• Mary Breakell

18 December 2018 Newsbrief 41 Inspector will not be calling until April 2019!

CLOUD Newsbrief no 40 reported the critical letter sent by the Planning Inspector to Lancaster City Council on 19th November.  This letter complained about delays by the Council in submitting reports which were needed before the examination hearings could start.  The Inspector also stated that it was inappropriate and verging on the illegal for the Council to be seeking to update the plan after it had been submitted for inspection.  At the time we issued the Newsbrief, we were awaiting the Council’s response to this letter.

Correspondence between the Inspector and the council has now moved on quite a bit.  The Council responded to the Inspector on 23rd November, generating a pretty irate reply from him on 10th December, where he again raises his concern over the apparent attempt by the City Council to make major modifications to the Local Plan. He states:

“I note from your letter that the Council once again refers to modifying the …..plan to further improve soundness….In response I would again stress that it is not the role of the Examination to deal with changes to the Plan that would improve soundness……..It is not therefore to be expected….that the Council should produce a suite of documents post submission aimed at improving the soundness of a plan.”

He goes on to raise the issue of the date of the Planning Inquiry rejecting, unless there were strong reasons to the contrary, the Council’s proposal to delay until May 2019.

In response, on 11th December, the City Council finally acknowledges that :

“it is not the role of the Examination to deal with changes to the Plan that would ‘improve soundness’.”

The Council also proposed a timetable of key events, leading up to the start of the Planning Inquiry on 15th April 2019.

There the matter rests - for the moment at least!  We await the Inspector’s response to the Council’s proposed timetable for the Inquiry.  This whole saga hardly builds confidence. In his letters, Mr McCoy has now raised concerns which have been troubling CLOUD ever since the Local Plan was first published. There have been widespread criticisms of the way the Plan was first and inadequately drafted and yet approved by Council, and then repeatedly and still incoherently modified after it had been submitted for central government approval. It is remarkable that so much time was spent during October 2018 on consultations over ‘modifications’ which were not admissible, nor, it has to be said, clearly explained to consultees. The key question must now be: where does this leave Lancaster City Council, at the very time when its CEO, Susan Parsonage, is departing for Wokingham Borough Council? The ‘story’ has yet to unfold, but it does not inspire confidence. The letters leaves little doubt that the Planning Inspector is unimpressed by proceedings so far.

Note : The correspondence between the Inspector and the Council is in the public domain on the local plan page of the Lancaster City Council Local Plan Examinations webpage See Local Plan Examinations Library

We contributed an article on the first letter from the planning Inspector to Virtual Lancaster on 6 December and an article is anticipated shortly in the Lancaster Guardian.

There is still no firm news about deferred Chapel Lane Planning Application. Deadline for papers for 7th January 2019 meeting of the Planning Committee is 25th December- so watch this space for an unwelcome Christmas present!

We would all like to thank you for your support and good humour this year. Many of you have walked the streets of South Lancaster, braving man-trap letter boxes to help us deliver flyers and postcards. We appreciate that help enormously and thanks too for the very generous donations to help us fund our expert consultant for the Planning Inquiry, whenever that happens. A very Happy Christmas to all our supporters and very good wishes for 2019.

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