The Cabinet Member for Planning is invited to present her priorities and areas of focus over the coming months and to answer questions from the Committee on progress towards achieving the priorities within her portfolio.
Mr Moss welcomed Mrs Taylor, as the Cabinet Member for Planning to the meeting. He explained that Mrs Taylor had been invited to the meeting to present the Committee with an overview of what is happening within her portfolio. Mr Ayling, Divisional Manager, Planning Policy and Mr Whitty, Divisional Manager, Development Management were also in attendance to answer questions.
Mrs Taylor informed the Committee that the main priority within her portfolio is the successful adoption of the Local Plan Review. She explained that CDC is required to review their Local Plan within five years of adoption of the current local plan, which is July 2020, after this date the current Local Plan will be out of date.
The confirmed housing need for the district has been set at 628 dwellings per annum from July 2020; this is one of the highest figures outside of London and a significant increase on the current housing supply of 435 per annum.
All promoted development sites are assessed to determine their deliverability. Buffer sites are also required to ensure delivery of the plan (as with the current plan).
Mrs Taylor highlighted to the Committee the importance of the Duty to Cooperate; she explained that this refers to how CDC and its adjoining neighbouring authorities work together to consider how any unmet housing need can be met. The South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) has requested that CDC incorporate their unmet need of 44 dwellings per annum; as yet no final decision has been made. If CDC fails to comply with the Duty to Cooperate (to consider requests) then the Council risk failure at the first stage of the Local Plan inspection; this happened recently at Wealden Borough Council. Progress on the West Sussex and Greater Brighton Planning Board has been slow; CDC is mitigating this through bilateral discussions with neighbouring authorities and West Sussex County Council. These conversations will be documented in statements of Common Ground.
Mrs Taylor stressed the importance of evidence in the Local Plan Review. The development strategy must be positively prepared and justified, to ensure that planned growth is sustainable particularly when taking into account infrastructure and environmental constraints. Work on the evidence base is ongoing; due to factors such as the recent public consultation; the declaration of a Climate Emergency and nitrates in the Solent. Mrs Taylor referred the Committee to paragraph 11, page 22 of the Cabinet Agenda pack for the meeting on from 3 December 2019, headed ‘Further technical work’, this paragraph lists the areas of further work required to take the Local Plan Review forward.
Although the requirement is for the Local Plan to be submitted in July 2020, it is imperative that the evidence base is sound. Mrs Taylor stressed the risk that if the evidence base is not completed it may cause the Local Plan Review to be found unsound and result in CDC being left without a Local Plan for a substantial period of time.
Infrastructure is one of the greatest challenges for the Local Plan Review. A number of studies are still outstanding in respect of this work, in particular the work required for transport (in particular the capacity of the A27) and waste water. Community infrastructure is considered and addressed through Infrastructure Providers Plans, for example school places.
One of the most innovative policies of the Local Plan Review is the introduction of the Strategic Wildlife Corridors.
CDC have endorsed the Governments proposal of Future Homes Standard, however, if this is not adopted by Government technical work is being undertaken to identify how zero carbon housing could be justified through the Local Plan Review (subject to viability). This work is identified in policies DM16 – Sustainable Construction and Design; and DM17 – Stand Alone Renewable Energy, of the Local Plan Review.
The Local Plan Review sets out the need for 91 pitches for Gypsies and Travellers, of which 66 are required within the first five years. 28 plots for Travelling Show People have also been identified, 18 are required within the first five years. Mrs Taylor explained that CDC has an unmet need. Work is being brought forward to provide further detail on the identified need in the evidence; which will assist in determining the level of unmet need and help in establishing the provision for a five year supply of sites. Policy S7 of the Local Plan Review addresses Gypsy and Traveller Sites.
In concluding her update on the Local Plan Review Mrs Taylor made the Committee aware of Viability. She stressed that this is an important piece of work which tests the balance between affordable housing, the environment and infrastructure, as well as the relationship between building standards, housing tenure and developer contributions (S106).
In addition to the presentation on the Local Plan Review Mrs Taylor provided the Committee with a summary on the other services within her portfolio, including;
Development Management; made up of three application teams; CDC, SDNPA and Major Development and Business, there is also a dedicated Enforcement and administration team. Unfortunately there are current vacancies within the teams, but measures are being taken to attract professionals, and where possible through apprenticeship train existing members of staff. The main priorities for the coming year include; Strategic Development Sites; maintaining an efficient and customer friendly service; to meet government targets; to provide agreed planning services to the SDNPA and to move towards a paperless way of working.
Enforcement; Mrs Taylor informed the Committee that the main priority was to improve communications, work has been undertaken to create a public access system allowing members of public to view both the progress of particular enforcement complaints, as well as historic cases. The system will go live on Monday 27 January.
Mr Moss thanked Mrs Taylor for her update and invited the Committee to make comments.
The following questions were asked by the Committee;
· Why has it taken so long for evidence to be collected, at such an advanced stage of the Local Plan Review? Mrs Taylor explained that the evidence is ongoing; the initial process was started in 2016. Responses from the consultation have resulted in further evidence being required, as well as developing issues such as the nitrates in the Solent which was only announced in 2019.
· Will CDC make the submission deadline (July 2020)? Mrs Taylor reassured the Committee that officers were working at full capacity to meet the deadline; however, she stressed that it is imperative the evidence base is strong enough to ensure the plan is not found unsound at inspection.
· Where does the shortfall for gypsy and travellers come from? Mrs Taylor confirmed further work is currently being carried out to provide further clarification on this issue.
· How can CDC meet the deadline when there are still so many changes taking place at Government? Mrs Taylor acknowledged the question and reinforced the importance of establishing a sound and robust evidence base.
· Why is the delivery of the largest strategic site (1600 homes) being delivered two and a half years later than originally anticipated? Mr Whitty acknowledged that the West of Chichester site was being delivered later than accepted and assured the Committee that officers were aware of the concerns raised by both the Committee and the local community and have shared these with the Developers.
· Why, when the housing strategy identifies that there is a need to deliver 478 homes per annum until 2036, is the only viable option being quoted in the Local Plan 140 homes? Mrs Taylor explained that a viability test has to be undertaken in order to ascertain what is deliverable and a balance must be reached between affordable housing and developer contributions.
· How can CDC deliver sufficient affordable housing through the Local Plan Review in order to meet demand? Mr Ayling explained that the level of affordable housing delivered through the Local Plan must be justified.
· Is the NHS consulted as part of the Local Plan Review? Mrs Taylor confirmed that the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have been consulted as part of the Local Plan Review.
· The Local Plan appears to be developer led and does not deliver on the local need within the district. More work should be done to encourage developers to deliver affordable housing.
· Who undertakes the viability testing? Mr Ayling informed the Committee that the Inspector will be in charge of the testing based on the evidence provided.
· What is the timeline for the submission of the outstanding pieces of evidence? Mrs Taylor informed the Committee that a timeline was being brought to the Development Plan and Infrastructure Panel (DPIP) for consideration.
No further questions were asked. Mr Moss thanked Mrs Taylor and officers for attending the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.