The Government cannot extend the 2020 deadline for a review of Chichester’s local plan, the council has been told by ministers.
Chichester District Council adopted its planning framework back in 2015 but a planning inspector mandated a review within five years.
However the council is facing an uphill battle to complete the work by the July 2020 deadline as the last timeline it published suggested adoption in March 2021.
Last week Eileen Lintill, leader of CDC, the authority’s chief executive Diane Shepherd and Chichester MP Gillian Keegan all travelled up to Westminster to ask for more time to complete the review.
Luke Hall, minister for local government and homelessness, offered the council support to help it meet its deadline, but explained how there is no mechanism within national planning guidance to extend the deadline for an individual authority.
Cllr Lintill said that although they were ‘disappointed’ there is no mechanism to extend the deadline they would take up the offer of support.
She added: “While meeting with the minister, we raised our concerns about the housing numbers that we are expected to take. The minister explained that the housing numbers are based on housing need and not on the capacity of the plan area to deliver them.
“As Chichester is one of the most unaffordable places to live, an affordability ratio is applied, which increases the amount of housing that is needed in the area. If we believe we do not have the capacity to deliver our housing numbers, then we must support this with strong evidence, which will be tested at public examination. However, if the evidence shows that we can meet the numbers, then we will be required to plan for the number of houses set by the Government.
“What is vital now is to make sure that we meet the July 2020 deadline. If we don’t achieve this, our housing numbers will increase and we will lose control of where development should take place. This is why it is vital that we all work together to make sure that we deliver a sustainable plan.”
The council’s chief executive has arranged to meet with the planning advisory service and officials from the MHCLG to move things forward.
At last week’s meeting, the group discussed the need to develop a nutrient neutral policy for the Chichester Harbour catchment area, the need for improvements and funding for the A27 and the increased need to take account of growing environmental issues.
Assurance was also given that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government was already working with DEFRA, Natural England, the Environment Agency and local authorities in the Solent area to help find a strategic solution to improve water quality in Chichester Harbour and along the Solent.
The A27 is also a key dependency for the local plan as without Government funding in place for major improvements, the council’s current plan suggests a number of smaller upgrades for several of the junctions.
Mrs Keegan has secured a further meeting with the roads minister, following her previous meeting with the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps, to discuss improvements and funding for the A27.
After the meeting she said: “I am grateful to the minister for his time and his clear willingness to support our council in getting their local plan to a place where its councillors can approve it.
“I will continue to support Chichester District Council where I can, and work with local communities to ensure their voices are being heard. I have already met with several campaign groups and I am due to meet with the 11 parish councils from the Manhood [Peninsula] in the near future.”
The council consulted on its preferred approach from December 2018 to February 2019 and received a large number of comments.
A further consultation on a revised document would be the next stage for the local plan review process.