Another £95,000 to be spent on housing plan

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An extra £95,000 will be spent on Local Plan inspections - with potential for the total £245,000 fee to rise even further.

The latest spend of council cash was described as vital to cover extra work put in by the government’s inspector after the draft planning document was rejected last year.

The inspector’s costs have to be covered and we now need additional funds on top of the £150,000 we already agreed

Andrew Mobbs

The latest draft, which sets out 17,000 homes to be built in the district by 2029, is set to be approved later this year following final approval by the inspector and council and consultations.

But all of which means additional cost which now must be paid for with “healthy” council reserves.

Warwick District Council leader, Andrew Mobbs, said while final costs were not yet known, it was important to ensure they were all covered at an early stage.

“We are continuing to use expertise in gathering evidence to support our Local Plan,” he said.

“The inspector’s costs have to be covered and we now need additional funds on top of the £150,000 we already agreed.

“This is a case of making sure we have got everything ready here and we have very healthy reserves for another year running.

“We must get all the expertise we can to give the Local Plan the power to go through if we want to protect ourselves from unwanted development.”

The Conservative councillor explained that total costs on drawing up the district-wide planning document were “unqualifiable” due to the hours of officers’ time involved.

The inspector’s fee is expected to total £150,000 with the additional £95,000 to cover a programme officer’s costs, consultancy work and the plan’s examination.

But it may not be the end of spending as a final sum was “extremely difficult” to calculate.

A report presented to the executive by officers read: “There is a risk the inspector will find the Local Plan unsound and recommend withdrawal or potentially a further period of suspension.

“These outcomes could lead to additional costs over and above those set out.

“Whilst we now have some indication from the Inspector regarding the likely timescales of the hearings, they are unable to give any estimate of the likely future total.

“There therefore remains considerable uncertainty about how much preparation time and report writing time the inspector will require.

“And in this context it is extremely difficult to estimate accurately the likely costs of the examination.

“Whilst some flexibility has been built in to the estimates set out above, there is a risk that the total costs will exceed these estimates.”

The £95,000 pot will be taken from the council’s reserves after being approved by the council’s executive on Thursday.

In January last year, an additional £120,000 was set aside to cover the costs of the process on top of an existing £30,000.

The council has this week announced a surplus of funds for the ninth year running.