Review of Arun local plan to be paused as changes to government planning guidance awaited
Councillors have voted to pause a review of the district’s ‘local plan’ and look at it again in six months’ time.
At an Arun District Council planning policy committee on Wednesday (October 6), members voted to put the work on hold.
This was in light of proposed reforms to the planning system as a result of the government’s white paper ‘Planning for the Future’ and the upcoming Planning Bill.
Adopted in 2018, Arun’s local plan outlines how growth will be achieved across the district, which means it has a bearing on planning decisions, development and regeneration up to 2031.
Councillors agreed to review the plan last year but weren’t able to gain a consensus on its future vision and objectives.
Committee members were asked to make a recommendation fo the full council on whether to continue with the update as planned, extend the timetable, or pause it altogether.
They decided on the third option for a number of reasons.
Committee chair Ricky Bower (Con, East Preston) said that new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove signalled he would make changes to the Planning Bill.
Mr Bower said: “There has been a change of Secretary of State who is going to change parts of the bill.
“There are at least six local planning authorities who have suspended progress on local plans because of imminent change – one of them is West Berkshire where our chief executive is supposedly going.
“Option three is not as off the wall as some people might think and I believe it is certainly a viable possibility given the changing nature of planning rules.”
He added: “We do not want to keep throwing money at a local plan we’re going to have to go back and review.”
Council leader Shaun Gunner (Con, Rustington East) was also present at the meeting and agreed that the review should be paused to avoid ‘extending the plan’ and adding ‘five to eight thousand homes’ to housing targets.
He said: “Do we want to redo our local plan and add in five to eight thousand homes in Arun under the current planning system? Or do what other authorities have done – pause our local plan and be the first in the new planning arrangements.”
Mike Clayden (Con, Angmering and Findon) agreed with Mr Gunner, saying that extra housing ‘would be absolute madness’.
But Green Party councillor Isabel Thurston (Barnham) said that pausing the review whilst waiting for potentially unknown planning changes could be ‘extremely risky’.
She said: “Convincing that it is that this wonderful surprise of no five year land supply will be sprung on us, it seems extremely risky.
“Can we make a decision based on something that members of our council are being told is going to happen?
“We do know that updating our local pan will result in more houses , obviously, but we’re increasing the number of years those will be built in.”
This was echoed by Martin Lury (LDem, Bersted) who said that ‘not all members attend the Conservative Party conference’, adding: “Things said at conference and actual government policy are often very different.”
Mr Bower said that uncertainty about planning reforms was an even stronger argument for pausing the local plan review.
Henry Jones (LDem, Yapton), said he did not believe a pause was the ‘best option’.
He asked if studies into the likes of flood risk could still be commissioned in the meantime, saying: “Now is a pretty poor time for us to sit on our hands.”
Council officers said that some studies had already been commissioned, but others are ‘very expensive and take quite a lot of time to deliver’.
They added that there was a risk of having to redo studies if they are completed while the review is paused.
This is because the documents have to be up to date when they go through a public examination – this might not be the case if documents are produced now but are needed several years in the future.