To consider the Addendum of Focussed Changes to the Local Plan Regulation 19 Pre-Submission document.
At the request of the Chairman, the Planning Policy Team Leader gave a briefing to set out the reasons for the report and recommendations to Council on an Addendum of Focussed Changes to the Local Plan. He said the report reflected the elevated level of risk around the West of Braintree Garden Community as a consequence of the examination into the North Essex Authorities’ local plans including West of Braintree and the fact that the examiner had asked the three authorities to consider three options. Braintree District Council was now proceeding with option two, to obtain evidence to satisfy the Inspector’s concerns. Uttlesford had had legal advice that Uttlesford needed to reflect this elevated level of risk within the Local Plan and to set out what it would do if West of Braintree was not deliverable.
The report also set out other changes in the Plan including the identification of the strategic policies for the purposes of neighbourhood planning and clarification of the policy relating to impacts on internationally protected sites such as Epping Forest.
The Planning Policy Team Leader referred to the 2016 based household projections published last month, compared to the 2014 based projections. He said if these new projections were to be incorporated, the work would need to be commissioned with the SHMA partners, and in a fair and transparent way. There would be a need for a consultation period with submission on or by 24 January to the Secretary of State. There was not time to do this. If submission were to be after 24 Janaury then the standardised methodology would need to be used, however the Government had said it would consider reviewing that methodology if the new household projections would result in the Government’s national delivery target of 300,000 homes year not being met.. Legal advice had been obtained, and in short, there was not sufficient time.
Other evidence-based updates which were now published were the spatial strategy background paper and the review of employment policies. The review suggested changes to the Plan, however officers were not recommending changes as they considered such changes did not go to the soundness of the Plan and would dilute the focus of the document.
The Planning Policy Team Leader set out next steps if the Addendum were to be agreed.
The Planning Policy Team Leader addressed questions raised by the first public speaker, regarding the possibility that a pause at the time the regulation 19 plan was considered could have allowed for it to be fixed at that point in time. The Council had made the decision on the advice before them at that point, when the first letter from the North Essex Authorities inspector had been published, which was on 15 June, four days prior to the full Council meeting. Officers from Braintree District Council had indicated they would select option 2, which had then been confirmed. The decision of this Council to issue an Addendum related to the third letter of the North Essex Authority Inspector on 2 August, in which the Inspector set out more details on the options before the Councils.
In relation to the question on the 5 year housing land supply, papers at the meeting of the Planning Policy Working Group had set out the Council’s 5 year housing land supply position. The Council had, for Development Management purposes, approximately 3.5 years without taking account of the draft allocations in the Local Plan, 4.5 taking into account the allocations in the draft Local Plan and with the Local plan allocations, 5.1 years. He outlined the difference between the 5 year housing land supply calculation in the Local Plan, and that used for development management purposes with the allocations in the draft Local Plan, which was the stepped trajectory in the Local Plan.
In relation to the question on determining the delivery model, the Planning Policy Team Leader said at this point officers were not advising any particular model, as a separate process had to be concluded first.
Regarding the points raised by the second speaker, the Planning Policy Team Leader said that at East Hertfordshire it was correct that communal establishments were not included in the overall figure, however they had a separate target and therefore had to have identified a supply to meet that requirement. For this Council, this approach was not advised, as the Council did not have an identified supply to meet such a requirement, so it was included in the overall figure.
On the question as to the use of the most up to date household projections being used, he had explained there was not time to take these into account with the Council’s partners in a fair and transparent manner, and legal advice had been obtained on this point. As it was a lower requirement, it was not something which had to be taken into account in the Local Plan.
Councillor S Barker then presented the report, which set out further detail around an Addendum of Focussed Changes to the Regulation 19 Local Plan. She referred to the additional recommendation which had now been tabled in relation to SP5 Garden Community Principles, and drew members’ attention to the fact that legal advice indicated that not proceeding with the Addendum could cost the Council more money and time than the costs associated with printing the Addendum and engaging consultants to undertake sustainability appraisal and habitats regulation assessment. There were two updates to the evidence base, and the Planning Policy Team Leader had explained that there was not enough time to update and re-submit the Local Plan before 24 January. She proposed the recommendations.
The Leader seconded the proposal.
Members debated the proposal. Councillor R Freeman asked that the recommendations be taken one at a time. He expressed concern that it was proposed to give authority to individuals to take various actions such as submission of proposed modifications.
Councillor Hargreaves questioned the arguments put forward regarding the housing numbers, as he considered it likely the Government’s housing requirement was coming down. He was not convinced by assertions that care homes should not be treated in a different category.
Councillor Light said the report indicated there was a continuing lack of sufficient evidence, and that last June she had proposed postponing the Plan to resolve various issues.
Councillor Gerard questioned whether appropriate analysis of risks had taken place. He questioned whether a comparison had been made as to which was a more significant risk: not submitting the plan before 24 January because the timetable was too tight, or the risk of submitting a Plan that was not right.
Councillor S Barker said in response to Councillor R Freeman’s question, that the submission of a schedule of proposed main modifications of the submitted Local plan to address any issues relating to soundness and legal compliance was looking ahead to the examination to enable officers to respond to requests from the Inspector for modifications to address soundness matters.
The Leader said the date of 24 January was set by the National Planning Policy Framework. He did not understand the desire for delay, as the evidence to support the plan was significant, and it would only cost more, and would risk more unwarranted development without a Plan. The Inspector in relation to North Essex was looking at three different Garden Communities, and the Council had taken legal advice to progress the plan, which was to submit the Addendum of Focussed Changes. He urged Council to sign off on the Addendum.
Councillor Fairhurst said the Addendum was a Band-Aid, and that the Council had pushed on regardless. There was no sports strategy, or air quality strategy, and it was important to get the Local Plan right.
Councillor Dean said he would support the proposals. The Council should continue on the trajectory it started on in June, there was no substantial change to the plan and he recommended Members should support the proposal.
Councillor Chambers said he was opposed to the Local Plan, and Members still had the opportunity to fight their own corners, but it was time for the Plan to be submitted and he proposed it was now put to the vote.
The Chairman said she would take the recommendations as one item. A vote being taken, the recommendations were approved with 24 votes in favour, four against and two abstentions.
1 Council being satisfied that the preparation of the Local Plan, as
amended by the Addendum of Focussed Changes, has complied with the
relevant regulatory requirements and being of the view that the Regulation 19
Pre-Submission Local Plan document is ready for submission to government
for independent examination, approves the Regulation 19 Pre-Submission
Local Plan for publication in accordance with the Town and Country Planning
(Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012;
2 following the conclusion of the Regulation 19 publication period on the
Addendum of Focussed Changes, the Local Plan be submitted to the
Secretary of State for Independent Examination under section 20 of the
Planning Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (as amended) ("the 2004 Act"),
together with the submission documents prescribed by Regulation 22 of the
2012 Regulations before 31 March 2018;
3 the Director of Public Services, in consultation with the Environmental
Services Portfolio Holder, be authorised to make non-material typographical,
formatting, mapping and other minor amendments to the Plan prior to the
submission of the Plan to the Secretary of State;
4 the Director of Public Services be authorised to write to the Local Plan
Inspector appointed to carry out the Examination of the submitted Local Plan
("the Local Plan Inspector") asking him/her to recommend such modifications
of the submitted Local Plan as may be necessary to make the Plan sound and
legally compliant, in accordance with section 20(7C) of the 2004 Act;
5 the Director of Public Services, in consultation with the Environmental
Services Portfolio Holder, be authorised to submit a schedule of proposed
main modifications of the submitted Local Plan to address any issues relating
to soundness and legal compliance identified by the Local Plan Inspector; and
6 the Local Plan Submission Version 2018 be endorsed as a material
consideration to be used in the determination of planning applications and
enforcement decisions to be given appropriate weight in accordance with
paragraph 216 of the National Planning Policy Framework.