The long-awaited Local Plan – the first ever produced for the South Downs National Park – finally looks set to be published in the spring this year.
The plan, which has been in the pipeline since shortly after the park was fully established in April 2011, has suffered a series of setbacks.
A staffing crisis in the planning department in 2016 caused a major delay in the work on the plan.
It was timetabled to be adopted in 2017 but the staffing shortage set back the work by almost a year.
It was then timetabled to be submitted to the secretary of state for examination by the end of March last year. But this date slipped by around a month and it was eventually submitted in May.
Following a series of public hearing sessions in November and December last year, the planning inspector has asked the national park authority to make a number of ‘main modifications’ to focussing on ensuring the ‘soundness’ of the 15-year plan.
While the consultation is looking at the soundness of the Local Plan only, every comment on the main modifications will be passed, exactly as submitted, to the planning inspector, who will respond to them as part of his examination.
The consultation, which opened on Friday, will run to March 28.
Trevor Beattie, chief executive of the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA), said: “This is the first Local Plan ever produced for the national park and recognises the national importance of the landscapes and our duty to conserve and enhance them.
“The Local Plan, once adopted, will guarantee the high standards that all proposed development must meet to protect nature and support local communities. The Local Plan is also a vital component in protecting the ‘eco-system’ services the National Park gives us, such as clean water, food, and space to breathe.”
He said the changes did not alter the planning approach of ‘medium level of growth dispersed across the towns and villages of the national park’ and the allocation of development sites remained unchanged, as did key policies.
When adopted the Local Plan will replace policies from 12 local authorities with a single set covering the whole park.
The landscape-led plan sets out to conserve the dark night skies, tranquillity and services such as clean water and air provided by the park.