York council may have to withdraw the Local Plan – after inspectors raise Green Belt concerns

City of York Council's West Offices. Photograph: YorkMix

Inspectors have raised concerns about York’s draft Local Plan – and say one option to move the issue forward could be for the council to withdraw the plan.

The Local Plan outlines where and what housing developments will be built in the city. It guides decisions on whether planning applications can be approved or turned down.

In York the plan could deliver 20,000 homes in the next 20 years – including 4,000 more affordable homes.

But planning inspectors who are examining if York’s plans are sound have cast doubt over City of York Council’s proposals – saying the Green Belt boundaries drawn up “do not instil in us any large measure of confidence”.

A letter from the inspectors to the council says in order to move forward with the plan, the council needs to “convincingly explain to us how we have misunderstood the methodology and that it adequately justifies the proposed Green Belt boundaries”.

It says another option is for the council to withdraw the Local Plan from examination.

‘Significant disappointment’

York’s draft Local Plan was submitted to the Secretary of State in May 2018 – and the first stage of hearings took place at York Racecourse in December 2019.

Part of the Local Plan aims to define a Green Belt – but inspectors wrote to the council on June 12 saying they have “concerns” about the authority’s approach and adding: “Unfortunately, the problem is that much rests on the elements of the Green Belt boundary work that we have thus far not examined through hearings.

“We recognise that much work has been undertaken by the council in relation to the Green Belt, among other things, and that our views set out above will come as a significant disappointment.”

The council has already replied – and says it will need time to consider options but aims to demonstrate that its plans are “justified and reasonable”, rather than withdrawing the Local Plan.

Cllr Nigel Ayre said: “The council will continue to work with their team to provide additional evidence and we will update the Inspectors as soon as possible.

“We all know how important it is for the city to adopt a Local Plan and most importantly, to deliver a plan which has been developed here in York, with our residents, partners and communities.”