The Inspector’s initial post-hearing letter has just been published by the Council.
Despite Calderdale claiming they are ‘a major step closer to final adoption of the Local Plan’, it is clear, and this is what the Planning Inspector’s letter in fact means, that the Plan as submitted and examined by the Inspector over the course of almost 3 years, is unsound.
It is deeply concerning that there is still a significant amount of work to complete before the Inspector will be in a position to make a recommendation as to whether or not what would be a much changed plan can be sound and legally compliant.
The Inspector has told Calderdale that, in addition to the 180+ main modifications already listed in documents CC17b, CC85e, CC156 and CC162b, and potential changes outlined previously in the Inspector’s Stage 2 post-hearing letter, new evidence and representations have further increased the number of main modifications required.
Contrary to Calderdale’s press release claims, there is nothing within the Inspector’s letter which says she has found the ‘overall proposals were based on sound evidence’, whilst the substantial list of main modifications means the Plan still requires fundamental work if it is to have a chance of complying with national planning regulations.
Additionally, the Forum calls on Calderdale Council to finally publish the missing evidence on infrastructure, viability and deliverability – all cornerstones of a sound and legally compliant Local Plan, which should have been provided and available for comment when the Plan was SUBMITTED, not several years later.
The next step is for Calderdale to prepare a comprehensive set of proposed main modifications and run further consultations, enabling the Inspector to write the final report taking account of all responses to the further consultation.
On average, it takes 14 months for a Local Plan to be found sound. The Doncaster Local Plan for example, was submitted for examination on 4 March 2020, the single round of examination hearings completed in less than two months between October and December 2020, Main Modifications were subject to public consultation in February and March 2021, the Inspectors Report confirming the Plan was sound was issued in June 2021 and the Local Plan was adopted September 2021.
This is a huge contrast to the unprecedented delays in Calderdale (the process is currently 24 months late, having gone through FOUR rounds of Hearings) mean that the outstanding items have yet to be consulted upon. Yet again, participants will have to devote more time and energy (and costs) to responding to late and incomplete evidence.
The Forum has also written to Calderdale calling on them to change the inaccurate content of their 23 March press release, which claims
“The Planning Inspector will need to consider responses received during the consultation and should then be in a position to issue her final report. The Council can then proceed to adopt the Calderdale Local Plan.”
The suggestion that publication of the final report will enable the Council to adopt the Local Plan clearly presupposes and pre-judges the content of the Inspector’s report.
The Forum will continue to be an active participant in this process and give more information in the forthcoming public meeting.