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March 13, 2024

On Tuesday 12th March, the Portfolio Holder for Planning presented to the Dorset Council cabinet meeting a report from the planning policy team on the current progress and timescales relating to the Draft Dorset Local Plan.

The draft plan was last out for public consultation between January and March 2021; with officers considering the responses to the Regulation 18 consultation version of the Dorset Local Plan and continuing preparation of the plan since this time.

At yesterday’s cabinet meeting, however, officers presented a new Local Development Scheme (LDS). This proposed stopping work entirely on the current draft plan and starting again in around November 2024 to align with the intended publication by the Government of new regulations, policy and guidance relating to plan making under the latest National Planning Policy Framework (December 2023).

The council’s new LDS suggests that initial scoping and preparatory work for the Dorset Local Plan will occur from Q3 2024, the plan be prepared for initial Regulation 18 consultation in Q4 2025, with the Regulation 19 consultation and submission for examination in Q4 2026.

Based on this timeframe, the earliest the council could have a plan ready for adoption following Examination in Public would be towards the end of Q2 2027.

With respect to this timetable the council notes that this relies on the Government delivering the necessary regulations, policy and guidance by the date anticipated and thus this timescale could itself be subject to further delays.

In essence the Dorset Local Plan is being abandoned in its current stage with the process to be completely restarted towards the end of the year.

The reason for the move is on the basis that the transitional period under which Local Plans can be prepared under the direction of the previous National Planning Policy Framework sets a deadline for the submission of Local Plan by 30th June 2025.

The council are of the view that, despite the plan having been in preparation since early 2019, and the council’s previous LDS 2022 setting out timeframes for its Regulation 18 consultation in Q4 2024, with plan submission in Q2 2025, this timeframe cannot now be met.

The report specifically states:

“Given the stage that the Dorset Local Plan has reached, and the work that needs to be undertaken to resolve the identified issues, it is unlikely that the council would be in a position to submit a complete local plan by 30th June 2025.”

The recommendation of officers therefore was to move across to the new plan making system and start preparing a new Local Plan in November 2024; which councillors voted unanimously for at the meeting.

Whether the council will abandon the currently prepared evidence base entirely in favour of starting afresh remains to be seen.

However, this is a significant backwards step for the council on being able to sustainably direct where growth will occur within the Dorset Council plan area and is likely to foster further development by appeal in view of the progressively more aged and out of date plans of the former constituent District Councils and their questionable status whether they are actually planning properly to meet local needs.

We will be contacting and advising our clients of opportunities and the route forwards for sites which were included within the now defunct plan.

If you have a site or land which you would like advice in relation to or indeed for a steer on how this may affect you, please contact our office directly on 01202 538800 and via