PLANNING officers faced a grilling from an inspector over how certain housing sites were included in a major blueprint.
The Local Plan, formerly known as Core Strategy, lays down the main planning framework for the borough for the next 15 years and it is currently subject to a public examination by a Government-appointed inspector.
It has been prepared by Hartlepool Borough Council following extensive public consultation and includes aspirations for Hartlepool’s future development.
The blueprint includes proposals to create almost 2,500 homes in a south-western extension from the A689 to Brierton Lane and delivering new housing in Upper Warren, Elwick, Hart and Wynyard.
Initial plans for housing sites at Tunstall Farm and Quarry Farm were thrown out a couple of years ago.
Officers said the sites had been chosen and assessed using the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) using a “comprehensive” evidence base.
They said due to the geography of Hartlepool, the town cannot be extended to the north or to the south, due to the heavy industry.
Planning Inspector Kevin Ward asked whether the alternative options had been produced and consulted on, to which officers said between the preferred options one and two stages there had been further consultation.
But Mr Ward wanted to see more evidence of that process and whether a sustainability appraisal had considered the alternative options.
He said he was looking for “clearer answers” from the officers and called a short break.
Mr Ward added: “I am particularly concerned about how alternative site allocations were considered and where that has been documented.”
After the short break, Tom Britcliffe, the council’s planning policy team leader, said a wide variety of housing sites were considered as early as October 2007 and options included housing at Wynyard, the south west extension and the villages.
The first preferred options report, which included those sites, was published in January 2010 and consulted on and the SHLAA had also looked at the sites and preferred options, which had also been endorsed for consultation.
Mr Britcliffe said the SHLAA looked at all of the sites including the most “sustainable and achievable” and a report was taken back to the council’s cabinet committee, which led to the preferred sites being identified.
He added: “We are confident we looked at all reasonable options.”
Mr Ward said he appreciated the clarification and asked for a short paper to be produced outlining the consultation process for the SHLAA.