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Inspectors advise West of England to start again on JSP

Words: Laura Edgar
Bath / iStock: 505234739

The Planning Inspectorate has recommended that the councils involved in writing the West of England Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) should return to the plan preparation stage.

This follows concerns raised in August about the proposed Strategic Development Locations (SDLs) by inspectors Malcolm Rivett and Steven Lee, while objectors to the plan think that alternatives to major housing sites were not properly considered.

The councils have said the SDLs are an integral part of the plan.

In a second, more detailed letter the inspectors note that the councils confirmed at the hearings that there is no overarching spatial strategy that sits above the SDLs and has guided their selection.

“On this basis it is therefore clearly a prerequisite of the justification and soundness of the JSP’s spatial strategy that the SDLs have been selected against reasonable alternatives on a robust, consistent and objective basis,” the inspectors explained.

The housing supply figure is described in the letter as a “bottom-up summation of existing local plan commitments”, and while there is a 17,000-dwelling requirement for SDLs to provide, "no requirement figures have been considered or identified for any individual settlements, for each local authority area or for any other sub-area of the West of England as a whole”.

The inspectors go on to say that many of the reasons given for the selection or rejection of SDLs “have not been clearly stated to be aims or objectives of the plan, nor robustly appraised against alternative approaches”.

Although they acknowledged the work that has gone into it, they concluded that there are “very substantial soundness problems with the plan”.

They consider that any further work on the plan would “simply seek to rejustify” the JSP, particularly regarding the SDLs and the spatial strategy, which is unlikely to be successful. Instead, the inspectors have suggested that the plan should return to the preparation stage for many of the fundamental elements to be reconsidered. This includes:

  • The overall spatial strategy.
  • The process and principles by which SDLs are assessed and selected.
  • The plan’s detailed policy requirements in respect of SDLs and/or potential allocation of some/all SDLs.

The inspectors have not set a deadline for a response to their letter, but have requested a timescale for when they might receive a response.

The Planner has asked the councils for a comment.

Read more:

Inspectors recommend West of England plan be withdrawn

West of England submits joint spatial plan

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