West Berkshire Council

Council obliged to postpone local plan review

The Government announced changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) on 20 July.

Issued on: 18 August 2021.

These changes, which were made without notice, have significant implications for the West Berkshire District Local Plan Review.  The current Review, prepared under the previous NPPF requirements, sets out planning policies and proposals to guide development up to 2037, but under the changes West Berkshire Council is now required to prepare a Local Plan detailing a 30-year vision.

The Council has sought independent legal advice and it is clear that additional work will be needed to support the new requirements, and consequently the Council has no alternative but to delay production of the current Local Plan Review.

Further, and as a result of the changes required and the legal advice sought, the planned extraordinary meeting of the Council in October, which had been intended to seek approval for a pre-submission version of the West Berkshire District Local Plan Review Document, and consequent consultation, will now not take place.

Cllr Richard Somner, Executive Member for Planning, Transport and Countryside at West Berkshire Council, said:

"This is hugely disappointing news. West Berkshire prides itself on being a plan-led authority, and we have worked hard to prepare a plan that would pass muster with a Planning Inspector in order to continue to protect the District against speculative development.

"The Government consulted on a possible requirement for Local Plans to include a 30-year vision some months ago, but the consultation related to new settlements only (and we responded along with many other local authorities). The Government has produced no feedback on the consultation, and we had no advance warning of this fundamental change in the NPPF.  Worse still, no guidance has been published alongside the changes to the NPPF to explain what local authorities need to do to meet this new requirement - it is merely promised at some stage in the future.

"Our legal advice is clear that we have no choice but to delay our Plan.

"This does not mean that policy-led planning has stopped in West Berkshire and we continue to have robust policies and an adequate pipeline of housing supply.  However, this sudden change in stance means that we need to take stock of the implications of these Government imposed changes on the Local Plan Review and then proceed as we deem appropriate."