Sheffield Local Plan: Green Party refuse to support latest delay

Green Party councillors on Sheffield Council’s leadership team abstained on a vote to further delay the Local Plan.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 4:07 pm

There were three Labour councillors missing from the co-operative executive meeting this week for various reasons, meaning the vote on the crucial blueprint for the city came to a narrow four in favour and three abstaining.

Councillor Douglas Johnson, leader of Sheffield Green Party and executive member for climate change, environment and transport, said he did not envy the job of officers who he said had an “impossible” task working on the Local Plan before explaining why he was abstaining from the vote.

He said: “I did wonder because we know the Local Plan has been knocking around for several years, whether we had taken steps to get this into place earlier on if we worked from the issues and options paper in 2015 when it was first consulted on rather than 2020 whether we would be in a better place now. I don’t know. I don’t know if there is any point answering that question.

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Douglas Johnson.

“It is something of dismay where for one reason or another, year after year we have delayed the Local Plan for a further year. There is no point in me saying why I think that is, it has happened.

“I completely realise that it is impossible to rewind time to stick to the local development scheme that is currently in force in this council so I fully appreciate where you are coming from.

“All the same, I think given the position that I have taken in the past, I don’t think it would be possible for me to support an active delay of another year. So that is a very long-winded explanation for why I am intending to abstain on this.”

Despite the abstentions, the council approved the delay which means the Local Plan is now not expected to be completed until December 2024, a year after a Government-set deadline.

Local plans are a key tool for controlling where developments go and without an up-to-date plan, the city is less able to defend itself against unwanted developments.

Sheffield’s current Local Plan needs updating because it comprises policies from the Unitary Development Plan, from 1998, and the Core Strategy, from 2009.

A new plan has been in the works for around a decade and delayed a number of times.

In recent years, a new plan was promised by 2018 then delayed until 2023.

At the start of this year, the Government warned councils against delaying their local plans and urged them to update before its deadline of December 2023.

Christopher Pincher, housing minister, said local plans ensured the right number of new homes were built in the right places and gave communities a voice on how their local areas change.

He said: “It is critical work should continue to advance local plans through to adoption by the end of 2023 to help ensure that the economy can rebound strongly from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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