YORK'S Local plan has been approved by councillors in a vote taken this  evening after years of delays and revisions.

Ruling city councillors won their bid to approve and submit the draft plan - which sets out where homes can be built and businesses can expand for the next 15 years - in a crunch meeting at the Gillygate Citadel.

Conservative and Lib Dem councillors won by 23 votes to 15, meaning the local authority can send its draft plan to central government with just two weeks to spare before a key deadline.

York has been without a formal plan for decades, and late last year the city council was put ‘on notice’ by government ministers to finish drawing up a plan by May 31.

Opening the debate tonight, council leader Cllr Ian Gillies said they were in “last chance saloon” for York to set its own plan, with warnings that missing the deadline would lead to direct intervention by the government and bureaucrats deciding the plan instead of York councillors.

After the meeting, Cllr Gillies said he was "absolutely delighted" with the result, but admitted there were more hurdles to clear with the government inspection.

"I anticipate there will be some changes, but I am confident this is a good and sound plan."

Lib Dem Cllr Keith Aspden said his group believed the plan struck the right balance between providing new housing and employment land, and stopping the city's infrastructure being overloaded.

Controversy over the plan has centred on the number of houses it proposes should be built each year.

Initial figures said 867 new homes a year, but that was thrown into doubt when new government calculations suggested York in reality needed just over 1,000 new homes a year.

At this evening's special council meeting Lib Dem councillor Nigel Ayre said the current plan would deliver 923 homes a year – a figure that has at different points been accepted by developers, people in York, and political parties.

That was contested by Labour group leader Cllr Janet Looker, who said the last Labour administration in the council had in fact proposed a figure “in the mid 900s”.

Questions have also been raised about a large site near Elvington - known as Langwith or Whinthorpe - where initial numbers have been cut back to 3,300 - a number which opposition councillors warned will not be enough to create a new community or support new infrastructure like roads or schools.

This evening former council leader Cllr David Carr echoed those fears, and said what is a "good" plan could have been "great" if it had exploited the opportunities for self-contained, sustainable communities like a larger Langwith site.

Speaking after the meeting, Labour's Cllr Stuart Barnes said although his group voted against the draft plan they would not have been happy to see it taken into the hands of civil servants.

They still have concerns about overall numbers, and the need for self-sufficient communites and space for businesses to grow and create new jobs. He said he believed there was still a chance of direct government intervention, if the planning inspector believes the existing draft is unsound and rejects it entirely.

The draft plan has faced numerous revisions in recent years. In late 2014 an earlier version, drawn up by the previous Labour administration, was scrapped at the last minute in a knife-edge vote which saw Cllr Gillies – then the Lord Mayor – use his casting vote to send the plan back to the drawing board.

The new Conservative–Lib Dem administration started work on its own version after the 2015 election. Delays then came again in 2017 when the MoD announced the closure of York barracks, meaning city planning officials had to look at how those sites should be developed.