Harborough Local Plan - Leicester and Leicestershire Statement of Common Ground relating to housing and employment land needs

Published Monday 11 September 2023

Media Statement issued in response to a press release from Neil O’Brien MP regarding a letter from the Housing Minister and a petition.

Statement issued by Harborough District Council

A council spokesperson said: “The council has published a comprehensive report which it will consider and debate at the full Council on 18 September 2023. The decision will be made on the night, based on the report and any further information available at the time. The agenda is available to the public here. The letter from the minister plus any further relevant information will be circulated to members as supplementary documentation in advance of the meeting.

“No petition has been submitted to the council at this time and therefore none is included in the published agenda for debate at the meeting.”

Statement from Leader of Harborough District Council, Cllr Knowles

“I have also received a response from the minister, following my letter to the Secretary of State, and this will be shared with members to inform the decision to be made on 18th September 2023. We will be sharing this with our fellow local authorities and officers to seek their interpretation, as well as any further information we may receive.

“The council has maintained that we will continue to consult and gather as much additional information as we can so that we make an evidence-based decision.  There has been no decision on this matter yet, and cabinet made it very clear that their recommendation to council was based on the information it had at the time.

“The minister’s letter provides some of the clarity we sought from the Secretary of State and helpfully confirms that the duty to cooperate still applies. Mr O’Brien informed us in an earlier letter that the duty to cooperate has been replaced yet the minister advises: The duty to cooperate will be formally abolished after the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill receives royal assent.” So it has not yet been abolished. The minister also goes on to say that “existing legal requirements and duties, including the duty to cooperate, will still apply” for plans submitted under the existing legal requirements and duties. So at this moment in time it still exists and has to be considered to give the council the maximum flexibility to get our local plan adopted as quickly as possible.

“I have been talking to the City Mayor about the housing need and their plans on housing delivery to understand what has been done there. He has given me assurance that they have considered all options and will confirming this in a letter to me. I will share this letter with all members once received.

“The minister states: “There is no formula imposed by the Government through which housing need for an area or unmet need must be transferred from one area to another.” There is no formula but there is a need to look how the numbers are shared across the whole of Leicestershire, and this is detailed further in the council report. The numbers have been challenged and the methodology agreed across the whole of Leicestershire. 7 of the councils have already signed the Statement. The numbers do include the 35% increase for Leicester city as imposed by government in the increased target for Leicester as part of their policy decision on inflating the top 20 cities in the country. This has just made the unmet need higher and so the pressure on others in the area greater.

“We are still gathering in evidence, the minister’s own letter is proof of that and we will continue to do so.  If when we get to full council there is further information that we all agree is needed, I won't hesitate to look to defer the decision to a special meeting whilst we clarify the issues. This is an important decision and we won't shy away from making it. But it will be based on fact."