The Planning Policy Manager presented an update on the Borough Local Plan that had been presented to Cabinet earlier in the week.
Questions were asked and responses were provided as follows:
- Cllr Gorton expressed his disappointment that members only had limited opportunity to feed into the Local Plan before it went live; what were the arrangements to scrutinize the Local Plan once the consultation would have ended? – The Chair commented that this was a regular standing item on every scrutiny committee and the Strategic Planning Portfolio Holder added that members would be able to scrutinize the plan then. It was confirmed that the Local Plan was at the draft stage and would be reviewed by the committee following the consultation. It would then go through full Council for approval before being submitted to the Planning Inspector.
- The Chair asked when the consultation would finish and if any information would be available at the next committee meeting in September. – The consultation would end on the 14th August and the responses would then take a couple of months to process. A sense of how many responses had been received as well as key themes could be shared with members at the next meeting. The Chair commented that there wouldn’t be many items on the agenda then, which would allow members to ask questions and decide next steps.
- Cllr Gorton asked if any public events were scheduled in the Wolstanton area in relation with the consultation. The Chair followed up wondering about the choice of the locations, who and why were the decisions made. – The Strategic Planning Portfolio Holder responded that the choice was down to where the consultation would generate the most interest which included the centre of the Town. Having an extra event in Wolstanton could be considered. The Chair encouraged other members to contact the portfolio holder directly if felt that other locations would need to be added to the list.
- Cllr Gorton commented on the length of the document and wished to know if there could be a stronger statement on section 106 than the current one, as well as if other aspects of health and wellbeing could be addressed rather than focussing only on takeaway hot food shops. – The Strategic Planning Portfolio Holder responded that these were very useful remarks and could be taken into account in the next version of the document.
- Cllr Panter asked if there could be paper copies of the presentation to be submitted to the Planning Committee and commented on the fact there were no reference to measures taken to generate employment in the area to match the 500 houses to be built. – The Strategic Planning Portfolio Holder responded that employment sites were taken in consideration in the Local Plan as well as overall sustainable development as required by paragraph 11d. About the presentation material the goal was to move towards paperless agendas and only print out paper as and when required.
- Cllr Fox-Hewitt asked about government former targets and whether residents would be consulted on whether or not they were appropriate for the borough and development. – The Strategic Planning Portfolio Holder clarified that despite muted ideas that the targets would be taken away these were still in place and the Council would need to fulfil the required criteria. Officers confirmed that the plan presented a position reflective of the standard method of calculation set by the government. Cllr Fox-Hewitt commented that the Government statutory housing targets had been replaced by advisory guidance on 6th December 2022.
- Cllr Fox-Hewitt asked about the monitoring framework of how section 106 budget was spent and the indicator according to which should housing not be delivered within the expected trajectory, the proposed action would be to review section 106 agreements; what assurance could members have that social housing community projects and infrastructures would be delivered? – The Strategic Planning Portfolio Holder responded that it would be the developers’ right to ask for renegotiation. Officers added that an Infrastructure Delivery Plan would be included in the Local Plan to that extent.
- Cllr Fox-Hewitt passed on a question from a resident: why was the Local Plan not easier to find, as they had to go through several pages of scrolling and links to access it? – The Strategic Planning Portfolio Holder commented this could be raised with IT and that having the plan straight on the front page would be a good thing. Officers clarified that the links were currently accessible through the Cabinet Papers only as the consultation hadn’t started; there would be a dedicated Local Plan page on the website as soon as the consultation would go live.
- Cllr Edgington-Plunkett asked why the Local Plan did not consider a place based approach for the availability of open spaces. – The Strategic Planning Portfolio Holder confirmed that the Local Plan was promoting green space in the borough.
- Cllr Grocott wished to know how to ensure the social housing standards would be driven forward, what the standards would apply to social providers and if the Council would engage with town and parish clerks to bring these forward with local residents. – The Strategic Planning Portfolio Holder confirmed that social housing standards would be built into the Local Plan and that if there was anything members or local clerks wished to be conveyed to future developers now was a good time to send comments to be processed for the next stage of the draft. The Chair added that the link would be sent to all town and parish councils.
- Cllr Moffat reminded the Committee that a number of residents and local clerks had expressed the wish for housing needs assessment processes to be revisited by the Council. A petition had notably be brought to the Council with suggestions to enhance the Local Plan and make sure it was fit for purpose. Why had this petition not been received yet and why was it deceivably described as aiming to stop the Local Plan? – The Strategic Planning Portfolio Holder wished to draw members’ attention to section 5.3 of the report and the risk of unwanted development the longer the process would go on and until a proper Local Plan was adopted. The petition would be received in July and more information could be sought with the legal team. The Chair added the suggestion that group leaders reach out to the Leader of the Council so that a written answer is provided.
- Cllr Moffat asked about the 49 hectares allocated for employment exceeding the amount required for growth option 1 and why 118 additional hectares would be allocated for indicative employment. – The plan was supported by evidence based documents of which the Housing Economic Needs Assessment ensuring a balance between economic and housing growth in line with government standards. Cllr Moffat wished to seek reassurance that sites identified and associated benefits were not fixed deals. It was confirmed that the plan being at the draft stage the Council was currently seeking views on the matter.
- Cllr Moffat had another long technical question and asked if she could perhaps submit it in writing. – The Chair confirmed that this could be passed on to the portfolio holder and officers.
- Cllr Moffat asked why the consultation was taking place during the summer holidays. – The Strategic Planning Portfolio Holder responded that eight weeks were allocated to the consultation i.e. two weeks more than the government required, leaving people plenty of time outside of any scheduled holiday. Responses to the consultation and constructive proposals for amendments would be genuinely considered and everyone was encouraged to take part in the process.
- Cllr Moffat asked about the key points in Policy HOU 1 and 2 as well as SE5 and SE6 that mitigated against the selection of LW53. Why were the 400 objections to the Loggerheads not taken into account? – A rigorous set of criteria had been used and comments would be welcome on the sites suggested as part of the consultation.
- Cllr Holland expressed his enthusiasm over the process and emphasised the importance of avoiding un-necessary delays as the Local Plan would once and for all give a framework of reference as opposed to leaving local development in the hands of corporations. Keeping substantial housing targets in all wards to give a home to future generations was also evoked.
- Cllr Moffat wished to clarify that comments made and questions asked were aspirational, not to delay the Local Plan but to get the best out of it. Was this acceptable? – The Chair confirmed the approach was appropriate and requested that no reference to political affiliation be made during committee meetings.
- Cllr Fox-Hewitt was concerned that not all information was available despite the consultation being just about to be launched. What was the hierarchy of priorities on the authority’s decision making: meeting the targets and the plan with regards to housing or conforming to policies? – The Strategic Planning Portfolio Holder reiterated the need to demonstrate the five-year rolling supply of housing in line with the presumption for sustainable development set in the National Planning Policy Framework.
The Planning Policy Manager reminded members that all documents supporting the Local Plan would be available on the consultation page on the 19th July.
Resolved: That a report had been considered by Cabinet on the 6th June with a recommendation to consult on the First Draft Local Plan (Regulation 18) from the 19th June until the 14th August 2023 be noted.