Councils’ Joint Local Plan examination to reconvene in September
It is anticipated that the hearing sessions for the examination of Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils’ Joint Local Plan will resume again in September – enabling fully inclusive hearing sessions, whilst also ensuring public safety during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Both councils had originally sought to hold the examination hearings predominantly in person, with the Joint Local Plan’s independent Inspectors fully supporting this decision.
However, in response to concerns from participants about the Covid-related implications of attending in person, as well as recognition of the Government’s roadmap for reopening potentially being delayed, it was decided last month to seek a fully blended approach to the hearing sessions.
The aim of this was to allow participants to attend in person, whilst adhering to current Covid guidelines, or join the hearing virtually.
This was an ambitious approach to ensure that the districts’ communities and other stakeholders could participate in the examination fully, as Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils continue to embrace new ways of working to ensure public safety during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite this innovative setup being thoroughly tested prior to the hearing sessions, technical hosting difficulties were experienced on the first day of the public examination, Monday June 21, which resulted in the proceedings not being able to meet the required needs of participants.
Although those involved worked tirelessly to resolve these difficulties by the following day, Tuesday June 22, and they were provisionally solved, it was agreed with the Inspectors that neither party wanted to run the risk of these reoccurring.
It is anticipated that the Stage 1 sessions originally scheduled for June and July will now take place over a concentrated period from September, and it is envisaged that the Stage 2 hearing sessions will continue to be able to place in mid-Autumn as originally planned.
This change of date will enable the examination to be conducted effectively and ensure inclusivity for every participant.
Appropriate notice will be provided to all who made a representation to the Regulation 19 consultation, so that if they wish to participate in the hearings they are able to do so.
Further information for anyone who wishes to follow the proceedings will be published on the councils’ dedicated Joint Local Plan examination webpage nearer the time.
Cllr Clive Arthey, Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for planning commented:
“I would like to thank everyone who has participated in our Joint Local Plan examination hearing sessions so far, whether that be virtually or in person.
“We know how much future development matters to our communities, with thousands of representations received during our Joint Local Plan public consultations.
“It is therefore of great importance for our councils that the examination hearing sessions are fully inclusive and I accept the decision to move these to September to allow for this to happen.”
Cllr David Burn, Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet member for planning said:
“I think we can all agree that Covid has posed many challenges and our Joint Local Plan examination hearing sessions have, sadly, not been immune.
“In response to this, our councils will continue to work with the Inspectors to enable future hearing sessions to take place effectively, over a more concentrated period, ensuring that the overall examination timescale shouldn’t be impacted by changes to the hearing session dates.
“I’m grateful to all those who have contributed to the preparation of our Joint Local Plan, which, once adopted, will provide a clear and transparent approach to guide future development whilst ensuring the best possible outcomes for our communities.”