Harborough District Council deputy leader Cllr Phil King responds to a letter writer in the Harborough Mail to explain that the housing plans for the district were examined very thoroughly...
RA Flint in the Harborough Mail of January 3 suggests that Harborough District Council should subject it’s housing need assessment to independent evaluation because the assessment was carried out by GL Hearn a company owned by Capita plc, which also carries out work for housebuilders.
It is normal practice for Local Planning Authorities to use specialist consultancies such as GL Hearn to carry out planning work, and many consultancies carry out work for the both the public and private sector, as indeed do universities.
I understand that such work is usually carried out completely separately by different teams and offices when there is any such potential for a conflict of interest.
It is a corner stone of the Local Plan process and a statutory requirement, for Local Plans (including housing numbers) to be independently examined.
Harborough District Council submitted the Local Plan to the Secretary of State in March 2018, who appointed an independent planning inspector to carry out an examination which has been running for several months.
The inspector will give his verdict on the plan, including whether the amount of houses is appropriate, later this year.
In this respect, it is a statutory requirement to have the housing numbers in the plan impartially “cross-checked”.
To suggest that they should also be checked by another organisation outside of this rigorous statutory process would be an unnecessary exercise and expense. The process ensures that housing numbers are independently checked alongside the views of the local community and if the inspector is not satisfied that the plan is appropriate the council will be required to review it.
These figures are not left to just one firm to provide; professional staff at the council also review the information provided and extensive scrutiny has been carried out by councillors and members of the public as well as developers, landowners and agents as part of this process.
The work by GL Hearn was in fact carried out for the whole of the Leicestershire and Leicester housing market area.
Several other councils who were more advanced with their local plan than Harborough District Council, have in fact adopted their plans on the basis of this same work.
Finally, none of us wants to see unbridled development, that is why Harborough District Council has been working hard to get it’s Local Plan adopted so that full control of development across the district can be regained.
Cllr Phil King, Deputy leader of Harborough District Council and executive member for planning, regeneration and housing