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Government policy changes set back Sheffield local plan until 2023

Words: Huw Morris
Sheffield © iStock

Sheffield City Council’s local plan will be delayed until 2023 as it contends with a battery of government changes to national policy and guidance.

A report to the council’s economic and environmental wellbeing scrutiny committee admits its previous local development scheme (LDS), which sets out the plan documents and timetable it will consult on, “is now clearly out of date”.

It acknowledges that Sheffield “is some way off developing its draft plan at this stage”.  The plan is set to cover the period 2023-2038.

A previous version of the LDS, published in July 2016, allowed for three public consultations and envisaged adoption by September 2018.

But the report says since then it has had to take account of the government’s housing white paper and subsequent changes to national planning policy and guidance.

Officers are particularly working with members to develop a vision for how the city could develop in the context of the reformed National Planning Policy Framework. This will include engaging landowners, agents, developers and residents on the future of Sheffield’s central area, which is expected to take place later this year.

Securing additional housing will be a key priority in this area, the report acknowledges.

“The recent declaration of the climate emergency, and commitment to targeting rapid decarbonisation over the plan period, adds impetus to the need to secure sustainable sites for housing growth in the city,” says the report.

“A stronger focus on the central area would potentially support lower-carbon living through densification of land uses, provision of more efficient buildings and encouraging sustainable travel through improved alignment of residential and employment land.”

The council intends to consult on a draft of the local plan between July and September next year. Work on the draft plan is scheduled to start in July 2021 after all representations have been considered, with consultation on that draft taking place until September 2021.

The draft plan will then be submitted to the government in January 2022, with public hearings held between April and July of that year.

A planning inspector’s preliminary report is expected to be published in November 2022, with consultation on any major modifications taking place the following January and February.

The final report is expected to be published in June 2023 with cabinet approval anticipated in September.

Comment: Lewis Evans, associate director, Turley

“The delay of an up-to-date development plan presents a number of challenges for Sheffield. The most significant is ensuring the city’s housing shortfall will be addressed sooner rather than later.

“Sheffield City Council has suggested the delay has been caused by changes in government policy, notably the Housing White Paper, which introduced a standard methodology for the calculation of housing requirements. 

“This new methodology is driving the need to identify new housing sites and is likely to necessitate green belt release. However, there’s political and public opposition to building on Sheffield’s green belt and planning for this will of course be an undertaking as a result.

“A delay until 2023 means that Sheffield’s city region now faces a void. The lack of a suitable plan for the increased housing requirement set out by the government – or the even greater number needed to support the aims of the City Region Strategic Economic Plan – could lead to an increased shortfall. The absence of clarity also makes it difficult for communities, planners and investors to feel confident in its vision.”

Image credit | iStock