Sheffield’s local plan to be delayed again

Sheffield Council is proposing another delay to its new local plan and now does not expect it to be in place until 2024, a year after a Government set deadline.

Friday, 15th October 2021, 11:55 am

Local plans are a key tool for controlling where developments go and without an up-to-date plan, the city is in a weaker position to defend unwanted development.

Sheffield’s current local plan needs updating as 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.

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Sheffield's Town Hall

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.”

Sheffield views June 2021. Picture Scott Merrylees

Despite this, Sheffield Council officers published a document this week asking leaders to approve a new timetable that would see the council miss this deadline by a year.

They blamed this delay mostly on an increase in the Government's housing supply targets but also Covid-19, the Government’s planning white paper, a need to brief new council leadership and changes to national planning policy.

Officers said the timetable needed to be updated otherwise the secretary of state can force the council to stick to a programme it has “very little, if any” input in.

They said this new outline for developing the Sheffield Plan was carefully considered and is the most appropriate and realistic.

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Work is being done with the planning advisory service to see where time savings can be made and further changes to the timetable will be proposed if progress is made more quickly than expected.

Key points on the new timetable are as follows:

Draft local plan, prepared by September 2022

Consultation on draft local plan, October – November 2022

Submitting draft local plan to government, April 2023

Public examination of draft local plan, July – November 2023

Inspector’s preliminary report, published around March 2024

Consultation on any main modifications, May – June 2024

Final Inspector’s report, published by September 2024

Approval by cabinet and adoption by full council, December 2024

Officers also proposed a thorough consideration of the plan’s spatial options, following an increase in the amount of housing supply required by the Government. The increase for Sheffield was from just under 37,000 to almost 50,000 additional homes between 2021 and 2038.

This would include briefings with all political parties ahead of a process that ultimately leads to full council approving an agreed spatial approach upon which the draft local plan will be based.

The council also wants to establish a new councillor working group to provide “ongoing political steer” for officers on the content of the plan.

The council’s co-operative executive will decide whether to approve the changes at a meeting on Wednesday, October 20.