AN inquiry into a council’s plans to zone land for housing and business development has been suspended until next year, it was revealed today.
South Lakeland District Council asked for hearings into its Land Allocations Document to be halted so a ‘number of issues’ raised so far could be ‘investigated thoroughly’.
Specifics around what the issues might be were not divulged by the council, but it comes after claims that schools might not cope if the document is formally adopted.
Planning inspector Simon Berkeley agreed to the authority’s request but Coun James Airey, leader of SLDC’s Conservative Opposition, which voted against the document, labelled the situation a ‘farce’.
The inquiry had been due to resume for two days from this Thursday (November 22) at Kendal Town Hall.
An SLDC spokesman said examination of the plans was a ‘long and complicated’ process which needed to be thorough.
The spokesman continued: “Additional issues have been raised during the hearings that have taken place and SLDC needs to ensure that these are thoroughly investigated and reported on.
“In order to achieve this we felt it best to ask for a suspension of the hearings to give us the time to put the reports together and provide opportunity for parties to read and understand before the examination hearings resume.”
Coun Airey hit out: “The inspector is quite rightly giving SLDC a rough ride over this unsound document.”
He said that the council had ‘failed to listen’ to concerns over the document, adding: “Now the whole process is in complete chaos and looking like a farce.”
SLDC shadow deputy leader, Coun Tom Harvey, added: “SLDC simply haven’t got their facts straight going in and now they’re paying the price.
“This is what happens when you run roughshod over communities.”
Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said: “It's about giving more time to get this right, so the more consultation the better.
“To criticise the council for giving people the chance to have their voices heard is very odd.”
The public inquiry is trying to establish whether the document, which identifies potential areas to accommodate 6,000 homes in South Lakeland by 2025, is ‘sound’.
In October, the inquiry was told that Kendal’s schools would be unable to cope if the plans were OK’d.
The claim was made in evidence gathered by Cumbria County Council, which stated that two more primary schools would be required and the town's two secondary schools would be pushed above capacity.