• Mary Breakell

23 January 2019 Newsbrief 43 Consultation of Evidence and Additional Information

1  Introduction

Newsbrief 42 reported that a provisional date of 1st April 2019 had been set for the start of the examination hearings by the Planning Inspector into the Lancaster Local Plan.  We also reported that Lancaster City Council had launched a new consultation on evidence and additional information to update the plan. We - the CLOUD management group - undertook to seek  clarification on the purpose of the consultation, the version of the Local Plan it refers to, and guidance on the content of the 2,000 pages of additional information we have now been presented with.  Here is the link to this new information :

http://www.lancaster.gov.uk/planning/planning-policy/local-plan-consultation-on-additional-evidence-and-information

2  Clarification

We sent the following email to the Planning Inspector’s office and to the City Council. CLOUD email:

We are experiencing great difficulty in placing this additional evidence in the context of the Local Plan and the comments we submitted on it back in April 2018, together with the further comments we provided in October 2018 in response to the modifications then proposed by the City Council.

We note (from the correspondence between the Inspector and the Council in November and December 2018) that there was reference to a 'tracked changes' version of the Strategic Policies & Land Allocations DPD.  We believe this document would assist us in placing the additional evidence on which the council is now consulting in its proper context. However we cannot locate this document on the website. Does this mean that:

The modifications proposed in October 2018 and the tracked changes version of the SPLA DPD have been withdrawn?

that the only change to the documentation as submitted to SofS in May 2018 is the additional evidence on which the council is now consulting?

Reply from City Council :

The Local Plan consultation on additional evidence and information makes clear that the consultation is about the relationship of the additional evidence to the Publication & Submission Version of the Local Plan Documents as submitted in May 2018.  Accordingly, the first link on the consultation page is the to the Publication & Submission Versions submitted in May 2018. These documents have not been revised.

The October 2018 Consultation was an informal consultation designed to gain community and stakeholder views on the Council’s thoughts on how the plan might take account of new information.  Taking account of new information could help ensure that the plan’s policies are kept up to date. However, the Inspector must assess the soundness of the plan as submitted. It is up to the Inspector to determine if he wishes to explore modifications to the plan. The wording of any modifications will be shaped by discussion at the hearing sessions and the Inspector’s further consideration.  If he chooses to explore modifying the documents he will ask the Council to formally consult on proposed modifications and report back to him.

3   Where Do We Stand Now?

You may well be wondering what this email exchange means!  We now know that the modifications proposed by the City Council last October (and on which CLOUD members went to the trouble of submitting comments) have been put on ice.  Whether they remain ‘frozen’ is for the Planning Inspector to determine during the examination hearings, not the City Council.

We share a sense of frustration about this process, especially the time wasted and confusion generated last October, and will raise this in our response.

We now have some 2000 pages of additional evidence to consider and respond to - and all by the deadline of 15th February 2019.  This additional evidence represents the only proposed change to the Local Plan since its submission to the Secretary of State in May 2018 and the start of the planning inspection process.

4   Summaries

There is some good news in that the City Council issued summary guidance on these 2,000 pages on 17th January (do check your SPAM box as it may be there). It seems unfortunate that, whilst the evidence and additional information was published on 7th January, the summary was delayed by more than a week.  Here is the link to the summary :

https://www.lancaster.gov.uk/planning/planning-policy/evidence-monitoring-and-information

5   Comment and advice to members

There are indeed many pages of evidence, but our reading so far has found nothing that changes the views we have already expressed on the soundness or otherwise of the Local Plan.  However we are still working our way through the evidence and there may be valuable ‘nuggets’ we have yet to unearth! If we find evidence that needs challenging we will do so. We will follow this Newsbrief with our commentary on the evidence.  The main topics are :

Transport assessment

Viability assessment

Infrastructure delivery

Open spaces and playing pitches

Landscape reviews

Identified sites assessments

Air Quality

Housing land monitoring report

Lancaster growth report

Strategic housing assessment

Flood risk assessment

6   Examination Hearings

The date of 1st April 2019 for the start of the examination hearings into the Local Plan remains “provisional”.  We will be asking when it is going to be confirmed.

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