Friction in council over High Peak local plan

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Tensions are rising within High Peak Borough Council as the controversial local plan, which will shape development in the area until 2028, remains unfinished.

Members expressed concern with the council’s executive, accusing them of not doing enough to complete the document on time, while the council leader insisted it was important to consult residents fully.

As reported in last week’s Advertiser, the authority’s development control committee, who decide on planning applications across the borough, complained that due to the predicament they felt powerless to stop developments.

Prior to Tuesday’s full council meeting at the Octagon, Buxton, Councillor Linda Baldry mirrored this sentiment, questioning who was in control of house building in the borough, the council or developers.

Addressing Cllr Godfrey Claff, executive member for regeneration, she requested he put “residents’ minds at rest” adding: “It is apparent that planning applications for houses are being allowed where neither the residents nor the council want them.”

In his lengthy response, Cllr Claff made it clear he supported moving rapidly towards a local plan and five year supply and that the council were doing “everything in their power” to get them in place.

But, he said cutting consultation to reduce delay was not “sensible” or “right” and that “blindly pursuing” the inherited core strategy with Derbyshire Dales would have meant having less say on High Peak’s future.

The Howard Town councillor denied that developers were in charge of house building, but admitted the committee had “significantly reduced” control due to the government’s changed rules on what constitutes a five-year supply.

He added: “No council is any longer in control of housing development in their area. It is the government, through their centralised tightening of the planning regime and rules, that now control how many houses are to be built in High Peak.”

Speaking at Tuesday’s ordinary meeting, council leader Caitlin Bisknell said: “I think the council’s in a very difficult position at the moment. We may not like the situation we find ourselves in, but that’s where we are.”

She explained that the authority had had to re-advertise a tender for a key study, the strategic housing market assessment, which meant there would be a delay in receiving information.

But, she reassured councillors that the overall timetable, agreed in July, would not be affected, and that the council was “on track.”

The next update on the emerging local plan will be a workshop where officers will assess all studies on November 27.

It is hoped the document will be adopted by the borough in February 2015, five months later than the previously agreed date, following a submission version next October.