Dorset Council offers update on Local Plan, saying it has listened to residents’ concerns

Dorset Local PlanDORSET Council said it has listened to the public in developing its Local Plan as an update was offered on the progress of the project. 

Earlier this year, the leader of council, Cllr Spencer Flower, set out his commitment to develop a new Dorset Council Local Plan that meets the needs and aspirations of residents. This will shape how the Dorset Council area is developed over future years.

At a Cabinet meeting last week, Cllr David Walsh, portfolio holder for planning, provided an update on the progress of the draft plan, offering the following key messages:

  1. We have listened to you on the draft Dorset Council Local Plan and spoken with government
  2. We are reshaping the new Dorset Council Local Plan and extending the timescale by two years to allow adoption 2026
  3. There will be more focus in the reshaped Dorset Council Local Plan on the right development in the right places, the right quality and on climate and ecological considerations.

Dorset Council received an unprecedented 9,000 responses to its consultation on the draft Dorset Council Local Plan. In summary, respondents said the council should:

  • Challenge the housing numbers – they should reflect needs of Dorset, not blindly follow a government calculation and not include housing for Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole (BCP) Council
  • Support building more affordable housing across the area, helping working families and young people to live in Dorset
  • Protect Dorset’s unique natural environment
  • Tackle climate change as our leading priority, ensuring the Dorset Council Local Plan and our Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy and action plan are fully aligned
  • Consider the infrastructure requirements of new development: public transport, roads, health and education services, utilities to ensure the needs of residents are met

Dorset Council says it has listened, and it has become clear that the National Policy, regulations and local constraints in place for councils when devising these plans were preventing them from coming up with the best possible local plan that reflects the needs and aspirations of Dorset’s residents.

Therefore, over the past few months, the leader of the council has been in discussions with Michael Gove, the former Secretary of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, with the Chief Planning Officer and other senior civil servants.

Discussions are said to have been “extremely constructive”, and the council can now confirm the following:

  • That the adoption of the new Dorset Council Local Plan is expected in 2026. This gives the council more time to develop the plan (previously it was aiming for adoption in 2023/4).
  • Dorset will be a pilot for the new national approach to local plans being introduced through revised national policy and legislation. This will allow Dorset to take advantage of improvements it fully expects to be enacted, including a genuinely plan-led system that has been shaped by engagement with our communities, make use of support from government and where development accords with what the plan sets out, streamlined processes and a national suite of development management policies.
  • As part of this, the government is planning to remove the ‘duty to cooperate’ which currently requires the council to take account of unmet needs that neighbouring authorities, such as that BCP Council, cannot deliver. The changes will mean Dorset can focus on a strategy that is right for its own residents.
  • However, Dorset Council recognises that access to affordable housing is currently a challenge for some Dorset residents. More affordable housing needs to be built, but we need the right development in the right places, at the right quality which respects the unique and important natural environment.
  • Working with Homes England there will be more focus on new or significantly expanded settlements to help deliver the longer-term growth needs of Dorset, with the necessary infrastructure (transport, utilities, health and education services)
  • The council wants greater recognition of its Climate and Ecological Emergency commitments in locally produced planning policy.

Dorset Council’s aspiration is to provide a framework for long-term sustainable development that meets housing needs, delivers national and local net zero carbon and biodiversity targets, and ensures development is supported by essential infrastructure.

It is currently seeking confirmation from government of a temporary exemption from housing land supply requirements until the new Dorset Council Local Plan is adopted, so it can protect Dorset from harmful unplanned development in the interim period.

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