The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is in the process of producing a new Borough Local Plan to replace the adopted Local Plan. The first stage of the plan-making process, known as the 'preparation' stage, ended in January 2018 when the Council submitted its Borough Local Plan (2013 – 2033) Submission Version (BLPSV) and supporting documents to the Secretary of State for independent examination.
Upon submission, the Secretary of State appointed a planning inspector, Mrs Louise Phillips MA (Cantab) MSc MRTPI, to carry out the second stage of the plan-making process, involving the Examination of the BLPSV. The purpose of the Examination is to ascertain whether the BLPSV is legally compliant and sound, and whether the Council complied with the Duty to Co-operate when preparing the BLPSV.
In June 2018, the Inspector held 'Stage 1 hearings' addressing five Matters upon which the legal compliance and soundness of the Plan depends. Subsequently, on 20 July 2018, the Inspector provided the Council with initial advice (ID/07) concerning the Matters discussed at the Stage 1 hearings and the soundness of the BLPSV, requesting additional information from the Council and its response to a series of questions.
In December 2018, following consideration of the Council's responses to her initial advice, the Inspector agreed to pause the Examination to enable the Council to carry out additional work to address specific aspects of her interim advice (ID/07) and the questions and issues raised in her letter dated 7 November 2018 (ID/09v2).
Interested persons were given the opportunity to make regulation 20 representations on the BLPSV before it was submitted to the Secretary of State in January 2018. At the Inspector's request, the additional work undertaken by the Council since December 2018 included a detailed review of the regulation 20 representations made in 2017 and the suggested changes to the BLPSV requested by objectors. Consequently, in addition to addressing the Inspector's interim advice concerning the matters discussed at the Stage 1 Examination hearings, the Council's Proposed Changes to the BLPSV also address soundness issues raised in regulations 20 representations.
Having completed that additional work, the Council has formulated Proposed Changes to the BLPSV to address concerns about the soundness of the submitted Plan. On 23 October 2019, the Proposed Changes to the BLPSV and supporting documents were considered and approved by Full Council for public consultation.
Nature and Scope of the Consultation
This public consultation is being undertaken as part of the Examination process at the request of the Local Plan Inspector and, as such, the consultation is a non-statutory process which is not covered by the provisions of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 (as amended) ("the 2012 Regulations").
However, the Inspector and the Council have agreed that this public consultation should be similar to the Regulation 19 procedure for making representations about a local plan which a local planning authority propose to submit to the Secretary of State for independent examination. Although it is open to all, the scope of this public consultation is focussed on the Proposed Changes to the BLPSV only and representations addressing unrelated matters will not be considered.
Against that background, this public consultation provides interested persons with the opportunity to make representations on the Proposed Changes to the BLPSV and associated draft SA and HRA Updates.
Tests of Legal Compliance and Soundness
Having regard to the statutory purpose of independent examination and the Inspector's duty to recommend modifications of the BLPSV to make it sound and legally compliant, representations must address the Proposed Changes to the BLPSV, and should focus upon legal compliance and soundness considerations.
Specifically, as the 'Borough Local Plan (2013–2033) Submission Version Incorporating Proposed Changes, October 2019', is the version of the BLP the Council wishes to adopt, representations should address whether the Proposed Changes make the BLPSV legally compliant and sound. Please note that compliance with the Duty to Co-operate does not apply after a Local Plan has been submitted for independent examination.
In due course, the Inspector will consider, amongst other matters, whether the revised BLPSV incorporating the Council's Proposed Changes, meets the four tests for soundness within paragraph 182 of the National Planning Policy Framework 2012, namely, that the revised Plan is:
- Positively prepared – the plan should be prepared based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements, including unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to do so and consistent with achieving sustainable development;
- Justified – the plan should be the most appropriate strategy, when considered against the reasonable alternatives, based on proportionate evidence;
- Effective – the plan should be deliverable over its period and based on effective joint working on cross-boundary strategic priorities; and
- Consistent with national policy – the plan should enable the delivery of sustainable development in accordance with the policies in the Framework.
Consequently, the Inspector is likely to be assisted by representations about the 'BLPSV Incorporating Proposed Changes' which specifically address the four-part test for soundness set out above. As the Inspector must recommend modifications of the BLPSV to enable its adoption, representations objecting to the Council's Proposed Changes should also suggest alternative or additional modifications of the BLPSV to make it sound and legally compliant.