Jonathan Chowen resigned as leader of Horsham District Council earlier this week following the vote by his own group in a private meeting.
He felt the move to delay was a ‘grave mistake as it leaves our district and residents vulnerable to speculative, spasmodic planning applications by developers’.
The Lib Dems called the decision a ‘gross dereliction of duty’, while Labour suggested the Conservatives were merely delaying potentially unpopular announcements until after the council election.
However the Conservatives have now explained their reasoning behind the move, pointing to recent announcements made by Secretary of State Michael Gove.
Lynn Lambert, cabinet member for planning at HDC, said: “The Council has been lobbying Government for many years regarding the challenges that our District faces. We feel it is a very positive move by the Government and shows they have listened.
“For too long house building has focused on the overheated south-east, which has raised house prices and forced more development onto green fields.
“The proposed changes will make significant amendments to the national planning process, including re-directing targets towards and levelling up the Midlands and north of England.
“We had been due to bring our draft Local Plan to cabinet and council in January, however these announcements have given us sound reasons for more consideration of the plan and have driven our decision to pause the process.
“It would not be appropriate to continue at the moment with the possibility of a lower housing number and developments only in areas favoured by local communities.
“This decision has not been taken lightly but we have decided that it is in the best interests of our residents to pause and to take the opportunity and time to see what changes will take place.
“Residents can now be clear that we are protecting the countryside and putting the needs of local residents first, protecting our open spaces and respecting Neighbourhood Plans.
“In the meantime, we shall take this opportunity to have further consultation with stakeholders and our communities.”
A spokesperson for the Save West of Ifield group welcomed the delay as they think more time is needed to consider the potential benefits of Michael Gove’s recent statements around modifying housebuilding targets.