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Hart withdraws Core Strategy following failure of duty to co-operate

Hart District Council has withdrawn its Core Strategy from examination following a Planning Inspector's findings that it failed to comply with its duty to co-operate with neighbouring councils during the preparation of the plan. 09 Oct 2013

Following examination hearings in July, the Inspector sent a letter (6-page / 132KB PDF) to the Council in which he said that the plan was not sound and that he recommended non-adoption.

The Inspector said that the Council had not "engaged constructively and on an ongoing basis" with neighbouring authorities in respect of identifying the full housing needs of the district's wider Housing Market Area (HMA) which also includes Rushmoor and Surrey Heath.

The Council had approached the two other authorities with a view to updating a housing market assessment from 2009. Both authorities declined on the basis that they had recently adopted Core Strategies and Hart Council proceeded with an assessment covering Hart only.

The Inspector said that the Council therefore had not clearly identified the full, objectively assessed needs for housing within the district as required by policy. "There is no agreement between relevant authorities as to the level of overall housing need within the HMA, how it could be accommodated and how any unmet need from one authority could be met elsewhere," he said.

The Inspector noted that the absence of a jointly produced up-to-date assessment and the lack of agreement on meeting housing needs itself would not necessarily mean there was no compliance with the duty to co-operate. Rather it was the "actions of the Council in seeking to comply with the duty which are critical to my consideration of the matter," he said.

"Having failed to persuade Rushmoor and Surrey Heath Borough Councils to work jointly on an update of the SHMA, the Council has not clearly identified the full housing needs of the HMA or even the District. It has pursued a strategy that by its own admission would not meet full, objectively assessed needs for housing with no indication as to how or even if, unmet needs could be met elsewhere," the Inspector said.