Thursday, 19 February 2015

CBC has failed in its Duty to Cooperate with other LA's when formulating its Development Strategy

Central Bedfordshire Council has reacted with dismay to the Planning Inspector’s conclusions on its Development Strategy and will consider a proposal to challenge the process in court.

The Development Strategy, which is the planning document that governs where and how future housing and businesses should be developed in the area, was recently examined by the Inspector during a two-day hearing.

The Council has been instructed to publish the Inspector’s findings which conclude that  Central Bedfordshire has not co-operated sufficiently with other local authorities in developing the strategy.

One specific example of this is the Council’s co-operation with Luton Borough Council on housing.

Luton has long argued that Central Bedfordshire should support the building of more housing to meet the needs of its residents. In response Central Bedfordshire Council has already increased its original housing target to meet the need for homes in the wider area, including some 5,400 homes to meet Luton’s requirements. It has not, however, accepted that it should be expected to accommodate all of Luton’s needs which could equate to a further 6,000 homes

Executive Member for Strategic Planning and Regeneration at the Council, Nigel Young, suggests that the Strategy, which allows for the development of some 31,000 new homes and 27,000 new jobs between now and 2031, offers a positive approach.

“We are not an authority that wishes to block growth or freeze our communities in aspic. But neither are we an authority that will accept the imposition of unsustainable development which could undermine the quality and character of our communities.

“I cannot and will not accept the Inspector’s conclusions that it is ‘inevitable’ for the area to meet all of Luton’s unmet need. We genuinely feel his findings are at best misguided, if not perverse, and next week I will be seeking the support of the full Council to call for a judicial review of the process."

In the decision letter the Inspector concludes,
"I fully appreciate that the Duty is not a duty to agree. However, even in that context, I do not consider that there is sufficient evidence that the various authorities have taken the necessary steps through the Duty process to secure the delivery of the homes and jobs needed by authorities such as LBC that are constrained in their ability to meet their own needs. I do not underestimate the challenge that achieving the necessary co-operation presents in this particular area. However, all reasonable steps must be shown to have been taken to secure that co-operation before it would be reasonable to conclude that the Duty had been complied with. As I have explained, I consider the co-operation between the Council and LBC in particular has fallen short of the required level.
84. Having come to that conclusion, under s20(7)(A) of the 2004 Act I must recommend non-adoption of the Plan. There are two options now open to the Council. First, the Council could chose to receive my report. In substance, that would be the same as this letter and must reach the same conclusion. Second, the Council could chose to withdraw the Plan under s22 of the 2004 Act. That would seem to me to be the most appropriate course of action but that is clearly a matter that you will wish to consider.

You can read the decision letter of the Inspector here. in full.