THE deadline on a vital part of Winchester's planning blueprint has been delayed because the city council is snowed under with the work.

Planners are consulting towns and villages about where development will go in the years to 2031.

The council has announced the final date for submissions has slipped from July to October. The final adoption of the Local Plan has changed from December 2015 to July 2016.

In a city council newsletter, it stated that the programme had “slipped slightly” due to the council’s high workload and limited staff resources.

Steve Opacic, head of strategic planning, said: “We’ve been running a lot of consultation exercises and had a large number of responses. I think it’s fair to say we did underestimate how much work would be involved with that.

“There have been various studies, that we are still waiting on the results for, and we’ve had changes in staffing. The program we had meant publishing over the summer holidays.”

The decision has led to mixed feelings across the district with some saying the extension will mean a delay in affordable homes for places such as Colden Common where plans for 250 houses have been finalised for months.

Jo Nicholson, of local group Commonview, said: “It’s quite difficult because we have done everything we’ve been asked to do and we have jumped over all the hurdles. It is a worry. Residents have come along to meetings and completed surveys and they are going to be wondering what’s going on and we’ve got to sit around for a year.”

For Alresford, where there has been controversy over the location for 500 houses, it means more time.

At the town council meeting on Thursday (June 12) the council agreed to allocate £350 for flyers about a new public consultation after members were criticised for not clearly communicating with the townspeople. A consultation will be held in the community centre on June 27-28.

Chairman of Alresford Town Council, Lisa Griffiths, said: “Despite the delay in publication of the Local Plan draft, the town council are currently expected to make any further representations to Winchester by the middle to end of July. We have extensive comment from the public consultation on the Sun Lane site on their views, objections and suggestions.

“We want to hear residents’ views on the ‘alternative plan’ which can only mean using other sites and not basing the plan on windfall or infill, as windfall isn't allowed. Alresford is already very tightly packed and we do not have plots of land within the settlement boundary to provide the 500 houses.

“The town council are, as people keep saying, caught between a rock and a hard place. It’s a matter of grasping the metal and planning longer term to make sure we don't end up at gridlock in Alresford.”

Mr Opacic added: “We have various villages doing different things at different speeds. We thought about the risks but we made the decision but it’s only a matter of a few months over a 20-year plan so we don’t think it will cause too many problems.”

Lindsay Edge, spokesperson for the Bishop’s Waltham development plan steering group, said: “We are fairly relaxed about it. We are happy that the council is following the correct procedure and it gives them a little more time to sort out some of the issues that arose during the process.”