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Local Plan Update

Locxal Plan UpdateWe heard recently that Fylde's new draft Local Plan - the one that was only released for consultation in June - is being 'updated.'

So, with the New Year approaching, we thought it was time for our readers to have their own 'update' on where Fylde's Local plan is at the moment.

The quick and dirty view is that it's in a mess.

And it seems to us that Fylde's Local Plan is closer to needing a 'start all over again' than an 'update'

We begin with a quick reprise to show how we got here.

 REPRISE 
========
We've said before that we thought Fylde Council did a lot of damage when it released its 'Consultation Version' of the new Local Plan when it must have known it was based on wrong information.

They had been told it was wrong by 41% of the Councillors at the meeting, and by those who supported the 'Minority Report'. (Readers can use this link to download the report as a pdf file).

They were also told it was wrong in the 'Joint Statement' issued by Fylde's community 'planning groups'.

Back in June, the Portfolio Holder for Planning, Cllr Trevor Fiddler, refused to make any changes to the consultation draft of the new Local Plan as he signed it off - using something called an 'Exceptional Urgent Procedure'. (This prevented it being called in for Scrutiny).

But eventually, it looked as though the need for changes to the plan began to sink in, even with him.

By early autumn, he was starting to say some new figures for housing were expected to be available early in 2014, and this might require a fundamental review of land allocations in the plan.

This was one of the points that had been made by those who did not want the June 2013 version of the plan released for consultation until it had been altered to take account of such things: they knew it was going to have to change.

We have to ask - what on earth was the point of Fylde's Portfolio Holder and his majority party consulting on something they knew was wrong and would have to change?

It delivers a huge insult to those who are consulted, and it is incredibly damaging to the principle of consultation.

With behaviour like this, it's no wonder that Fylde gets poor responses to its consultations.

It seemed to us that, like a supertanker, Fylde was ploughing a course with its new Local Plan and was obliged to consult, so it was going to do so.

The purpose of its consultation seemed not to be aimed at providing the right and most up to date position for comments, and not aimed at making sure it was taking the community with it; and not to look for better ideas - but simply to be able to say it had consulted, and, by doing so, that it had ticked the 'consultation' box on some civic flowchart .

Pointless, wasteful, and futile.

Then came the bombshell that, working without officer input, Cllr David Eaves and Cllr Trevor Fiddler had jointly produced a new and vastly different version of the five year housing supply figure for Fylde. It was just over half of the number that had been applied before.

Yes, really.

If their 'new' figure was right then the whole basis of the new draft Local Plan was wrong.

If their new figure was wrong, you have to ask what on earth they were doing to publish it when it contradicted the plan they'd pushed through Council only a few weeks earlier?

We asked that question in 'Incredible Housing Numbers' and showed how they had asked our MP to forward their new 'five year supply' calculation to the Planning Minister with his own endorsement, in the stated expectation of protecting Fylde's countryside.

After we published 'Incredible Housing Numbers' one of our readers wrote to us to say they thought it would be a long time before the civil servants in the Department of Communities and Local Government stopped laughing at what they had been sent by Fylde.

That's because - whilst in many ways we applaud the sheer common sense these two councillors used - it simply doesn't follow the methodology that such calculations *have* to be based on.

So it would have no weight with the civil servants and the Planning Inspectors.

We've yet to see any sort of further comment on these proposals from Cllrs Eaves and Fiddler.

But the civil servants probably didn't get their laugh, because we imagine our MP had more sense than to pass it on.

We did hear was speaking with Fylde about bringing in consultants to help them understand what they needed to do to properly calculate the five year supply of housing that is at the root cause of the planning permissions that are ravaging the Fylde countryside.

We believe that company is called ATLAS Planning  and they advertise themselves with the strapline "Planning for Large Scale Development"

That's all fine and dandy, but the strapline isn't very encouraging, and we're pretty much sure it's not going to solve anything anyway.

 THE *REAL* PROBLEM 
===================
We say it's not going to solve anything because the point everyone seems to be missing in all of this, is that it's no longer to do with numbers or calculations, and it's nothing to do with five year supply.

It's to do with how the present coalition government has politicised planning and is using it as nothing more than a tool for economic development.

It's not about town planning any more - so you can't solve it with planning arguments.

The Planning Minister - Nick Boles - has no time at all for planning.

He openly projects his opposition to it.

His most infamous speech said:

"Do you believe that planning works? - that clever people sitting in a room can plan how people's communities should develop? Or do you believe that it can't work? I believe that it can't work. David Cameron believes it can't work. Nick Clegg believes it can't work.

'Chaotic' therefore, in our vocabulary, is a good thing.

Chaotic is what our cities are when we see how people live, when we see where restaurants spring up, where they close down, where people move to.

Can you predict any of that?

Would you like to live in a world where you could predict any of that?

I certainly wouldn't"


Amazing!

You can click on this link to hear the relevant section as anaudio fileaudio file.

What we have here is the Planning Minister espousing the ideological antithesis of planning itself.

He nurtures a personal and institutional objection in principle to the process of planning.

No-one stands a chance of being able change that perspective using logic, no matter how many facts and figures they produce.

It is closer to a position of blind (perhaps intentionally blind) faith, rather than logic.

So Fylde's Leader and our Portfolio Holder - whether advised by expert consultants or not - can produce as many plans and numbers as they want; it won't change anything.

It's now crystal clear:    the only possible route to change is political.

There needs to be sufficient pressure from grassroots party members and from MPs inside the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition parties to make change happen.

That pressure is undoubtedly growing - as MPs (and especially rural MPs from the Conservative heartland) across the country feel the increasing weight of public anger at what's happening to their countryside.

If further evidence is needed, you only need to look at the Telegraph's recent report that David Cameron had felt the need to tell 'countryside Tories' they should stop opposing the Coalition’s planning reforms because the changes will allow their children to get ahead in life.

The fact that he felt the need to do this speaks volumes.

But, at present, whilst some MPs are making a fuss - and notable amongst those is Nick Herbert MP who is making a first class case to argue we need a 'stop and think' period about what is happening - the fuss being made within those political parties is not yet enough to make change happen.

This is partly because most of those (both inside and outside the political process) who oppose widespread development are all still too busy working 'within the rules' to produce arguments based on the belief that planning logic will triumph.

But logic absolutely cannot triumph in the face of blind faith that denies its existence!

So at the present time, 'Planning' is an uncontrollable whirlwind that no-one is in charge of. You get sucked in and thrown out at various points, but the whole process makes you so dizzy you lose the ability to count the 'seasonally adjusted' housing numbers anyway, and you lose the will to live.

We think this is entirely intentional.

 PLANNING FOR ECONOMIC 'RECOVERY' 
================================
We said many times that the snaffling of expert planning minister Greg Clarke MP into the Treasury by George Osborne, and his replacement in the Communities and Local Government Department by anti-planning Minister Nick Boles MP was an early sign of what was to follow.

It was all part of the Treasury's well intended but (we believe) fundamentally misguided 'big picture' process to solve our economic problems by increased activity using the housing market, firstly as a direct employer and so called 'wealth creator' for business building more houses, and secondly to encourage the gullible to take up mortgages (that they will soon not be able to afford as interest rates rise) using funny money magicked out of thin air to underwrite or subsidise those mortgages.

The mortgage benefit scheme especially, has the knock-on effect of increasing what people will be prepared to pay for houses, and this, of course, increased (and is still increasing) house prices, and that makes people who own houses feel wealthier.

So they feel able to borrow more against the (theoretically) increased value of their house which, in turn, delivers theoretical 'cash' for them, and as consumers, they get spending again as they re-mortgage their property to take the out the (assumed) increased value as 'spending money'.

And so back onto the treadmill of debt we jump - like enthusiastic lemmings, having gone over the cliff, we paddle like mad just to try and stay alive, as the nation drowns in its own debt.

But the money that is being spent by consumers is not real cash. It's not money earned by skill or labour (or even by the extraction of natural resources). It's not cash. It's just the illusion of cash.

It's really debt they are spending.

UK household debt just reached a staggering new record high of £1,429,624,000,000.

This is mind-boggling, and it's the highest figure since September 2008 when the great financial crash came.

As one of our readers said last week: Debt is the cancer of society. We think we've cured it with a sticking plaster. We haven't.  It's just in temporary remission.

As we've said ourselves many times, 'growth' that is based on illusory money is not real growth, and it's not sustainable. The real day of reckoning is yet to arrive.

You might have thought that only a credit junkie like Ed Balls could believe that the way out of a debt-induced bank crash that nearly precipitated a complete collapse of the entire financial system, could be fixed by more debt.

Well plainly it isn't.

The hierarchy of the Conservative / Lib Dem Coalition believes it as well.

They just use a different (magick money) route, so it doesn't look as much like *their* borrowing.

Fylde now finds itself caught up in this debt/growth/development whirlwind, and it is paying the price with its countryside.

And when Fylde complains to government about this, they are, predictably, directed to the smokescreen of totally (and literally incredible) five year supply calculations; and to the new NPPF and other rules applied and enforced by the Planning Inspectorate (who are an arm's length agency of Government).

If you stand back and take a helicopter view, this is a real 'fix'.

Councils - using policies from their local plan - justify refusing planning permissions, because the (pre-election) Government said it would make the local plan reign supreme and local people could decide where they wanted development and where they did not.

But the Government's Planning Inspectorate can, and do, override this, and they grant developers appeals to build, because *their* interpretation of the statements of the Planning Minister and his (intentionally) vague National Planning Policy Framework count for more than a Council's own interpretation.

National policy (as interpreted by the high priests of the Government's Planning Inspectorate) effectively trumps local policy.

So it's no wonder that MPs from both of the governing parties are having a really difficult time keeping all their plates (political party members, electors, councillors, developers, and their own party hierarchy) spinning and happy.

No-one can make any sense of the present planning system because, in reality, 'planning' has been brought to ridicule and disrepute by this government.

We're heading straight into Nick Boles' own 'planning' version of the  'chaos' theory.

Those involved carry-on as best they can, with professionals mostly treating it with a big dose of 'ironic detachment' to stop themselves going mad.

But that's not helping the ordinary folk who don't want their countryside swamped under concrete and tarmac.

In truth, and very sadly, we don't think there will be anything much by way of improvement until shortly before the 2015 elections when (we think) a lot of rapid rowing-back will take place to try to induce us once again to vote for the one of the two or three 'main' parties that have made such as mess of our country in one way or another.


 BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD 
==========================
As usual, we digressed again..... Back to Fylde's Local Plan.

The next thing we heard about Fylde's Local Plan was that some new housing data had indeed been produced - albeit only in an 'interim' form at the moment.

This data will eventually become a huge report called the 'Fylde Coast Strategic Housing Market Assessment' and it will address the areas of Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre.

It's being undertaken on behalf of the three authorities by a company called Turley Associates.

A presentation of the interim findings (as they affect Fylde) was made to Fylde councillors recently and, fortunately, we have been able to obtain a copy of the unpublished presentation that was delivered.

Our readers can follow this link to download a copy. (large 4mb pdf file)

We heard that, at the start of the 'interim findings' meeting, Cllr Fiddler was optimistic they would end up with a smaller number of houses needed.

But by the end of the evening, we're told he had his head in his hands.

He should have known better. He should have expected that sort of news because, as Portfolio Holder, he had accepted onto the books, a consultancy who, only a few months earlier had issued the following press statement

"The North West of England is facing a major shortfall in the delivery of new homes over the next five years.

The North West Housing Land Supply Update, examines housing requirements and land supply across the North West and shows that the region will require at least 178,537 new homes over the next five years to meet local need.

The report also shows that there is currently land supply for only 138,318 new homes leaving a substantial shortfall of at least 40,219 homes."

They're hardly going to say anyone in the North West needs less housebuilding after that press statement are they?

 RECENT CHANGES AT CABINET 
=========================
Then, more news of changes to the Local Plan came at the recent Cabinet on 27 November.

Cllr Fiddler put forward a report asking to spend an extra £105,000 preparing the Local Plan.

That's on top of the original budget provision of £368,000 - so we're heading comfortably toward a cost of half a million now.

His report gave the following reasons for the additional spending:

'Since the original timetable was agreed, there have been a series of changes in legislation and national policy that have led to a need to review the format, style and content of the development plan. As a direct result of these changes, the nature of the development plan has changed from a Core Strategy to a Local Plan.'

He also said: 'It is proposed that this Local Plan will be produced in 2 parts.

Part 1 will, in effect, be a more detailed version of the Core Strategy and, along with the plan’s vision, strategic objectives and strategic policies, will include allocation of strategic development sites and development management policies.

As stated above, it is considered that this more detailed plan can be delivered within the agreed timeframe, however, as a result of the additional content of this style of plan, it has taken additional officer time to remain on timetable.

In order to secure the additional officer time, previously agreed temporary staff contracts have been extended using funded budget increases, made possible as a result of making savings through joint working with neighbouring authorities and procuring work at reduced cost from local universities, etc."

Whilst everyone will accept that changes wrought by new legislation such as the NPPF must to be accounted for, what we can't tell here is the extent to which Fylde has HAD to make the changes, and the extent to which it is CHOOSING to make changes that will take more time and cost more of our money.

Other arguments in Cllr Fiddler's report (the full text of which is within the Cabinet Agenda for 27 November 2013 on FBC's Website) emphasized that the lion's share of the extra cost was because Fylde was changing back to a Local Plan after abandoning its Core Strategy process, and the Local Plan was a more complex and time consuming process.

We have something of a problem with this.

The NPPF Defines what a 'Local Plan' is in its glossary.

It says - 'Local Plan: The plan for the future development of the local area, drawn up by the local planning authority in consultation with the community. In law this is described as the development plan documents adopted under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. Current core strategies or other planning policies, which under the regulations would be considered to be development plan documents, form part of the Local Plan. The term includes old policies which have been saved under the 2004 Act.'

So based on that definition, we can't see there HAD to be a change of format at all. Yes, the data had to be updated for the NPPF and so on, but there was no absolute requirement to change back to the Local Plan system.

We think Fylde CHOSE to do this, and in doing so it has probably cost us more, and it risks delaying the production of the 'Local Plan' in whatever form it eventually takes.

This is backed up to some extent by what Fylde's main planning officer Mark Evans said in his oral report to Cabinet.

"We last considered the Development Plan and its resourcing back in September 2011. Since that time there's been a series of changes in legislation and national policy, which have led to a change in the format style and content of the Development Plan that is being produced for Fylde.

One of the key things is that what was previously a Core Strategy has turned into a Local Plan - back to the old terminology really.

But these documents are more a complicated and a more comprehensive setting out of development policy than a Core Strategy which is a much higher level document - a strategic document."

"Now that the Regional Strategy is no more, the Core Strategy has to fill that policy gap , so things like a housing figure which was previously laid down in the Regional Strategy, now has to be justified locally."   [We think he probably meant to say 'Local Plan' rather then 'Core Strategy', at this point - given his assumption that Fylde has already changed from a Core Strategy]

We argue that if there was to be a change of system or format for the local plan, we'd quite have liked to have seen a debate in full council about whether Fylde *should* change from Core Strategy system to Local Plan system (and the cost and other implications of such a change) because it seems to us that this is a (discretionary) policy change with cost implications that a majority of elected councillors have not approved. It has simply been slid through Cabinet as a fait accompli when no-one was looking.

In a previous budget report on the local plan, FBC published a comprehensive estimate of costs, and we thought readers might like to have a copy of that page for reference as we go forward. You can follow this link to see the proposed budget for the new Local Plan as at September 2011.

 SO WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MESS? 
===================================
Eventually of course, it will cost whatever FBC decide to spend on it. And it has to be done. So we'll have to grin and bear whatever they decide to do. Furthermore, the sooner it is done, the less damage is likely to be wrought to our green land, so whilst we might want to object, we're now so deep on the doodoo that we really need out whatever the cost.

That said, this shambles should become a marker by which Cllrs Eaves and Fiddler are judged in future - and to illustrate this further, we return to planning officer Mr Evans' oral presentation at Cabinet at this point.

He admitted that the evidence used for the housing figures in Fylde's June 'consultation version' of the Local Plan was actually based on the (discredited and now abandoned) Regional Strategy - which was formally abolished in the same month the Local Plan began its consultation. (The RS had started its abolition process two years earlier back in 2010).

Then he went on to say that nowadays, for housing numbers: "We have to come up with that evidence locally. So that is obviously additional work and additional resource which is taken in arriving at that figure.

We have also seen the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework since that last review, and the implications of that, which have required, again, a reassessment of the content of the plan to ensure that the plan is in line with the Framework.

And things like that have introduced a different weight to the evidence that was being produced, so there has been a great deal more emphasis placed on the viability of the plan to demonstrate that a plan will be able to be delivered - it's not just an aspirational plan."


He said the main aspects of this work are

  • "A new housing figure as I've previously mentioned;
  • to establish a Gypsy and Traveller accommodation assessment figure (again in the absence of the figure previously set down in the Regional Strategy);
  • to look at public open space provision and to refresh our study into that area;
  • to do additional viability work and appraisal work on the plan;
  • to update our retail study; and
  • to carry out additional sustainability appraisal work. Again, that is a legislative requirement".

Responding to a question from David Eaves about keeping to the timetable he said "It does present us with additional challenges. Some of those challenges have already been faced, for example, we've known about the revocation of the Regional Strategy for some time, and we've already put processes in place to look at developing a local housing figure.

We've also already commissioned the first part of the Gypsy Traveller Assessment from within existing budgets. So we are aware of that.

It will present us with challenges, and I think it will also mean that we will be challenged by local people more, in terms of the assumptions that we make in this plan.

Previously where we would have been in a position to say the housing figure for example is a housing figure that has been given to us, and we have to find provision for that, we will now be open to challenge - such as where has that housing figure come from? What is your justification for a figure? And the nature of the beast is that we will get challenges from the housing developers who will say that the figure is too low, and we will get challenges from the environmental lobby who will say that the figure is too high. And we will have to justify whatever figure we eventually alight upon.

But we are confident at this stage that we can meet the existing timetable. There are issues that are outside our remit - things like the date for an inquiry and examination in public that will mean that we have to fit in with the Planning Inspectorate's timetable and availability, but we have made representations to Government and they've given us assurance they will assist us all they can in a speedy agreement of a suitable slot for the examination"


Despite his "we are confident at this stage" quote about meeting the timescale, we're much more sceptical.

We're also extremely sceptical that Fylde can come up with a lower housing number, because the Government is rigging the system in which they operate.

We know Cllr Fiddler is arguing with the Consultants producing the new housing strategy to place more emphasis on the huge developments that will be taking place on Fylde's south eastern boundary (just inside the north west boundary of Preston - around Cottam and that area), but whilst there may be some fiddling at the edges of the 360 or so a year that Fylde is currently looking at, we can't see a significant reduction coming from Preston's 'duty to cooperate'

We'd actually like to see the annual numbers back around the 155 a year that it was in the present version of the Local Plan (...'provision should be made for 155 dwellings per annum in Fylde Borough in the period 2001-2016...'). We believe a figure around 150 can be arithmetically justified.

We'd also like to see some pressure put on Blackpool who also have a 'duty to cooperate' as well as hundreds of rundown hotels, and more bedspaces overall than the whole of Portugal.

We think Blackpool's massive overcapacity in holiday accommodation should be used to meet some of both Blackpool Fylde and Wyre's need for affordable and low cost housing.

South Blackpool is less than half an hour from almost anywhere in Fylde and easily within Fylde's 'travel to work' area. We've yet to see any serious pressure put on Blackpool over this matter.

There are streets in South Shore (like Osborne Road which Blackpool continues to designate a 'Holiday Area' despite the properties there having been built and intended for use as residences) just crying out to be converted to residential accommodation.

Fylde wants to make it look as though it's in charge of its planning, but clearly it isn't putting the effort in to getting the numbers down, and it doesn't appear to be applying pressure within the party political system either - unless they're keeping very quiet about doing it.

 TRYING TO BE POSITIVE 
====================
The day before that Cabinet Meeting of 13 December 2013, Fylde's rose-tinted spin doctors published a spin-positive news release saying:

'PREFERRED OPTION ‘NOT A GREEN LIGHT’ FOR DEVELOPMENT

Fylde Council has made it clear to developers that the Preferred Option of the emerging Local Plan is not a green light for development.

Many of the proposals in the Preferred Option are currently under review as a result of the excellent response from the consultation process.

Developers have been told that the proposals are not set in stone and hold limited weight in terms of any planning applications brought before the final Local Plan is approved by elected members.

Furthermore, any options that will be reviewed based on additional evidence brought forward during the consultation period will result in little or no weight when considering planning applications submitted before a final plan is agreed.

Councillor Trevor Fiddler, Fylde Council Portfolio Holder for Planning and Development, said: “I must make it clear: developers must not see the Preferred Option document – a stage in developing our next Local Plan - as a green light for their application to be approved."

“We have told landowners and potential developers that a number of the options will be reviewed as a result of some great feedback during the consultation process.

“My advice to developers is to wait for the emergence of the final Local Plan. Only then can there be any weight given to this when considering an application.”

Officers and elected members will be considering the results of the consultation and reviewing a number of the options prior to a revised draft being produced for further consultation as part of the required process'.

So Fylde is still trying to make it appear they can resist development.

We think their optimism is entirely misplaced.

It represents nothing more than a triumph of hope over logic.

 TELLING THE TRUTH AT COUNCIL 
===========================
Only a week after the Press release, and in response to some excellent questions from Warton residents, we heard Cllr Fiddler tell the Council...

"The RSS Housing Numbers of 306 per year, backdated to 2003, informed the Preferred Options document, and we all await the outcome of the consultation exercise in terms of its impact at Warton.

However, following the revocation of RSS in June of this year. Fylde embarked on the exercise to determine its own housing numbers.

Mr Mayor, if Fylde housing numbers are substantially less than the RSS figure, I give a commitment and an assurance to this council and to the residents of Fylde, that I will revisit the housing chapters of the Preferred Options with a view to reduce the housing land presently allocated at Warton."

Two minutes later, he said

"In recent months, Fylde has received several speculative application for housing developments around Warton, collectively seeking to approve, seeking approval for over 500 houses.

As a consequence a stakeholder's meeting was held on 20thSeptember. In attendance were landowners, developers, councillors from County Borough and Parish, and officers from Lancashire Education and Highways.

The object of the meeting was not to pre-empt the local plan, but to seek the co-operation of all involved, in order to deliver a plan led comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to development around Warton, in order to deliver the maximum much needed infrastructure gain.

The nightmare scenario that I have is that developers will not co-operate, and that they will pursue ad-hoc development through the normal planning process.

Unfortunately, and I emphasize unfortunately, our ability to prevent this scenario seems to be very limited. I am now advised that prematurity is not a strong defence in this context.

Last Friday our officers engaged with representatives of ATLAS a specialist Government agency that advises local authorities on planning issues. We await their advice.

However, at this stage, and at this present moment, I am not confident we can avoid the nightmare scenario I have just described.""

We cannot see how these two statements can be reconciled with each other and with the press release.

Readers will no doubt make of it what they will.

 SO WHERE ARE WE NOW? 
======================
We think no-one at Fylde has a clue what can be done to regain control of a planning system that is in chaos, both nationally and locally.

To help them get elected, the Government promised us localism and the supremacy of a Council's local plan.

They promised local people control of local planning.

They subsequently realised that people didn't actually want their green fields lost to housing development.

At the same time, Government also decided the way out of the debt ridden recession was a housebuilding boom based on yet more debt.

Much as they might have wanted to, Government couldn't be seen to abandon localism, so they introduced new planning rules that are both vague and confusing. (And we know that Mr Boles already has another tranche of awful planning changes waiting in the wings to be rolled out all over our countryside).

These days, only the Government's 'Planning Inspectorate' can interpret the planning rules.

That distances Government from the decisions to grant appeals, and keeps their hands clean.

But more and more people can see through what's happening.

And they are getting increasingly angry about being deceived.

Mr Evans said that because Fylde had to produce its own housing figure, the local plan would be more open to challenge.

It will.

The NPPF says the local plan has to be "drawn up by the local planning authority in consultation with the community."

It does.

BUT

When 41% of councillors opposed the version that was consulted on.

When all the main community groups with an interest in planning issued a joint statement opposing the draft plan and called for the consultation to be suspended and the plan withdrawn until proper evidence had been provided and that evidence - let alone the policies that flow from it - has been critically tested in public.

When it is clear the consultation on which Fylde propose to rely is based on flawed and out of date data.

There HAS to be a re-think.

 SO WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN NOW? 
==============================
Fylde needs a DRASTIC re-think about what it's doing here. Failure to do so will find it meeting a solid wall of opposition at the public inquiry to test the 'soundness' of the local plan.

It's own residents will be lining up to oppose not only what it is proposing, but also the evidence on which that is based, and it will be self evident to the Inspector that what has been produced does not go anywhere near meeting the need for the plan to have been prepared "in consultation with the local community".

 A FEW NOISES OFF 
================
Just before we finish, we have one final, if ancillary, point about the Local Plan in Fylde.

It often takes an anorak like counterbalance to spot some of the small but very significant changes that take place in planning, and most especially, to try to work out why they happen.

We saw some instances of such small but crucial changes in the wording of Fylde's 'Vision Statement' that took place between the 'Issues and Options' version and the 'Preferred Options' version.

A few changes to the wording were quietly slipped in between those two versions without much of a fanfare.

A 'Vision Statement' is something that most people wouldn't really consider much in planning.

But in this present planning system, it is fundamental to all the policies that flow from it.

It is, in fact, the highest strategic level of the plan.

Folk who know about planning look closely at the detail of the policies and the justification for them - because these are the rules that govern whether a planning application gets approved or not - but the Council's 'vision' has - historically - probably not been checked as much as it should be.

It's actually a change in Fylde's 'Vision' for the Borough that is at the root cause of much of the local trouble so far.

The change was very simple. Speaking of the Council's future vision it added this paragraph to the Vision statement:

"Warton will have developed as a result of the Enterprise Zone, with improved local services. Wesham, Freckleton and the smaller rural villages will have retained their individual identities and heritage assets and their distinctive features will have been protected, enhanced and promoted. Communities will have the opportunity to access public services, good jobs and decent and affordable homes close to where they live by the promotion of mixed use development."

Another separate paragraph was also added. That said....

"Opportunities for subregionally important employment at BAE Systems at Warton, Blackpool International Airport and Whitehills will have been realised and employment will have been provided close to where people live."

Ignoring the self-evident goodness of motherhood and apple pie in the last sentence of the first extra paragraph (which is supposed to leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling), what isn't immediately obvious, is a change in the status of Warton from being a village to a Key Service Centre (- a status that means in future it will be intended to serve an area much wider than Warton).

This is based on the 'vision' (for which read FBC's desire) for increased economic activity in Fylde as a result of the Warton Enterprise Zone being declared.

This vision/expectation is an increase that demands/justifies many more houses to be built to provide for the 'visionary' increase in workers - and in order to fund the expansion of the economic centre of Warton to meet the needs of the increased population from those houses - and much wider afield.

At this, the words of the man from the Warton Parish meeting ring loudly in our ears when he said.

"These people are planners, not prophets".

If you look carefully at the wording, the change for Warton is emphasized by the declaration that "Wesham, Freckleton and the smaller rural villages "will stay as villages and be protected."

They sure are cunning linguists these planners, aren't they?

From little changes like that, we can deduce something bigger is on the way.

In a similar vein, we had cause to download the 'Preferred Options' document again this week, and we found it had a very different look to the document endorsed by Council back in June.

We asked a councillor about this and were told they thought there had been three or four 'versions' of the 'Preferred Options' document issued since June - and from what they believed, these versions were released *after* the one approved by Cllr Fiddler, and endorsed by Council.

It was further said these versions were believed only to involve things like typographical errors that had come to light or, where maps had since been incorporated and suchlike.

If Cllr Fiddler has approved each of these revised versions for consultation that's probably fine. As Portfolio Holder for planning he has the authority to do that.

But we could find no reference to them being approved by him as an 'individual member decision', and it has not been a Cabinet or Council item, so we're puzzled as to whether he knows about them or not, and whether he is aware of all the changes in the different versions.

We've not yet had chance to compare the wording to see exactly what it is that might have changed between the versions, so it's quite possible there could have been small changes made to the wording but, as we've already seen, that can make a big difference further down the line.

Hmmm.

The local plan saga continues.

Dated:   28 December 2013


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