The much-celebrated multi-billion pound County Plan drawn up by Durham Council has been put on hold again.
The County Durham Plan (CDP) is an economic blueprint for the area that aims to create 30,000 fresh jobs, 500 hectares of employment land, 9,500sq metres of retail space and 31,400 new homes in the county by 2030.
The original plan included 2,000 new homes for Newton Aycliffe and 123 hectares of new employment land on Aycliffe Business Park.
But in February 2015 the CDP was rejected by planning inspector Harold Stephens, who said it was “flawed” and “unsound”.
Durham Council last year won a legal battle which enabled the local authority to tweak the plan ready for new consultation, and in September last year, council leader Simon Henig told Aycliffe Today that he hoped a new plan would be ready for a new inspection in early 2016.
But then in March this year, DCC said it planned to start a new consultation exercise – seven years after the original one had started – which was hoped would be ready and submitted to Government before the end of this year.
But now DCC has paused the process to consider what are expected to be fundamental changes from a new Government White Paper, which could effectively out-date any CDP.
The Government set to announce full details of a White Paper in January, which could fundamentally change the number of houses that councils are required to plan for.
Indications from the Government are that the White Paper will change how local plans – such as the CDP – calculate the number and type of houses needed as well as how they are then delivered.
As the new legislation could require the council to make significant changes to the work on the plan so far, DCC says the process will now be paused until there is “clarity” on the proposals in the White Paper.
Cllr Neil Foster, cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “While we’re obviously incredibly disappointed that we cannot proceed with the plan in line with our original timescales, the decision to pause the process now is the only one we could make given the fundamental changes that may be included in the White Paper.
“It is important that people have the most up to date and robust information so that the consultation is meaningful in planning for the future of their county.
“Publishing a plan without understanding the impact of the White Paper would be a risk which could leave the council being required to revisit parts of the process causing delay.
“Instead we will reflect on the changes the Government is looking to bring forward and take the extra time we now have to ensure that the County Durham Plan is the right plan for the people who live, work and visit the county.”