Surrey Heath to pause local plan for nearly a year citing NPPF reforms

Michael Gove’s own constituency local authority has confirmed it is delaying the working up of its new local plan by almost a year, citing the reforms to the planning system brought forward by the housing secretary.

Surrey Heath Borough Council has published a statement on its website confirming a ten-month delay to its local plan timetable, giving it time to consider the impact of the NPPF reforms brought forward by Gove before Christmas, and factor in any political changes following next month’s local elections.

The decision makes it the latest of many authorities to have put plan-making efforts on hold since Gove issued proposals to water down the operation of housing targets in national planning policy down in the face of backbench pressure over the issue.

gove re-sized

Gove’s reforms have prompted many local authorities to put plan-making efforts on hold

Surrey Heath had originally planned to publish a “pre-submission” draft of its 5,680-home 19-year plan to 2038 for consultation – known as a regulation 19 consultation – back in January, but has now issued a new timetable, which proposes issuing the consultation in November instead.

It said: “The original timetable for the preparation of the Local Plan has been delayed following the Government’s publication of proposed changes to national planning policy”. In a briefing by council officers to members, the authority said the delay was necessary “in order to have more certainty about the content of these changes”.

>> See also Gove’s retreat into nimbysim spells political trouble for the Tories

>>See also: Updated list of councils to have delayed plan-making since Gove’s targets U-turn

The council had said in February it was planning to delay the plan-making process but didn’t at that time say how long by. The council is now aiming to adopt its new plan, the previous draft of which proposed building around 300 homes per year, in February 2025.

The news comes after prime minister Rishi Sunak last week admitted the decision to effectively ditch local housing targets was taken after “thousands” of Conservative councillors and activists raised concerns.

Proposed changes to national planning policy announced by Gove before Christmas include ending the expectation that councils undertake green belt reviews in order to meet housing need, removing the need to demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land for up-to-date plans, and removing any expectation that councils densify existing built-up areas to meet housing need, where that would be out of character with existing development.

Other councils to have also paused plan-making include Central Bedfordshire, Horsham and South Staffs.