York is in the “last chance saloon” if it wants to adopt a Local Plan that is decided by local councillors and not the government, the councillor in charge of the project said.
Cllr Nigel Ayre was speaking the evening before phase two of the Local Plan examination hearings, which will help government inspectors decide whether the plan is sound.
The blueprint, submitted in 2018, outlines where and what housing and employment developments will be built in the city over the next 20 years, and what land is classed as green belt.
York has not had a Local Plan since the 1950s and its development has a torrid history, with the city known nationally for lacking one.
In January of last year, inspectors criticised the council for delays to the most recent plan and advised them to drop it and start again.
In his opening statement yesterday (Tuesday) at The Citadel in Gillygate, Cllr Ayre said: “I still fundamentally believe that York’s Local Plan is sound and this is because it achieves a balance that is right for our city.
“The York plan is a positive strategy; one which will successfully secure the delivery of sustainable community facilities, facilitates economic growth in the city and crucially, build the homes that York needs, all whilst maintaining the special historic character of the city.
“Development planning needs to balance the need for housing and employment growth with protecting York’s unique natural and built environment.”
Building 800 homes a year
The plan will see an average of 822 new homes built and 650 jobs per year created.
Speaking at a council meeting on Monday, Cllr Ayre said: “It’s a historic moment for the city – the furthest we’ve ever got.
“The planning inspector has been quite clear – York is in the last chance saloon with the Local Plan.”
If the plan were to be withdrawn or found to be unsound, central government would draw up a development blueprint for York.
“[Then] distribution of housing, how many houses are built, where those houses are built, what impact on the green belt, what the impact is on employment…is all decided by an individual in Whitehall who we don’t get to speak to,” Cllr Ayre added.
The hearings, overseen by inspectors Simon Berkeley and Simon Griffiths, are taking place over the rest of this month, with phases three and four set to take place in June and July.
Developers, planning consultancies and parish councils, among others, will be putting forward their views on the plan.
If the plan is found to be sound, it could be formally adopted by the council next year.