Agenda item

Arun Local Plan Update

The report seeks the Planning Policy Committee’s agreement that the pause to the Arun Local Plan Update be lifted and that steps be taken to progress engagement on the plan preparation including the commissioning of evidence and initial consultation.



Upon the invitation of the Chair, the Planning Policy Team Leader presented the report which sought the Committee’s agreement that the pause to the Arun Local Plan Update be lifted and that steps be taken to progress engagement on the plan preparation including the commissioning of evidence and initial consultation. The Planning Policy Team Leader provided some background to the report, including the decision to update the Local Plan having been taken in January 2020 largely on the basis on housing delivery performance but that there were also a number of national policy indicators (5-year housing land supply, housing delivery test) Arun was not achieving. He then noted National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) paragraph 11d and its presumption in favour of sustainable development, and the tilted balance in favour of development as the housing policies in Arun’s Local Plan were effectively being deemed out of date due to national policy requirements.


He highlighted the consequences of this for decision-making and appeals, and that decisions may not accord fully with the Local Plan. Arun’s declaring of a climate emergency and a desire to see energy performance and carbon reduction policies amongst others within an updated Local Plan were also noted but that work was further paused following signals to changes to the planning system. He concluded that a new consultation on the NPPF indicated the direction of central Government with regards the planning system and that, given the tilted balance, there was therefore a need for Arun to begin a Local Plan update. The Group Head of Planning clarified that the scope of the decision for the Committee at this meeting was only whether to commence or not the process of beginning work on restarting the Local Plan update.


Before inviting discussion, the Chair brought particular paragraphs of the Officer report to Members’ attention - 4.5 (national policy requiring Local Plans are reviewed and updated within 5 years with Arun’s being nearly 5 years old), 4.9 (development being more easily delivered and to a higher design standard), 4.10 (safeguards against unplanned development only being triggered if there was an up-to-date Local Plan), and 4.11 (housing requirement over the plan period).


Most Members that spoke supported recommencing of the Local Plan Update. Many mentioned a danger in not acting putting greater control into the hands of developers and central government, and acknowledged that due to the tilted balance and presumption in favour of development Arun was already seeing the consequences of planning by appeal. One Member commented that this was getting worse. It was suggested that the need for a Local Plan update had been triggered previously and that Members had chosen to do nothing but that this was no longer an acceptable course of action. Being unable to challenge housing numbers without an up-to-date Local Plan was discussed, as was the limited control Members felt they had now. With fears that the tilted balance would evermore favour developers and planning inspectors, Members considered whether some control was better than none.


The figure of over 6000 unimplemented permissions was used both to highlight the developers’ failure to build or the numbers being in excess of what the market could actually deliver, and also to question whether it was indeed local need that was not being met. One Member suggested approved permissions counting towards housing delivery targets would take some power away from developers. It was agreed and hoped by many that a Local Plan update would provide evidence to support claims around housing need and numbers in the District. The length of timescales involved in plan making was suggested as a reason to recommence this process sooner rather than later. The need for policy to recognise and appreciate the limiting geography of Arun (located between a National Park and the sea) was something many Members mentioned.


One Member that spoke did raise concerns with recommencing the update. He noted that any failure to deliver lay at the hands of developers not building out approved permissions rather than the Council not approving applications. The current Local Plan needed to be made to work and the infrastructure mentioned within it to accompany development needed to be delivered. To this end, it might be more beneficial to seek policies that would aim to get developers fulfilling existing approvals and resolving issues of infrastructure, acknowledging that infrastructure providers worked on a different cycle to Arun’s plan period, rather than beginning the process of a Local Plan update. It was felt that there was still a lot to be considered before committing the Council to this process and making decisions before infrastructure was delivered, especially whilst there was still uncertainty over central government policy.


Another Member sought reassurances from Officers that this approach would be beneficial to Arun and its residents. Officers explained that the plan-led system was evidence based and needed robust evidence upfront in order to support any challenges to targets. All Members agreed that they and residents wanted to protect the District from overdevelopment and maintain the environment it had.


The Chair suggested that he write to government about the current situation in Arun and the issues it was experiencing due to current planning policy. Councillor Bower suggested that this would carry more weight as a joint letter from all Group Leaders at Arun. This additional recommendation for a joint letter from all Group Leaders to government was then recommended by Councillor Lury and seconded by Councillor Bower. After the vote, the motion was declared CARRIED and recommendation 9 was added to the substantive recommendations which were then proposed by Councillor McAuliffe and seconded by Councillor Yeates. Recommendation 1 was voted on separately, with recommendations 2 to 9 voted for en bloc.


The Committee




1.             The Council recommence the preparation of a Local Plan Update;


2.             The Vision and Objectives (Appendix 1 and 2) be agreed in principle, subject to stakeholder engagement and public consultation as part of a ‘Direction of Travel’ document to be reported to this Committee in September, prior to commencing Regulation 18 Issues & Options in the spring 2024;


3.             The Schedule of internal (Schedule A) and external (Schedule B) commissioned Projects (Appendix 3) be progressed to prepare the Local Plan update;


4.             The costs of £234,347 for the current financial year 2023/24, as identified in this report, be absorbed within the existing revenue budget and any overspend be reported to Members as part of the budget monitoring reports;


5.             The Statement of Works Contract be approved as a departure from Standing Orders;


6.             The plan period for the update be 2023 to 2041 but subject to updated land supply data, the start date (and potentially end date) may be rolled forward as necessary;


7.             The ‘Arun Housing Need Review’ study be material evidence for the Local Plan Update; and


8.             Officers update the Local Development Scheme at the next Planning Policy Committee meeting for subsequent adoption by Full Council;


9.             The Group Leaders write a joint letter to government about the current situation in Arun and the issues it was experiencing due to current planning policy.

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