England’s first joint strategic plan recommended to be withdrawn
Since its examination in public in July, planning Inspectors Malcolm Rivett and Steven Lee have found substantial problems with central aspects of the West of England Joint Spatial Plan, describing the spatial strategy as not “robust, consistent and objective”.
The provision of at least 105,000 homes across South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Bristol City, and Bath and North East Somerset, and the arbitrary division of this requirement between the authorities is a key issue. The councils did not convince the Inspectors that they had considered reasonable alternatives to their Strategic Developments Locations (SDLs). Instead, it has been argued by DLP that the councils “divided up the housing requirement rather than developing a joint strategy based on the most suitable, available and deliverable sites”.
Despite the councils assertion that more evidence can be provided to back up the proposed SDLs and the selection process, the Inspectors have cancelled hearings scheduled for September and October, advising that withdrawal of the JSP. According to Rivett and Lee, more evidence could not address their concerns, with the suggestion made that “going back several stages in the plan-making process” would be a suitable course of action.
According to consultancy Alder King, the new JSP would have to use the standard methodology to calculate the housing requirement. With evidence showing that the Plan should be extended to 2041 to be in line with 2018 NPPF requirements, an additional 30,000 homes may have to be found.
The councils have stated that they are confident that they will be able to provide a substantive response to the Inspectors’ conclusions and determine the best way forward.