York’s £2m Local Plan on a knife edge – City leaders battle to save it

City of York Council HQ. Photograph: YorkMix

City of York Council has defended its draft Local Plan – after government inspectors raised concerns about the scheme and suggested the local authority goes back to the drawing board.

The Local Plan outlines where and what housing developments will be built in the city, and what land is classed as Green Belt.

Government inspectors said York’s proposed Green Belt boundaries “do not instil in us any large measure of confidence”.

So where does that leave the city and its leaders?

What happens next?

The inspectors gave the council three options:

  • explain how the inspectors have misunderstood the boundaries
  • show them how the plans are ‘justified and reasonable’
  • or withdraw the plan.

The council has opted to prove that their plan is justified – despite a warning from the inspectors that this could lead to a large number of further hearing sessions

There is not yet any indication of when the inspectors may respond, if there will be further costs and if there will be a further delay before phase two of the plan – due to discuss the individual developments – will be heard.

What are critics saying?

Labour councillors hit out at the Liberal Democrat and Green Party-led council – saying the plan could be delayed for many more years and has already cost £2 million.

Cllr Michael Pavlovic said: “It will likely take the council down a path of a prolonged examination that will be both very time-consuming and very costly to the local taxpayer, beyond the almost £2 million the Lib Dems have already spent attempting to get a Local Plan adopted.”

The York Local Plan inquiry at York Racecourse. Photograph: Cllr Andy D’Agorne on Twitter

He called for the plan to be resubmitted in a way that addresses the inspectors’ concerns.

“The option to withdraw the plan and re-submit a new version fairly quickly, one that addresses the inspectors’ concerns, has been dismissed in a move of boneheaded stubbornness, for reasons only ruling Lib Dems can explain.”

What is the council saying?

The council has defended the plan – saying the inspectors did not raise concerns over controversial issues such as the number of houses to be built every year or the rate of affordable homes.

A spokesperson said setting the Green Belt boundaries for the first time was “never expected to be easy” – and that in York the purpose of the Green Belt is to protect the “historic character” of the city including views and openness.

Cllr Nigel Ayre said the letter was a sign of progress on the project, adding: “It’s the furthest the Local Plan has got in 70 years of trying to define the Green Belt.”

A Lib Dem spokesperson criticised Labour saying they would “resist plans to play party politics” but adding: “We hesitate to take lessons on strategic planning from the only party in York that had to withdraw their Local Plan submission several times.”