Local Plan: Sheffield Council ‘pushed into a corner’ by Government ‘political stunt’

Sheffield councillors said a ‘political stunt’ by the Government was to blame for its latest Local Plan delay.

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 2:23 pm

The council voted to push back the local plan until December 2024, a year after the Government’s deadline, this week.

It blamed this latest delay mostly on the Government increasing its housing supply target from just under 37,000 to almost 50,000 additional homes between 2021 and 2038.

Ahead of the vote to delay the Sheffield Plan in a meeting this week, councillor Douglas Johnson, co-operative executive member for climate change, environment and transport, said: “We are in an insane political world.

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Councillor Douglas Johnson speaking about the local plan delay.

“The advice you are giving us Michael (council officer) is that actually, if we build all of these homes the Government says we have to build and we will be penalised if we don’t, we would actually have thousands of homes standing empty across Sheffield because the market isn’t going to support the need for them and to me that just seems crazy.

“You mentioned there was no evidence base given by Government, we know that was purely because of a political stunt and it was probably easier for me to say that as an elected councillor than you (as an officer).

“We know that there were objective measures working out where the country needs houses and they are in the areas of big growth in the South East where there is a massive housing shortage and unsurprisingly, Tory MPs in the shires kicked off a bit and there was a complete U-turn to say ‘dump it in the towns and cities’ where they generally don’t have Conservative administrations.

“It’s obviously a really blunt, political point by Government.

Sheffield Town Hall, in the city centre where Sheffield Council makes key decisions affecting the city.

“It seems to me that the impact of that is that no one is ever intending that these extra houses are going to be built because that would be insane and the real impact of it is just to play into the hands of developers who have a complete new set of tools to say why they don’t have to comply with the policies that we as a council set out.

“I’m just soap-boxing there because it does anger me how national Government will just play with local authorities and frankly run rings around what the whole point about planning system is meant to be.”

Councillor Julie Grocutt, deputy leader, added: “From my own perspective, we are pushed into a corner where we have got to get on with this work. If we hadn’t had the uplift, we wouldn’t be sat here now asking for the delay – I think that’s probably very fair to say.

“But unfortunately we have been asked to do the uplift.

“This is not just about transport, it’s about the whole infrastructure network, jobs, how it reflects on the economy and everything so there is a massive piece of work to get done …

“Nobody wants the delay, certainly as someone who is overseeing planning at the moment, I would have really liked us to have been able to get on with it but it is events that are out of our control … So we are where we are.”

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