Next phase of Dorset Local Plan delayed until spring

Dorset Council Local Plan logoA SIX month delay is now anticipated in the next phase of Dorset’s Local Plan – the publication of which has been pushed back from autumn this year, until spring 2022.

The news was recently announced by planning brief holder Cllr David Walsh, although he offered no reason for the change.

Cllr Walsh said that a revised work plan would be brought to the Cabinet in July, proposing that the publication of the revised document will now be in spring 2022.

If that is agreed the plan, which runs to hundreds of pages, will again go out for public consultation, seeking views on any changes which may be proposed as a result of the first public consultation.

The plan seeks to shape the way the county will develop in the future – with a focus on further housing and the creation of jobs.

The Local Plan has proved controversial with widespread criticism of Dorset Council for its willingness to take additional housing from the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area – possibly as many as 9,000 extra homes, in addition to the 30,000 already being proposed.

It has also been criticised for failing to organise any face-to-face consultation meetings where councillors and officers could be questioned in public, although Cllr Walsh did appear at an online meeting organised by Gillingham Town Council.

Critics have also complained about the amount of proposals which have been forwarded from previous plans.

The last Cabinet meeting also saw further questions over one of the most controversial proposals – for an additional 4,000 homes to the north of Dorchester.

Questions from the public highlighted Historic England’s concerns and pledges sought from Wessex Water and the Environment Agency about any effects the development might have on underground water supplies in the area.

Cllr Walsh responded by saying that further work is currently being carried out by the site promoters and he expected that the findings would be made available by the time the revised Local Plan is published in the spring in 2022.

The planning brief holder also denied a claim from questioner Mike Allen that the Dorset Council’s approach to the Local Plan and greenfield sites appeared to be in direct opposition to the aims of the government white paper ‘Planning for the Future’.

Said Cllr Walsh: “The local plan has followed national policy as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. This allows green belt boundaries to be changed in exceptional circumstances through the preparation or review of a local plan.”

Dorset Council said after the meeting that the delay has been caused by two factors – the number of representations which will take time to give full consideration to, and the need to gather evidence to support the plan.

“Consultants have not been able to undertake site visits until recently, and some of the evidence we need to collect is taking longer than we expected to produce,” said a statement.

By Local Democracy Reporter Trevor Bevins

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