Government slams council blueprint

A RAP over the knuckles has been delivered to St Albans District Council s planning department over its work on its development blueprint. The Government s Planning Advisory Service (PAS) visited the district council to look at its preparation work for th

A RAP over the knuckles has been delivered to St Albans District Council's planning department over its work on its development blueprint.

The Government's Planning Advisory Service (PAS) visited the district council to look at its preparation work for the Local Development Framework (LDF) which lays down planning policy into the future.

And it has criticised the council for underestimating the scale and complexity facing officers working on the LDF in light of the possibility of substantial growth around the district.

Conservation


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St Albans is faced with a large amount of housebuilding on its doorstep - major housing schemes are proposed for both Dacorum and Welwyn-Hatfield which will impinge on the district if they are built.

The PAS report talks of the uncertainty St Albans faces with development in the wider area and says that as a result of the district's history of resistance to growth and focus on conservation, a lot of time and resources will have to be put into the LDF.

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It reads: "The staffing levels in the team and the experience level is unlikely to be sufficient for the task."

The PAS team recommends an urgent review of the scale and nature of the work required on the LDF and the resources available.

It calls for a review of the Local Development Scheme - the timetable for the documents that the council will be producing as part of the LDF - to be undertaken, taking into account the views of the regional Government office GO-East and joint working with other authorities in the area.

It adds: "The future of St Albans will be a critical element of the vision for the whole area."

Cllr Chris Brazier, the council's planning portfolio holder, is preparing a response to the PAS document which will be discussed at a meeting of the planning policy advisory panel this month.

He said the report had highlighted several issues including the need to consult more with stakeholders, involve more councillors in the process and put in more resources.

He added: "I thought some of what they suggested was not what we felt Government guidance was telling us to do. We thought we were encouraging stakeholders through our issues and options document but we have been told to engage them more."

He said that sufficient money had been put into the budget to ensure that any extra work required could be carried out.

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