Despite her repeated denials, it is suspected that the Leader of the Council had always intended that the third option to be debated at the Extraordinary Council Meeting on 14th September, namely; to "Withdraw the Local Plan from examination and prepare a new Local Plan" would win the day.
However, at the 11th hour, The Minister of State intervened by exercising The Secretary of State's powers under Section 27, Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 directing that the Council should not take any step to withdraw the plan from examination (currently paused by Council) and report monthly to her officials on the progress with the examination.
In her letter she states: "The last Local Plan was adopted in 2009, it should have been reviewed and updated many years ago. Withdrawing the Plan at this advanced stage of preparation will extend the already unacceptable period in which the Council has had no up-to-date local plan in place."
The Minister concludes the letter: "Should a significant delay occur to progressing the examination and should you fail to comply with the directions in this letter, I will consider taking further intervention action to ensure that an up-to-date plan is in place."
LOSRA has long campaigned for the plan's eventual adoption (despite its unpopular provisions) as the best defence against unplanned predatory developments and, in this regard only, we welcomed the Secretary of State's intervention.
It was the second option that was voted through, namely: to seek a further pause in the Examination timetable until the proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) have been published (expected in the Autumn) before agreeing next steps; and to take legal advice on the viability of challenging the Minister's decision.
It's reasonable to suppose this to be a further delaying tactic as it's difficult to imagine what within the revised NPPF is likely to make a material difference to the status quo.
Residents have no option but to observe how this highly divisive saga rumbles on and on until its eventual denouement.