Perhaps a Hartlepool cllr can explain any likely scenario where withdrawing its local plan and casting aside the binding results of an inspectors report will benefit the town?
They like previous cllrs in Coventry in a similar position are making a critical mistake somehow imaging that the realities of objectively assessed housing need will somehow go away. It failed in Coventry and will fail here, an inspector at a reopened inquiry on a resubmitted plan is no mug. Hence the cllrs are acting like ostriches in avoiding a difficult but inevitable decision, and they can expect one thing only, appeals, appeals. appeals, here there and everywhere which they will have no power to influence. The district auditor should look at any new and unnecessary work on a new plan and seek to surcharge the cllrs responsible each individually. Again demonstrates the folly of allowing LPAs unilaterally to withdraw plans without SoS approval. All such cases have ended in tears and political humiliation for the local politicians involved.
Although an inspector has just said changes to the Hartlepool local plan would allow it to be found sound, Hartlepool Borough Council will discuss withdrawing the plan at a meeting this evening.
The local plan, which was drawn up by a previous administration led by independent mayor Stuart Drummond and submitted for examination in June, outlines development in the borough over the next 15 years.
The withdrawal motion, proposed by the new Labour administration, comes after planning inspector Kevin Ward wrote to the council last week saying he was happy to recommend modifications to the plan so it would be found sound.
After initial hearings in February, Ward expressed concerns about plans to allocate a Gypsy site in Brenda Road, Hartlepool. The council then decided to allocate a traveller site in Hart village, prompting opposition from residents and local councillors.
Another controversial policy in the plan is a 2,500-home development on greenfield land called the South West Extension. One of Ward’s modifications, which he sent to the council on Tuesday, suggested reducing the scheme’s capacity to 2,200 homes.
He also recommended raising the number of homes at another site, the North West Extension, from 150 to 500 homes. He said the changes would require further consultation and a sustainability appraisal.
Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said in a statement: “I would not endorse any more work on a local plan that is unpopular with local people. The best approach would be to withdraw the current local plan, do our own modifications and then carry out a consultation exercise and a sustainability appraisal.”
Akers-Belcher said he had spoken to Labour members in the Hart ward about their concerns over the proposed traveller site. He said: “We must revisit this element of the local plan in respect of both need and demand to determine if any site should be designated within the borough.”
Akers-Belcher said he also met with the Fens Residents Association regarding the South West Extension, which the group opposed. He went on to say that the plan withdrawal would allow the council “to review the future housing offer in Hartlepool in its entirety”, adding: “This may lead to a review of the proposed development, which does not have the support of local residents.”
In a statement, the Labour group said: “The local plan inherited by our current administration does not meet the needs of the communities we collectively represent. We cannot and will not adopt a local plan that has become divisive rather than cohesive for our town.”
The statement said members would use a measure in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, amended by the Localism Act 2011, which allows planning authorities to withdraw a local plan any time before adoption.
More details on Hartlepool’s local plan examination can be found here.