Thanet council is due to be served notice that central government may start the process of ‘taking over’ the isle’s housing and business plan.
A statement issued today by Secretary of State Sajid Javid, from the Department for Communities and Local Government, says the failure of Thanet and 14 other authorities to meet deadlines to put a local plan in place means the government has now served notice of its intention to intervene.
The local plan is a blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure for the isle up until 2031.
It sets out how much development is needed to support the future population and economy. Allocating land through the plan is designed to give the council greater control over where and what type of developments can take place.
In the statement Sajid Javid says: “I am particularly concerned about the 15 local planning authorities that have recently either failed the duty to cooperate or failed to meet the deadlines set out in their Local Development Schemes, the public timetable that all local planning authorities are required to put in place.
“I am therefore writing today to the local planning authorities of: Basildon, Brentwood, Bolsover, Calderdale, Castle Point, Eastleigh, Liverpool, Mansfield,North East Derbyshire, Northumberland, Runnymede, St Albans, Thanet, Wirral and York.
“These letters will start the formal process of intervention we set out in the housing White Paper.”
The White Paper is the Government’s proposal to enable it to deliver one million new homes nationally by 2020 and a further 500,000 by 2022.
Thanet’s draft plan
Thanet’s draft local plan was discussed by Thanet council Cabinet last month (October) but is not due to be debated by Full Council until January.
The current Thanet timetable plans for submission to Planning Inspectorate in March 2018 and examination in June 2018.
The isle’s last active local plan was adopted in 2006.
During the meeting in October council deputy leader Lin Fairbrass warned of the dangers of delay with the plan, saying: “If the draft plan is not submitted for examination by next March 31 there is “significant risk” that higher housing numbers would be imposed by Central Government.”
Government intervention could mean the housing numbers required for Thanet will rise. Government guidelines currently dictate a build of 17,140 new isle homes by 2031. But following a government proposal to standardise the way local authorities work out housing need new proposals could see that figure rise to more than 20,200 homes, raising the requirement from 857 dwellings per year to 1063 dwellings per year.
The Government’s housing White Paper states: “The lack of a simple, standard approach to assessing local housing need has led to a costly and time-consuming process which lacks transparency: many local planning authorities spend significant sums of taxpayers’ money employing consultants to come up with a housing need figure, often using different and inconsistent methods.”
New calculations would be made using household growth projections published by the Office of National Statistics, a second stage applies to any area where the average house prices are more than 4 times average earnings. The assessment would then go up by 0.25% for every 1% affordability ratio rises above 4.
A third stage of the assessment sets a cap on the level of increase that local authorities should plan for.
If they have an adopted local plan – a 20-year blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure – that’s less than 5 years old, increases will be capped at no more than 40% above their local plan figure.
If the plan is not up-to-date – as is the case for Thanet – the cap will be at 40% above either the level in the plan or the ONS projected household growth for the area, whichever is higher.
Thanet council has until January 31, 2018, to justify to Government the failure to produce a Local Plan.
The Secretary of State said: “ I will take responses received into account before any final decisions on intervention are taken.
“The remaining authorities who are not making progress on their plan-making and fail to publish a plan for consultation, submit a plan to examination or to keep policies in plans up to date are on notice that consistent failure to make sufficient progress will no longer be tolerated. My department will begin formally considering the case for intervention as deadlines are missed.”
In the letter he adds: ” In addition to this explanation, I would like to hear of any measures that the authority has taken, or intends to take, to accelerate plan publication. My officials have been engaging with your officers to discuss the progression of your Plan and they will write to set out further detail and next steps.”
The Government is due to announce details of £25m of funding to help local authorities plan for new homes and infrastructure in their area.
Sajid Javid added: “We have, and we will continue to, support local planning authorities in plan-making, through the Planning Advisory Service, with support from officials of my Department and the Planning Inspectorate.
“Where local planning authorities continue to fail to produce a plan to provide certainty to their community on where future development will be brought forward, we will use our intervention powers to ensure plans are put in place.”
County Councillor Karen Constantine said the issue of Manston airport is a major cause of delay for Thanet’s Local Plan.
She said: “Chris Wells came to power saying he would open an airport, even though considerable evidence showed such a plan wasn’t possible.
“Having got into power he then changed his mind. However he can’t get his own members at TDC to see sense. The Tories too, believe a polluting air cargo hub is right for Thanet.
“Manston now seriously threatens to derail our long overdue local plan. Leaving the way clear for the Government to step in and decide what housing will be built, how many and where.
“This almost certainly will be a disaster. Land will be found regardless of it being green belt and regardless of local wishes and with no recourse to local knowledge. Whitehall officials will decide. This will certainly guarantee an increase in the number of homes built. It also most likely means the council will lose control of the vital S106 and CIL money.”
A Thanet council spokesman said: “We will be reviewing the Secretary of State’s letter, and will be responding to him in due course.Councillor Wells has not yet received any correspondence from Sajid Javid or his office.”
Thanet Conservative leader Bob Bayford said: “The Conservative group on TDC, supported by South Thanet MP, Craig Mackinlay, do not feel that the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, has appreciated the unique situation in Thanet whilst the Manston issue remains unresolved.
“For this reason, the Conservative group will be pushing for an aviation designation for Manston to be included in the Local Plan when it comes to full council in January, even at the risk of delaying agreement of the Local Plan still further. The long term plan for Thanet with an airport is entirely different to a long term plan without it.
“We all agree that local plans need to be concluded across the country but no plan at this time is better than a bad plan.”
Mr Mackinlay is due to meet the Secretary of State today to talk about Thanet’s position.