I dont like criticising inspectors but in this case the inspector appears to be trying to illegally thinking he was running a core strategy examination not an allocation one.
Legally there was no need to pull the strategy from examination. They should have instead used their legal right to demand of the inspector changes to make the plan sound, and if he proposed illeagal/ultra vires actions JR them. An LP inspector cannot propose changes to an allocation DPD that would require a strategy review, unless the whole chain of conformity from national policy is broken by national policy changes.
Wealden District Council is seeking authority to pull the document from examination at a full council meeting tomorrow (27 May) and instead wants to proceed with a scheduled review of its core strategy.
It submitted the strategic sites plan for examination in March 2014, and hearings were held in June last year and in February and March this year.
Among planning inspector Mike Fox’s proposed modifications were the addition of 190 additional homes at Hailsham and the relocation of 30 homes from Crowborough to an unassessed site in Uckfield.
Council leader Bob Standley said the changes ran contrary to the authority’s agreed 2013 Core Strategy Local Plan – which identified sites for 4,070 new homes – and that legal challenges were expected if the modifications were enacted.
“The core strategy is Wealden’s local plan,” he said.
“Making arbitrary changes, as proposed by the inspector, is not appropriate or justified and in any case would require extensive infrastructure, environmental and habitats assessments.
“We are committed to carrying out the 2015 review of the local plan and need to concentrate our resources on this as the best way of maintaining current economic growth while safeguarding our countryside from haphazard development.”
A report to tomorrow’s meeting said that withdrawing the strategic sites plan and proceeding with the 2015 Core Strategy Review would provide certainty for developers and allow the Wealden Local Plan to be progressed “to an appropriate timescale”.
However the document concedes that the move will mean some funds spent on the strategic sites local plan will have been wasted.
Correspondence between the Planning Inspectorate and the council concerning the strategic sites local plan can be found here.