A Local Plan for York – Mission Impossible?

UPDATE – New representations have now been made by the York Council to the Planning Inspector. They can be viewed by clicking here

The latest exchange of correspondence, between planning inspectors appointed by the government and the City of York Council, on the proposed “Local Plan” simply serves to highlight how difficult it is to produce a robust proposal which can stand the test of time.

Controversial plan was to have been determined in February 2019.

The latest exchange concerns apparent lack of justification for the Green Belt boundaries. These heavily influence the size of the area allocated for new housing in the City.

It is not a new argument.

It is nearly 20 years since York embarked on an attempt to update its strategic plan. It came close to success in 2011 when a proposal was ready to be sent off to the planning inspectorate.

Of the five drafts that have seen the light of day, this was perhaps the one which achieved the broadest consensus. It envisaged building an additional 575 homes in the City each year for 30 years

In the main it was some developers and the political fringe who objected to it.

 A change of political control saw an inexperienced Labour administration adopt a new proposal which would have seen the City increase in size by 25%. The stance contributed to them being booted out of office 4 years later.

Another attempt was made but was again jeopardised by the unexpected (in this case the decision to close barracks in the City).

It would be 2019 before the revised plan was ready to be submitted.

It still included a higher growth rate for housing than was necessary to sustain the existing City. It anticipated large amounts of “inward migration” to fill the extra jobs and homes that were envisaged. But again, changing government policies, unstable population growth forecasts and then coronavirus combined to halt the final “examination in public” part of the process.

Now the inspector wants the Council to withdraw its proposals and start again. That would mean more delay, plus expenditure of another £x million for taxpayers with no guarantee that a plan would be approved at the end of the process.

Planning inspectors are paid a fee of around £1000 a day! Some may feel that they have a vested interest in prevarication

The Council has opted to try to provide more information to move things forward.

There are vested interests at work for whom delays are an advantage.  

Lack of a strategic blueprint means that developers can chance their arm by submitting planning applications on wholly unsuitable sites in the Green Belt. Schemes at Moor Lane and Boroughbridge Road are recent examples.

Existing York Green Belt boundaries.

Getting a Local Plan adopted is pretty much impossible given the current high level of central government interference.

The City needs to be able to get on and determine its own future. The ballot box provides a safety net against the adoption of extreme policies.

What will happen, before the detached hand of a North Yorkshire Mayor tries to seize the reins of power, remains to be seen.

Hopefully the Council and the planning inspector will now find a way to move forward more quickly.

Local Plan public hearing

The examination in public of  York’s Draft Local Plan has commenced. It is taking place in the Gimcrack Room at York Racecourse.

There is a large seating space allocated for the general public.

The sessions recommence at 9.00am on Monday when the Green Belt boundaries are likely to be considered at length.

This week the inquiry has mainly considered the position of several land owners and developers all of whom are desperate for their particular track of land to be zoned for house building. Such a designation can raise values by over 100x so not surprisingly those vested interests are well represented by professionals. Millions of pounds are at stake.

Ranged against them is the York Council as its advisors. It will defend the assumptions included in the Local Plan which has taken over a decade to be drawn up.

Actively involved in the debate will be amenity societies, Councillors and ordinary residents. Many will make the case for the conservation of green areas pointing to the importance of the existing Green Belt in preserving York’s unique character.

At times, such inquires can be tedious and repetitive.

Although the proceedings are not being live web cast, the Council is making a recording available on https://www.youtube.com/user/cityofyorkcouncil

This important meeting has been overshadowed by the General Election and the forthcoming Christmas season.

It would be unfortunate, to say the least, if anything slipped through unchallenged which the City as a whole might regret later in the year.  

Further details about the examination can be found here https://www.york.gov.uk/LocalPlanExamination

York Local Plan Inquiry goes ahead

Following notification of the General Election to be held on 12 December 2019 the Planning Inspectorate has issued guidance stating that Local Plan examinations should proceed as planned. 

There had been speculation that the examination would be suspended until after 12th December.

The hearings into the City of York Local Plan will therefore commence at 10.00 am on Tuesday 10 December 2019, as previously notified

Phase 1 of hearings of the City of York Local Plan will commence at 10.00am on Tuesday 10 December 2019 in the Gimcrack Room at York Racecourse at Knavesmire Road, York YO23 1EX.

Further details can be found via this link.

Make your comments to government on York’s Local Plan

  The Council is urging residents have one final say on  the Local Plan. Comments will go direct to a government appointed independent inspector. Those who wish to, may be invited to speak at an “examination in public”

The forms aren’t easy to fill in although it can  be done “on line“. Land owners and developers, who stand to make £millions if green field land is identified for development, will no doubt pay for professional help.

The average resident must do his or her best. But its definitely worth having your say.

Locally most attention will be on the plan to build on the Lowfields playing field. That is likely to attract strong opposition, not least because it conflicts with other policies in the Plan  For example Policy GI5 : Protection of Open Space and Playing Fields para 9.14 – 9.18; says,

Save Lowfields Playing Field

“Development proposals will not be permitted which would harm the character of, or lead to the loss of, open space of environmental and/or recreational importance”

On the other hand, the Council seems to have got the proposed boundaries of the Green Belt right at least on the west of the City

Over-development of the City would be a serious burden for subsequent generations.

The media release says,

York residents are being urged to take the opportunity to make final comments on the city’s Local Plan.

A six-week consultation starts today as the council prepares to submit the plan – which will drive York’s economic growth and determine how the city changes over the next 15 years and beyond – to the government for Examination.

The council’s ‘publication draft’ is the result of extensive studies and consultation with residents, landowners, developers and statutory consultees like government agencies.

Comments made during this consultation will go direct to the government, to be considered by a Planning Inspector at an Examination in Public.

The council is stressing that this consultation is different because the Examination will only consider certain issues about the plan, and has produced guidance to help residents make comments which the Inspector can use.

 You can find out how to make your comments, and what information the government’s Planning Inspector will be able to consider, in a special booklet being distributed to every household in the city.

The booklets will be delivered to every household in the city alongside – but not inside – another local publication.

If you haven’t received your household’s copy by Monday 26 February, please request one through localplan@york.gov.uk or call 01904 552255.

You can see all the same information, how to respond and view the full Publication Draft and supporting documents:

All responses must be made by midnight on Wednesday 4 April 2018 to ensure they can be considered by the Government.