Our local plan journey is turning out to have more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie novel! Save to say the events of this week are unprecedented.
Following the Cabinet meeting last week SODC have been under enormous pressure not to uphold the Cabinet’s recommendation to withdraw and scrap the current draft local plan. SODC have received numerous letters from many of our bordering Councils, as well as other interested parties, urging them to allow the draft local plan to proceed as it is. This is primarily in order to ensure that promised infrastructure funding is not put at risk. SODC however have gallantly resisted this pressure and held steadfast to their view that the current draft plan is not in the best interests of our district. All was to be decided at last night’s full council meeting.
However, this was before a further letter was received by the leader of SODC from Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. The letter directed the council, under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, not to make any decisions with regard to our draft local plan whilst the government reviewed the situation. The Secretary of State is considering whether to give a direction for our draft local plan to be submitted to him for his approval instead of being voted on by our elected council.
Despite efforts to challenge the direction and its lawfulness, our Council were prevented last night from exercising their elected duty in voting for, or against, the Cabinet’s recommendation to withdraw and scrap the draft local plan. The full council meeting went ahead last night and there was outrage from both Councillors and members of the public at this intervention. Thirty six people had registered to speak at last night’s meeting but any discussions about the plan were vetoed and all have been denied their voice in this crucial step in the process. We are not aware of any other council that has been prevented in this way of exercising their democratic and elected duty to vote on local issues. It is unprecedented and the question now remains as to the legality of the Governments intervention.
It is impossible to guess what happens next. So many steps in this long and arduous process have been unpredictable. The saga continues but we will continue to monitor the situation and will keep everyone updated.