Agenda and draft minutes

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Contact: Democratic Services  Email: committee@uttlesford.gov.uk

Note: Please note, an additional public speaking session dedicated to the ‘Stansted Airport appeal decisions: the Council's Application for permission to apply for a Planning Statutory Review’ has been agreed with the Chair in relation to the anticipated reconvened meeting of Council on Wednesday, 6 October at 7pm. Five public speaking slots of three minutes are available. To register your intention to speak, please write to committee@uttlesford.gov.uk or call 01799 510548. Registration will close at 4pm on Wednesday, 6 October and slots will be offered on a first come-first served basis. Furthermore, and in line with the Council Chamber’s risk assessment, very limited public access is available. If you wish to attend the meeting in-person, please write to committee@uttlesford.gov.uk for further details and to reserve a seat. We encourage the public to watch the meeting via the live broadcast on the Council's calendar of meetings webpage. 

Media

Items
No. Item

C1

Minute's Silence

Minutes:

The Chair began with a commemoration to Sarah Oxley, a long standing council officer, who had sadly passed away on the 8th September. Sarah had worked within the Benefits Service for over 20 years and was a much valued friend and colleague, not just to benefits staff, but to many across the Council.  She would be very sadly missed but never forgotten.

 

Council stood for a minute’s silence.

 

C2

Public Speaking

Minutes:

 

Mr David Corke and Ms April Gardner addressed Council. Summaries of their statements are appended to these minutes.

 

C3

Appointment of Vice-Chair

Minutes:

In the absence of Councillor Asker, the Vice-Chair of Council, the Chair proposed to appoint Councillor Gregory as Vice-Chair for the meeting.

 

RESOLVED to appoint Councillor Gregory as the Vice-Chair of Council for the meeting held on 5 October 2021.

 

C4

Apologies for Absence and Declarations of Interest

To receive any apologies and declarations of interest.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence on 5 October were received from Councillors Eke, Luck, Asker, Isham, Bagnall, Tayler, Smith and Lodge.

 

Councillor Criscione noted that this evening’s Council meeting clashed with the Conservative Party Conference. He asked that party conferences be taken in to account when scheduling the meetings of Full Council in future.

 

C5

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 183 KB

To receive the minutes of the previous meetings held on 20 July and 9 September 2021.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meetings held on 20 July and 9 September 2021 were approved as correct records subject to the following amendment to minute C33 of the meeting held on 20 July 2021:

 

The word ‘loan’ to be replaced with the word ‘grant’.

 

C6

Chair's Announcements

To receive any announcements from the Chair.

Minutes:

The Chair provided a brief update on events he had attended since the previous meeting. He said he would be raising money for the East Anglia Children’s Hospice by getting fit and would make an announcement at the next meeting.

 

C7

Reports from the Leader and Members of the Executive pdf icon PDF 267 KB

To receive matters of report from the Leader and members of the Executive.

 

Written reports have been submitted by the:

 

·         Portfolio Holder for the Environment & Green Issues; Equalities

·         Portfolio Holder for Council and Public Services

·         Portfolio Holder for Communities, Youth, Public Safety, Emergency Planning and liaison with the Police and Fire & Rescue Service.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

In the absence of the Leader, Councillor Lees, the Deputy Leader, said she had no announcements for Full Council.

 

C8

Questions to the Leader, Members of the Executive and Committee Chairs (up to 30 minutes) pdf icon PDF 106 KB

To receive questions from members for the Executive and Committee Chairs.

 

Responses to written questions are to be published on 4 October 2021.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair invited Councillor Barker to ask her urgent question regarding car parking ticket machines of Councillor Freeman, the Portfolio Holder for Public and Council Services.

 

Councillor Barker said she had been alerted to the change of car park ticket machines in Great Dunmow towards the end of September. She asked when the decision had been made to change Dunmow Parking machines to cashless machines; what consultation had been done with the public? Had an Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) been carried out in respect of this decision? Had there been a press release and were notices affixed to old machines to alert residents to this change? Why had Councillors not been informed this was happening?

 

In response, Councillor Freeman said his published report dealt with the early stages of this process but events had now moved on. He said the decision was taken in 2016 to put money aside to change the ticket machines into cashless across the district but five years later the money had not been spent. The Council’s hand was forced to make changes following a spate of vandalism and theft from the cash ticket machines. Thieves had stolen a machine and had de-engineered the technology; criminals now knew how to circumnavigate existing security mechanisms. He said the current position was unsustainable and the technology needed to be updated. In regards to a consultation, he said a trial was currently being run and the consultation would take place following the end of the pilot. An EQIA had been produced and press releases had been circulated, as well information sent to the relevant town and parish councils. He said he was looking forward to hearing the views of the public following the consultation. 

 

The Chair said he would take any questions of clarification on the five written questions submitted and published with the papers. Supplementary questions would not be permitted.

 

Councillor Dean thanked Councillor Pepper for her comprehensive answer to his written question regarding waste and recycling issues. He suggested that GAP Committee monitor waste and recycling performance indicators.

 

Councillor Sell asked for clarity regarding his Highways funding question. He asked whether he was correct to think that there was no guarantee that Highways funding would be made available next year.

 

In response, Councillor Hargreaves asked whether Councillor Sell accepted what had been said at previous Highway Panel meetings regarding Essex County Council’s issues with delivery and the lack of engineers to carry-out further projects.

 

Councillor Sell said he did understand this but the County Council had to budget and therefore they needed to know what the budget would be for the next financial year in order to programme delivery of projects. He expected there to be a dialogue between officers.

 

Councillor Sell asked for clarity regarding his call for sites question and when these sites would be put in the public domain. 

 

In response, Councillor Evans said his written answer referred to a recent Local Plan Leadership Group publication that included a schedule and provided details on  ...  view the full minutes text for item C8

C9

Annual Report of the Scrutiny Committee pdf icon PDF 299 KB

To receive the Annual Report of the Scrutiny Committee.

Minutes:

Councillor Gregory, Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, presented the Committee’s annual report. He said its presentation had been delayed and the content referred to the work carried out in the municipal year 2020-21. The defining issue of the year had been the coronavirus; he said the Council had displayed institutional agility in responding to the pandemic under very challenging circumstances. He thanked officers for their contribution during this difficult year including the Assistant Director of Finance, the Business Support Officer, the Local Plan and New Communities Managers, the Development Manager and the Assistant Director for Corporate Services. One major work stream that had been developed in the past year included dedicated Local Plan Scrutiny meetings; this had been a great success and had added value to the process. Another was the scrutiny carried out on S106 issues and he thanked Councillors Jones and Criscione for their hard work. The Corporate Plan Delivery Plan had also been comprehensively scrutinised and would be continued to do so. In terms of self-improvement, he said the Centre for Public Scrutiny had carried out a review and the Committee had been asked to focus its attention on the Executive to ensure they were held to account. Reservations were still held regarding the Executive’s reluctance to share information, and Scrutiny would continue to ask for detailed, specific and measurable outcomes. He thanked members of the Committee from all groups for their continued efforts to ensure that effective scrutiny was carried out.

 

C10

Governance Review Working Group: conclusion of the Governance Review pdf icon PDF 146 KB

To consider the conclusion of the Governance Review Working Group.

Minutes:

Councillor Coote vacated the Chair in order to present the report. Councillor Gregory took the Chair and invited Councillor Coote to address Council.

 

Councillor Coote said he was passionate about governance and had been delighted when asked to Chair the Governance Review Working Group in 2019. He was saddened to propose the recommendation in the report, specifically to disband the GRWG, but he felt the group had run its course and he had failed to convince members that a change in governance models was the best way forward. He moved the recommendation as set out in the report.

 

Councillor Criscione seconded the proposal.

 

Members discussed the recommendation set-out in the report and the work of the GRWG. In summary, the following points were made:

 

  • There had been a lack of political will to change from a Cabinet to a Committee System.
  • Councillor Coote’s sincerity and commitment to good governance was not in doubt.
  • Lessons had been learnt during the review and there was still work to be done on governance issues, including the culture of governance and the scheme of delegation.  
  • The Administration had committed to a review of the governance system and that had been undertaken; a move to a Committee System had not been pre-determined.
  • The Cabinet system concentrated too much power in too few hands. A more inclusive system was needed.

 

Councillor Coote summarised the debate and said he was saddened to disband the GRWG but they had been unsuccessful in their attempt to find a better, or at least as effective, model of governance in contrast to the Cabinet system. If the review was to recommence at a later date, new members with a different vision would be required.

 

The Vice-Chair moved to a vote.

 

Councillor Fairhurst requested a recorded vote:

 

 

Councillor:

For, Against or Abstain

Armstrong

For

Barker

Against

Caton

Against

Coote

For

Criscione

Abstain

Day

For

De Vries

For

Dean

Against

Driscoll

For

Emanuel

For

Evans

For

Fairhurst

Against

Foley

Against

Freeman

For

Gregory

For

Hargreaves

For

Jones

For

Khan

Against

Lavelle

For

LeCount

For

Lees

For

Lemon

Against

Light

Against

Loughlin

Against

Merifield

For

Oliver

Against

Pavitt

Abstain

Pepper

For

Reeve

For

Sell

Against

Sutton

For

 

The proposal was carried 18 for, 11 against and 2 abstentions.

 

RESOLVED that the Governance Review Working Group be disbanded and that the following significant key points identified during the course of the review be acknowledged and taken forward:

 

I.                 Many “softer” culture issues had been identified. Most notably the future need for transparency, openness, honesty, respect for one another and trust. This was dependent on the working culture and practices of members and officers.

II.               The Monitoring Officer to be asked to report to GAP on reviewing the Constitution and the Council’s Scheme of Delegations.

 

C11

Little Canfield Business Park (LCBP) pdf icon PDF 110 KB

To consider the Little Canfield Business Park report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Coote retook the Chair.

 

The Chair invited Councillor Reeve to present the report on Little Canfield Business Park, which outlined a request from Cabinet to allocate the sum of £7.5million from the £300m commercial fund to the commercial element of the Park. He proposed the recommendation as set-out in the report.

 

Councillor Hargreaves seconded the proposal.

 

In response to a question from Councillor Caton regarding the green credentials of the site, Councillor Reeve said the installation of solar panels on the roof had been looked into but the structural integrity of the building could not bear the weight of current solar panel technology. However, the idea of a carbon-neutral zone at the site was under consideration.

 

Councillor Foley said solar panel installation should be looked at all future sites relating to council investments.

 

Councillor Hargreaves said interest had already been shown in the rental space available on the site.

 

The Chair moved to a vote.

 

RESOLVED to endorse the allocation of £7.5milllion to the LCBP commercial element and to authorise the necessary borrowing.

 

C12

Motion: Solar Farm Planning Applications pdf icon PDF 92 KB

To consider the motion regarding Solar Farm planning applications.

 

Minutes:

Councillor Barker was invited to present her motion regarding solar farm planning applications. She said there was a need to have a policy developed regarding solar farm applications and the intention was to “bridge the gap” with this proposal until the time that the Local Plan was in effect. She proposed the motion as set out in the agenda, as follows:

 

Motion:

 

This Council notes a number of recent applications for Solar Farms in the area and calls on the planning committee and its officers to recommend the following as a condition should they be minded to approve an application until such a time when the new planning policy framework in the emerging Local Plan has been adopted.

 

Any successful planning application for a Solar Farm or other energy producing scheme on a green field, in the Countryside Protection Zone or green belt site will have a condition applied to the permission which states that "should all or part of the application site cease to be used for energy production that the site will be returned to its Green Field/ Belt status and will not be considered as a Brown Field site”.

 

 

Councillor Loughlin seconded the proposal. She said solar farms were often built upon agricultural land and it was only right that the land was returned to its pre-application state when it was no longer used for the purpose of solar farms.

 

Councillor Merifield said solar farms were temporary structures and therefore the land would return to its previous state; it would not automatically be designated a “brown-field site”. She said she was confused by the motion and felt that such decisions should be reserved for the Planning Committee.

 

Councillor Foley spoke on behalf of Councillor Tayler, who was not present. He supported the motion but expected further clarity to be added to the policy via the emerging Local Plan process. Furthermore, the motion did not address the impact of solar farms on the landscape, although it did address the temporary nature of these planning applications.

 

Councillor Foley said he was a member of CPRE who had been working on the subject and a brochure would be shared with members. 

 

Councillor Evans said work was being undertaken by the Development Management and Legal teams on the decommissioning of solar farm sites.

 

The Chief Executive advised that if this motion were to be approved it would not bind the Planning Committee but was expressing a wish that the planning condition under discussion was actively considered in the planning process.

 

The Chair moved to a vote.

 

RESOLVED: this Council notes a number of recent applications for Solar Farms in the area and calls on the planning committee and its officers to recommend the following as a condition should they be minded to approve an application until such a time when the new planning policy framework in the emerging Local Plan has been adopted.

 

Any successful planning application for a Solar Farm or other energy producing scheme on a green field,  ...  view the full minutes text for item C12

C13

Motion: To call on Government to retain the £20 per week Universal Credit Uplift pdf icon PDF 12 KB

To consider the motion calling on Government to retain the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillor Khan was invited to present the motion regarding the Universal Credit Uplift. He said that he had put this motion together from a place of fairness and compassion. He praised the 30 councillors who had signed up in support of the motion, recognising the need to protect the most vulnerable people at a time when household costs were rising. He said that challenging the Government to retain the £20 uplift was the right thing to do and asked Council to support the proposal as set out in the agenda, as follows:

 

Motion:

 

This Council recognises the positive impact of the £20 uplift on Universal Credit implemented in April 2020.

 

It is now increasingly likely that the Government will withdraw the £20 Universal credit uplift meaning many families in Uttlesford are potentially facing a loss of £1,040 a year to their incomes overnight.

Official statistics from the Local Government Association indicate that 4,806 people were claiming Universal Credit in Uttlesford in August 2021. 2,078 were in employment.

 

At the end of the month, two of the major protections to protect household finances in Uttlesford during the pandemic are scheduled to end. These are:

The Job Retention Scheme and the £20 a week increase in Universal Credit. October will also see a 12% rise in the maximum amount energy providers can charge which will see people having to pay more to heat their homes.

 

Therefore:

 

I. The Council calls on the UK government to help families in Uttlesford by retaining the £20 uplift.

II. The Council agrees to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and our MP Kemi Badenoch, who is now a Minister in the Department for Levelling Up, requesting they retain the £20 uplift on Universal Credit. This will send a clear message to our residents following the pandemic which has resulted in acute financial pressures, job losses and increased debt, that we believe in fairness.

 

In response to a question from the Chair regarding the validity of the amendments, the Chief Executive said the advice had been on balance that the amendments were valid and had not negated the purpose of the motion.

 

Councillor LeCount had provided notice of an amendment and was invited to propose. He thanked Councillor Khan and Caton for their motion, which had given him the idea to ask other members whether more could be done to help residents in need. Following consultation with other councillors, he felt that a real difference could be made if members donated their allowance for the month of November to the Uttlesford Food Bank. This would help those most in need and show that Uttlesford District Council cared. He proposed the amendment as published with the agenda:

 

 

 Amended Motion:

 

This Council recognises the positive impact of the £20 uplift on Universal Credit implemented by the Government in April 2020.

 

It is now increasingly likely that the temporary £20 Universal credit uplift will be brought to an end meaning there are families in Uttlesford who are potentially  ...  view the full minutes text for item C13

C14

Meeting Reconvened

Minutes:

The meeting was reconvened at 7.00pm on Wednesday, 6 October.

 

The Chair reconvened the meeting and said the primary purpose of this session was to resolve the time critical Stansted Airport Planning Appeal item. He noted the apologies of Councillors Armstrong, Pavitt, Bagnall, Eke, Asker, Isham and Lodge for this evening’s session.

 

He invited Councillor Isham, who was unable to attend the meeting in-person and had registered as a public speaker, to address Council. A summary of his statement has been appended to these minutes.

 

C15

Matters received about joint arrangements and external organisations

To consider matters concerning joint arrangements and external organisations.

Minutes:

The Chair said Item 7 had not been considered the evening before. He confirmed that there were no matters to report from Joint Arrangements and External Organisations.

C16

Stansted Airport appeal decisions: the Council's Application for permission to apply for a Planning Statutory Review pdf icon PDF 226 KB

To consider the Stansted Airport appeal decisions: the Council's Application for permission to apply for a Planning Statutory Review.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chief Executive spoke to the report, which outlined that the application for permission to apply for a statutory planning review has been refused, and that the council was required to decide urgently whether to renew its application. He said all of the details contained in the report were in the public domain and could be debated this evening.

 

Councillor Lees proposed to accept the judgement of The Honourable Mrs Justice Lang DBE. She said she did so with a heavy heart but it was time to bring legal proceedings to an end.

 

Councillor Evans seconded the proposal.

 

The Chair invited Councillor Freeman to assist with chairing duties for this evening, as Councillor Gregory, who had temporarily deputised the evening before, had to depart during the meeting.

 

Councillor Fairhurst proposed an amendment as follows:

 

  1. This Council is extremely disappointed that its application to the High Court for permission to apply for a planning statutory review has been refused;
  2. It considers that the responsibility for the failure lies with key Members from the Administration party. In the interest of proper accountability, the Council calls upon the Leader, Deputy Leader, the Portfolio Holder for Planning and the Chair of Planning Committee to resign primarily because of their abject failure to oversee the defence of the unanimous of the Planning Committee in January 2020 to refuse permission to London Stansted Airport to expand to 43mppa. This has cost council taxpayers in Uttlesford in the region of £2.5 million.
  3. On condition that this calls for resignations is endorsed, Council resolves to cease legal action related to the airport appeals process.

 

The Chief Executive noted that the printed amendment had been signed by eleven councillors, overriding rule 13.2 Motion similar to one previously rejected’ which stipulated that a motion or amendment similar to one rejected within the past 6 months had to be signed by a quarter of Council (ten members) in order to be heard.

 

The Chair adjourned the meeting at 7.09pm to allow members to read the tabled amendment.

 

The Chair reconvened the meeting at 7.12pm.

 

Councillor Fairhurst spoke to his amendment. He said this was a disaster. The Planning Committee had made a decision to refuse the Stansted Airport expansion application in January 2020 and its decision had not been defended adequately through the appeal process. Voices of concern had been shut down and questions asked of the leadership remained unanswered. He said the leadership now had to take responsibility for the £2.5 million wasted in legal costs and resign.

 

Councillor Gregory said Councillor Fairhurst had shown great passion and commitment to this matter but the council had already considered a vote of no confidence, and he questioned whether this met the relevant threshold to call for resignations. He said there needed to be recognition of collective responsibility here, with particular attention paid to the Scheme of Delegation and its operation. This was not simply about the failure of individuals. He could not support the amendment as it was aimed  ...  view the full minutes text for item C16