Piecemeal development set to rule in Sheffield after city’s Local Plan is delayed

Sheffield could suffer piecemeal development and fail to tackle the city’s biggest problems due to a lack of Local Plan, an expert says.

Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 1:57 pm
Adam Murray with, from left: Charles Dunn, Alicia Murray, William Marshall, Owen McLeod and Mark Boyd.

Adam Murray, says the 15-year blueprint could help fix the housing crisis, ease demand in popular areas and create a greener city by showing how it should grow.

But without this “fundamental framework” Sheffield faces piecemeal development and “planning by appeal,” where inspectors approve schemes because the city is so far behind on its targets.

Work on the Local Plan started in 2015 and was due this year. But publication has just been delayed until September 2023. Officials say it has been delayed by changes to national government policies. 

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Mr Murray, managing director of consultants Urbana Town Planning, said: “People don’t understand how important the Local Plan is. It impacts how everyone lives their life. Why design a building when you can design a city? Without a plan you are never going to achieve that and a lot of the time planning will come down to objections and appeals.”

Mr Murray says his firm supports quality schemes that he, as a Sheffielder, can be proud of, including the redevelopment of the Old Town Hall.

In the city, heritage is “paramount” due to its scarcity. And brownfield sites should be the number one choice for housing. But the huge dearth of homes in the popular south west of the city was pricing people out - and harming the city’s attractiveness to new industries, such as McLaren and Boeing.

In certain circumstances building on old factory sites, private land with no public access, or unattractive scrubland within the Green Belt could be the answer. The alternative, of homes “further out,” might be less sustainable due to more and longer car journeys. And such changes could only happen through the Local Plan, he added.

Last month, city council leader Julie Dore said building on the Green Belt should be an “absolute last resort.” 

She added: “We are very proud of being the greenest city in Europe and with the climate emergency, green spaces are even more important to people then they were even three years ago.” 

Meanwhile, some 2,200 homes are built in Sheffield each year - about half of the target expected to be in the Local Plan, Mr Murray said.

“It’s very difficult for everyone to come to a consensus on the right way forward. If you don’t, you’re working on old numbers which aren’t fit for purpose.”

There will need to be extensive consultation on a draft Local Plan, plus recommendations from inspectors, before a final version can be adopted by full council in September 2023.

Previously, Simon Vincent, Local Plan service manager, said: “Since the publication of that previous LDS, it has been necessary to take account of the Government’s Housing White Paper and subsequent changes to national planning policy and guidance. Officers have also been working with members to develop a new vision for how the city could develop in the future, set against the updated National Planning Policy Framework.”