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Special dispensation for Durham Local Plan

Published: Thursday, 1st October 2015

The Department of Communities and Local Government has decided that Durham County Council can resume work on its local plan.

The decision came after ministers agreed to quash a planning inspector’s interim verdict which was heavily critical of the plan’s housing and employment targets, strategy over the release of green belt land as well as proposals for new roads.

In May the council sought a judicial review of the inspector’s interim report. The DCLG subsequently requested that court proceedings were put on ice for 30 days.

During this “grace period” the DCLG came to an agreement with the council to quash the report, provided that the council withdrew the plan and amended it for examination under a new inspector. That agreement has now been approved by the High Court.

Council cabinet member for economic regeneration Neil Foster said: “This outcome is sensible, reasonable and fair for the plan and for County Durham. Most importantly it allows us to move forward with the essential ambitions for residents and businesses, which we maintain will offer a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to allow this county to deliver on its economic potential.

“We will be working to ensure that the refreshed plan can be resubmitted at the earliest opportunity with a view to a new examination being held in early 2016.”

A spokesman for DCLG said: “This Government is fully committed to supporting appropriate growth, so there is no doubt that the ambition of Durham County Council is the right one. However, local plans need to be deliverable and based on robust evidence.”

In a separate move DCLG ministers have endorsed a planning inspector’s conclusions that North Somerset District Council’s local plan should include a 20,985 housing requirement.

As one of his final acts as the then Secretary of State, Sir Eric Pickles intervened earlier this year and called in the plan stating he wanted to ensure national policy was being applied and reflected correctly.

Planning minister Brandon Lewis has just written to the council confirming the inspector’s figure as part of the plan.

“It is now for the council to take forward the other elements of its local plan and deliver the homes the community needs,” said a department spokesperson.

Meanwhile, in a further separate move a planning inspector has found Gosport Borough Council’s local plan ‘sound’ provided certain modifications are endorsed by the Hampshire District Council. The local authority plans to formally approve the strategy next month.

View more information on the County Durham Plan examination

Roger Milne