Concerns that new local plan for Hartlepool could take 3 years and cost extra £1m

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COUNCILLORS have raised fresh fears a new planning blueprint could take up to three more years to produce leaving Hartlepool vulnerable to unwanted developments.

But council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said no timescales have been set and also moved to dismiss concerns that it could cost another £1m to produce.

The Local Plan cost £1.5m and took five years to produce but it was agreed to withdraw it earlier this year after a majority of councillors backed a motion by the Labour Group.

A joint statement has been issued by independent councillor Paul Thompson, Putting Hartlepool First councillor Geoff Lilley and councillor Jonathan Brash, who refers to himself as independent Labour but is classed as independent by the council.

They raise concerns that areas such as Hart Village, the South West extension, Wynyard, Tunstall Farm, Quarry Farm and other areas of undeveloped land could face unwanted development.

The statement read: “This delay means that a new plan could be three years away, three years of Hartlepool being unprotected and three years in which developers will be able to develop housing in any of those sites.

“Additionally this three year plan could cost Hartlepool £1m to develop. We are calling on the council to release the figures on timescales and costs of a new plan.”

But Coun Akers-Belcher, who had originally hoped to have a new plan within six months, said: “All details including our new planning policy justification document have been endorsed by regeneration and planning.

“No timescales have been set and 80 per cent of all costs are absorbed within the ongoing costs within planning. Any timescales they are stating are pure speculation.”

The decision to axe the Local Plan divided opinion among councillors with some labelling the move a “waste of time and public money” which will open the floodgates for developers, as there is no adopted plan in place.

Instead the local authority will be guided by national guidelines in the interim and could mean the council has “little control” over site sizes and nature of developments.

But Coun Akers-Belcher said it would give the opportunity to look again at housing provision and the need and demand for a traveller site in Hartlepool.