Decision expected to be made tonight on whether Harborough will accept extra 1,500 homes

Harborough District Council officesHarborough District Council offices
Harborough District Council offices
It was previously deferred.

A decision is expected to be made tonight (Monday) on whether Harborough will accept 1,500 extra homes from Leicester.

Last week Harborough District Council decided to postpone making a decision on whether to take unmet housing need from Leicester and spend £2million on a new local plan.

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It came after Harborough MP Neil O’Brien said there was an overhaul of the government rulebook on housing and planning due to be published.

But as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has still not been released, council leader Phil Knowles said the proposals will be discussed tonight.

He said: "I was very happy to support Neil O'Brien MP's request to pause the debate and decisions at full council on the items relating to the local plan until we had seen the new planning policy document. I’ve said all along that decisions the council will take will be based upon facts and evidence available.

“However, the delay to the expected publication means we really need to make a decision now and decide what is our preferred way forward based on the evidence presented to us by officers, planning specialists and King's Counsel.

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“I would urge anyone that wishes to understand more detail on this matter to read the Frequently Asked Questions document which can be found on our website. I also re-iterate the point that no decisions have yet been made and all members will attend on Monday night with an open mind.”

But the MP says the paper is to be published imminently and is calling on the leader to postpone the meeting for a fourth time.

He said: “The council leader agreed to defer the vote on this all-important issue by one week to allow councillors to examine the new NPPF, which could have a major bearing on this vote. In other words, they will have seen all the relevant information before voting.

“However, I am concerned the council leader will simply push ahead with the vote regardless, rather than wait just a couple of days. The council leader has stated on numerous occasions that councillors should receive all information before voting.

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Residents are overwhelmingly against this unfair plan to increase our housebuilding target. They don’t want the council to spend nearly £2million extra taxpayers’ money on expensive consultants to ram it through on what the council calls a ‘fast track’ basis.

“I hope the ruling group will finally have a change of heart and drop this unfair plan which would see our housing target increased to the highest level in the county per person when it otherwise would be falling, just so that Leicester can build even less.”

“This plan is totally unfair and is not legally required, and now councillors are asked to vote on it without seeing the new rules. This is totally absurd.”

The council previously argued authorities in Leicestershire were bound by a planning rule known as the ‘Duty to Cooperate’ and if it does not sign the statement of common ground, it will be unlikely to get the next Local Plan adopted - putting the district at risk of speculative planning applications.

But MPs argue this would not be the case since the ‘duty to cooperate’ was abolished after the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill became law in October.