Row breaks out over borough development plan

Dorset Echo: GETTING INFORMED: Local residents examine the draft local plan during the drop-in session GETTING INFORMED: Local residents examine the draft local plan during the drop-in session

A ROW is brewing over a masterplan for development in Weymouth and West Dorset which is set to be delayed again.

A government inspector is set to lock horns with council chiefs over housing supply and other matters after questioning data in the draft local plan.

Councils maintain they have followed proper procedures and are perturbed by the intervention, which will delay the process further.

The plan, which runs to 2031, identifies where new homes and employment sites can be built, how the environment can be protected and ways for boosting the economy. Weymouth and West Dorset councils are producing a joint plan for the first time.

It was hoped it would be examined by inspector Paul Crysell in October before being cleared for approval but it was put back to the new year. Now Mr Crysell has raised concerns with the document and is requesting an ‘exploratory’ meeting with council officers on January 22.

Leader of West Dorset District Council Robert Gould, described the hold-up as ‘extremely frustrating’ while Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s environment spokesman Ian Roebuck said he was ‘disappointed.’ Mr Crysell has reservations about the evidence supporting the housing need in the plan and isn’t convinced the councils have undertaken an ‘objective assessment’ of their housing needs. He also has concerns about West Dorset when dealing with cross border planning matters.

Mr Crysell said the plan appeared to be a ‘reaction and counter-reaction to representations rather than a well-honed strategy addressing difficult issues facing both authorities.’ Coun Gould said: “We have followed the process properly in a professional manner. We have taken the views of local people into account and changed the plan accordingly.

“The message we appear to be getting is that the plan is not ambitious enough in terms of housing development.”

Coun Roebuck added there had been wide consultation resulting in clear support for most of the proposals.

He said: “I am disappointed that this response to consultation appears to be regarded by the inspector as evidence of a weakness in our approach, rather than the conclusion to involvement by our local community.”

The public are invited to attend the January meeting but not to comment on what is in the plan.


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