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The Chair welcomed those present to the second Scrutiny Committee meeting dedicated solely to Local Plan matters. He repeated previous comments made at Scrutiny Committee that scrutiny was non-political and that it was the Committee’s role to be the “critical friend” to the Executive.
Prior to introducing the public speaker, the Chair declared an interest in that he said that he had known the speaker, Councillor David Hall from Great Chesterford Parish Council for many years.
Councillor David Hall made various remarks and his notes have been appended to the minutes of this meeting.
Councillor Evans, as the appropriate Portfolio Holder, responded to Councillor Hall’s remarks and indicated that he intended to meet with Councillor Hall, together with the Chair and Councillor Pavitt to discuss this matter further. He said that it would not be good to focus on what had gone wrong in the past.
There were some issues in respect of poor audio recording problems during the first half hour of the meeting that necessitated two adjournments. These were satisfactorily resolved and the meeting recommenced at 7.30pm.
Apologies for Absence and Declarations of Interest
To receive any apologies for absence and declarations of interest.
Apologies were received from Councillor Dean.
Councillor Sutton was substituting for Councillor Storah who would not sit as a Scrutiny Committee member in relation to Local Plan matters due to his role as the Chair of the Local Plan Leadership Group.
Councillor Criscione declared that he was a Member of the National Trust.
Minutes of the Previous Meeting
To consider the minutes of the previous meeting held on 24 September (to follow).
The Chair said in future the minutes of the Local Plan Scrutiny Committee would be brought back to the next Local Plan Scrutiny Committee and the minutes from Scrutiny Committee would be brought back to the next regular Scrutiny Committee. As the previous Scrutiny Committee had been a regular meeting those minutes would not be tabled at this meeting.
To consider the report on Project Management (attached).
Agenda Item 6 was brought forward by the Chair.
The Local Plan Project Manager provided a summary of the report. He drew the attention of Members to the principles that underpinned the management of successful projects and which were leading the approach to preparing a new local plan for Uttlesford. He outlined the arrangements in place for governance, risk management reporting and Project Plan monitoring. He referred to the latest revision of the Risk Register, the Local Plan Workplan Dashboard, Workstream status and the Local Plan live tasks shown as at 30 September 2020. He said that the Committee was requested to endorse the Risk and Project Management proposals with reports provided on a quarterly basis and more frequently when and if required.
The Chair asked Councillors Criscione and Coote, as lead Members to open the discussion.
CouncillorCriscione commended the work of the Local Plan Project Manager and asked a question about how the risk assessment process should be taken forward.
The Local Plan Project Manager said that it was for the Committee to identify areas requiring attention and officers should address these points.
CouncillorCoote referred to the RAG ratings and sought clarification as to how progress would be monitored. He said that he was quite happy to take this discussion “off-line”. He also asked whether there were enough resources in place.
The Local Plan Project Manager said that the Council had bid successfully for external funding to resource the mini local plans for the strategic sites and that skilled staff had been employed. They had now been redeployed into the team led by the Local Plan and New Communities Manager. He also said that there was currently a bid in for additional funding in respect of Community Engagement.
CouncillorLeCount said that it was an excellent Project Plan.
Councillor Sell agreed with what had been said and asked about how the Council was taking forward the responses to the Government’s Planning White Paper.
The Local Plan Project Manager said that representations were being made through officers’ networks.
Councillor Evans said that a co-ordinated response was being drawn up and that portfolio holders across Essex were meeting in the third week of October.
The Leader said that he was keen to speak to Ministers and that the LGA Peer Review Team was also involved in preparing a way forward.
Councillor Sell requested that Councillor Evans fed back from his meeting with other portfolio holders through the Committee.
There was some discussion about the roles and responsibilities of the various Groups, Boards and Committees involved in the Local Plan process.
The Chair referred to the role of the Scrutiny Committee as being a “critical friend” and the Council as being an “intelligent client”. He also asked the Local Plan Project Manager to outline his previous work experience, which he did.
The Chair said that he felt that the Council’s Local Plan project management was the root of a successful plan, making sure that things stayed on track ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
To consider the Local Plan Project Initiation Document.
The Local Plan and New Communities Manager presented the report with a revised version of the Project Initiation Document (PID). He said that the PID had been updated following the recent meeting of the Local Plan Leadership Group (LPLG) and that it was intended to go forward to Cabinet on 20 October 2020 for approval.
Councillor Criscione referred Members to the Project Governance diagram shown at Paragraph 3.16 of the report. He said that he wanted to ask questions around procedure, decision-making and constitutionality. He asked Councillor Evans, as Portfolio holder, whether the LPLG was turning out in practice to be a decision-making body. He also raised concerns about the role of the Portfolio holder, the fact that the LPLG Chair was not a Cabinet Portfolio holder and whether Members were comfortable with the possible overlaps between the LPLG and Scrutiny Committee.
Councillor Evans, as the Portfolio holder, said that the LPLG had acted as a review body and made recommendations but that it did not have an Executive role. He said that the decision as to who chaired the LPLG had been taken some time ago and that this had given a degree of checks and balances to the processes. The LPLG Terms of Reference gave him as the Portfolio holder the right to attend the LPLG.
Councillor Storah, as the Chair of LPLG, said that the Project Management clarification had been very helpful and he recognised that there might still be some overlap between the LPLG and Scrutiny. He said that the LPLG made recommendations but Scrutiny would look at the mechanics of how recommendations had been made and that this would then go forward to Cabinet. He also stated that the intention was to review governance arrangements on a six monthly basis.
Councillor Coote said that he considered it to be unconstitutional for a Cabinet member to chair the LPLG and that he was satisfied with the governance arrangements in place.
Councillor Criscione said that the PID was the key to setting out the roles and responsibilities of all bodies involved in the Local Plan processes.
Councillor Evans outlined his Portfolio holder responsibilities and detailed his schedule of various meetings with leading Members and explained the links with the Corporate Overview Board (COB).
Councillor Coote said he was happy with the explanations given and that the Local Plan should be overseen by the Leader and Chief Executive.
The Leader outlined his regular 1-2-1 meetings with Councillors Evans and Storah and his contact arrangements with the Chief Executive. In response to a question from the Chair as to whether he was a project sponsor, the Leader said that technically he saw himself as a sponsor.
In response to a question from Councillor Driscoll, the Assistant Director – Planning said that the Local Plan would be reviewed every five years and there would be no need to go back to the Government.
At this point the Chair asked for the consent of the meeting to proceed beyond the two ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
To consider the Local Development Scheme (LDS).
The Local Plan and New Communities Manager presented his report of a new draft Local Development Scheme (LDS) that set out the draft timetable for producing the Local Plan. He said that community engagement through local channels would be carried out in a new way.
In response to various questions on community engagement, the Local Plan and New Communities Manager said the intention was to have a number of initiatives that engaged the public through Community Forums, through Town and Parish Councils, through magazines, ensuring that the public could make use of email and written communication by letters. He said that the intention was to ensure that any questions asked were easily understood and that he recognised the importance of not raising public expectations.
Several Members commented on the need to carefully frame any questions, to work at local levels and to particularly consider older residents in terms of their engagement. Members offered to assist in the circulation of questions to the public if they could be provided with them.
The Assistant Director – Planning said that a meeting had been arranged with Town and Parish Councils on 12 October 2020 and that he would endeavour to pick this issue up then.
Councillor Evans said that he had attended previous meetings with the third tiers and that he supported the notion to get as much involvement from the third tiers as possible. He said that both he and Councillor Day (Portfolio holder for Communities, Community Safety, Youth and Police and Fire Service Liaison) would be writing on a quarterly basis to each of the third tiers to update them.
CouncillorCriscione highlighted a slight discrepancy between the draft timetable shown on page 35 with that shown on Page 14 of the Agenda. He also asked why there had been nothing included in the Risk Register that related to possible Government intervention.
The Local Plan and New Communities Manager acknowledged that there had been a drafting error in respect of the timetable and that this would be corrected. He said that he had been informed that provided the Local Plan had been submitted by December 2023 then the Government would not be looking to intervene and that the key issue for the Government was that progress was being made.
Councillor Sutton proposed a motion that Members were content to remit the Local Development Scheme proposals to Cabinet for adoption, subject to the timetable discrepancy being resolved.
Councillor Sell seconded the motion. There was no dissent.
RESOLVED to approve the motion.
To consider the Statement of Community Involvement.
The Local Plan and New Communities Manager presented the report with a revised version of the Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) that had been updated since the meeting held on 18 August 2020 to make reference to the White Paper on the future of Planning and which also had taken on board the advice provided by the EELGA Peer Review Team. He said that the main changes from the previous SCI were detailed in Paragraph 7of the report and that much of the information in the report had already been discussed at this meeting.
Councillor Criscione suggested that due to the complexity of the Local Plan it would be helpful if a separate website was set up for the Local Plan. This proposed way forward was supported by Councillors LeCount and Sell.
The Chair asked the Local Plan and New Communities Manager to take this suggestion away as an action point. He also said that it was essential that Town and Parish Council elected representatives were kept in the loop.
The Chair summarised the main outcomes of the meeting, particularly in that significant progress had been made on project management issues and that there were outstanding governance issues that required clarification on the PID. He also thanked Councillors Criscione and Coote for their contributions as lead Members.
With reference to previous governance matters, the Leader referred Members to page 24 of the Agenda that defined the key individual roles. He said that the Chief Executive was the project sponsor but he re-stated that he considered himself to be a sponsor, working and meeting regularly with the Chief Executive.
The Chair said that he still considered that there remained a lack of clarity but welcomed the offer made by Councillor Evans to produce a supplementary governance document.
The meeting ended at 9.45pm.
Cllr David Hall, Great Chesterford Parish Council
Remarks to Scrutiny Committee - 7th October, 2020
The list of ‘Other Consultees’, Appendix C in Agenda Item 3 - also in
Appendix B of the proposed Community Engagement Strategy adopted last week by the LPWG - contains no organisation associated with Great Chesterford. Yet in relation to the withdrawn Local Plan both the Examining Inspectors and Historic England attached particular importance to the national significance of the Roman and archaeological features at Great Chesterford - so why has the local History and Archaeological Society been ignored and other relevant local organisations not been included in the consultation list?
The documented record concerning the previous Plan shows that the same Officers now proposing close local community consultation failed last time to respond to my Parish Council’s detailed analysis and criticism of the Call for Sites evaluation relating to the NUGC site, failed to respond to correspondence, failed to follow-up expert landscape, archaeological and transport evidence provided by my Council, failed to provide promised information and generally failed to seek or engage in any meaningful dialogue with either the Parish Council or the local community about the NUGC proposals and ... view the full minutes text for item 7.