CPRE Agrees with me – at Least on Dorset Local Plan

My Original post here

Dorset CPRE

Dorset CPRE regrets that the Dorset Council has not adequately consulted communities before it issued its draft Local Plan.

We also regret that it has not challenged central housing targets which are way in excess of any sensible forecast of local housing need (see below link to Dorset Housing Needs Evidence Report).

Dorset Council has only recently published a complex Sustainability Appraisal. The consultation appears to be rushed and inadequate. It compares unfavourably with the more consultative approach of our neighbours Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) and East Devon who are consulting on Issues and Options.

Peter Bowyer, Chair of Trustees, said:
“Dorset Council has not created an imaginative county wide Local Plan. Where are the fresh ideas for the unique character and future needs of Dorset? We have instead been presented with questionable assumptions, proposals for excessive housing numbers which will threaten our communities and a “cut and paste” cumbersome strategy.

There has been no adequate consultation on this draft Local Plan despite offers from many organisations to input evidence and ideas.

Dorset CPRE calls upon Dorset Council to think again. Revisit the timetable and documents. Take a new approach to both. Lay firmer foundations for the processes of the Dorset Local Plan. Do this now by providing the community with real opportunities to contribute to the future of their county”.

The consultation for the Dorset Council Local Plan (DCLP) has now ‘gone live’. This critical planning strategy is of immense importance to the future of the people of Dorset, containing as it does, proposals for guiding the future development in the new Dorset Council area up to 2038.

There is normally a sequence to the preparation of such a strategic planning template, so that at its core, there is a strategic vision, which reflects the intended character of Dorset. Development objectives would normally then flow from such a vision, and taken together, such objectives should, amongst other things, be local and distinctive.

The DCLP is being developed against a background of uncertainty, because of controversial government plans to speed up the delivery of Local Plans, by for instance, reducing the requirements for assessments that add in its view “disproportionate delay” to the planning process. The government also proposes to abolish the Sustainability Appraisal system, and to develop a simplified process for assessing the environmental impact of Local Plans. It is not clear, however, what that process might be.

What is clear with any new Local Plan under the current planning system, is that community involvement is central to the vision.

We have therefore the utmost concern with the DCLP for the following reasons: 

  • the material made available as part of the consultation is enormous, circa 2,000 pages, so in our view, the final DCLP should be much more concise to make it more accessible;
  • the DCLP does not contain from an early stage of what is a drawn-out process, a list of alternative strategic options to trigger a meaningful discussion with the public, town/village councils and other stakeholders, but instead, in many cases, it just suggests in strategic terms a fait accompli, or makes other curious assumptions;
  • the DCLP has not challenged inflated central housing targets which are way in excess of any sensible forecast of local housing need (see below link to the Dorset Housing Needs Evidence Report);
  • proposals from the draft local plans of the former predecessor authorities appear to have been merely replicated, without the principles underlying such proposals being reconsidered; and
  • the current consultation period is, in the light of the critical omissions identified above and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, far too short, and such a period should, in our view, be significantly extended under delegated powers.