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Written by on 11 January 2021

Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council is set to commence a new borough-led Local Plan following a review of changing circumstances and a period of public consultation.

The Council had been working with neighbouring authority Stoke-on-Trent City Council on the preparation of a joint plan but previously unforeseen events, including the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and its impact on communities and the local economy, have given the Council cause for reflection.

Cabinet member for planning and growth, Paul Northcott, said: “We are no longer in the same environment as we were even just over a year ago and both the borough council and the city council have to do what is best for their own residents, businesses and communities as we move forward.

“We have a new set of goals now which include addressing the ongoing and future impact of the coronavirus and to exploit the opportunities presented by Brexit. We will also need to factor in the importance of focused local Neighbourhood Development Plans to underpin and inform the local plan in terms of future development over the lifetime of this plan. We believe that we will serve our communities best by doing that independently and residents have backed us overwhelmingly in that view.”

The public consultation included residents, businesses, parish councils, developers and other external bodies already engaged in the local plan process. Information was distributed via social media and local news outlets, open comments were invited using the Council’s website and responses to a set of specific questions were submitted via an online survey.

Reflecting the Council’s own conclusions, 79 per cent of survey respondents thought Brexit and Covid-19 would result in a different outlook than in previous years, with only 15 per cent not believing this to be the case. Significantly, 84 per cent of those who took part in the survey felt the two councils should act as two distinctly different parts of North Staffordshire – with respect to housing and the economy – with only 14 per cent opting for the joint approach. And, in response to a specific question about continuing to work jointly with the city council, 85 per cent of respondents support commencing work on a borough-focussed plan with only 13 per cent not supporting the idea.

An external consultancy firm was also commissioned by the Council to provide advice on commencing a new, borough-driven local plan and as part of their review the previous stages of the public consultation process including the ‘Issues and Options’ consultation (2016), the ‘Strategic Options’ consultation (2017) and the ‘Preferred Options’ review (2018) were taken into consideration.

Cllr Northcott added: “Residents have shown us that they are strongly in favour of the development of a new, independent plan.

“They agree that the flexibility to be able to address the as-yet unknown challenges and opportunities from Brexit and Covid-19 is hugely important and that this can best be delivered through a dedicated, Borough Local Plan.”

The government’s deadlines for completion of all local plans is 2023.