AN outright adoption of the Craven Local Plan in its current form is 'unlikely' said the government planning inspector at this week's start of the document's examination in public.

Inspector, Matthew Birkinshaw at the opening in Skipton of what is expected to be three weeks of hearings into the soundness of Craven's planning blueprint for the next 18 years, said the examination stage would result in one of three ways.

He said the plan - which has been eight years in the preparation and has so far cost around a million pounds - would be found to be 'sound and legally compliant' with national planning guidance, and would proceed to adoption, or that it would fail.

It could fail, but with 'modifications' could ultimately succeed, or it could completely fail, resulting in it being dropped, said Mr Birkinshaw.

The around 220 page document, which has been subject to hundreds of public drop-in sessions and rounds of consultations, lays out the vision of how Craven District Council would like to see the third of Craven, outside the national park, look in 2032.

On Tuesday, at the first of 11 days of hearings, spread from now until Friday, October 26, Mr Birkinshaw said he would welcome debate on issues already raised on aspects of the plan, but nothing new.

It was his job, he said, to make sure the plan was sound and legally compliant with the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework - which sets out the Government's planning policies.

He said he had already submitted questions to the council on the soundness of the plan and added that the hearing, was an opportunity for people to exercise their right to be heard.

He said he would be pragmatic as possible, but would interject if people went too far.

"I like to have a healthy debate around the topics. This is an opportunity for people to put their points across. Please don't go away at the end of the day wishing you should have said something," he said.

In his opening statement for Craven District Council, David Smurthwaite, strategic manager for planning and regeneration, said the plan was a 'key mechanism' for the council to deliver its priorities between now and 2032.

They included a falling resident workforce, a 'considerable' affordable housing need, the development of greenfield sites, a high quality environment, transport and employment needs.

"As the existing housing stock is increasingly occupied by older or retired households, new housing is essential to help younger households to move to or stay in Craven, which will help rebalance the age profile of the area, maintain mixed and balanced communities with access to services, and improve the supply of local labour for businesses," he said.

Turning to affordable homes, Mr Smurthwaite said house prices and rents relative to income were high.

"In common with many parts of the UK, house prices have not re-adjusted relative to wages, which has resulted in considerable housing need."

Greenfield sites will be 'required for development' because of Craven's limited supply of brownfield, previously developed land, he added.

There was also demand from Craven businesses for 'space to grow' and opportunities for improved connectivity and economic links with both Lancashire and West Yorkshire by road and rail networks.

"Craven is a distinctive and attractive place to live, work and visit, offering a fulfilling and vibrant community life," he said.

A large, rural district with two thirds in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, it is sparsely populated, but well connected to Leeds, Bradford and Lancaster, and home to a range of successful companies that are essential to Craven's future prosperity.

"The local plan will build on these factors to provide greater equality amongst our communities, more opportunities for pursuing a healthy and active lifestyle and access to services upon which residents, of all ages, depend."

Mr Smurthwaite said the council considered the plan to be a 'sound, ambitious and balanced' blueprint for the sustainable development of Craven, outside the national park.

He said the council was keen to adopt the plan as soon as possible so it could start implementing its policies and so that the district could benefit from an 'up to date' planning framework.

He added that measures had already been put in place if the inspector ruled that modifications were needed to make the plan acceptable.

"The council has given delegated authority to officers to agree modifications to the plan to help facilitate the examination process in the event that the inspector should conclude that changes are necessary to make the plan sound."

The examination hearings of the local plan are taking place at Craven District Council's offices in Belle Vue Square, Broughton Road. They are due to take place on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday next week, and also on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the following week. A reserve day has been scheduled for October 31, in case it is needed.