We are now six months on from the creation of the merged North Yorkshire Council and Associate Planning Consultant Evelyn Jones looks at what if anything has changed?
Following the initial announcement in July 2021 on the 1st April this year seven North Yorkshire Councils merged to create new North Yorkshire Council (NYC) that covers the entire region from York to Teesside. The merge is part of wider plans to create a combined authority across the entirety of North Yorkshire with the City of York. The carrot for the approach is greater devolved power and the ability to draw down increased funds from Westminster to be spent locally.
So, what has changed in the last six months? In short, not a lot. Certainly not from a planning perspective!
When will we see a North Yorkshire Local Plan?
The question we are increasingly being asked as the year progresses is “when can we expect to see a North Yorkshire Local Plan?” The timetable for the adoption of a local plan has not yet been formally published, though the Council have stated a desire to have one published within five years of the formation (taking us to 2028), however this seems ambitious given the vast area to be covered and many different issues to be addressed. Mayoral elections are set to take place in May 2024 so it’s unlikely to expect anything until that exercise has been concluded.
With regards to planning policy, for now, the previous seven local plans are still to be used for decision making. All previous work towards local plan updates from Ryedale, Scarborough, Selby and Richmondshire have been abandoned with the evidence gathered being fed into the creation of the North Yorkshire Local Plan – when this happens.
New Planning Committees
The one change that has been notable is the formation of new planning committees. There are now six area committees and one overarching strategic committee. The areas are broken down as:
- Harrogate and Knaresborough
- Richmond (Yorks)
- Scarborough and Whitby
- Selby and Ainsty
- Skipton and Ripon
- Thirsk and Malton
Though most maintain the old council geographical boundaries, there is now some cross over of the previous areas. Whilst the previously adopted local plans remain in place this understandably has the potential to cause issues, particularly for members who will now have to be proficient in up to three differing local planning authority documents in order to make correctly informed decisions. Additionally, the use of the retained local plan documents has the potential to create fragmented decision making and cause inconsistency in what NYC will hope will be uniformed approach to planning.
How to steer the best course through this period of change?
During this time of change, it is more important than ever to take stock of your land and potential interests. Once the consultation for the new local plan comes out, it will be too late. Undertaking initial due diligence now could be the difference between securing an allocation and losing out during the plan making process.
Previous experience of areas that have merged into a Unitary Authority reveals that delays and uncertainty in plan making can create opportunities for landowners and developers. Ensuring your site is ‘plan ready’ and ‘actively promoted’ can secure development earlier in the plan making process taking advantage of policy gaps or can demonstrate a genuine ability to deliver new homes giving more confidence to the Local Planning Authority to allocate your site in the emerging plan.
If you have a site and would like some advice, please contact our dedicated planning team on 0333 920 2220 for a no obligation initial discussion.