Harrogate's local plan postponed after questions over housing need

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Harrogate Borough Council have been forced to postpone adopting its  new local plan to autumn 2018, six months later than planned.

The decision comes after questions were raised about the council’s evidence on their objectively assessed housing need, during a consultation.

In order to fully assess their housing need figure, the council have been forced to postpone the consultation period on a draft version of the plan.

In a report presented by the cabinet member for Planning and Sustainable Transport on Wednesday, Coun Rebecca Burnett revealed the consultation will now take place in October rather than July as previously agreed.

Coun Burnett also explained in the report that the feedback council had received suggested consultees would prefer the consultation not to take place during summer.

A spokesperson for the council said: “In response to other consultation feedback , we are carrying out some further testing to ensure that the housing figures in the plan are robust.

“A number of parish councils also said that they have difficulty organising meetings during the summer holidays.

“This is a really important stage in the plan’s progress and as such we want as many people as possible to have a chance to take part in the consultation.”

In June 2014, the council voted unanimously to withdraw the local plan, some two months after a government inspector blasted their housing figure as inadequate.

The council are now working on a new local plan which will document the council’s preferred development strategy, proposed site allocation and planning policies for the next 20 years.

However, the report highlighted that the council had received comments questioning their evidence on objectively assessed housing need.

As a result, the council is now undertaking ‘further sensitivity testing’ to ensure it proceeds with a ‘robust housing need figure’.

The formal publication consultation on the local plan has now been pushed back six months to July 2017 with its submission to the Secretary of State postponed to the winter.

It will then be examined again in the summer of 2018, pushed back from winter 2017, before it is formally adopted in the autumn.

A spokesperson for the council also explained a new traffic model has been commissioned for the district to test the highway implications of the proposed plan.

The report stated it had taken longer to complete the testing and validation of the model than originally anticipated which, in turn, led to delays assessing traffic implications of the plan.