Agenda item

Arun Local Plan Update - Six Month Review

This report briefs Members on matters arising from national policy and any other matters that would inform whether a decision should be taken by the Committee to resume the Arun Local plan update or continue the current pause until 2023


Upon the invitation of the Chair, the Planning Policy Team Leader presented the report which briefed Members on matters arising from national policy and whether a decision should be taken by the Committee to resume the Arun Local Plan update or continue the current pause, previous agreed by Committee and Full Council, until 2023. He explained that a Planning for the Future White Paper (and an emerging Planning Bill) signalled some significant changes to the format and process of preparing Local Plans and the concern with proceeding with the update was due to the timetable involved and the risk the Local Plan Update would not be fit for purpose by the time it was ready. He further explained that, six months on from the decision to pause, much had changed including a new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Levelling Up White Paper having been published in February 2022 which signalled a move away from the aforementioned planning bill. He highlighted the four key themes of the Levelling Up white paper [on pages 10 and 11 of the Agenda Pack] and the change in emphasis on the role of planning, in that it was now more narrowly focused on making the best of the current system. He concluded that the above suggested to Officers that there was now no reason to delay and that the Local Plan Update should be resumed.


Members (and non-Committee Members invited to speak) then took part in a full debate on the item where a number of points were raised including:

·       the understanding from Government that the housing numbers target, and as a consequence the 5-year housing land supply, would be removed and whether in resuming the update the housing numbers target would have to be looked at again when the Council came to exploring the evidence base

·       that by this time next year the Local Plan would not be up-to-date unless the revising of it is started within 5 years and the implications for determining planning decisions in this situation, and, therefore given the long lead times involved in the process, the need to resume the Update

·       the lack of a timeframe within the recommendation with regards further detail being made public by Government on the Levelling Up bill and the difficulties in reaching a decision without the context of that roadmap

·       the impact to housing targets if the Plan was resumed

·       the unachievability of housing targets when considering what developers had managed to deliver and the increases in building prices

·       the impacts for policies, such as biodiversity net gain and water conversation, and the consequences for future housing developments if the Plan was not updated with the most up-to-date evidence and practices

·       the issues caused by ‘planning by appeal’ in areas outside of those identified for development and whether any assurance could be gained for residents that the Update and its evidence base would offer some level of protection against this

·       a review of the local plan not reducing the number of houses already committed to in the current Local Plan, and any Update most likely involving an increase rather than a decrease in that number

·       the process of engaging residents within the Update to the Local Plan and the Statement of Community Involvement

·       regret that the Update was delayed in part on the conjecture and guesswork of Committee and non-Committee Members rather than established facts

·       any Update needing to be based on facts and reality, including around appropriate housing numbers and infrastructure capacity

·       that Arun does not have a failing Local Plan, but that the current Local Plan was allowing the Council to be held to ransom by developers who were not building the approvals they already had and instead applied for more planning permissions which they knew would be overturned on appeal if refused by Committee

·       the issue of the 5-year land supply and how it was being kept artificially low due to builders not building and whether as the Local Planning Authority there was more that we could be doing to make these happen

·       the planning system being weighted towards developers

·       concerns about supporting the resumption of the Update if it meant an increase in the housing numbers required

·       the imposition of housing numbers by a Government not familiar with the local area

·       whether the Local Plan had to be reviewed anyway as it had not been able to identify a 5-year housing land supply

·       the need for the housing stock to be able to respond to the challenges of climate change now

·       energy and food security issues, and the need for land use to be optimised

·       whether energy saving and technological standards were part of the Local Plan or building codes

·       the issue of affordable housing for local residents and the need for more affordable schemes run with Local Housing Associations


The Planning Policy Team Leader and Group Head of Planning provided Members with responses to all points raised during the debate, including:

·       any Local Plan under the new system would still have to set out a housing requirement and that the Government’s standard housing methodology would provide the starting point though housing numbers would ultimately be determined by the economic and sustainability ambitions and evidence of the Local Plan

·       the proposal in the Levelling Up bill to remove the need to demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply but that only relating to those Authorities with an up-to-date Local Plan

·       the lack of detail from Government around timeframes within the Levelling Up bill and, due to the significant changes made of the previously proposed bill, a considerable amount of uncertainty for planning at the moment

·       the need for a 15-year housing trajectory under the current rules if the Plan were resumed

·       how getting a Local Plan adopted would offer protection against unsustainable, unwanted or ‘by appeal’ development, and that this would be for a longer period of time under the proposals in the Levelling Up bill

·       confirmation that within the Housing policy section of the Local Plan adopted in 2018 there was a requirement to ensure delivery of housing numbers over 2 years and that failure to do so was a trigger to review the Plan, which was completed in 2019 and led to Full Council’s resolution to update the Local Plan

·       that different standards for energy consumption etc could come under the Local Plan if the appropriate evidence was obtained and the Council was able to convince an Inspector that it was viable to impose different standards

·       that whilst the Local Plan may be unattractive to Members for political reasons, Officers believed the benefits of preparing one outweighed these reasons

·       that the details around housing numbers were a discussion for a later date and were not a reason to stop the recommencing of the progress as they were simply not knowable, beyond an indication, at this stage

·       that if the Council chose not to pursue a Local Plan Update that did not mean it would not necessarily end up with one as Government could impose one which it might find less favourable, and the decision to not resume might ultimately take power away from the Council


Following the debate, a request was been made that the voting on the recommendation be recorded. The recommendation was then proposed by Councillor Thurston and seconded by Councillor Coster.


Those voting for the recommendation were Councillors Coster, Goodheart, Jones, Lury, Thurston and Yeates [6]. There were no votes against and Councillors Bower, Chapman, Edwards, Elkins and Hughes abstained from voting [5].


The Committee




That the Arun Local Plan update be resumed.

Supporting documents: