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House of Commons Hansard
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Local Authorities: Adopted Local Plans
22 July 2019
Volume 663
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7. What steps he is taking in relation to local authorities that do not have an adopted local plan. [912081]

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Under the current plan-making regime, 37 local authorities have yet to adopt a local plan. Of these, 27 have submitted their draft plan for examination. We continue to monitor progress and offer support where appropriate in all these areas.

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The Minister’s Department is only taking action against 15 local authorities where no local plan is actively in place. The Department also has an ambitious target of 300,000 homes a year—about 80,000 a year short. What action will he take to ensure that local authorities like Stoke-on-Trent that are failing to get a local plan in place do so quickly, so that they can develop and address this country’s housing need?

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As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, we commenced a formal process of intervention in 15 local authorities to ensure that they fulfil their obligations. I have spent the last 12 months touring the country, exhorting local authorities not only to get a local plan in place, but to do so on a long-term basis so that people can see the kind of decadal-scale planning that is required to get to 300,000 homes a year. If local authorities remain sluggish in producing a plan, as the hon. Gentleman claims his local authority has been—I think that its plan is due for submission in August 2020, which does seem a little tardy—then action may be required, beyond just a stiffly-worded letter.

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When district councils do not have a local plan and a five-year land supply in place, it is villages and parishes that face the consequences of planning development. What protections will the Minister and his Department put in place for communities trying to establish neighbourhood plans, and will he reflect on his Department’s recent decision to grant planning permission to two sites in Hatfield Peverel that go against the neighbourhood plan?

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My right hon. Friend, with her usual skill, puts up a stout defence on behalf of her constituents. She is quite right that protections that would otherwise exist for neighbourhood plans recede where a local plan is not in place, particularly when there is not a five-year land supply. I would point out that having a five-year land supply is not a necessary condition of having a local plan. It is possible to have one without the other, and I hope that her local authority will seek to do so. We will shortly be issuing planning guidance on plan making, wherein I hope we will include measures to strengthen neighbourhood plans, either in the absence of a local plan or where they are not co-terminus.

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York has not had a local plan in place since 1954, despite being one of the worst cities for investment in economic and housing opportunities for my constituents and the council’s aspiration to build 20% affordable housing but developing just 4%. What steps will the Minister take to ensure that the plan developed for York will address not only the jobs needs but the housing needs in our city?

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I have been in this job for just over 12 months, and I have developed a sense that in some way people have an expectation that I should be planning the country from my desk in Whitehall. Fundamentally, the decisions about the local plan are for the local democratically elected representatives, and they should be examined by a planning inspector to make sure that they are compliant with national planning regimes. In the end, the fundamental arbiter of the local plan in York—whether there should be one and what it should it contain—is a decision for the people of York. I would urge them to vote for a council that will produce the kind of the plan to which the hon. Lady aspires.

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In relation to local plans and housing, Isle of Wight Council wants to set up a company to build council housing—I strongly support this—but says that it cannot access the necessary funds because it does not have a housing revenue account. Does the Minister agree with that statement, and, if so, what will he do to help my council to build council housing for Islanders?

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I congratulate my hon. Friend, who works very closely with his local council in its aspiration to build more council homes. This is exactly the sort of action that we want to see from local authorities, which were, frankly, induced out of council house building by the previous Labour Government. I am aware that quite a lot of councils in this situation do not have a housing revenue account, despite our lifting the cap and enabling them to access the funding that they need. I would be more than happy to arrange for his councillors or council officials to meet my officials to determine how they could establish just such an account.