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Vice-Chair's Introductory Remarks
Councillor Driscoll, the Vice-Chair, chaired the meeting in the absence of Councillor Asker. He welcomed those present to the meeting.
He asked Members to acknowledge the achievements of all those in the district who had been recognised in the Queen`s Honours List. He commended Jan Menell, local resident, parish councillor and Honorary Alderwoman of Uttlesford District Council and Annie Roberts, another local resident and long standing parish councillor who were both awarded the British Empire Medal. He thanked them both for their wonderful contributions to the local and wider community.
Apologies for Absence and Declarations of Interest
To receive any apologies and declarations of interest.
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Asker, Bagnall, Criscione, Day, Dean, Emmanuel, Lemon, Oliver, Reeve and Sutton.
The Vice-Chair welcomed back Councillor Eke to Full Council.
Councillor Isham declared a non-pecuniary interest as a member of the Stansted Airport Watch group.</AI6>
To consider the report regarding the Acquisition of Section 106 Properties by the Housing Revenue Account.
The Vice-Chair reminded Members that details pertaining to cost were commercially sensitive and the meeting would have to be moved to Part Two if such details were to be discussed. He said that the debate could remain open to the public if members were content to only discuss the general principles of the purchase.
Members agreed that they were content to discuss the general principles in the first instance.
Councillor Coote spoke to the report and urged Members to accept the recommendations.
Councillor Hargreaves seconded the proposal.
Members welcomed the initiative.
Following questions from Members, the Leader of the Council confirmed:
Councillor Hargreaves confirmed that the proposal would be funded by the Housing Revenue Account.
Councillor Khan requested that the proposal be amended to ensure that the housing be built to adequate quality and be ring-fenced for social rent only.
Councillor Coote confirmed that the Housing Board had agreed to ask the Housing Revenue accountant to model social and affordable rent systems for comparison.
The Chief Executive clarified that no amendment was required as the recommendation before Members was to secure the purchase and did not bind them to either rent type.
Councillor Merifield confirmed that Housing Board had agreed to consider the rent and subsequently make a recommendation to Cabinet and then Full Council. She confirmed that affordable rent in Uttlesford is 25% below Housing Association rent.
Councillor Freeman said that the Council could ensure build quality of the affordable housing by requiring inspection by Building Control officers.
RESOLVED that under section 100I of the Local Government Act 1972 the press and public be excluded for the following item of business on the grounds that it involved the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3, part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.
In response to a series of questions, Council was informed:
To consider the report regarding Stansted Airport Appeal Costs.
Councillor Gregory, Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, was invited to comment before Councillor Evans presented the report.
Councillor Gregory reminded Members that the overall principle of the handling of the Stansted Airport application appeal was the subject of a nearly concluded Scrutiny review led by Councillor LeCount. His report would be considered by Scrutiny on 14 July 2022 and then by Full Council on 19 July 2022. He asked Members to focus their comments on the matter of the appeal cost award only.
Councillor Evans commended the report drafted by the Chief Executive in consultation with external legal advisors and the Monitoring Officer. He proposed approval of the recommendation set out in the report.
This was seconded by Councillor Armstrong.
Councillor Isham said that residents deserved to know how this situation had evolved. He took issue with the barrister’s defence strategy and the limited input of Members outside of the Administration. He said Members who had questioned Condition 15 were ignored and were told that it was not legally possible for a councillor to have an active role in the defence. He said this situation could have been avoided if the Administration had demonstrated strong leadership.
Councillor Sell said this was a sorry day for the Council as the money could have been spent far better elsewhere. He said the decision to reject the application was the right one; it was the defence of the decision that had led the Council to this situation.
Councillor Smith said he found it ironic that Members were being asked to follow the officer’s recommendation at this stage. He said he would not be able to vote due to the lack of information available on four of the nineteen valuation categories.
Councillor Hargreaves said that the costs would be funded from the Council’s reserves and the expenditure would not impact on services. He said that Government restrictions imposed on the Council in relation to commercial investment expenditure were far more significant to the Council finances.
Councillor Caton said he was instinctively uneasy with the proposal as a lifelong objector to the Airport’s expansion. Whist there was logic to the recommendation, he would abstain from voting in line with his conscience.
Councillor Coote said that the Council had done what residents and the barristers had asked of them. He said that the Council had lost the appeal and that Members were obliged to approve the recommendations.
Councillor Pepper read out an email to the MP Minister for Aviation and Maritime by campaigning groups regarding concerns relating to the decarbonisation of aviation that had been circulated during the week. It urged the Government to halt airport expansions in the south east of England. She said the Council had been unlikely to win in the courts due to Government legislation.
Councillor Loughlin said she had been involved in both Planning decisions relating to the Stansted Airport application. She said she had originally been reluctant to overturn the decision but had felt it was correct to consider the ... view the full minutes text for item C19