If Rossendale Council fail to publish their Local Plan for formal consultation by the end of August, the Government might intervene, warns a report which will be presented to members on Wednesday (11 July).
The Local Plan is a planning blueprint for Rossendale Borough that identifies development needs for the next 15 years and allocates sites. When the first draft emerged last year, it caused uproar in Edenfield, where 808 residents objected to a proposal to remove Green Belt protection from swathes of land.
According to the report, the Government have been regularly contacting the Council to check that the formal consultation version will appear on time. The report therefore recommends that the Councillors hand over to the Planning Manager and the Director of Economic Development in consultation with the Portfolio holder for Regulatory Services the task of making any changes required to rectify errors and improve the draft Plan prior to publication.
The recommendation has alarmed the Edenfield Community Neighbourhood Forum, a group of local residents and businesses established to draw up a neighbourhood plan.
Ian Lord, their Chair, said,
“We have been concerned, ever since the first draft of the Local Plan appeared last year, about the removal of land from the Green Belt. Government guidance is clear: this should happen only in exceptional circumstances. We have repeatedly asked the Council to explain these, but all the report says is that they will be covered in a separate topic paper. However, the Councillors are being requested to sign off the Plan without any information on this crucial aspect.”
“The report to Council this week mentions some minor changes from last year’s draft Local Plan, but the fact is that, on the Council’s own figures, there is an adequate supply of developable housing land in Rossendale for the next 15 years without any recourse to the Green Belt at all.”
“On present information, the draft Local Plan is unsound. It is therefore alarming that the Councillors, who should be owning the process, are being asked to surrender their responsibilities to the officers. Whilst that might solve their immediate problem of meeting their deadline, they are storing up trouble if the Planning Inspectorate later declare it to be unsound.”