To consider the Draft Terms of Reference for the Local Plan Leadership group.
TheChair readout theLocal PlanLeadership GroupWorking Arrangements. Thearrangements outlinedhow themeetings wouldbe managed.
LPLG: WORKING ARRANGEMENTS
I intend to Chair the Group as follows:-
· As a cross-party working group seeking to ensure the optimum outcome for the district as a whole (as distinct from either an individual or a party-political group seeking to protect any particular area(s) of the district from development, or direct development to any particular area(s));
· In furtherance of the above, I shall look to Members to act as District, rather than Ward, Councillors. This will require:-
- in accordance with recognised best practice, resignation from membership of any organisation either promoting or opposing development in any particular locality in the district; and
- In accordance with the National Code of Local Government Conduct, Members declaring a private or personal non-pecuniary interest arising at meetings and deciding whether that interest is clear and substantial. If it is not, then you may continue to take part in the discussion of the matter and may vote on it. If, however, it is a clear and substantial interest, then you should not take any further part in the proceedings and should withdraw from the meeting.
In deciding whether such an interest is clear and substantial, you should examine your conscience and ask yourself whether members of the public, knowing the facts of the situation, would reasonably think that you might be influenced by it. If you think that that would be the case, you should regard the interest as clear and substantial and withdraw accordingly;
· Members should feel free, where appropriate:-
- to question and challenge the guidance and recommendations to our Group from the officers of the local plan team; and
- to invite consultants undertaking studies on behalf of the council to make a presentation to the Group explaining the overall approach taken, summarise their findings and answer any questions that Members pose;
· Whilst I have previously met with, discussed and agreed matters with planning policy officers together with the portfolio-holder on local plan matters, I have now stepped away from that (because of the obvious conflict of interest to which it would give rise) and, with regard to reports to this group, will communicate only indirectly with officers through meetings with the portfolio-holder (as indicated in the process set out in the organogram (entitled Appendix 2 UDC Local Plan 2020 - 2040 Governance Structure, Activities and Networks) which shows how the various forums and meetings relate to each other in the overall decision-making process);
· All Members are treated fairly and reasonably with regard to the length and, more importantly, frequency with which they are allowed to speak;
· In the event that a Member cannot attend a meeting, no substitute will be allowed;
· I will appoint a Vice-Chair of the Group;
· The Portfolio-holder for Planning and the Local Plan meetings will be invited to ask and/or answer any questions that may arise.
· Given that we have a monumental, complicated and vitally important task ahead of us, Members will be encouraged to familiarise themselves with the items on the agenda in order that they may be able to participate fully in the discussion. Neither should Members be afraid to question and ask what they fear might be a ‘Wally question’ – because, in the context of preparing a local plan, there’s no such thing……….; and
· Members should understand that, in considering the comments and responses of members of the public, interest groups and other Members of the council commenting on various development proposals, it is human nature for people to be either opposed to or, at the very least, wary of development in close proximity to where they live because of concern about their perception of the possible impact on their quality of life and/or the fear of change.
TheChair askedCouncillorsto referto theworking arrangementsin thefuture to ensure they were adheredto.
The Chairopened upthe discussionto thegroup onthe DraftTerms of Reference.
CllrCaton referred topoint 5,"a currenttimetable". Hequestioned whetherthere was a current timetable. He proposed an amendment of the wording to "a publishedtimetable".
Cllr. Caton asked if the group would have a role in monitoring the progress againstthe projectmanagement planor wouldthat rolebe aresponsibility ofthe Local PlanScrutiny Committee.The wording"current timetable"was deliberate asthere willbe atimetable, howeverit willchange throughthe courseof time.
TheChair saidthere wasn'ta timetableas such,however therewas atarget for adoption of the Local Plan by December 2023. There would be a need for flexibility but the group would ensure that the timetable was adhered to as closelyas possible.He saidthat ScrutinyCommittee andCorporate Overview Board would also have a role in monitoringprogress.
The Chair had no objections to the request of the group playing a role in monitoringproject progress.However hewanted tomake surethe amountof time spent was managed and there was not duplication of work between monitoring parties. He asked for further membercomment.
Cllr.Reeve supportedthe proposalof themonitoring processand hehad no objections to the term "currenttimetable".
Cllr. Lees supported Cllr. Reeve's comments.
Cllr. Bagnall supported Cllr. Caton on having oversite of the process and it shouldbe includedin theTerms ofReference. Heproposed receivingup todate actions logs and status reports.
Hesaid theterms ofreference neededto bea moresubstantial documentthat supported aproject ofsuch magnitude,before itgoes toCabinet forapproval as it would be open to scrutiny by thepublic.
Cllr. Light supported Cllr Bagnall's suggestion referring to the declaration of workingarrangements, sheapproved ofthe numberof experiencedmembers of the planning committee in the group, their experience was essential to the process,however sheexpressed herdeepest disappointmentthat theproposal of Cllr. Fairhurst to group was refused. Cllr. Light proposed stepping down to give the place to Cllr.Fairhurst.
The Chairsaid therehad beena veryclear responsefrom theLeader andhis choice hadbeen forCllr. Lightand consideredthe Cllr'sattributes andskills to be more valuable to the group on thisoccasion.
Cllr. Light strongly disagreed with the decision. She said it seemed that every othergroup wasallowed toput forwardtheir mostappropriate candidateand it wouldbe inthe bestinterest ofthe districtfor Cllr.Fairhurstto takethe placeon the group.
TheChair notedthere wereseveral membersfrom theplanning committeeon the groupand Cllr.Light's skillsand experienceon thecontext ofthe working group would be anasset.
CllrLees agreedthe importantof havingplanning expertisein thegroup butthe group shouldn'tbe anextension ofPlanning Committeeand notedthe levelof expertise alreadyin thegroup. Thegroup wouldbenefit fromhaving members withother skillsand approachesto givea freshoutlook onthe process.Cllr.
Lightwas nominatedfor herdetailed andfocused approach. Cllr. Lemon Supported Cllr. Leescomments.
CllrLight thankedCllrs Storahand Leesfor theirconfidence inher abilities.She would have still preferred for Cllr. Fairhurst to join the group with his legal experience.
CllrLees interjectedand highlightedthat Cllr.Evans asa non-votingguest could provide the legal advice on the working group. She concluded that the best candidates had been elected and did not want to spend any more time discussing theissue.
Cllr. Light agreed to move on to another point. She supported Cllr. Bagnall's commentson theterms ofreference. Theroles, functionand objectivesneeded to be adhered to. What the group would class and an achievement and a success andhow itwould bedefined. Thegroup wouldneed tolook atthe wholeprocess as a continuous dialogue with residents not just in consultations from an early stageto gathertheir views.Stakeholders shouldbe named.The communityare the key stakeholders as they already live, work and vote in the district. She statedthat "wedon't haveto beimposed uponby centralgovernment".
Residentshad ademocratic rightto saywhat wewant andwhat wedon't want andnot toact asa secondtier ofgovernment thatseeks toimpose government suggestions.
The Chair disagreed with Cllr. Light's point. It was a statutory requirement to produce a Local Plan and the government specified the rules and regulations thatthe planmust beadhered to.If thisstructure wasnot followed,whatever is considered appropriate for the district would be imposed upon the district by government inspectors. He shared the Cllrs concern and said the system was seriously flawed. He suggested that allocations would be handed better at a regional or subregional level,but itwasn't thecase. Thedecision isgiven tothe Local Authority.
TheChair askedfor confirmationfrom thegroup onthe additionaldetail tothe terms of reference document.
Cllr. Merifield on point 3, public speaking. She welcomed public speakers, howevertime limitswould haveto beagreed tocontrol thelength ofmeetings. It was proposed to have a limit of speakers per meeting, 4 minutes for public speakersand 5minutes forall Councillors,subject tothe discretionof thechair it could beextended.
The Group agreed the proposal from Cllr. Merifield.
The Chairproposed controllingthe overallamount ofquestion/comment timein each sessionand askpeople tomake commentson thetopics beingdiscussed at eachmeeting. Heasked forgroup feedbackon hisproposal.
Cllr.Lees suggestedhaving amaximum timefor speakingand monitorhow the sessions progress. She also suggested asking groups of speakers to confer ahead of meetings to avoid duplication ofcomment.
Cllr. Light completely disagreed with this proposal. She said unless there are weeklyopportunities forpublic comment,there shouldbe notime restrictionon speaking. There needed to be a structure for people to give input between meetings.
The Chairagreed inprinciple withCllr. Lightand saidthere shouldbe aneven balance ofspeakers ateach meetingcontrolled ona discretionarylevel bythe Chair. Thefrequency ofthe meetingswould allowopportunities forspeakers to beheard.
Cllr. Lemonsupported theChairs commentand trustedthe rightdecision would be made in eachmeeting.
Cllr. Light said everyone should be able to view their opinion in order for the pointto beidentified asa criticalissue. Itmight alsoqualify asa meansof data collection.
TheChair commentedit wouldhighlighted thatit wouldbe ashared opinionbut no a critical one.
Cllr. Lees disagreed with Cllr Light’s point. This approach would be a unfair representation of the whole district's view. She had confidence that the Chair would managepublic speakingin afair mannerand thereneeded tobe aclear structure tocommunicate andfollow. TheCouncil haveincluded furtheralong in theagenda thesubject ofcommunity engagement.Council wardswould attend parish council meetings and listening to comments. Emails are also an recognised way ofnoting comments.While publicspeaking mayhave alimited time at meetings, it wouldn't stopcommunication.
Cllr. Merifield referenced the comment made by Cllr. Light on listening to communitymember stakeholders.Every councilloron thegroup andat the councilwill listento them.Every councillorshould besupportive ofthe Local Plan,if theyare notthey wouldbe workingagainst thepeople ofthe district.
Cllr.Pavitt ashe understoodthe workingarrangements ofthe group,it wasnot a decisionmaking body,it wasa workinggroup. Itneeds tobe keptas anongoing workable forum with pace an energy allowing question and collaboration with councilofficers allowingthe publicto hearthe debateenabling themto makean informed opinion about the Local Plan.
Cllr.Lemon saidwhile wewould haveto playby thegovernment rules,the group couldstill challengethe rules,particularly onhouse allocation.
TheChair agreedbut highlightedit wouldnot bea wiseuse oftime toargue one issue. It may be a better approach to progress the plan on the figures the government want to achieve and look at the possibility of reducing housing numbers. There is no time for delays in theprocess.
Cllr.Bagnall said wehad torecognisethat wehad toset offcorrectly andwhile it is important to get the terms of reference right, they could be updated during theLocal Planprocess. Thereis acommon goalfor allmembers ofthe group,to deliver aLocal Planby December2023. Politicalpreferences neededto beput aside whilewe collaborateon theplan. Weare allresidents inthe districtand we have a duty to do the best for thedistrict.
Cllr.Reeve questionedthe codeof conductportion ofthe workingprinciples. He asked for clarification of which Local Government code of conduct the Chair used when producing the terms of reference. He asked why the chair had not followed the UDC code ofconduct.
The Chairsaid he'dtaken advicefrom SimonPugh indrafting thedocument and hefelt comfortableto incorporatehis input.Elizabeth Smithhad sincereviewed the document and was comfortable with itscontent.
Cllr. Lightreferenced point8 inthe documentthat lookedat riskanalysis. She asked for clarification on theimpact.
StephenMiles saidthe riskanalysis basedon therecommendation theEast of England Local Government Association of Local Plan Leadership Group meetingsbe heldin privateand theimpact recordedin theassessment reflects whythey gavethat opinion.They thoughtpotentially thatcouncillorsand officers would be more comfortable discussing issues that they might not wish to address inpublic.
Cllr.Light askedfor confirmationon thefrequency offurther memberworkshops to gain greater understanding of Local Planissues.
Cllr.Evans confirmedthat furthercouncil wideworkshops wouldbe heldwith the Peer Review Team and Councilofficers.
The Chair asked for confirmation on two points;
· Theextent ofthe scopeof theTerms ofReference beingadequate for requirement.
Thegroup supportedthis statementexcept forCllr. Light.
· Public Speaking - 4 mins for public speakers, 5 mins for all Councillors. What isthe agreednumber ofspeakers oflength of time forspeaking?
It wassuggested thatthe Chairand Democraticservices monitorand manage publicparticipation.
The group supported this proposal.