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Apologies for Absence and Declarations of Interest
To receive any apologies for absence and declarations of interest.
Apologies were received from Councillor Dean.
To consider the minutes of the previous meeting.
The minutes of the meeting held on 10 December 2020 were approved and would be signed by the Chair as a correct record at the next opportunity.
To consider the Statement of Community Involvement and Community Engagement Strategy.
The New Communities Senior Planner introduced the report. She said it had been adopted by the Council in 2006 following a requirement set out in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act of 2004. It had been updated and reviewed regularly since then and the current update had taken into account the new Local Plan and the Covid 19 pandemic.
The role of the Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) is to encourage participation from residents and involvement in the planning application and Local Plan process. The Council needed to comply with the SCI and demonstrate this to the Inspector. She gave a brief overview of how the community could be involved, and how this process had changed to invite discussion and more responses to a variety of themes.
She said that there was a lower number of people commenting on the SCI, but said it reflected the on going refinement, continued update of comments, and technical nature of the document.
The Local Plan and New Communities Manager highlighted that the SCI was intended to hold the Council to account on the consultation regarding planning applications and the Local Plan process.
Councillor Crisione said he had concerns about the SCI and, in the current format, he did not feel able to recommend the document to Cabinet. He said it needed to provide details of how the developer should engage with the Community so that at pre-application stage they understood what was expected from them. He asked if this could be revisited and a section on progression of strategic sites added. He gave Epping Forest’s SCI as a good example and said he could share the details.
Councillor Evans thanked Councillor Criscione for his views. He said it might be difficult to incorporate and amend the SCI at this stage. He said the process should be about working together with promotors of strategic sites, and a statement of common ground could be devised, but not all developers had and would engage.
The Local Plan and New Communities Manager said there were a few issues:-
· The SCI was intended to hold the Council to account not developers.
· The Council was not able to force developers to comply; it would be better to engage and consult with developers to address these issues.
· The Development Management team would need to be involved.
The Chair said that if the proposals were relying on developer’s good will rather than compulsion to act this would allow them to interpret the rules in their favour rather than that of the Community.
Councillor Criscione said he recognised that the document related to what is expected from the Council; however it would be interpreted and used by developers in community engagement terms. He was concerned about speculative developers and said it was important for the document to be prescriptive so they knew what the Council expected from them. He said that it could not be too late for input otherwise there was no point in bringing the report to Scrutiny.
Councillor Evans ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
To consider the Local Plan Project Management – Quarter 4.
The Local Plan Project Manager explained the report, he said it was the third time the Committee had looked at the progress with the opportunity to ask questions and agree the letter to the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
He highlighted the appendices and the risk register on page 100 which was driving the project plan and identified the remedies that were needed.
The Local Plan Project Manager said the dashboard had increased from 174 live tasks to 323 which gave an idea of the scale of the project - none of the tasks were identified as red, 21 were amber and 103 on target.
On page 105 the executive summary gave a snapshot of the progress made; the overall status of the Local Plan was suggested as amber due to the procurement issue. The Local Plan Project Manager explained the position of the various activities that were underway which included a tender for the infrastructure delivery plan and a decision on the SA consultants.
He said there was a further risk related to the planning appeal process – for instance recent appeals at Elsenham had seen a total of 450 houses approved – the Council needed to continue to resist unwelcome applications.
Page 107 provided a list of the live tasks.
Page 116 was the draft letter to government, which explained the progress made and addressed the risks.
The Chair was concerned about the procurement matter and wanted to know how long until the risk could be reduced to green.
The Local Plan Project Manager said it was close to being resolved, there had been e-mail exchanges with Essex County Council (ECC) and the procurement dates would be agreed shortly.
Councillor Coote had similar concerns. He was worried about using other authorities without stringent agreements. He said it was important to avoid ECC leaving the process without notice and to make sure Uttlesford District Council (UDC) would get first priority on the person or persons involved.
The Local Plan Project Manager said the Council had considered employing additional staff but the process would only be work heavy for the first 8 to 12 weeks and then the activity would slow down. He said ECC had the skill set that was needed; it would be under the District Council’s direction and rules. He did not think there would be an issue but had a fall back plan with two other authorities he could contact if necessary.
Councillor Criscione highlighted page 103, item 32 – Community Stakeholder Forum fails to make an effective contribution to the Issues and Options stage. ... view the full minutes text for item 4.