AS the government demands more houses are built in East Hampshire, the district council’s Local Plan is to take a step backward so it isn’t out of date when it comes into force.

This will further delay the already late plan that will see East Hampshire District Council set out to the government’s satisfaction what houses will be built in the district and where.

At the moment, the target is about 490 homes a year in the part of East Hampshire outside the South Downs National Park.

The district council’s chief operating officer Simon Jenkins said: “The government has made some significant changes recently to what it expects.

“It has increased the number of houses we have to allow to be built each year by between 70 and 80.

“When the plan is approved it will be in use for about 15 years, so that’s about 1,200 houses more than we understood earlier.

“We need to get the plan right, otherwise it could be out of date by the time it gets published.”

It was initially expected the development blueprint would be completed and approved by a government inspector during the 2020/2021 period, but the lockdowns delayed it.

It was then hoped to get it approved in the first half of next year, 2023.

But the deadline has been pushed back yet again, as now more land needs to be found – or more houses built on land already earmarked for development outside the national park.

Mr Jenkins said: “We are revisiting Regulation 18 of the plan process, which is the consultation phase.

“Because there have been so many changes by government recently, the council will consult residents on the plan’s vision and objectives again.

“We also need to embed the council’s green initiatives in the plan.”

During this stage of evidence gathering, residents and landowners are consulted and can give their views on which sites should be developed, and which should be protected.

Council leader Richard Millard said: “We will be looking at sites again, and there will be consultations and workshops across the district in November.

“We also want to make sure the plan allows us to ensure developers meet the green agenda the council is setting out for energy-efficient homes.

“And as well as consulting residents again, we will be challenging the government on the new housing numbers and talking to the national park about building more homes in the park.”

In July 2019 it was agreed that about 100 homes a year would be built in the part of East Hampshire inside the national park.

At the same time, the national park authority committed to building just 250 new homes a year across the whole park during the 14-year life of its own local plan.

Most of the changes being imposed on East Hampshire by the government have been signed off by the secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities, Michael Gove.

Cllr Millard added: “It is very frustrating and Mr Gove is being especially irritating on a number of issues. And that’s why we need to reassess things like the Local Plan.

“We are prepared to challenge the government on this, and will do – we are up for it.”