Express & Star

Still no sign of Stafford blueprint for the future after Government delays

Stafford Borough Council's new Local Plan for future development has been delayed following a number of national policy changes.

Stafford Borough Council's Civic Centre

The latest version of the blueprint for where new homes and employment space will be located and how much development is required in the years leading up to 2040, was due to be published in July, before being formally submitted in November, with the aim of being adopted in October 2024.

The economic development and planning scrutiny committee heard on Thursday there was still no new timetable in place for preparation of the Local Plan. And that the Government unveiled its new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) last month.

Principal planning officer Alex Yendole said: “There have been some quite significant changes over the past year. The Local Plan is about evidence and it’s really important we get it right as it will be used to decide if what we are proposing will go ahead or not.

“We had a lot of responses which we published on the website back in February and we were looking at and assessing those responses. Just as we were coming to the close the Government published a consultation on the NPPF in December 2022 and that was really significant.

“At the end of last year the revised version of the NPPF came out on December 19. We’re still trying to fully understand the implications of that.

“The Government says it is going to bring in a new planning system, where you produce a local plan within two and a half years, and if we are unable to get our plan in through the existing system by June 2025 we have to go through the new system. There will be further information about the new system shared later this year.”

Planning policy changes include a greater focus on redeveloping brownfield land in urban areas, rather than requiring neighbouring locations to step in to assist with delivering cities’ unmet housing need.

Councillor Reid said: “I would want to provide housing where there is infrastructure.

“We need the right housing for the right people in the right places. I’m really glad the Government has decided building on best, most versatile agricultural land is not a good idea.”

Councillor Marnie Phillips said: “I don’t like to see houses built on agricultural land. But we have to be careful of what developments we allow to be built on land.

“We have already seen in Stafford developments going on limited spaces, leading to smaller gardens and rooms less than national standard. Developers could use the opportunity to squeeze as much as they can in.”

Between 2020 and 2040 some 10,700 new homes are proposed for the borough, as well as at least 100 acres of new employment land. These include major developments already approved for areas such as as the Meecebrook development in Cold Meece near Yarnfield.

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