Tonight Stratford District is considering delays to its 5th version of its preferred option plan. I know many many plans which have gone through 4 versions, but 5 or 6? Nothing seems to be more disposable than a preferred options plan, not even Tesco bagged salads, why is that.
Reasons, many rather than a single 1 st deposit reforms meant LPAs can have as many goes as they want and nothing aids non-decision making as much as procrastination.
Reforms also niavely encouraged many LPAs to not do allocations or only allocate major sites, until Stafford/Lichfield and the SEA directive compliance and Forest Heath put a stop to that.
Also government is reasonable for first encouraging plans to reduce numbers then stopping them and revoking RS requiring whole new housing evidence base.
Also with a plan version turnaround period of around a year and national policy turnaround of only a few months national policy has changed more quickly.
Of course there is the learned helplessness of many lpas and the cowardice of many councillors in dropping controversial options, as if any sound plan were never uncontroversial, and proposing instead more controversial and more unsound alternatives despite all warnings and then disingenuously blaming PINS for their own incompetence.
Many LPA planners see a soundness fail as potentially career ending and so are more than willing to recommend yet another round of consultation, especially when they know when cllrs stubborn preferences are unsound. Even though regs changes means that an LPA can always avoid an unsoundness finding by simply asking for recommendations to make sound.
The result is we have plans that tale a decade or longer to get through and some PIs which have lasted two years or longer. Exactly the kind of delays which discredited the old style local plans system. Things must change.
We need statutory timetables for plan production with a right of challenge for developers and local residents when it is not met to recharge LPAs for consultants costs for preparing a version of the plan for submission in default. The LPA would then be required to approve a version of the plan for submission, either their own or the consultants version, within 12 months of going into default. Then if their own version was not legally ready, tough titty.