Medway named one of 'worst' councils for not having a Local Plan

19 December 2023In Medway4 Minutes
Medway Council headquarters at Gun Wharf, Chatham

Medway Council has been called out by the government for not having an up-to-date Local Plan since 2003.

Housing secretary Michael Gove named Medway as one of seven local authorities that have failed to put a new Local Plan in place in a damning speech today (19 December).

Gove criticised the council for being an ‘underperformer’ and called it among the ‘worst’ for its slow progress over the past 19 years.

Levelling up and housing secretary Michael Gove

Councils are required to have a Local Plan, a document outlining where new housing, commercial space and green spaces should go, as well as setting policies for development and improvements to local infrastructure.

Medway last adopted a Local Plan in 2003 and has since failed to keep to deadlines for putting together a new version.

It has worked on a draft Local Plan since 2014, with four rounds of public consultation, known as Regulation 18, taking place – the latest one ended in October this year.

Medway’s Local Plan will need to set out a strategy for meeting its housing target imposed by the government, which is 1,667 homes per year or 28,339 by 2040.

Housebuilding stock photo

In today’s speech Gove said: “I’m taking steps to deal with underperformers in the planning system, and there is no greater failure than the failure to actually have a plan in place.

“That is why I am issuing a direction to seven of the worst authorities in terms of plan making, who have failed not just to adopt a plan, but even to submit one to examination since 2004.”

Gove’s list includes Medway, St Albans, Amber Valley, Ashfield, Uttlesford, Basildon and Castle Point.

He has given them three months to send a timetable for creating a new Local Plan and said the government would consider further action if they failed to do so.

Gove also sent a letter to the council today, in which he wrote: “Your Council’s persistent failure to adopt a plan has left your communities vulnerable to speculative development and has risked not delivering the economic growth and infrastructure they need.

“You have shown a track record of setting deadlines which you have not kept to and an extensive period of plan preparation which has still not progressed beyond Regulation 18 stage.”

Medway Council leader Vince Maple

Medway’s previous Conservative administration struggled to produce a new plan, which saw councillors within its own party disputing over where new housing should go and the future of Chatham Docks.

Following Labour’s victory in the May local elections, the new administration has said the delivery of an updated plan is a priority.

Council leader Vince Maple tweeted he was disappointed that he had not received Gove’s letter before the speech took place and invited him to discuss the planning situation.

He wrote: “It is very disappointing this was tweeted hours before Michael Gove actually wrote to me. There will be a response sent before Christmas.

“In that response I will be clear on which party was running the council from May 2003 to May 2023 and the progress made since then.

“This includes completing a consultation since May. What doesn’t help this process is the withdrawal of the £170 million HIF.

“When this happened no government minister took up my repeated offers to meet. I will be inviting Michael Gove to come to Medway to discuss this.”

Medway hopes to publish a draft Local Plan next year and then to adopt it by autumn 2025.

Medway Council has been approached for comment.