North Somerset Council and Gedling Borough Council change tack on local plans 

The government’s decision to capitulate to a backbench rebellion on planning has impacted on the local plans of two more councils, it has emerged. 

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North Somerset Council has delayed the publishing of its local plan after housing secretary Michael Gove agreed last month to change planning policy to make it easier for local authorities not to meet local housing need. 

Meanwhile, Gedling Borough Council, in Nottinghamshire, decided it will not now consider a particular area of green belt land for housing development. This comes after the planning changes the government have promised include greater protection of green belt. 

The moves by the two councils come after Stockport, Mole Valley, Horsham and Teignbridge councils all moved to delay and review work on their local plans before Christmas in light of Gove’s planning reforms.

Richard Kent, the head of planning at North Somerset Council, said just before Christmas:  “The imposition of housing targets has long been a cause of great frustration for us all. 

“Given this latest news from government about changes to the planning system it will now take longer before we can publish our next draft local plan.” 

Kent said the “implications of the [planning] reforms” needed to be understood before the council progressed with its plan, and was waiting for the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) consultation to be released, which it was on 22 December. Fears have been raised the revised NPPF could deepen the housing crisis.  

North Somerset Council did have a draft local plan that had been consulted on in spring last year and was going through council scrutiny. 

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Gedling Borough Council released a statement two days after Gove’s climbdown saying: “We’ve listened to the views of the residents we serve in Stoke Bardolph, Teal Close, Burton Joyce and surrounding communities and decided to protect the green belt land to the east of Teal Close. This specific site in Stoke Bardolph will not now be consulted on for a future housing allocation.”

It added: “We share residents’ concerns about compulsory housing targets set by central government that do not take account of local views and local circumstances.” Gove’s planning U-turn made clear that councils were not any longer required to review green belt boundaries in order to meet housing need.

These councils follow others that have halted or changed their local plans in face of the government’s proposed watering down of planning rules, with the Guardian over the weekend reporting that a total of nine authorities have now put plans under review or delayed their timetables since Gove’s climbdown.

Mole Valley is considering removing all green belt sites from its local plans as the government since Gove’s decision last month, after pressure a set of well-supported back bench demands. Stockport is also pausing work on its plans after the government announcement last month. 

Councils had already started to pause or revise plans as Gove came in as housing secretary in 2021 and started to distance himself from the more radical planning reforms of his predecessor Robert, Jenrick. Last January it emerged Mid Sussex Council had paused its plan. 

Lichfields consultancy have said there are about 33 councils it knows of that have altered their plans, while there may be others which are “quietly” dropping or changing them. 

Matthew Spry, a senior director at consultancy Lichfields, told Housing Today more councils were likely to pause or alter their local plans. 

He added: “There is little incentive for some authorities to progress their current plans. They might perceive the emerging NPPF will allow them scale back the number of homes they’d planned for.”