It could be months before the Isle of Wight's controversial and divisive 'planning bible' is back for discussion, after government changes halted the process.

The Isle of Wight Council's draft planning strategy has been in the making for more than six years and has cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

It would set housing targets for the Island for the next 15 years and was due to be discussed this month (January).

Now, pre-Christmas changes to the national planning policy could have implications for the Island, it is argued.

Leading councillors have opted to pause consideration and seek legal advice about whether or not to plead exceptional circumstances.

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Speaking at a meeting last week, Cllr Paul Fuller, the cabinet member for planning, said the latest changes reference Islands that are not linked to the mainland by a road bridge and have a large demographic of elderly residents.

He said the council may be able to apply for exceptional circumstances but they need to talk with consultants about whether that will affect the proposed housing targets for the Island.

Under government figures, the Island is expected to build 730 houses a year but the Isle of Wight Council thinks it can argue that figure down to 453 a year.

Cllr Fuller said it is a matter the council is currently investigating but it could take at least six weeks before they get the feedback and then share that with councillors.

He said: "We have looked at this for many years and here we are at the eleventh hour and things may have changed ... so we need to answer a lot of questions about exceptional circumstances.

"The consultants could say we are already suppressing the housing target, through special circumstances, and the number may be low enough already.

"It is still my intention to get the paper considered as soon as possible as it is a huge milestone that is just getting heavier and weighing me down very much."

Council leader, Cllr Phil Jordan, confirmed if the authority does decide to go down the exceptional circumstances route, it would have to start the process again as it is "entirely new and separate" from the current draft strategy.

He said it may be a "minimum of March" before a decision is made.