Pandemic leads to local plan publication delays for council
The coronavirus pandemic has led to delays in preparing plans for the future development of a district – and a request to put back the publication of a document by two months.
Lichfield District Council is currently updating its local plan, which sets out details such as how many new homes will be needed in the years leading up 2040 and where they should be built.
A version of the update was due to be published for consultation this month. But further evidence is still needed to support the publication – and current measures in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 have meant that some tasks, such as carrying out traffic studies, have not been possible.
On Tuesday the council’s cabinet agreed to approve changes to the timetable for the process, which will allow the publication and consultation on the latest document to be put back to July.
Councillor Iain Eadie, cabinet member for investment, economic growth and tourism, said: “Lichfield District Council published its preferred options document in November 2019 and this was open for consultation until January 24 this year.
“This identified four strategic sites for development in our district: land north east of Lichfield, west of Fazeley, off Hay End Lane in Fradley and off Huddlesford Lane in Whittington. It also identified additional housing provisions to be met in neighbourhood bands in Burntwood, Armitage with Handsacre, Shenstone and our wider rural setting.
“The document identified Lichfield making provision for at least 11,800 dwellings between 2018 and 2040. This equates to an annual requirement of 536 dwellings each year and is drawn from our current local prescribed housing need of 331 dwellings per year and a contribution of 4,500 to assist in meeting the unmet needs arising in the wider housing market area.
“We received approximately 450 responses from individuals or organisations; 685 responses based on the Burntwood Action Group standard response template. Officers have recorded all the responses we have received and in the next steps of our plan-making process we will be publishing the comments we would make, having considered those responses. The level of responses was such that we needed additional time to consider the responses before we move to the next stage of our local plan process.
“Since my report to overview and scrutiny in March the global Covid-19 pandemic has occurred. This has meant we have not been able to gather the evidence base we would wish to have before moving onto the next phase.
“For that reason I need to ask you for permission to defer publication of the ‘Regulation 19’ document until July so we can ensure all necessary evidence has been considered, so that what we publish in July is sound.”
But Councillor Rob Strachan asked: “Is it still reasonable that you are going to meet a July publication date? To what extent do we potentially see the dates slipping further and can Councillor Eadie reassure me this is still compliant with the publication schedule we have previously watched?
“To what extent does Councillor Eadie and his team have confidence that any traffic study undertaken potentially this year can be representative of the situation that we need to be looking forward to, given that it is going to be tiny and baby steps towards a fully reunified workplace – even if we get there?
Councillor Eadie responded: “The Covid-19 pandemic does give us hope that we would still be able to meet the deadline – but we need to have some flexibility which is why there is an additional recommendation, giving delegated authority so that if we did need to move the timetable again because we can’t gather any evidence due to issues related to Covid-19 we would be able to do so.”