategic document, with the detail to follow in later documents.
We can advise about how this ongoing delay to the Local Plan affects your own land or potential sites.
If you would like further advice about how this affects your own land or potential sites please contact our Buckinghamshire office.