Inspector's Post Hearing Advice published on 4th April 2019.
The Cheltenham plan was submitted for examination by the Secretary of State in October 2018. The appointed examining inspector held hearings during February of this year. The Inspector's interim report published on the 4th April.
The Cheltenham Plan as drafted, included large swathes of land proposed to be designated as local green space (LGS).
As widely expected by the industry, the appointed inspector considers that the extent of LGS proposed is excessive and fails to meet the tests as set out within the National Planning Policy Framework (The Framework).
The most extensive tract of land proposed within the Cheltenham plan included some 40 hectares of open land at Leckhampton to the south of Cheltenham. Part of the same parcel of land is proposed for a new secondary school, a use which could potentially have been in conflict with an LGS designation.
The inspector in her interim report acknowledged the need for a new school and confirms that the local authority should consider the case for allocation of a parcel of land to accommodate the unmet need for a new school in this location.
The next stage will be for the local authority to consider the interim findings of the inspector, consider main modifications to the draft plan and to submit amendments for further consideration by the inspector (following a period of consultation). Depending upon the extent of the main modifications proposed it is possible that further hearings will be held to seek to resolve disagreements between the local authority and those making consultation responses.
Should further examination of the plan be required then this will result in a significant delay to the planning process, during which time Cheltenham will remain under pressure due to its current lack of adequate supply of housing land. Inspector's commentary in respect to LGS could also open the door to further speculative applications within areas which the local authority have originally promoted as LGS.
The proposed housing allocations within the plan are broadly supported by the examining inspector, with the exception of the Lansdowne industrial estate where the inspector considers it doubtful that the site will deliver housing in the short term and thus recommends exclusion from the housing land supply computations. Minor adjustments are proposed to some of the other housing allocations but for the most part these have been accepted as broadly proposed by the local authority.
David Jones, Head of planning at Evans Jones comments:
"The proposed modifications to the Cheltenham Plan proposed by the examining inspector are entirely as expected, there remains a question mark as to whether the housing allocations proposed will actually meet Cheltenham's housing need. Ongoing delays in delivery of the main housing allocations established through the Joint Core Strategy will continue to put pressure on Cheltenham to deliver additional land for housing in the short term.
Cheltenham is however constrained by the Green Belt and AONB which encircle the town. If Cheltenham is to meet its housing supply target in the future, then additional housing allocations will be required within the green belt and/or the AONB.
I recommend that interested parties continue to engage with the Cheltenham Plan as it progresses to main modifications stage and where appropriate, submit further representations in respect to the modifications proposed."
It is notable that the overarching JCS is also subject to review and here again, interested parties should take an active role in engaging with the JCS authorities and submitting representations to ensure that the needs of Cheltenham are properly considered within the JCS update.
Further updates will be provided in due course.
If you have any queries on the Cheltenham Plan or would like to discuss the implications for your proposals, please contact David Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.