Agenda item

Local Plan (Agenda Item 8)

Report of the Interim Executive Manager Growth on the consultation process to be undertaken during 2016.


To Follow:

Plans of villages with settlement boundaries and site representations and associated list

List of site representations outside of settlement boundaries



The Executive Member for Growth said that he was delighted to present the communications strategy for the Local Plan which was due out for public consultation on 11 January 2016.  The Plan represented many years of hard work and it was important to get the communications strategy right to encourage maximum engagement by parish councils and the community.  He handed over to the team.


Tim Mills the Interim Executive Manager Growth introduced Phil Mileham, Strategic Planning Manager, Neil Campbell, Planning Policy Manager, Sarah Robertson, Planning Policy Officer and Iain Withington, Planning Policy Team Leader. 


The consultation plans had been amended following comments received and an updated version was tabled.  It was important to engage the public as soon as possible and the proposed communications strategy met and exceeded the statutory duties.  The importance of Members and parish councils in the process was recognised and separate briefings had been scheduled for them.  Events in the Market Towns had been provisionally booked and were currently planned as drop-in events which would run from 2pm to 7pm.  The importance of similar events in the rural community was recognised and a proposal for four rural events roughly based on S106 parish groupings was presented.  There would also be a publicity campaign using posters and social media.


Councillor Borrett was pleased that the meetings were being arranged.  However, he noted that not all villages were included in the pack of maps.  It was clarified that the maps were of villages with Settlement Boundaries (SBs) as the Plan has a policy for rural areas which include reference to SBs.  Any development outside SBs would be determined on a criteria based policy and those villages would not receive any allocation in the Plan.


The Chairman clarified that Members had access to the information that had been provided to Cabinet which included key settlements and Service Centre Villages.  However, there was to be a rural SB review which would consider changes to those boundaries and it could appear that those villages without a SB had been discounted before the consultation.  Yet on page 38 of the consultation documents it said that consideration would be given to infilling and rounding off.  He did not think that made things very clear for the public.


Councillor Borrett thought that all villages should be treated the same whether they had a SB or not as the principal of having a SB had not been decided yet.

The Chairman agreed and said it had been an issue with Members for some time, as having a SB had changed the character of rural villages by enabling unacceptable development.  It would be much better to remove the SB and have a criteria based policy to allocate development.  As there was to be a SB review it seemed wrong to consult on defined areas.


The Interim Executive Manager Growth agreed to take those comments on board but said the consultation had to proceed if it was to meet the agreed timetable. 


Councillor Oliver suggested that a compromise would be to remove the hard red line round villages with a SB and replace it with a dotted red line to show that there might be a change.


The Interim Executive Manager Growth said that there would be a review of rural SBs but in the meantime the consultation did need to reflect the current position while acknowledging the potential for change.  If the review brought change it would be included in the final consultation.


Members did not agree and the Chairman suggested that more explanation was needed in the text to make it clear to the public.


The Interim Executive Manager Growth said he was happy to do that.


The Executive Member for Place asked if it was too late for landowners to put forward sites and he was advised that they could still do so during the consultation period.


Councillor Claussen noted that due to the Council’s housing land supply shortage development outside SB had to be considered and approved if sustainable.  Some parish councils without SB did not want any development but were forced to accept it because of the land supply issue.  Now was the time to sort that out.  He asked why the proposed sessions for parish councils were drop-in and not formal.


The Planning Policy Officer explained that it was only a proposal.  There would be a formal session for those parishes considering a Neighbourhood Plan, but it was felt that other parishes were more likely to have a wider range of questions, more easily dealt with at a drop-in session.

The Chairman suggested a two-stage approach with a formal meeting first followed by an informal session.


Councillor Claussen noted that in some areas separate groups were involved in the neighbourhood plan, not the parish council.  The Interim Executive Manager Growth said that was a valid point and all the people that were involved would be invited.


Councillor M Chapman-Allen asked if it was up to Members to answer questions from members of the public at parish meetings.  The Chairman thought that all parish councils should be given as much prior notice of the consultation as possible to allow them time to arrange meetings, etc.  Members were encouraged to empower their parish councils to engage in the process.


Councillor Joel said it was important to let parishes know the dates as early as possible as they usually held their meetings at the start of the month.  He asked for Members to be provided with posters so that they could raise public awareness.


The Chairman asked for posters to be sent to all Parish Clerks so that they could put them up on noticeboards.


Councillor S Chapman-Allen thought that people would struggle to understand the maps because of the red lines which were difficult to explain.  The Interim Executive Manager Growth confirmed that he was committed to explaining their meaning in the consultation documents.  Cabinet had already approved the documents and had delegated power to the Portfolio Holder to make minor changes.  Removing the red lines was not a minor change.  The Commission was being asked to agree the communication strategy.


The Chairman disagreed and said that the Commission was being asked to give its views on the proposal and they would be communicated to Cabinet and Council in January.  If paragraph 3. 67 (about the rural SB review) was not in Part 1 there would be no need for further discussion but as it was in there he felt it was a case of putting the cart before the horse.


Councillor Borrett thought it was important to be careful about language when talking about SB as some people would worry that if they were removed it would lead to development everywhere.  It would need to be carefully explained otherwise feedback would be based on misunderstandings.  The communication strategy needed to include clear advice.  He agreed that the red line should be changed to a dotted line and thought that Officers should suggest that change to the Portfolio Holder.


Councillor Oliver asked for the Portfolio Holders view, but the Deputy Leader of the Council explained that he had had to leave to attend a planning appeal.  She thought it was a shame the questions had not been raised at the Cabinet meeting.  She would pass the message on to the Portfolio Holder.

The Chairman asked the Communications Manager if the communications strategy included consultation with Statutory and non-Statutory consultees, such as GP practices.  It was confirmed that they would be consulted.  He went on to ask about adjacent areas, such as Hingham which was not in Breckland but provided medical services for Breckland residents.


The Interim Executive Manager Growth advised that NHS England and the CCGs would be consulted.


Councillor Newton was a Planning Committee member and he had never seen anything on an agenda to suggest that the NHS had been consulted. With the Council’s interest in the health of its residents he felt that it should do.

The Chairman explained that there had been a previous Task & Finish Group which had looked into the issue and found that the NHS were not statutory consultees and a planning application could not be refused on grounds of insufficient medical facilities.  However, the Commission had recommended to Planning that they should notify medical practices of applications for development in their area so that they could plan for growth.


Councillor Claussen asked if there was any duty to co-operate and it was confirmed that there was.  Norfolk and Suffolk-wide Members’ forums met quarterly and any strategic issues would be presented to them.  One of the strands that they considered was health.


The Communications Manager was asked if she had any comments.  She said it had been helpful to listen to the discussion and she had made notes and would add some things to the list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). 


The Chairman passed on a plea from his parish which was to only receive Part 2 of the documentation (key settlements) and their own maps – not all the maps.  It was not worth sending everything out to every parish council.


Councillor Bambridge noted that some parishes might want maps of their neighbouring parishes but the Chairman pointed out that they would be able to access those on-line.


The Interim Executive Manager Growth suggested that the plans should be incorporated into Part 2 and one full set should be sent to each parish, and then individual maps of their own areas could be sent separately.


The proposed groupings of parishes were clarified with meetings proposed to be held in Shropham, Mundford, Necton and North Elmham as well as the market towns.  A full set of documents would be made available at each of those locations.


Two members of Bawdeswell Parish Council were in attendance and were invited to comment.  They had no questions but said that they would be strongly contesting the Local Service Centre status of their village.


Members were content with the proposals subject to the amendments they had suggested.

The Chairman thanked the Officers for the good documents which had addressed many issues.


Supporting documents: