Windsor’s local plan back on drawing board following “failure to cooperate” warning
Windsor & Maidenhead Council has acknowledged criticism from its neighbours that it has failed to cooperate with them and put its Local Plan back on the drawing board. The decision follows a warning earlier this year from Slough that Windsor may have to accommodate some of its unmet housing need if it was not able to persuade South Bucks to consider a new “garden suburb”.
Windsor & Maidenhead Council has delayed submission of its draft Local Plan until April 2017 after a legal review found “significant potential risks” which would mean it would “almost certainly be immediately rejected by the Planning Inspectorate”.
The move follows a warning last month from Slough Borough Council that it may challenge the plan if it failed to consider housing needs across the Berkshire area as a whole.
An update on the status of its draft plan published on the council’s website this week says that a review by legal counsel had raised a number of issues which would almost certainly cause the plan to be rejected on duty to cooperate and legal compliance grounds.
Specialist legal barristers found failings with Windsor’s approach to date, including:
- A missing sustainability appraisal, a legal requirement, in its initial ‘Regulation 18’ consultation in July 2015. This was compounded in March 2016, by a decision by the council’s cabinet not to consult further which “was not sufficiently supported by the evidence”.
- While there was a need to work with ‘duty to cooperate’ authorities moving at different speeds, a very compressed timetable had “not always allowed for the key elements of the evidence base, which required broad consultation, to be completed in the correct sequence”.
- “Incomplete record keeping, historically, in the team has meant the compliance statement for duty to cooperate has had to be prepared retrospectively, which is a risk”.
The findings appear to endorse concerns by Slough Borough Council in August that Windsor had failed to comply with the Duty to Cooperate in preparation of its plan.
A report by Paul Stimpson, Planning Policy Lead Officer, to Planning Committee members had expressed concern that here had not been any engagement with adjoining authorities in developing the key strategies in the plan.
… although the Duty to Cooperate is not a ‘Duty to Agree’ it is unclear how some comments and concerns raised by the DtC bodies have been considered.
The comments from this Council highlighted the following:
- The lack of any meaningful discussions about the contents of the plan or the development of the strategy;
- The absence of any consideration as to how unmet housing needs in Windsor & Maidenhead and the Housing Market Area would be met elsewhere;
- The lack of any consideration as to the impact upon Slough of the failure to meet the need for affordable housing in the plan;
- The lack of any discussion about cross border issues such as how additional traffic generation should be dealt with; and
- The general failure to consult on and produce some of the key evidence that is needed to inform the preparation of the plan.
In April Slough warned that if it was unsuccessful in its bid to force a “garden suburb” in South Bucks to satisfy the town’s unmet housing need it would have to look at expansion in Windsor:
“If a northern expansion of Slough does not take place we will have to look for other options within the Housing Market Area of South Bucks and Windsor and Maidenhead. If this is not possible we will then have to see whether other adjoining areas can accommodate Slough’s unmet housing need”.
The report to Windsor councillors said that under the legislation has a legal duty to only submit a plan that it believes to be legally compliant. As such, the Council would be in breach of the legislation. If rejected, the council would be at risk of intervention.
Windsor’s new Local Plan timetable
|29 September – 10 November 2016||Further work to strengthen the Plan and supporting documents and duty to cooperate||10 November 2016|
|24 November 2016||Cabinet approve Regulation 18 Consultation Draft of Full Plan||24 November 2016|
|2 December 2016- 13 January 2018||Regulation 18 Consultation and further duty to cooperate||13 January 2018|
|3 December – 13 February 2017||Consider and process all representations (as they are received) and then prepare final Regulation 19 Local Plan Publication||13 February 2017|
|21 February 2017||Council approve Regulation 19 Local Plan Publication||21 February 2017|
|22 February – 5 April 2017||Regulation 19 Consultation completed||5 April 2017|
|22 February – 5 April 2017||Collate representations (as they are received) and then Final Submission to Secretary of State||6 April 2017|