September 29th, 2016

Council defends £440k cost of SWDP plans

Council defends £440k cost of SWDP plans Council defends £440k cost of SWDP plans

COUNCIL chiefs spent almost half a million pounds on a major housing blueprint for south Worcestershire, the Observer can reveal.

Figures from a Freedom of Information (FOI) request passed to the Observer reveal £439,980 was forked out between October 2010 and November 2015 on work to put together the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP).

The blueprint sets out where 28,000 homes can be built across Wychavon, Worcester City and the Malverns up until 2030.

According to the figures, spending on consultants made up the bulk of the costs totalling £265,933.

Council chiefs said they were required because the SWDP needed a large amount of technical evidence and support from specialist consultants on issues such as the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment, Water Cycle Studies, retail assessments and economic forecastings.

A total of £120,349 was also spent on inspector’s fees which the council was required to do by law.

And since 2012 a further £151,186 has been paid to hire agency staff.

Wychavon District Council has defended the spending, which doesn’t take into account how much Worcester City and Malvern Hills Councils has contributed to the SWDP, by saying it wouldn’t have been possible to produce the document any cheaper.

Gary Williams, Head of Housing and Planning for Wychavon District Council, said: “The South Worcestershire Development Plan is not like a typical local development plan.

“It is a major sub-regional document which will guide hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment in housing, leisure and infrastructure across South Worcestershire up to 2030.

“By working together across South Worcestershire we’ve also been able to cut costs, such as having only one counsel to represent all South Worcestershire councils’ instead of three.

“We’ve had to pay for just one examination instead of three separate ones. It would not have been possible to prepare an individual plan any cheaper.

“A large amount of technical evidence has been required during the process which has meant consultants with specialist expertise and experience have had to be employed. We do not possess these in-house.

“Due to the thousands of responses we have received to the various consultations on the plan, both locally and nationally, we have also had to temporarily recruit extra staff at times to ensure we could meet those demands.

“We have also had to pay for the hire of suitable venues and equipment as existing council venues were either not large enough or unavailable.

“Some costs, such as those of the Planning Inspector, are outside of our control as they are required by law.

“The important thing is the inspector has supported the plan. We hope it will be fully adopted by the end of this month,” he added.

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