Following examination hearings in June and July, the Inspector sent the Council a note of his preliminary findings (24-page / 288KB PDF) on the plan. He said that he was satisfied that the Council had complied with its duty to co-operate during the preparation of the plan, but that he was concerned that the plan did not make "adequate provision for the objective assessment of housing need contained in its own evidence base".
The Inspector said that the District's housing need, which was based on a housing needs study the Council had carried out jointly with two other Staffordshire councils, was not met by the proposed housing provision set out in the plan. An additional 900 homes would need to be built during the 20-year plan period to meet the identified demand, he said.
The Inspector said that, although the option of providing for the extra homes in a forthcoming site allocations document had been discussed at the hearings, allocation of a site for 900 homes was a "strategic matter" which would be best dealt with through a modification to the plan itself.
The Council has subsequently sent a note to the Inspector in which it says it is willing to identify a further site, or sites, to address the housing shortfall in the plan. It said that it would carry out further sustainability appraisal work and a consultation on proposed modifications over the next six months.
“We are pleased with the inspector’s initial findings on our Local Plan," said the Council's cabinet member for development services Ian Pritchard in a statement. "At this early stage, the inspector has indicated that, apart from the need to increase housing numbers in the district over the coming years, the key elements of our spatial strategy are sound."
“With regards to housing numbers, the inspector has indicated that we need to make sure at least a further 900 homes are included in our plan between now and 2028. He has given us around six months to carry out this work, which will involve identifying potential housing sites, consulting again with local people and organisations and updating the plan to reflect the new homes," Prichard added.