South Gloucestershire Council confirms it is dumping regional planning blueprint

January 15 2020
South Gloucestershire Council confirms it is dumping regional planning blueprint

SOUTH Gloucestershire Council will abandon a blueprint for 105,000 homes across the West of England, it has been confirmed.

Council leader Toby Savage, above, told a cabinet meeting that the authority was set to formally withdraw from the Joint Spatial Plan at its full meeting council next month.

It follows years of costly cross-border collaboration between the four neighbouring unitary authorities, including Bristol city and Bath & North East Somerset councils, that ended with the JSP in tatters when planning inspectors rejected it last summer.

The government officials admonished the four organisations for trying to make the evidence fit into their housing, jobs and infrastructure strategy for the next two decades, rather than being led by it, and ordered them to go back to the drawing board.

Earlier this month, North Somerset Council became the first to officially pull the plug on the JSP and instead push ahead with its own local plan.

Conservative Mr Savage told fellow South Gloucestershire cabinet members on Monday: “We will be considering a similar report to North Somerset at the February full council meeting and, it would seem, make that formal decision to withdraw from the JSP process.

We will need to continue working jointly with our neighbouring authorities, not least because of the legal duty to cooperate but also, in the case of Bristol and B&NES, we work together through the West of England Combined Authority.

North Somerset will have to have that working relationship with Weca as well, which we already have through the mechanisms that have worked for us to date through the JSP process.

In terms of the split between what will sit in any new strategic-level document and what will sit within our own local plan, that is still to be discussed and decided.

The offer continues to be open through the policy advisory group (PAG) process to ensure opposition members have the opportunity to engage and participate.

We are in the new year and I would hope for a new approach from all members to ensure we are able to work together as we bring forward the next stage of planning for the future of South Gloucestershire and the wider region.”

At a full council meeting in October, opposition Labour group leader Pat Rooney said her party would no longer take part in cross-party talks through the policy advisory group because “all trust had broken down” with the Tory administration as a result of previous decisions arising from PAG discussions.

She said Labour was “not abdicating our responsibilities” and would hold separate meetings with top council officers, a decision Cllr Savage called “very disappointing”.

At Monday’s meeting, Liberal Democrat group leader Claire Young said: “In terms of the PAG, we have not seen proposed terms of reference about what these arrangements would be.

So It would be helpful to see those in writing before we move any further forward.”

Bristol City Council and B&NES are yet to announce a decision on the JSP.

A Weca spokesperson said: “Weca remains committed to working with the four West of England councils on the best way forward for the region to positively address its strategic planning needs.

Weca and the councils will be jointly commissioning a refresh of the strategic evidence base.”

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service