The government will step in to speed up the process of Thanet’s Local Plan, it has been confirmed today (March 23).
Housing Secretary Sajid Javid has today written to 15 local authorities in England to inform them of decisions on intervention following their continued failure to produce a local plan, which is a 20 year blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure.
Thanet is one of three authorities where the government has confirmed it could well take over the entire process.
The Government’s Chief Planner and a team of experts will be sent to the isle to assess whether the plan needs taking out of the hands of Thanet council.
Chief Planner, Steve Quartermain CBE and the team will report back to the Secretary of State who will then take a final decision on formal intervention later this year. In addition, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will conduct formal discussions with relevant county councils and city regions to see if they could take over plan production on the Secretary of State’s behalf.
A spokesman from the Housing Ministry said: “The situation is quite serious for Thanet. If the council cannot convince the team of its progress then they will take steps to intervene and write the plan up directly.”
Thanet council, along with 14 others, was warned of the possible measures last November.
The threat, made by Secretary of State Sajid Javid, said the failure to meet deadlines to put a local plan in place meant the government serving notice of its intention to intervene.
In his letter Sajid Javid said Thanet, and the other authorities, had until January 31 to justify to Government the failure to produce a Local Plan.
In January the plan was voted down by Thanet councillors with 35 members against putting the plan forward to the next stage and 20 in favour.
The vote, which led to the end of the UKIP administration, forced Thanet council to admit there would need to be a review of previously submitted, and new, sites; fresh reviews of supporting documents and new reports to council committees.
TDC said there needed to be identification of sites to take the 2,500 homes ‘displaced from the airport site’ plus, possibly, a further 3,090 homes earmarked for the isle if new government calculations are applied.
The authority said this could take between 8-10 months with the intention to publish a pre-submission draft plan by December 2018 and the plan not being submitted for examination until April 2019.
A Ministry spokesman said: “The Government has abolished top-down regional planning. But a locally-led planning system requires elected local representatives to take the lead, listen to local residents and business, and set out a clear framework to build new homes, provide key infrastructure, support the local economy and protect the environment
“Most councils have seized the opportunity that localism presents – however a small minority have not and do not have a local plan in place. This can mean uncertainty for local people, have a negative impact on neighbourhood planning groups, result in piecemeal speculative housing development and communities having no plans in place for crucial local infrastructure and services.”
Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Whilst most councils rightly recognise their responsibilities and most have worked hard to meet the housing challenge, some have failed.
“I expect those authorities we identified in November to continue to make progress. I’m also stepping it up with three councils in particular, sending in a team of experts to make a direct assessment, ensuring they plan properly for the future or we’ll have to do it for them.”
In the letter to Thanet Sajid Javid said: “The district council’s argument to justify this failure sets out two inter-related circumstances – the local debate over the future of Manston Airport and the need to undertake further work to identify alternative sites after the Plan failed to proceed. I consider that these are not exceptional circumstances – other authorities have dealt with uncertainty about the future of large sites.
“In terms of the intervention criteria, Thanet have failed to make progress on planmaking, the policies do not appear to be up to date and there is high housing pressure. At the current time this is an authority where intervention would have the greatest impact by accelerating Local Plan production. The Council does not have an up to date Local Development Scheme, whilst I note the suggestion from your officers that your Council intends to update the scheme.
“Having considered the Council’s representations and the Government’s policy set out in the November 2017 Written Ministerial Statement and the housing White Paper, I have decided to continue with the intervention process.”
A procurement process is currently underway to secure planning consultants and specialists who will swiftly undertake the work on plan production should the council not comply in the time required.
A Thanet council spokesman said: “Thanet District Council has today (Friday 23 March) been informed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government that a team of planning experts will be working with the council to review its Local Plan position and set out a programme for its approval.”
Council Leader, Cllr Bob Bayford said: “As a new administration we are committed to progressing and delivering a Local Plan. This intervention was expected and we welcome the opportunity to work together with Government to achieve a plan that works for Thanet.”