CONCERNS have been raised about the lack of an approved Copeland Local Plan, which it is feared could put plans for innovation at risk.

Cumbria County Council’s leadership met on Thursday and were asked to approve the authority’s response to Copeland Borough Council’s draft Local Plan.

A Local Plan is designed to mark-out which sites are considered acceptable for development. It also provides a guide to future development in the borough.

But the county council leadership raised concerns about the slow progression of the Copeland Local Plan 2021-38. The last development plan produced by Copeland came into force in 2013.

Leader of the council Stewart Young said that “the absence of a Local Plan has caused significant issues in Copeland.

“That was one of the main reasons a bid for a Whitehaven relief road was turned down because there wasn’t the supporting evidence that would have been provided by a Local Plan.

“I did read with interest the damning audit report into Copeland Council which pointed out the ambitious capital programme involving capital expenditure far in excess of anything Copeland had ever actually spent and in particular on the Cleator Moor Innovation Quarter at Leconfield.

“Most of that expenditure of course was programmed for April 1 next year and therefore will be picked-up by the new authority.”

The councils of Copeland and Allerdale will be replaced by Cumberland Council in 2023 along with Carlisle City Council and Cumbria County Council.

The county council response to the draft Local Plan asks for greater clarity on the achievability of Copeland’s proposals.

Cllr Young said: “I think the auditor has given that clarity in that, it is unlikely to be deliverable.

“The unrealistic nature of the aspirations explains why there hasn’t been such successful development for many years in Copeland.”

David Moore, Copeland Council’s nuclear and corporate services portfolio holder said: “The plan is now in full progress, it’s out to public consultation, it will shortly go for examination from a Government inspector.

“That plan would be adopted later this coming year, it will be in place before Copeland ceases to exist.
“Are we running a bit late? Yes we are, some of the areas have been quite sensitive.

“We have to, by law within the Local Plan, serve all the needs of our community, we can’t pick and choose which bits we want.”

In response to criticism about spending planned beyond the council’s lifespan, Cllr Moore said: “Copeland is one of the most ambitious plans going into the new authority. It will be up to the new Cumberland authority how it takes forward these ambitious projects.”

On plans for the Cleator Moor Innovation Quarter, he said: “A lot of that is private money it’s nuclear money that’s driving Leconfield.”