Local plan costs £1m to Chichester district

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THE cost of the local plan to taxpayers in the district is just shy of £1m.

A freedom of information request by the Observer revealed the figures, which show £905,812 has been spent on the development of the local plan over the past three years.

This breaks down to around £600,000 in staffing costs and £270,000 on professional services and consultancy, with another £50,000 on transport and supplies.

The council also took £20,000 in income from the plan.

The local plan is a document which outlines the district’s preference for housing development in the next 15 years.

Every council with responsibility for planning has had to create one, but it is particularly important for Chichester District Council, which has a house-building shortfall against government quotas.

Justifying the money spent, a Chichester District Council spokeswoman said: “The local plan is one of the most important and biggest pieces of work the council has ever had to undertake.

“It describes how we will manage our housing, economic and other development needs and how we will manage change within our communities over the next 15 years.

“The government requires us to write a local plan to meet objectively-assessed needs for development. The plan is far more than deciding where future houses will be placed, it also impacts on jobs, businesses, facilities, roads, services, and will protect our beautiful district for years to come. The planning system has changed considerably over the past few years due to changes in government requirements. This has had a major impact on the work that was needed to get to this point when we have officially submitted the plan for examination.

“To reach this point we have had to carry out consultations, assessments, research, and complex pieces of work – all of which cost money. However, we have always done this cost-effectively. Over the past three years, while we have been working on the local plan, it has cost the council £905,812.

“This piece of work is vital because it will help to protect our beautiful area, boost our local economy and provide housing for future generations. Without a plan, we will be unable to properly assess planning applications.

“This would mean that if we reject a development without good reason for doing so, developers will be more likely to successfully appeal against the decision.

“The district may still have to accommodate this development, but this may be in a less suitable location. Also, without a plan, the council will not be able to introduce the community infrastructure levy, which obliges developers to pay towards the delivery of new local facilities.”

An independent planning inspector will come to the district to examine from September 30.