Lack of investment in planning threatens new homes and business in York, say developers

York’s Local Plan is “crucial” to helping the city recover from the pandemic – but City of York Council is failing to devote enough money and staff to completing the Plan, say property developers.

Planning inspectors wrote to the council hitting out at delays to the Local Plan – which will outline where thousands of homes and businesses can be built across the city. The inspectors suggest the council scraps its draft plan, saying it may now be out of date, adding that it my be best to start from scratch.

They have since sent another letter to the council to tell the authority off for delays in publishing documents on the website and adding: “Furthermore, the examination of the submitted York Local Plan is a process led by us, the appointed inspectors, and not the council.”

Steve Secker, chair of York Property Forum, is urging the council to put more resources into the planning department – highlighting a recent decision to get rid of an assistant director job in the department.

He said: “As the Property Forum, representing businesses and housing associations involved in the development and property industry, we have always been clear to support the council in its attempts to get a Local Plan adopted after many failed attempts.

“However, we now feel that the council is not devoting sufficient resource into moving this forward, as highlighted by the inspectors. This situation will only worsen if the planned structural changes, resulting in the removal of the assistant director role, is agreed following the current consultation process.

“We know the Local Plan team have been working hard but the delays and lack of resources in the team brings into question the commitment of the current administration to conclude the Local Plan process.”

“Our members desperately want to see a Local Plan in place to ensure new homes are built and there is sufficient commercial space for businesses to expand and be attracted to York. If the Council is serious about its build back better mantra then the Local Plan will be crucial to achieving this.”

Striking a balance

An extract from the draft Local Plan, showing the area around York Minster

Cllr Nigel Ayre, responding to the planning inspectors’ letter, said progress has been made on the plan this year and added: “We strongly feel that starting the lengthy and complex Local Plan process again is quite simply, the wrong thing to do, for York’s residents, for a sustainable recovery from the pandemic and, of course, for the city’s green belt.

“It is important for the future development of York that we support a plan that delivers new employment opportunities and addresses the local pressures in our housing market, but at the same time, guarantees protection for the Green Belt and York’s natural beauty.

“This Local Plan strikes the right balance for the city and our communities and residents.”

The council has now submitted the documents requested by planning inspectors and hopes the Local Plan examination will move to the next stage.

Government inspectors asked the council for more information about planned housing numbers, the proposed Green Belt areas and the impact of the plan on important wildlife sites.

A council spokesperson says they believe the major concerns raised by the inspectors have now been addressed.

Cllr Ayre said the council has made progress despite and “exceptionally challenging year,” adding: “York’s Green Belt boundaries have never formally been defined and this was always going to be an area of significant interest locally and nationally.

“Through the iteration of the plan, members from all parties have contributed to this process and we believe the current submission provides the detailed evidence of how we have sought to achieve this”