York’s lack of affordable housing is a “direct result” of the council delaying progress on the city’s Local Plan project, say property bosses.
They describe the situation is as an “embarrassment” for the city.
Government planning experts have also hit out at City of York Council for hold ups on the development plan, which outlines where new homes and businesses can be built.
But the council says it is “fully committed” to the project and moving as quickly as possible.
Hearings took place in December 2019 and local plan inspectors have since asked for further information from the council.
After delays in receiving the documents, the inspectors gave the council a ticking off in a letter on February 25, saying: “This situation cannot continue.
“Continual dialogue between the inspector(s) and the council is an essential ingredient for an expedient and efficient examination.
“If the council is not willing and/or able to communicate with us about the time needed for the production of the further work necessary then it is difficult to see how this examination can proceed in the properly ordered and clearly programmed manner expected.
“Moreover, you will appreciate that the examination cannot be delayed indefinitely by the need for the council to produce the Green Belt Annexes.”
They warn the plan – which was submitted in May 2018 – could be out of date if delays continue and the council may need to start again.
‘Very slow progress’
Steve Secker, chair of York Property Forum, part of York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said members are “as frustrated as the inspectors seem to be with the very slow progress”.
He said: “The lack of new offices and homes being built, especially affordable housing, is a direct result of the Local Plan stalling over recent months and the council need to provide all information asked by the inspectors as soon as possible.
“We have raised the issue of inadequate resourcing in the planning department previously and this seems to be an ongoing issue for the council, which is shown in this lack of progress.
“This situation is becoming an embarrassment for York and hindering investment and growth for the city that will be needed to help us recover from the pandemic.”
“We are as frustrated as the inspectors seem to be with the very slow progress of the Local Plan process from City of York Council.
“As the Property Forum, representing businesses and housing associations involved in the development and property industry, we have always been clear we support the council in its attempts to get a Local Plan adopted after many failed attempts.
“However, the inspectors seem to be losing confidence in the council’s ability to deliver a sound plan, which is a worry for the city.”
‘Build on the momentum’
The council has now submitted the Green Belt topic papers and a timeline, which the inspectors have accepted as “definite and final”.
Cllr Nigel Ayre said: “Additional resources have been invested to progress the Local Plan, so we can ensure delivery against the timetable and most importantly, secure a Local Plan that achieves the right balance for York.
“The inspector’s latest letter, received yesterday, acknowledges again the very tough challenges we’ve worked through over the last 15 months and I am pleased that the inspector has accepted our timetable to take the process forward.
“As ever, we continue to work hard to progress a new Local Plan for York, having recently supplied additional information to the inspectors to further evidence our position.”
He said that their letters were issued within an hour of each other – “the email equivalent of letters crossing in the post”.
“We will continue to communicate frequently with the inspector and build on the momentum gained over the last three months.
“It is clear that starting the lengthy and costly Local Plan process again is, quite simply, the wrong thing to do; for York’s residents and businesses, for a sustainable recovery from the pandemic and, of course, for the city’s green belt.”