East Lindsey District Council leader Craig Leyland has admitted the authority is ‘between a rock and a hard place’ as it battles to balance fears of over-development with Government pressure to build thousands of new homes.
The district council’s Local Plan - a blueprint for all future development in East Lindsey - is currently being examined by a Government appointed inspector.
ELDC is already committed to building 3,740 new homes as part of the process of the plan being approved.
However, Coun Leyland has revealed the inspector has already informed ELDC that they have ‘under-estimated’ the number of homes that should be built.
The inspector is insisting on another 400-500 homes - otherwise the plan will not be approved, leaving the authority wide open to Government sanctions.
Coun Leyland confirmed development along East Lindsey’s coast will be severely restricted, meaning it will be inland towns and villages that will have to bear the brunt of any new development.
So far, potential sites for development have been restricted to towns and large villages but Coun Leyland revealed medium-sized villages could also have to absorb some form of new housing.
His message comes as residents across East Lindsey mount strong campaigns to stop development in their communities.
They claim towns and villages cannot cope with additional homes with schools, roads and health services already at breaking point.
However, he warned rejecting applications on ‘unsound’ grounds could leave ELDC facing legal bills running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
He also said that if the council lost more than 10 per cent of appeals launched by developers, it could lead to the Government taking over the authority’s entire planning department.
Coun Leyland said: “We are between a rock and hard place. We always are in respect of housing.
“The fact is there is a Government push for new housing and East Lindsey is not excluded from that.
“The balance we need is valuing what we have locally in terms of our rural communities, but equally realising that some development will come our way.
“The inspector has already told us we have under-estimated housing numbers. We have got to have more. In his words, another 400-500 will have to be absorbed.”
Coun Leyland admitted ELDC options were limited by restriction on building in the coastal areas like Skegness and Mablethorpe.
He said that apart from flooding, any two-storey properties would have to be built to withstand what he described as a ‘tidal surge.’
He explained the extra cost of building properties to meet those standards will deter developers.
Coun Leyland added: “The inspector has supported our position in the Local Plan - no strategic housing development on the coast.”
However, Coun Leyland did reveal ELDC was holding talks with the Environment Agency (EA) in a bid to draw up new criteria for coastal development.
He said: “We are introducing a five-year review for our local plan. Within that, there is a challenge to the EA that we should look at how we can provide housing along the coast.
“The EA are working closely with us and it might be things will change, but that’s not short term.”
Coun Leyland said he could understand the frustration and fears of residents about development, but insisted planning officers did listen to concerns.
He stressed applications could only be rejected on ‘material’ grounds - and not because people simply did not want development.
Coun Leyland also pointed out planners have to rely on advice from other statutory bodies before making a decision.
For example, he said if highways, education or NHS organisations do not object, it is increasingly difficult for planners to say no.
He maintained planners often attach stringent conditions to applications, meaning developers have to pay for infra-structure improvements via 106 Agreements.
He added: “Like it or not, national planning policy and government policy is that there’s a need for housing. There’s a perception we don’t listen but in terms of concerns outweighing national policy, it is stacked up against you.”