Please find below questions we have received relating to the consultation and process of the Dorset Council Local Plan options consultation, along with answers given.

Consultation timeframe

Question

Will Dorset Council postpone the start of the consultation until Covid restrictions have reduced (Boris is indicating middle of February)? And will you extend the consultation to a 12 week consultation for all Dorset Local Plan consultations as this gives a more reasonable timeframe for people to read and respond to such an extensive consultation?

Answer

Generally a Local Plan consultation lasts 6 weeks. This is set out in our Statement of Community Involvement. We do however accept that the current situation can cause difficulties for some people and have therefore extended the consultation period. We have also put other measures in place which are outlined below, that are helping us make the content of the local plan as accessible as we can in a Covid secure way.

The length of the consultation period needs to be balanced against the importance of having a local plan in place so that development can be managed in an appropriate way. A longer consultation period will delay the adoption of the local plan but councillors view is that an 8 week consultation period would be an acceptable compromise between minimising delay and enabling residents an appropriate amount of time to respond to the plan. We are therefore unable to extend the consultation for a further 3 weeks. When are your Parish Council meetings?

In reference to getting the message out, we have a lot of traffic on our website and online form which indicates our advertising is working however I, as you know, always take feedback on board and I can speak to our communications team to see if there is anything more we can do to help. I do have some posters if you’d like some more?

We started publication of the forthcoming consultation in December with social media posts, podcasts and an article to community and parish magazines across Dorset. During January we have increased this advertising to include features in the local press and local radio, we have written directly to all those who have asked to be kept informed of local plan matters, and schools and T&PC have also been asked to disseminate the information. We sent posters to every library and each Town and Parish Council received a poster for their various notice boards and electronically for use on social media. We are also displaying posters in military bases. In addition to these we are displaying information boards at a TIC in Sherborne TIC, in a few town centre shops and front facing library windows. We of course also use online channels such as social media through paid advertisements, e-newsletters and information on our website.

The following libraries are operating an order and collect service: Beaminster, Blandford, Bridport, Corfe Mullen, Crossways, Dorchester, Ferndown, Gillingham, Littlemoor, Lyme Regis, Lytchett Matravers, Portland, Shaftesbury, Sherborne, Sturminster Newton, Swanage, Upton, Verwood, Wareham, West Moors, Weymouth, Wimborne, Wool and Wyke Regis. See this link for ordering a copy - Dorset libraries order and collect (dorsetcouncil.gov.uk). Each library has 5 copies so it should be made available fairly soon after requesting a copy. Each plan must decontaminate for 3 days between loans to help ensure our residents’ safety. However we also have a dedicated telephone number open Monday to Friday between 10am and 2pm, 01305 252500, where anyone can ring up and speak to an officer to ask any questions.

There are podcasts that are available to listen to via several channels such as Anchor and Spotify that explain elements of the plan. We also have webinars on the Council’s YouTube channel where a series of officers explain the proposals set out in the plan. These webinars are also available to people who would like to phone in and listen and who don’t have access to the internet.

I hope you can see the efforts that have been put into this consultation in an attempt to reach as many of our communities as possible and enable people to respond. One of the best methods of promotion is word of mouth so please make sure you tell your friends and family (albeit in a safe and secure manner).

Content of the plan

Question

A local plan considers a large number of statistics, e.g. housing numbers, employment requirement, distribution of housing and employment etc. The Dorset Council Local Plan contains few statistics, why is this?

Answer

The role of the local plan is to manage development with planning decisions being made in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. And national policy sets out that the local plan should contain policies that are clearly written and unambiguous so that it is evident how a decision maker should react to development proposals. For this reason, the local plan doesn’t contain detailed statistics and discussion of evidence but informs how decisions should be made. The local plan should aim to give certainty to local people, infrastructure providers and developers as to how the area will change over the period of the plan.

Evidence supporting the plan

Question

There don't appear to be any references in the Plan, why not?

Answer

The supporting evidence for the Plan is available on the planning policy evidence pages of the Council’s website.

Question

What other studies are informing the evidence base for the plan and when will they be available?

There are several pieces of work that are ongoing to inform the development of the Dorset Council Local Plan. They will be used to inform the final draft of the plan which will be consulted on later in 2021 and they are:

  • Strategic Flood Risk Assessment
  • Retail and Town Centre Needs Assessment
  • Housing Needs of Specific Groups Assessment
  • Local Plan Viability Assessment
  • Economic Needs Assessment
  • Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment

Please note this is not a comprehensive list.

The local plan process

Question

Chapter 2.2 of the Plan mentions the need to 'refresh' data used to inform economic forecasts before the publication stage of the Plan. Will there be any more consultations?

Answer

As the plan progresses, new data becomes available and any changes in national policy emerge, the Council will amend the plan. In addition, there will be changes to the proposals as a result of the comments received on this consultation. There will be a final round of consultation prior to the submission of the plan with all consultation responses being forwarded to the Planning Inspector.

Question

How are comments on the Plan processed and taken into account?

Answer

Comments received as part of the local plan consultation are reviewed by council officers within the planning policy team. Each response submitted by individuals will be broken down into the key planning issues raised for example, an individual may comment on a specific housing site as well as a comment on the suggested wind farm sites. We would take these separately as they relate to two very different issues / sites. Where responses are not submitted directly into the database via the Council’s online form (e.g. by email or on paper) officers will manually enter them in.

We are expecting a good level of response to the proposals with each respondent making several relevant planning points. The consultation is about capturing the content of the responses as well as the quantity of responses. We will look to identify the planning issues raised for each proposal / policy – for example relating to flooding, transport, biodiversity etc. and will report these to our councillors. We will also produce a summary report which will be placed on our website alongside a database of all of the submitted responses. The planning issues raised will be used to aid with the review of the local plan alongside any further evidence we may need to gather on certain issues.

Once the local plan has been amended, it will be subject to a further round of consultation prior to being submitted to the secretary of state for public examination. The comments received as part of this later consultation will be forwarded to the secretary of state for consideration alongside the amended local plan.

Consultation materials - Podcasts and Webinars

Question

The Development and Spatial Strategy, Housing Need and Affordable housing are given as podcasts. Is the content of these podcasts the same as the content of the Dorset Council Local Plan? Why were some questions not answered at the webinars?

Answer

The podcasts and webinars are designed to introduce and summarise the content of the local plan in a format that makes it as accessible as possible to those who are interested. To make the podcasts and webinars as accessible as possible, the length of them needs to be carefully managed and therefore they are a summary of the content of the plan with the detail being within the plan itself. In addition, the number of questions that can be answered through the webinars is limited however all questions asked will be answered with a written response posted on our website. The response will also be sent directly to the person who asked the question.

Questions and answers

Question

It has been stated that it would take 2 weeks for submitted questions to receive a response. Given that responses to questions will help inform feedback to the Local Plan what does that do to the time frame for the consultation? Should questions only be submitted up to two weeks before the close of the consultation?

Answer

The webinars are designed to give a summary of the detail on specific topics within the local plan and to enable specific questions to be asked. However, in order to keep the webinars relatively short and focused, we need to restrict the number of questions we answer. All questions that we receive will be answered directly and in writing on our website whether they are answered in our webinars or not. We aim to do so within two weeks of the relevant webinar. This two-week period is a target for us but where we can answer the question before the end of that period, we will do so.

We have an email address and a dedicated phone line available during the consultation period where questions can be asked so please do not wait to ask questions around the webinar. Please email your questions to planningpolicy@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk or call the team on 01305 252500.

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