DORSET’S new Local Plan, now due for adoption in May 2027, is not as a result of delays – according to the senior councillor leading the process.

Cllr David Walsh says the stretching of final competition date is due to the process of preparing and consulting on the plan, which has taken longer than anticipated, largely due to unprecedented public response – and to changes to national planning guidelines from the Government.

The portfolio holder for planning said the final plan should now be ready by November 2026, for adoption in May 2027.

Lib Dem leader on Dorset Council told Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting that even if anyone accepted it was not delayed, it was still likely to be delivered four years later than it was promised when the council came into being in 2019.

Cllr Walsh told the meeting that any new consultation would have to rely heavily on digital responses given that the council now only had 23 months to complete the plan process. He said it would be impossible in that timescale to collate 9,000 responses once again.

The Cabinet meeting endorses the council following the new plan-making system, due to be introduced by the Government in November 2024, which involves new ‘Gateway Assessment’ into the process.

The council says that, under the new system, initial scoping and early engagement would take place in September 2024, before the bulk of the new Local Plan work began in November. There would be further engagement exercises in both 2025 and 2026, before submission for examination in November 2026. Subject to the result of this examination, adoption of the new Local Plan would be in May 2027.

Said Cllr Walsh: “We strongly believe that the forthcoming new system will introduce necessary regulations, policy and guidance that will ensure the next iteration of the plan will be more robust, balanced, and fit for the future.”