The Committee is invited to note the contents of this report and make any comments
The Committee considered this report, which had been brought to the Committee at the request of the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at the Council meeting on 21 July 2020, following a public question received from Mr Dicker at that meeting.
Mr Ayling and Mr Bennett outlined the report. Mr Dicker’s previous public questions to both Cabinet and Council surrounding the Local Plan had been circulated to the Committee.
Mr Dicker was invited to address the Committee. He outlined his concerns about the Plan since the proposal to publish the Preferred Approach consultation in December 2018. He explained why he considered the Council was failing to deliver the Local Plan and how the Council was managing the process. He explained his concerns about the role and processes of the Development Plan and Infrastructure Panel (DPIP) and its decisions. He was concerned that responders to the Plan had not been notified of its delay.
Mr Bennett responded to Mr Dicker’s statement. He would relook at the variation of decisions made by Cabinet. He advised that he had looked at legislation and case law and had concluded that decisions once made by Full Council may as far as practicable and lawful subsequently amended or rescinded where necessary for operational and executive reasons by the Executive. This point was where he fundamentally disagreed with Mr Dicker’s position. It was clearly wrong for a second committee to purport to rescind a decision in full. He advised that in hindsight it may have been better for the date of implementation to state “on this date or later” in respect of the Plan timelines. But it had not been done in this way by any other authority that he had seen. Therefore, he remained content that Cabinet and Council decisions had been made at the right time and in line with legislation and the Council’s constitution. He undertook to provide a more considered written answer in respect of some of the issues raised by Mr Dicker, including issues concerning DPlP and some factual points that required addressing.
Mr Ayling advised that he hoped that officers would be able to put a bit more clarity on some of the questions Mr Dicker has raised and that this was a positive way forward.
Mr Frost addressed the Committee in respect of Mr Dicker’s comments. He clarified the range of responses previously provided to Mr Dicker by officers. The report before members was a direct response to Mr Dicker’s concerns about the responses previously provided to him. The officers’ view was that Mr Dicker’s allegations were largely unsubstantiated. He referred to the complexity of the Plan process and the significant land use planning constraints faced by the Planning Authority. It was a question of members recognising that the task was substantial and significant. The Council was taking a sensible and pragmatic approach having been advised by the Planning Advisory Service not to submit the Plan prematurely. Officers were currently working on a revised Plan programme. He hoped members would avoid additional work for the Planning Policy Team, which would detract them from moving forward with the complex evidence based work to support the new planning policies.
The Chairman informed Mr Dicker that he and Mr Bennett would be in contact in due course to take this matter forward.
Mr Bennett and the Chairman agreed to have a discussion outside of the meeting about how the process could work, if the Committee members were to be involved in that discussion or would receive a report of the findings.
The Chairman requested that the information provided to Mr Dicker should be circulated to the Committee. The Chairman advised that it was important to have an open discussion on this matter to ensure it was dealt with appropriately and that everyone involved was fully consulted.
Mr Bennett advised he had some clarity on how the final issues would be addressed and would discuss them. He would undertake a frank review of the Local Plan process undertaken by the Council and hoped members were reassured that officers would look at the right issues.
The Chairman advised that everyone would be kept informed of progress. He commented on the urgency to get the Local Plan through.
That the contents of the report and the comments made by the Committee and the agreed way forward on this matter are noted.