PLANNING inspectors examining City of York Council’s draft Local Plan - which sets out what houses can be built and where - suggest the draft plan is scrapped and fresh proposals submitted.

The Local Plan outlines where and what housing developments will be built in the city over the next 15 years, and what land is classed as Green Belt. It also outlines where employment sites can be built. It is key for all future planning permission decisions in the city.

Planning inspectors have criticised the council for delays over the Local Plan process and have written to the council to suggest “it may be that withdrawal of the submitted plan and proceeding to examination with a fresh plan is the most appropriate way forward”.

The council has already spent “significant sums” of money on the project.

And a council spokesperson says the local authority will NOT withdraw the draft but will “press ahead” with the current plan and submit further evidence to prove that it is workable.

In a letter to the council, the planning inspectors say: “The Local Plan was submitted for examination in May 2018.

“Given the time that has now passed since submission and since much of the evidence supporting it was undertaken and produced ... it is important for the examination to make swift progress in order to avoid a circumstance whereby elements of evidence lose their currency, or become unduly time-limited.

“In light of this, we consider that these matters point to a reduced likelihood of adopting a truly up to date development plan for York. As such, we ask the council to now give serious consideration to the possible withdrawal of the submitted plan.”

They say the pandemic has led to challenges - but that the council has “set and missed” target dates for extra work to be completed.

But senior councillor Nigel Ayre says “we strongly feel that starting the lengthy and complex Local Plan process again is quite simply, the wrong thing to do”.

A council spokesperson said that the documents the planning inspectors have asked for will be submitted as soon as possible.

Cllr Ayre said: “It is important for the future development of York that we support a plan that delivers new employment opportunities and addresses the local pressures in our housing market, but at the same time, guarantees protection for the Green Belt and York’s natural beauty.

“This Local Plan strikes the right balance for the city and our communities and residents.

“Natural England have agreed that the plan and proposed modifications do not pose a risk to our designated nature conservation areas.

“Whilst reviewing our Green Belt Topic Paper Addendum, we have not found any evidence that our definition of the detailed green belt boundary should be substantially revised and we consider that the inspectors' concerns will be addressed in the forthcoming update.”

He thanked staff for their work on the plan. Around 13,152 new homes will be built in York by 2033 under the draft Local Plan.

The Local Plan process has already cost the council almost £2 million, opposition councillors said last year.