City of York Council Leader Chris Steward and Deputy Leader Keith Aspden outline the importance of the Local Plan in ensuring the city shapes its own destiny, seeing it as a process that should bring ‘people together rather than driving them apart’.
The Local Plan has been a controversial saga for York over recent years and at the heart of this controversy and often residents’ anger has been housing. Local Plans should ensure areas the right development and that residents have the facilities they need, whether houses, transport infrastructure or employment sites. In short, the Local Plan should be something that brings people together rather than driving them apart.
The need for a Local Plan is great, as it is not something we have had for years and if York does not manage it the government will intervene. As an administration we are committed to delivering such a plan, which will be viable, take residents with us and be supportable at inspection. There has been vast work to date on the Local Plan in terms of site suitability on issues like flooding, transport, protecting the likes of the green corridors into the city and the submission of sites for potential development. This work gives an excellent base.
We do however believe the level of housing proposed in previous drafts was too high and represents inappropriately high Greenbelt development, which is undesirable as it would both destroy the setting of York and also limit the regeneration of the city centre and suburbs; a greater prioritisation of brownfield sites will be of vital importance. In terms of the level of housing demand we have long argued the previous administration’s targets were too high and they have come down significantly to a level discussed at the last Local Plan Working Group of c. 800 homes per year, this downward revision will ensure we meet the demands of York rather than over-inflated growth targets.
We will work with local residents wherever possible, as they best know their areas and how they should evolve. Many rural areas are developing Neighbourhood Plans and these are a great such way of influencing development, pleasingly there also seems to be interest in such plans in urban areas. In urban areas in particular they can particularly influence the type of development, as there is by definition less available land.
As a bare minimum there will be the required legal six week consultation on the Local Plan a few months from now and which will set out the probable submission to the Planning Inspect, but there may be other more specific consultations. We have met with residents, businesses, Parish Councils and key bodies interested in our city. As an administration are keen to listen and engage wherever possible and so on the ‘how to feed in’ our point would be don’t wait for us to come to you, please come and talk to us – whether you just want to call or email or want us to attend your meeting we are hear to listen.