TEIGNBRIDGE Council's Conservative leader, Cllr Stuart Barker, has called for the council to abandon the Local Development Framework after criticisms of it by a planning inspector.
He promised a 'robust debate' when the council discusses the issue at its first meeting on Tuesday. In a meeting last week attended by council officials and a regional government official, inspector Neil Pope said that if the public examination of the Development Plan Document continued there was a risk it would be found unsound. He has suggested that the council asks for it to be withdrawn, giving it a deadline of May 10 to make up its mind. That deadline was been stretched to take account of last week's local elections.
Mr Pope criticised the council for adding new evidence after the plan had been submitted, making it difficult for people to comment. More public consultation was needed, he said. He noted that the Core Strategy relied on a Housing Market Assessment, which was still in the process of being drawn up.
Concerns expressed previously about the viability of the northern option have not been tackled, he said. The plan lacked 'succinctness and clarity'. Speaking at Ashburton Town Council on Tuesday, Cllr Barker said he believed the plan should be abandoned to give the council time to create a land bank and to properly address rural housing needs.
'Teignbridge has a shortfall of 300 houses in its land bank. Personally, I will be looking for us to abandon the LDF [Local Development Framework] because I think more usefully we should address housing issues to 2026 to have a more calculated look at all the parishes including this one.' The proposed LDF extends to 2016. Teignbridge's deputy chief executive, Phil Shears, said he was not worried by the latest setback. He said that 50 per cent of core strategies submitted by local authorities were being withdrawn.
'It's not an uncommon thing to happen bearing in mind the legislation is evolving,' he said. He said it was not an issue of quality – the Government Office for the South West had held up parts of the document as best practice. The Flood Assessment Scheme was being cited by the Environment Agency as national good practice. 'We are over the moon with parts of the document. It could be a little bit shorter,' he conceded.
As for the Housing Market Assessment, Mr Shears said that Teignbridge was in the same boat as many others. 'We are working with seven other authorities. If the plan was withdrawn, he said its adoption could be delayed. In the meantime, the council would take a 'sensible view' on planning applications.
'If we get it through, great. If we don't get it through we will get more time to refine it, with the option to look slightly further ahead.'