Legal proceedings have today been launched by Stevenage Borough Council over a halt to its Local Plan, which sets out proposals for regenerating the town centre, building 7,600 new homes, revitalising neighbourhood centres and creating jobs to 2031.

The council submitted its Local Plan in July 2016 to the Secretary of State, but Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland asked for a holding direction to be placed on it because he said it was undeliverable.

This is despite the plan being endorsed with minor modifications by a senior government planning inspector and recommended for adoption.

The plan, which replaces the previous plan adopted in 2004 and the council says is crucial to enable development within the town, has been under a holding direction since November 2017.

Chris Berry, SBC’s assistant director for planning and regulatory, said: “It’s been 14 months, which is twice as long as any other holding direction.

“Our MP’s perfectly within his right to lobby the Secretary of State, but we answered all his questions early last year.

“Our plan has been found to be sound and we are ready to go.”

The council has launched judicial review proceedings to challenge the continuation of the holding direction.

SBC’s leader, Sharon Taylor, said: “I am calling on the Secretary of State to release the Stevenage Local Plan with immediate effect, and support us in building new homes, creating jobs and regenerating our town.

“We have worked closely with residents, different organisations, and local groups to have a clear plan for the town. These conversations started back in 2012, with several stages of consultation so that everyone can have their say. Having a clear Local Plan in place is vital for the town, to protect our open spaces, offer new homes for our families, provide space for new jobs, and to help revitalise crucial parts of the town.

“It is with real regret that our only option is to start legal proceedings. It remains my hope that we will see a positive response, and my door always remains open to find the best way ahead.

“I remain passionate and confident about Stevenage’s future. We have started to see new homes being provided, with over 168 new Council homes completed towards our target of 500.”

Mr McPartland has been asked to comment, but is yet to provide a response.