To consider the Project Initiation Document (PID)
Stephen Miles introduced the document highlighting the following;
The document defined the Local Plan project setting out the aims of the project and why it should go ahead, who is involved and their responsibilities. It provides a baseline for management of the Local Plan. He noted it was good practice to have such a document when starting a project of this size.
Officers were advised by the Peer Review Group not to bring any of these papers to the group for consideration, in order to allow further time to consider the start of the Local Plan project in the light of the government's proposals to amend the planning system. Officers are not recommending that these papers follow on to the next Cabinet meeting for review.
The documents had been presented today for the group to comment.
The Chair said the group would be assisting with the Council’s response to the White Paper.
Roger Harborough said it is the statutory duty of the Council to prepare a Local Plan under the current framework. As the timeline was unclear on the implementation of the new legislation, the Peer Review Group have advised the Council to focus on activities relevant to both the current and new statutory arrangements. This issue would be addressed in the 3rd All Member Workshop on September 8th. Progressing work at this stage under the current arrangements would run the risk of incurring substantial expenditure on work that might become redundant.
In response to members asking for officers’ direction as to the focus of topics that would cross both frameworks, he said Peer Review Group had highlighted some potential areas of focus. However it would be premature to make suggestions. It would be sensible to wait until the Council had met with the Ministry.
It was highlighted by members that community engagement was a topic that would cross both frameworks. Engaging at an early stage with cross generational collaboration to encourage wider consultation. The Youth Council should be consulted on engagement, as a useful early focus to inform the Council’s response to the consultation on the White Paper, by October 29th. The Government supported social media and digital means of engagement and less emphasis on traditional forms of communication. It was noted that site identification would be another valuable topic to focus on.
The portfolio holder asked officers to refresh the Council’s data on brownfield sites to circulate to the Members, Parish and Town Councils with a view of identifying further sites. In addition members highlighted the need to include green and biodiversity sites to maintain the rural aspect of the district.
It was requested officers create a set of standard questions to be circulated by parish and town councils as a focus for community consultation.
Members asked for background reading that would assist the group ahead of making any formal contribution to the Local Plan.
The group agreed to progress the Local Plan within the current framework in the current situation, to prepare the ground for the next stages.
Members then went onto to discuss the Project Initiation Document in more detail and suggested the following amendments;
Para. 3.1 - The Chair suggested an amendment from "The Local Plan relates to the whole of the district and is intended to cover the period up to 2040 and beyond" to "The Local Plan relates to the whole of the district and will cover the period up to 2040 and beyond"
Officers responded to a question raised about plan period. Currently the time period the Local Plan had to cover at least 15 years from adoption (ref to 2040), and the start date of the period is at the discretion of the council. Under the government proposals, the plan period could be reduced to a 10 year period.
Para. 3.2 - The Chair suggested an amendment to " The objectives of the project are to deliver an up to date Local Plan which;
1. Meets the Councils corporate plan and objectives for the plan
2. Meets the districts identified development needs in terms of new housing employment and commerce
3. Delivers the associated infrastructure as and when required
4. Is evidence based
5. Is Sound
He suggested that this would replace the 2nd and 3rd bullets point in paragraph 3.3.
In response to the suggested amendments, officers said the bullet points in para. 3.3 covered the 3 categories proposed by the government into which on the district would be allocated;
1. Growth areas
2. Areas for renewal (brownfield land evidence)
These were not referenced in the proposed amendments and it would be important to capture these issues, and consider the evidence base required to support them.
This proposal was supported by the group.
In response to the Chairs question ref. page 24 on the Project Manager position, officers confirmed the position was not vacant.
It was agreed the Chair of the Leadership Group would attend the Portfolio Holder meetings to keep engagement open between officers and members on the Local Plan Leadership Group.
The Chair referenced page 25 in connection with the adoption date of the Local Plan and asked whether the group wanted to wait until officers had met with the ministry for guidance before an adoption date be decided. The group generally agreed to remain with the original submission date of Dec. 2023.
Members asked for a direct link between the regulations stages to make it clearer to follow, using start and end dates.
Officers advised getting feedback from the ministry before committing to an adoption date. Removing contingency from the project plan in order to meet the submission date would not demonstrate good project management.
The Group supported this approach.