FRUSTRATED Bewdley councillors have expressed their disappointment that ambitions to complete their Neighbourhood Plans have been "stalled" by "lack of planning" at Wyre Forest District Council.

Bewdley Town Council have said they are saddened that due to the activities of the district council’s Local Plan, the need for the two plans to synchronise and management issues around the Local Plan, the anticipated referendum in May 2018, will be postponed until at least May 2019 at the earliest.

The timeline for the town council’s plan has been in place and co-ordinated with the district council from its inception.

District Councillor Ian Hardiman, said they have been working closely with the town council to achieve the best outcome for the town and are not “stalling” the work.

A spokesman for the town council said: “Town council officers and members have worked and communicated diligently with the district council for the entire consultation and planning period for Bewdley’s Neighbourhood Plan.

"We are surprised that conflicts have only come to light now.

“We will be releasing an early draft of the Neighbourhood Plan to the community later this month and will welcome further comment from residents on the proposals.”

Cllr Philip Edmundson, chair of the council’s Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, said: “I am not sure entirely why I am so taken aback by this.

"Colleagues and officers have done their level best to ensure that the communication of ideas, thoughts and comments from the two consultations and issues of clarity around the Neighbourhood Plan’s timeline have been forthcoming from day one.

“Personally, I am amazed at the draft Local Plan, released over the summer, and its disregard of the opinions and views we had shared with the district council regarding sites and proposals in Bewdley.

"As hard as we've worked to create a hand in glove approach, the district council appears haphazard in these matters. I can only hope that their consultation has highlighted anticipated issues and they are busy re-considering the Local Plan.

“Is this another example of a lack of planning at district council?”

Nick Farress, town clerk, said: “While this delay is disappointing, it does give us the opportunity to produce the most up to date Neighbourhood Plan in the district following the adoption of the new district Local Plan in 2019.

“We will continue to work with our colleagues at WFDC to ensure the two processes are aligned and any further issues are identified and resolved as quickly as possible.”

Cllr Hardiman, cabinet member for planning and economic regeneration, said: “Our officers have already been and are continuing to work closely with the town council and its planning consultant to support the development of a Neighbourhood Plan in order to achieve the best outcome for Bewdley and surrounding area.

"There is no question of us stalling this important work – far from it – officers are having regular meetings with the town council to assist in whatever way they can.

“The district council is currently reviewing its Local Plan with a view to adopting a new Plan in 2019; any Neighbourhood Plan adopted by any of our communities must be in conformity with the council’s Local Plan.

"In order to ensure that the Bewdley Neighbourhood Plan isn’t immediately out of date in 2019, it is more sensible to ensure that their plan is in conformity with the council’s new Local Plan rather than the current one.

“We also understand that Bewdley Town Council is considering including some potential development sites that are in the Green Belt in the Neighbourhood Plan.

"If this is the case then in order to meet that test of conformity, the town council will have to wait for the new district Local Plan anyway as only the district council can sanction changes to the Green Belt through its Local Plan.”