Agenda item

Local Plan Project Management - Quarter 4

To consider the Local Plan Project Management – Quarter 4.


The Local Plan Project Manager explained the report, he said it was the third time the Committee had looked at the progress with the opportunity to ask questions and agree the letter to the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). 


He highlighted the appendices and the risk register on page 100 which was driving the project plan and identified the remedies that were needed.

  • On page 101, number 15 - the revised standard housing methodology risk had changed. The Government had listened to the representations and the formula had been adjusted back to the previous level, therefore the risk had reverted to 15.
  • On the last page, 103, number 33 - the process had multiple projects to procure.  It was proposed to provide extra procurement resources from other local councils to help. 


The Local Plan Project Manager said the dashboard had increased from 174 live tasks to 323 which gave an idea of the scale of the project - none of the tasks were identified as red, 21 were amber and 103 on target.


On page 105 the executive summary gave a snapshot of the progress made; the overall status of the Local Plan was suggested as amber due to the procurement issue.  The Local Plan Project Manager explained the position of the various activities that were underway which included a tender for the infrastructure delivery plan and a decision on the SA consultants. 


He said there was a further risk related to the planning appeal process – for instance recent appeals at Elsenham had seen a total of 450 houses approved – the Council needed to continue to resist unwelcome applications.


Page 107 provided a list of the live tasks.


Page 116 was the draft letter to government, which explained the progress made and addressed the risks. 


The Chair was concerned about the procurement matter and wanted to know how long until the risk could be reduced to green.


The Local Plan Project Manager said it was close to being resolved, there had been e-mail exchanges with Essex County Council (ECC) and the procurement dates would be agreed shortly.


Councillor Coote had similar concerns.  He was worried about using other authorities without stringent agreements.  He said it was important to avoid ECC leaving the process without notice and to make sure Uttlesford District Council (UDC) would get first priority on the person or persons involved.


The Local Plan Project Manager said the Council had considered employing additional staff but the process would only be work heavy for the first 8 to 12 weeks and then the activity would slow down.  He said ECC had the skill set that was needed; it would be under the District Council’s direction and rules.  He did not think there would be an issue but had a fall back plan with two other authorities he could contact if necessary.


Councillor Criscione highlighted page 103, item 32 – Community Stakeholder Forum fails to make an effective contribution to the Issues and Options stage.  He asked how the process was going and the effectiveness especially as engagement had been poor. He asked if the process had been a waste of time.


The Local Plan Project Manager said it had been very valuable, and could not be judged by numbers at this point.  The idea was to generate a debate and derive value from the community’s views.  He said it was about the quality and style of approach, there needed to be more people in the discussion and help from members and parishes to encourage this would be welcome.  He defended the breadth and range of topics and wanted more people to be engaged.


The Local Plan and New Communities Manager said discussions at the Stakeholder forums were dealing with a broad range of issues.  He was disappointed that this was not translating into more representations at this stage but thought that some people were waiting to contribute at the end of the process.


Councillor Bagnall agreed that engagement was disappointing.  The feedback was good regarding topics and how they were discussed.  Changes had been made to make the sessions better and methods to encourage residents had been assessed. 


Councillor Evans said Members needed to remind their communities that it was taking place.  The communications were regular and efficient and should be included in monthly reports and village magazines. 


Councillor Criscione said he was satisfied with the replies, and thought there could be improvement and value in the process.   He asked when the future value of the Community Stakeholder Forum would be seen, when it would be at the maximum level and what was to follow.  He said he would leave this question to be considered. 


Councillor Sell asked if an Officer or Councillor Evans could send information out that could be used in local Parish magazines to promote the forums.


He also raised concerns regarding the risk issues on page 105, item number 12 with the unacceptable planning applications granted through the appeal process.  He said it felt like Elsenham and Henham were under siege with planning applications whilst there was no Local Plan. 


Councillor Le Count agreed and thought the risk should be red and not amber.  He said UDC were losing appeals and there needed to be more co-ordination between UDC and Essex County Council (ECC).



The Local Plan Project Manager said it was important to resist unwanted development in addition to supporting the Local Plan.  The Local Plan should not be worked on in isolation.  He agreed that there needed to be a continued focus to work with ECC and said recently commissioned evidence compiled which supported the Local Plan would also strengthen the Development Management process. 


Councillor Evans said it was difficult to quantify the risk in a precise way, it was determined on a case by case basis.  He brought up a recent case where there was a win through the court of appeal; he said if policies were consistent with the NPPF they would be taken into account and add extra weight to the Council’s case.


He said that any relevant material evidence should be given to the Inspector and passed onto Parish Councils and the Planning Committee especially relating to any neighbourhood plan.


Councillor Driscoll said he had been to the Forum discussion regarding transport.  At the end only 2 questions were answered, he said members of the public felt ignored.


The Local Plan and New Communities Manager said further to the forum meeting on transport, discussions had taken place with the Chair who now provided a better explanation of the purpose of the meeting as well as how the questions worked at the end.  The questions raised were voted on and those with the highest votes were answered.  The primarily purpose of the forum was to have a discussion rather than a question and answer session.


Councillor Jones said he had attended the transport meeting and would agree with earlier comments, however the biodiversity forum had been much better and the process had been well explained. He thought the issues had been resolved.


There was further discussion and it was agreed that an extended question time of 15 minutes would be considered for future meetings. 


Councillor Coote reminded the meeting again that Scrutiny was there to look at reports and to suggest amendments during the process. 


The Chair asked members if they were content with the draft letter to the MHCLG on page 116.   Members agreed and the letter was commended for dispatch.


The Chair thanked Officers for the reports, he said the Committee had drilled down into some of the issues that needed to be resolved and addressed in regards of the SCI and this had added value to the process. 


He said the Local Plan project management was very impressive and thought the Local Plan Project Manager had erred on the side of safety in his rating. 




He summarised as follows:-

  • Members had explored the opportunity for broader consultation with residents who were engaged with specific topics and content.
  • The plan was on track and reported accurately to MHCLG in accordance with requirements. 


Members were in agreement.


The meeting ended at 8.26pm.



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