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Friday, 21 November 2014

South Lakeland District Council is under fire as homes row grows

HEAVILY-criticised plans that could see thousands of homes built across the South Lakes would be rejected in their current form, council chiefs have said.

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GIFT Mike Jameson’s daughters Amanda and Emma, left and right, present £800 to Sister Rowan Worsman and Sister Ann Hamiltonsubmitted

South Lakeland District Council’s Land Allocations development plan document has suffered numerous hold-ups and a public hearing into its soundness has been postponed.

Earlier this week, council bosses agreed to rush through plans to hire an external consultant, after acknowledging the plans do not currently meet new national planning standards.

They are now coming under fire for failing to address the problem sooner, forcing them to spend taxpayer money on a new viability study.

Grange councillor Tom Harvey questioned whether the council could have avoided spending £27,000 on this latest study.

He added: “Essentially SLDC are now em-ploying external consultants to try and justify the plan.

“They have had plenty of time earlier to decide to bring in consultants and make such a decision in public – at a council meeting – but instead have slipped this through under the radar under the guise of it being an urgent decision.”

A spokesman for SLDC said a competitive procurement exercise had been undertaken for the contract to ensure value for money.

He added that the measures were classed as urgent to ensure the study is completed before the public hearing resumes in May.

The council report claims its own development plans team “does not have the expertise to carry out this work in-house”.

It adds: “Commissioning of the consultant to undertake this vitally important area of work is the most cost-effective and most robust means of ensuring the timely updating and widening of viability evidence.”

The report also claims the new planning policy, which requires a plan-wide viability study, was not published when its own study was carried out in 2009.

SLDC submitted its plans last summer, after the National Planning Policy Framework was published, in March.

A few weeks later the Harman guidance, which advises local authorities to help them make sure their housing plans are viable and deliverable, was published in June 2012.

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