MBC Officers suggested that the documents could be accepted and then considered at a later stage, but after seeking input from presenters, the inspector concluded there was insufficient time to digest the content and decided to adjourn the hearing to November.
The delay will mean the local plan update cannot be adopted before the 5-year anniversary of the existing local plan on 27th October. Failing to have an update in place at this milestone could severely impact Maidstone’s “five year housing supply” and its ability to defend planning refusal decisions at appeal.
Cllr Brian Clark commented, "During the local plan process the Chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee David Buton sought unsuccessfully to defeat our proposal to maximise public consultation by keeping Regulation 18b, and refused to accept any extension to the subsequent Regulation 19 public consultation,". He continued, “That need to rush this half baked plan through at all costs, with key documentation only now being submitted, has added delay and uncertainty and could ultimately leave the borough with no plan at all."
Cllr Clive English stated,”I have made clear my grave concerns about the soundness of the local plan ahead of submission to the public inspector. It was clear that the evidence base for the garden city schemes of Lidsing and Heathlands was severely lacking, but events in the town hall last week, with the goal posts still moving during the inspector’s hearing, really show how far we are from where we need to be.