Harborough District Council accused of 'flushing away’ residents’ money on £2million new local plan

HDC officesHDC offices
HDC offices
The authority says it is seeking to protect the district from speculative planning applications

Newly-published papers show Harborough District Council intends to spend an extra £2million on pushing through a new local plan, which the town’s MP claims is part of a controversial move to accept Leicester’s housing overspill.

The documents show the council is planning to spend £1.9million on planning consultants to produce a new local plan – which allocates sites for housing – in less than 18 months, compared to seven years for the last one.

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The authority recently deferred a decision for a second time on whether to accept more than 1,500 homes over the next 13 years which Leicester says it cannot accommodate.

Despite backlash from MPs, and a 3,000-strong petition against the move, councillors say Leicestershire authorities are bound by ‘a duty to co-operate’ and if it does not sign the so-called ‘statement of common ground’, it will be unlikely to get the next Local Plan adopted, posing a risk of speculative planning applications.

So far seven out of nine authorities have signed the statement.

MP Neil O’Brien has described the latest development in the ongoing row as ‘utterly mad’.

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He said: “Blowing nearly two million pounds of residents’ money in order to push through something that will push up housebuilding by a quarter is unacceptable.

“How can it be right for the council to be flushing away taxpayers hard earned money on something most residents clearly don’t want, given the scale of local opposition?

“What the council are proposing is a double whammy for Harborough residents. Choosing to go on this ‘fast track’ route means Harborough would have to accept nearly a quarter more homes, and residents will end up paying nearly two million more in tax for the privilege.”

But Harborough District Council leader Phil Knowles says the authority is in a ‘challenging position’ with risks if it tries to complete the plan and also if it doesn't. He added that Leicester City Council publishing its draft local plan for consultation earlier this year meant Harborough District Council must start to prepare its new local plan within 18 months

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Cllr Knowles told the Mail: “A risk assessment covering both these risks will be available to councillors at the point of them making a decision on this.

"The council is seeking to protect the district from speculative development. We must start work on the local plan for Harborough now. Missing the deadline of June 2025 could result in an out-of-date local plan for a significantly longer period of time, which could potentially harm the district.

“The council has not been provided with reassurance from government the district will be protected if the deadline is not met. The council is doing its utmost to ensure we meet government requirements to have an up-to-date plan in place to guide development, meet the needs of our residents and protect our beautiful towns, villages and countryside.

"These are difficult and challenging decisions which the council will make in the best possible interests of Harborough, its residents, businesses and visitors.”