Uncertainty surrounds Local Plans in Somerset following the Government’s decision in July this year to replace the four district councils with a single unitary authority by April 2023.

It is expected that the district councils and the county council will halt work on their individual reviews and instead begin working on a new Local Plan – the blueprint for future development within the county. This coupled with the ongoing phosphate issue is having an impact on planning policy and housing delivery in the region.

South Somerset and the former West Somerset area are unable to demonstrate a deliverable five-year housing land supply. This creates opportunities for residential development, especially outside of the phosphate mitigation areas.

The lack of a viable 5 Year Deliverable Housing Land Supply creates opportunities in the short term for potential planning applications to be promoted for sites that are not currently allocated or within development boundaries as the council’s figures in the current Local Plan could be out-of-date.

Part of the councils problems with being able to demonstrate deliverable sites stem from the Dutch N ruling which has implications for phosphate levels on the Somerset Levels and Moors.

Decisions on a large number of planning applications have been delayed as officers have sought to find ways to off-set or mitigate additional phosphates which could be produced by new residential or commercial developments.

Planning Inspector Hayley Butcher said in a recent ruling that it would be “optimistic” to expect consultations on this to be concluded by the end of the year.

Elsewhere in the South West, work on the Dorset Local Plan is still ongoing. The Draft Local Plan is expected to be published in May 2022.

Currently, neither, West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland nor North Dorset Council are able to prove a five year housing land supply. Again this creates possible planning opportunities in those areas.

Consultation on the Bath and North East Somerset Local Plan Partial Update has now closed. The council intends to submit the plan for public examination by the end of 2021. Cornwall Council has recently confirmed it has no plans to carry out a review of its Local Plan.  

Much anticipated planning reforms are expected later in the year when the Government introduces a new Planning Bill. However, following the removal of Housing Minister Robert Jenrick in September and his replacement by Michael Gove there is uncertainty on how this will progress.

Our Development Land and Planning Team operates throughout the South West and has a keen grasp on the latest Government views and rulings on the planning system.

We publish an overview of planning policy in the South West every two-three months. The overview tracks progress for emerging local planning documents, highlights active consultations, adoption of new neighbourhood plans and flags development opportunities such as new call for sites or changes in five year land supply. If you would like to receive the latest version as soon as it is available please subscribe to our mailing list by emailing: landplanning.taunton@gth.net

For our latest Planning Policy Overview and other up-to-date information, visit our Development Land & Planning page.