Yesterday was the Exploratory Meeting.
From reports the Inspector (David Vickery) gave a clear indication that he was prepared to suspend the Exam until October if the Council agreed that such action was appropriate. The Council stated clearly that it would respond positively to such a suspension. A letter will go out from the inspector next week.
Key problems was the inability to show duty to cooperate solutions to meeting the housing requirements of the City and the fact that the inner edge of the York Green Belt has failed to be defined in a development plan which has allowed large tracts of ‘draft’ Green Belt to be developed.
The only statutory Policy relating to a Green Belt encircling the City is contained in the RSS (Yorkshire & Humberside), which is likely to be abolished during the summer. When that happens, York will have not even have a draft Green Belt, so the CS will therefore have to justify a Green Belt as well as defining its boundaries. A key policy test in the NPPF from PPS2 is that new Green Belt boundaries should be defined to be defensible in perpetuity, including where necessary setting out areas of strategic reserve.
Expect housebuilders to slap in applications now. If they were put in now they would fail the prematurity test, but if York is slow (longer than 6-8 months) to come up with realistic proposals to meet housing need and a realistic inner boundary then expect the appeals to go to inquiry and give the SoS a difficult case as his own policy would then indicate approval. After all there would be no Green Belt if the SoS chooses to abolish the RSS. The SoS can of course choose to selectively revoke the RSS leaving the Green Belt intact but its inner boundary undefined. Expect JRs whatever happens.
York is really up against the clock. It needs to put forward and SEA and consult on urban extension options and get it back to Full Council within this period – a very hard task.
There is an action that York can undertake that is tractable within a short period of time – but that advice is on the clock.