One of the three councils that housing secretary Sajid Javid announced on Friday would face central government intervention in its local plan process has said it is “extremely disappointed” at the decision.

Labour-controlled Wirral Council in Merseyside, along with Thanet Council in Kent and Castle Point Borough Council in Essex, which are both Tory-run, were named by Javid on Friday.

The three authorities were among 15 that in November Javid warned were taking too long to produce their local plans. They were threatened with intervention unless they provided a good explanation by 31 January saying why they had failed to make progress.

On Friday afternoon, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) revealed that Javid has “decided to continue with the intervention process” with the trio.

This would involve “a team of experts”, led by the chief planner Steve Quartermain, assessing if the government needs to take over the the plan-making process. The MHCLG team will also begin discussing whether to invite the relevant county council or combined authority to prepare a plan for the councils concerned.

In response, George Davies, Wirral Council‘s cabinet member for housing, said: “We are extremely disappointed at this response from government.

“Earlier this year, we set out a clear, robust plan for delivering a local plan which met the housing needs of our residents.

“We’ve been in regular dialogue with civil servants and we remain confident that when we meet them and they see our plans they will be more than satisfied with our progress.”

Davies said that in the past month, plans to build more than 1,000 new homes on brownfield sites in Birkenhead and Wallasey have been announced, while the council has launched its own regeneration joint venture, Wirral Growth Company.

He said: “We are very firmly of the view that local housing policy should be developed locally, with a clear understanding of local need. That understanding cannot be found in Whitehall, and we will continue to make that case to government ministers.”

Thanet Council‘s new Conservative leader, Bob Bayford, said: “As a new administration we are committed to progressing and delivering a local plan. This intervention was expected and we welcome the opportunity to work together with government to achieve a plan that works for Thanet.”

Castle Point Borough Council did not respond to Planning’s requests for a comment.

Northumberland Council, which is also run by a Conservative administration, does not face intervention.

However, the MHCLG statement said that the government has told Northumberland to produce its plan earlier and to make its timetable for delivery clearer.

In response, the council said it “has reaffirmed its commitment to producing a local plan in the shortest timescale possible”.

Last summer, the new administration withdrew the previous core strategy. Under current timescales, a draft local plan would be published for consultation this summer and submitted for examination by the summer of 2019.

Council leader Peter Jackson said: “We have measures in place to ensure that plan production is prioritised and well resourced, and note the secretary of state’s comments about streamlining the evidence base and accelerating the plan preparation programme by up to three months.

“We welcome the offer of further support from the Planning Advisory Service to ensure we meet these revised timescales.”

Source: John Geoghegan, Planning Resource, 26 March 2018

Local Comment: Contrary to what Cllr George Davies seems to think, the Secretary of State is not proposing to send in civil servants from Whitehall to write our Local Plan.  Instead, he proposes to give the job to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. The problem with this is that the combined authority is not directly elected and, when Local Plan intervention was first threatened, DCLG (now MHCLG) promised that the plan would be written “in consultation with local people”.  How can this be possible with the combined authority in control?  There is currently no mechanism for citizens to hold these appointees to account.  The Scretary of State needs to explain exactly how Wirral’s Local Plan will be written “in consultation with local people”. – Philip Barton