A LONG-TERM plan for Weymouth and West Dorset looks set to be on hold for a further six months so more research can be done into how many houses should be built in future.
Government inspector Paul Crysell, is concerned about a housing shortfall in the Local Plan submitted jointly by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council and West Dorset District Council.
He is not convinced about housing projections and called for up-to-date assessments.
The plan, which extends to 2031, sets planning policies and identifies where homes and employment sites can be built, how the environment can be protected and ways for boosting the economy. It envisages housing provision of between 9,100 and 9,640 homes in West Dorset and 3,240-3,580 in Weymouth and Portland.
Mr Crysell’s intervention has delayed the plan process and doing further work to satisfy him will push it back further.
It is now being recommended to ask Mr Crysell to suspend the plan examination for six months so additional evidence can be sourced by the councils on housing issues. Consultants would be employed to do this.
There also needs to be an updated ‘local development scheme’, detailing information on planning policies.
The new timescale means changes will be consulted on during the summer, a public hearing in October and adoption in spring 2015 – more than one year later than planned.
A report to the borough’s management committee by Spatial and Community Policy Manager Hilary Jordan, pictured inset, says it is vital an up-to-date plan is in place as soon as possible so it is known what housing development requirements are and where homes should be sited. Without revised figures and further allocations for housing agreed, the council runs the risk of losing decisions through appeals.
She adds: “It is essential that we minimise the risk of the plan being found unsound by the inspector at the end of the examination hearings.
“Should this occur, we will not only have wasted a significant amount of money, but will have a much longer period without a plan in place.”
Recommending the plan be suspended to allow for more work, Ms Jordan says there are financial implications through commissioning consultants, but added there would be ‘very significant’ financial implications if the plan went through examination and was found to be unsound.