A review of West Berkshire’s Local Plan has been postponed because of Government changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

West Berkshire Council says the current review, which guides development up to 2037, was planned under previous NPPF requirements. The changes, announced on July 20, require a 30-year vision.

The council has now taken legal advice and says additional work will be needed. A planned extraordinary meeting of the council in October, intended to seek approval for a pre-submission version of the review document, and subsequent consultation, has been cancelled.

Cllr Richard Somner, executive member for planning, transport and countryside, 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.”

Image by Kaihsu Tai, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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