Dorset Council Local Plan – Cabinet update

Earlier this year, the Leader of Council, Cllr Spencer Flower, set out his commitment to develop a new Dorset Council Local Plan that meets the needs and aspirations of the people of Dorset.

In Dorset Council’s Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 26 July Cllr David Walsh, Portfolio Holder for Planning, provided an update on the progress of the draft Plan. The following summarises the key points delivered.

“We have listened to you on the draft Dorset Council Local Plan and spoken with Government.

We are reshaping the new Plan and extending the timescale by two years to allow adoption 2026.

There will be more focus in the reshaped Dorset Council Local Plan on the right development in the right places, the right quality and on climate and ecological considerations.”

“We received an unprecedented 9,000 responses to our consultation on the draft Dorset Council Local Plan. In summary, respondents told us we should:

  • Challenge the housing numbers – they should reflect needs of Dorset, not blindly follow a government calculation and not include housing for BCP Council
  • Support building more affordable housing across the area, helping working families and young people to live in Dorset
  • Protect Dorset’s unique natural environment
  • Tackle climate change as our leading priority, ensuring the Dorset Council Local Plan and our Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy and action plan are fully aligned
  • Consider the infrastructure requirements of new development: public transport, roads, health and education services, utilities to ensure the needs of residents are met

We have listened to you, and it became clear that the National Policy, regulations and local constraints in place for councils when devising these plans were preventing us from coming up with the best possible Local Plan that reflects the needs and aspirations of Dorset’s residents.

Therefore, over the past few months, the Leader of the Council has been in discussions with Michael Gove, the former Secretary of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, with the Chief Planning Officer and other senior civil servants.

Our discussions have been extremely constructive. We are now at a point where we can confirm:

  • That the adoption of the new Dorset Council Local Plan is expected in 2026. This gives us more time to develop the plan. (Previously we were aiming for adoption in 2023/4)
  • We have asked for Dorset to be a pilot for a new national approach to local plans being introduced through revised national policy and legislation. This will allow Dorset to take advantage of the improvements we fully expect to be enacted, including a genuinely plan-led system that has been shaped by engagement with our communities, make use of support from Government and where development accords with what the plan sets out, streamlined processes and a national suite of development management policies.
  • As part of this, the Government is planning to remove the ‘duty to cooperate’ which currently requires us to take account of unmet needs that our neighbouring authorities such as that BCP Council cannot deliver. The changes will mean Dorset can focus on a strategy that is right for us in meeting our needs
  • However, we recognise that access to affordable housing is currently a challenge for some Dorset residents. More affordable housing needs to be built, but we need the right development in the right places, at the right quality which respects our unique and important natural environment.
  • Working with Homes England there will be more focus on new or significantly expanded settlements to help deliver the longer-term growth needs of Dorset, with the necessary infrastructure (transport, utilities, health and education services)
  • We want greater recognition of our Climate and Ecological Emergency commitments in locally produced planning policy.

Dorset Council’s aspiration is to provide a framework for long-term sustainable development that meets housing needs, delivers national and local net zero carbon and biodiversity targets, and ensures development is supported by essential infrastructure.

We are currently seeking confirmation from Government of a temporary exemption from housing land supply requirements until the new Dorset Council Local Plan is adopted, so we can protect Dorset from harmful unplanned development in the interim period.”

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