Early review of Milton Keynes planning bible is set to blow a £5m hole in council’s budget

A council commitment to carry out an early review of its planning bible is set to cost it more than £4 million next year.

Early review of planning bible is set to blow a £5m hole in council’s budget

Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes

A council commitment to carry out an early review of its planning bible is set to cost it more than £4 million next year.

Plan:MK, which sets out the planning policies in the borough, only came into force in March this year, but the council agreed with the Government’s planning inspector to commit itself to review it by 2022.

Long-serving opposition councillor Peter Geary (Cons, Olney) said: “In all my time I cannot remember an item of £5million coming in one year. If the work has to be repeated every three years, it would be better to have it as a properly budgeted item one year at a time, rather than to come all at once.”

Preparing a local plan is a huge undertaking for any local authority, as it requires up to date evidence on things like minerals and waste development, as well as allocating sites for housing. Getting a new plan done and dusted by the end of 2022 is massive undertaking.

Documents presented to the council’s Budget and Resources Scrutiny Committee says that the council will do as much as it can to carry out the necessary work in-house.

But in the council’s business case for spending the money it says: “However, it needs to be recognised that a lot of the evidence work will require expertise to be commissioned, such as housing market assessments, employment land and retail studies, and economic viability testing.

“Updating the evidence base for the review of Plan:MK, will require significant additional resources to be committed to enable the revised plan to be submitted by the end of December 2022.”

But Cllr Geary, who is a vice chair of the scrutiny committee, said those statements will be tested at a meeting of the scrutiny committee next Tuesday (October 15).

The committee is going through the council’s budget line-by-line, and has also heard news that the Government is set to give the council more money than expected.

Cllr Geary said: “The council is projecting a budget surplus of £7million, so there should not be any cuts to services.”

A council spokesperson said that the planning inspector said Plan:MK needed to be reviewed at an early stage because of the “emerging plans for growth along the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor and strategic growth ambitions for the borough.”

As a result Plan:MK was changed to include Policy DS0 – Review of Plan:MK.

The spokesperson said: “The policy outlines that the council will submit for examination, a draft plan, containing strategic policies for the longer-term growth of Milton Keynes, by the end of 2022.”