Every Planning Authority must have a Local Plan which is legally valid. The plan sets out the authority's Core Strategies, Development Policies and Site Allocations (every site has a use if it comes up for development). Further, it incorporates the IP-One Area action plan and Special Planning Documents (SPD) such as the Ipswich Garden Suburb (Northern Fringe). Within it, it also decides the likely economic future and hence the number of jobs which leads to the number of dwellings it proposes should be built.
The life span of a plan is 15 years; because of continual change, particularly in the economic health of an authority, and because of the complexity of the calculations, the regulations, the number of statutory consultations that have to be made and the amount of public consultations, it is almost a continuous cyclical process even in a relatively small planning authority such as Ipswich.
All of this goes out to public consultation and is commented on and revised. The draft is published, commented upon and is then presented to the Secretary of State. The Department of Local Government gives consent for a Hearing in Public in front of a Planning Inspector who holds a series of Public Hearings as to whether the Policies are legal and proper consultation has taken place with all parties statutory, the public and others. Currently, we are at stage 2 of the Hearings in Public. By the time you read this, several days' discussion of the soundness of the policies on employment allocation, housing, the Ipswich Garden Suburb, and so on will have taken place.
The Inspector has reported on the first stage hearings that, subject to modifications, there is sufficient prospect of the Plan being found legally compliant and sound.
I would like to emphasise the vital importance of a current legal Local Plan; without it, there is no way in which development can be controlled legally. Further, if an Authority does not have one they will be fined by Central Government. It is an expensive procedure requiring at least three full-time senior planners, use of professional consultants in several areas of expertise such as transport, employment prospects, major planning policy areas and the presence of a planning QC at the hearings. But without it, and Ipswich has always been with it, we are lost. I should add that John Norman or I will be present at all the hearings.