Proposal for Harborough taking on Leicester's housing has been 'demolished' after government rule change, says MP
Harborough’s MP says the proposal for the district taking on Leicester’s housing overspill has been ‘demolished,’ after a change in planning rules.
Next week, Harborough District Council will vote on whether or not to increase the district’s housing target by around a quarter to build housing on behalf of Leicester.
The vote follows a deferral by the authority on whether to accept more than 1,500 additional homes from the city’s unmet need, which would be built over the next 13 years. A decision will determine whether to approve the ‘Statement of Common Ground’ at a full council meeting on November 6.
By signing, the council would accept a proportion of the housing need through the next Harborough Local Plan. It has already been agreed by seven out of nine authorities across Leicestershire.
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.
Under the old rule, revisions to the Local Plan would have to be submitted by June 2025.
However, the ‘duty to cooperate’ has now been abolished after the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill became law this week. This means the Duty to Cooperate no longer applies to local housing plans submitted after June 2025.
But a letter to MP Neil O’Brien, from housing minister Rachel Maclean, confirms Harborough can submit its next local plan after this date, and so it is no longer bound by the planning rule.
Mr O’Brien, whose petition against taking on Leicester’s housing was signed by over 3,000 residents, said: “The council’s argument for accepting all this extra overspill housing from Leicester has now completely and utterly collapsed.
“For months they were saying the Levelling Up Bill might not pass, but in recent days it has now become law, and the Duty to Cooperate has been abolished.
“Yet the council are proposing to embark on a risky accelerated process to try and get their plan in the very last month in under the old rules.
“The council now pretty much admit that they are making a choice to do this, and it’s not a government requirement. It is a choice that will make us accept a quarter more housing as a result.”
In response to the change, council leader Phil Knowles said the authority would continue to gather evidence ahead of the upcoming vote.
He told the Mail: “I’ve read the minister’s letter with interest. As I have said on a number of occasions over recent months, we continue to gather evidence which the community will expect us to do. Evidence that will form the basis of the final decision. It is important to repeat at this moment in time that no decision has been made.”
But, since the rule change, Mr O’Brien argues there’s no reason to take on the overspill.
He added: “There is still just enough time for the council leader will listen to residents and do a U-turn on this.”