To consider the report on the Local Plan – Decision Following Inspectors’ Letter.
Councillor Evans gave a summary of the report which recommended the withdrawal of the Local Plan following receipt of the Inspectors’ letter, and the preparation of a new Plan.
CouncillorCaton proposed the following amendment which was seconded by Councillor Dean.
To remove the recommendation in the report in full and replace with the following wording:
The Council recognises the deeply held and divergent views of members across the Council, which reflect personal principles and the range of views in our community.
The Council believes that in whatever future form (revised or new), our District's Local Plan should:
(1) Contribute to building a strong, responsive and competitive economy by ensuring that sufficient land of the right type is available in the right places and at the right time to support growth and innovation; and by identifying and coordinating development requirements, including the provision of infrastructure;
(2) Support strong, vibrant and healthy communities, by providing the supply of low/zero carbon housing of all types and costs, including truly affordable homes, required to meet the needs of present and future generations; and create a high quality, built environment, with accessible local services that reflect the community’s needs and support its health, social and cultural well-being; and
(3) Contribute to protecting and enhancing our natural, built and historic environment; and, as part of this, help to improve biodiversity, prudent use of natural resources, minimise waste and pollution, and mitigate and adapt to climate change, including moving to a low carbon economy, with the potential to create surplus energy.
The Council, however, is disappointed by the invidious position the current administration has placed our community in. In particular, it is concerned by:
(1) the distinct lack of public engagement and participation since January in the proposal to withdraw the current draft Local Plan;
(2) the estimated £1m spent by the administration on the Plan in the period since they declined to withdraw the draft plan when the Inspectors offered them that opportunity in the summer of 2019 and the likely £3m cost of developing a new plan;
(3) a lack of any indication of a revised spatial strategy before making a decision which indicates in broad terms where new housing will be allocated in any new plan and a readiness to rule out large Garden Communities as an option before any reconsideration; and
(4) the inevitability that the development of a new plan will require a two-fold increase in required housing under central government regulations, and
(5) that the district will increasingly be subjected to speculative applications for ad hoc developments without adequate infrastructure to address an even greater fiveyear land supply deficit.
Therefore, Council instructs the Cabinet Member for Planning and the Local Plan to refer consideration of the future direction of the Local Plan firstly to open and transparent discussion with Members and public participants within a forum such as the Planning Policy Working Group, or equivalent, before bringing back the matter to this Council with considered proposals.
Members arguing against the amendment noted the following:
· They believed the Council had engaged with the public sufficiently. It was important to start again with a blank piece of paper to ensure a good level of public participation. The new plan would now be fully in this Council’s control.
· Garden communities might be a part of the new local plan if they were appropriate.
· The Council had taken independent advice on the options available. A peer review had been clear that the cost of withdrawing the plan would be the same as amending the plan. The matter was now a planning decision rather than whether financial impacts weighed in favour of one option or the other.
· The Council was not able to consult with inspectors once the letter had been received.
Members arguing for the amendment noted the following:
· The aim of the amendment was to ensure the options for the Local Plan were debated in another forum with further options for public engagement.
· There would be an increase in the amount of houses the District was required to build should work begin on a new plan, and given the number of houses the District was required to build, it would be necessary to deliver communities of some scale.
· It might be more costly to prepare a new plan than to amend the current one.
· It would be positive to discuss the inspectors’ letter with the inspectors. Other councils had done this upon receipt of their letters.
RESOLVED by 6 votes to 32 that the amendment proposed by Cllr Caton was defeated
Members returned to debate the recommendations in the report.
Members against the recommendations noted the following points:
· No plan was perfect and the Council had been trying to adopt a local plan for a long time. It was told by three different inspectors that the previous local plan was on track and had received a grant of £750,000 for its work on garden communities. There was a limited amount of available space to build within Uttlesford.
· With some effort, it might be possible to make the appropriate changes to the existing plan.
Members in favour of the recommendations noted the following points:
· The inspectors’ letter was clear that withdrawal of the Local Plan was likely to be the only pragmatic and realistic alternative.
· It was important to introduce the Community Infrastructure Levy and put money aside to support parish councils to develop neighbourhood plans.
· The Council would be able to ensure the new plan had effective engagement across the community, and that houses would be built in the right places.
· The withdrawal of the plan was supported by some parish councils.
· It was important for the Council to manage expectations as a lot of houses would need to be built and the new plan would not please everyone.
· A new plan should protect the Countryside Protection Zone and the Metropolitan Green Belt, and take into account the needs of small and medium sized businesses.
· It would be important to have a detailed analysis of what went wrong with both the current plan and the two previous plans.
A recorded vote was called for. The results were as follows:
For the withdrawal of the Local Plan and the preparation a new Plan: Councillors Armstrong, Asker, Bagnall, Coote, Criscione, Day, Driscoll, Eke, Fairhurst, Foley, Freeman, Hargreaves, Isham, Jones, Lavelle, LeCount, Lees, Lemon, Light, Lodge, Luck, Merifield, Pepper, Reeve, Storah, Sutton, Tayler and de Vries
Against the withdrawal of the Local Plan and the preparation of a new plan: Councillors Barker, Caton, Dean, Khan, Loughlin, Oliver and Sell
RESOLVED by 31 votes to 7 to withdraw the Local Plan and prepare a new plan.
Graham Mott (Elsenham Parish Council), Andy Dodsley (Little Easton Parish Council), Vincent Thompson (Stop Easton Park) and David Hall (Great Chesterford Parish Council) spoke on this item. Summaries of their statements are appended to these minutes.
The meeting ended at 9pm.