Agenda and minutes

Venue: Anglia Room, The Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham

Contact: Committee Services  01362 656870

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 72 KB

To confirm the minutes of the meetings held on

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The minutes of the meetings held on 2nd and 23rd October 2008 were confirmed as correct records and signed by the Chairman.

2.

Apologies

To receive apologies for absence.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Mrs. D. Irving and Mrs. A. Steward and Messrs. R. Goreham and M. Kiddle-Morris.

3.

Declaration of Interest

Members are asked at this stage to declare any interests that they may have in any of the following items on the agenda.  The Members’ Code of Conduct requires that declarations include the nature of the interest and whether it is a person or prejudicial interest.

Minutes:

The following declarations were made:

 

  1. Mr. R.G. Kybird – Personal and prejudicial as local builder in regard to any site specifics matters in relation to the Thetford Area Action Plan
  2. Mr. J.D. Rogers – Personal and prejudicial interest in regard to LDF and site specifics matters as landowner in Carbrooke and submitted land application in LDF
  3. Mr. J.P. Cowen – Personal interest as an Architect in practice in the District relation to planning matters in general

4.

Draft Estimates 2009-10 - Consultation (Agenda Item 6) pdf icon PDF 173 KB

Report of the Executive Member (Governance).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Commission received a presentation on the latest position regarding budget proposals for 2009-10.

 

The position was a very different scenario to a year ago. In summary, investment income was reduced by more than £1million and the efficiency target was set lower than Government expectations.  However, balances remained healthy.  The Council Tax was proposed at 3.35% linked to Consumer Prices Index (CPI) and the Band D level remained comparatively low compared to other local authorities across the country.

 

So far as Thetford Growth Point was concerned, a member asked how this was being treated in the budget for the next and future years.  It was explained that capital schemes under this heading were not included in the capital programme at this stage.  As capital schemes were worked up, they would be brought forward for approval under the capital programme.  However, revenue funding had been agreed previously and was shown in the revenue estimates.  It was also explained that the opportunities for other external funding had yet to be factored into the budget.

 

A member was concerned that the capital programme could be unduly weighted towards Thetford under the Growth Point to the detriment of other towns and parishes in the district.  The Assistant Director (Governance) explained that the capital programme was not centred on any one area.  All capital schemes had to meet the Council’s priorities, be supported and be affordable.  Location was not a criterion but there was a broad spread of schemes across the district.

 

It was confirmed that the budget did reflect public feedback from the consultation carried out earlier in the year.

 

In response to a question, it was noted that cash investments were under review and the Audit Committee was due to review the Council’s investment strategy the following day, which would include some ideas as to limiting risk.  The budget assumed there would be low returns during the next year but generally it was felt returns would be mixed, as some higher earning investments, such as Northern Rock, were not due to mature until later in the year.

 

The present position regarding the Icelandic Banks investments was explained.  Local authorities affected were being represented by Solicitors appointed through the Local Government Association.  The situation remained very unclear.  A delegation of local authority representatives to visit Iceland was due to be agreed shortly.  It was hoped that by the time the present year’s accounts were closed in June, the Council would have an indication of the percentage of the return that could be expected and the associated timetable.  In the meantime, a prudent approach was being adopted for the purpose of the budget, with an assumption that this money would not be returned in 2009-10 and for 2010-11, that only half of the money would be returned.   In answer to a further question, it was acknowledged that there would be a danger if Councils should not be able to recoup their principal from these investments.  In that event, an approach would need to be made  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Local Development Framework - Thetford Area Action Plan - Preferred Options (Agenda Item 7) pdf icon PDF 103 KB

Report of the Strategic Director – Transformation.  A copy of the report has previously been considered by Policy Development and Review Panel 1 and is reproduced herewith as a separate document for Members of the Commission only.

 

The views of Policy Development and Review Panel 1 are contained in the minutes of the meeting held on 16 December 2008 - agenda item 10(a) below (Minute 75/08) refers.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

In considering this report, the Commission also had regard to the issues raised by Policy Development and Review Panel 1, as set out in Minute 75/08 of the Panel meeting on 16 December 2008 (as contained under agenda item 10(a)).

 

The report was presented by the Principal Planning Policy Officer (Growth Point).

 

The concerns raised by Panel 1 related in particular to the issues of:

 

§         Leisure provision

§         Bus station

§         Jobs Growth

§         Train station location

§         Status of the document

§         Developer contributions

§         Country park

§         Thetford Forest

 

In noting the consultation period for the document (six weeks from the end February), it was asked how this fitted with that for the Core Strategy, particularly if there was a challenge to the latter document.  It was explained that the public consultation on the Core Strategy ended in mid-February, at which point it should be evident if there were likely to be any fundamental problems.   One of the reasons for staggering the documents was to allow for time to take account of any fundamental issues in the Core Strategy to ensure subsequent documents were still in conformity.  In answer to a further question, it was explained that the consultation would extend not only to Thetford and its surrounding parishes, but also to the Bury St Edmunds and Forest Heath and key stakeholders.  The document would be published on the Council’s website and the consultation would also be publicised in the local press.

 

A member endorsed the concerns raised at the Panel 1 meeting that development was being concentrated to the south of the A11 with nothing to the north of the A11.  He felt the reasons for this, in particular the constraints imposed by the main trunk road and the forest (both of which were man-made and not natural boundaries), were insufficient.  He felt these concerns had not been sufficiently emphasised in the Panel’s minutes.

 

Another member questioned what would happen to the country park proposal if the various landowners did not come to an agreement on the issue.  It was explained that as with other policies, the purpose of the consultation and in the following months was to test the policy to see if what was proposed was going to be viable and achievable.  The country park was possible but it did require testing and negotiation. 

 

A member questioned the accuracy of some of the data and assumptions drawn in the specialist report in regard to stone curlews and the extent of the required buffer zones.  He felt this data needed review, either by the Commission or Task & Finish Group.  In this context, the Commission was informed that an Environmental Information Request had been received yesterday from a landowner, which was being considered.  It was important to note that this was a specialised issue and the Council had to rely on the expert advice obtained.  The detailed information was classified confidential to protect the nesting sites.  It was felt, therefore, that it was not desirable to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Regional Spatial Strategy Review to 2031 - Housing Figures (Agenda Item 8) pdf icon PDF 98 KB

Report of the Strategic Director – Transformation.

 

This report has previously been considered by Policy Development and Review Panel 1 at its meeting on 16 December 2008, whose recommendation is contained under agenda item 10(a), minute no. 76/08, below. 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The report was presented by the Principal Planning Policy Officer.

 

The Commission considered the report in conjunction with the views of Policy Development and Review Panel 1, who had considered the matter on 16 December 2008 (minute reference 76/08) and had recommended that the NHPAU (National Housing and Planning Advice Unit) housing projection targets were unsustainable and unachievable and that the GVA (Gross Value Added) level represented a more realistic target.

 

Housing projections:  In answer to a question, it has been noted that the Council would not be alone in not accepting or opting for a lower rate of housing than that being put forward by NHPAU.  It was legitimate at this stage in the consultation for local authorities to raise their concerns.  All parts of the region were going to be under pressure to accept the housing figures.  If the rural areas opted for lower rates, there would be added pressures on urban areas to absorb the rest.

 

Strategic Growth Options: So far as these options were concerned, the submitted sites resulting from the regional call for development proposals were precisely those submitted by landowners or their agents (Appendix C to the report).  There had been no sieving of sites in the process.

 

It was felt the district could afford to increase the numbers of housing in the district by developing in existing towns and parishes and without the need to create a new village.  However, the point was made that existing building targets were not being achieved and that the Council would struggle to meet the targets in the new LDF.  Certainly, anything above that would not be achieved.

 

Officers confirmed that the Council had not achieved regional housing targets in recent years.  The predicted sustained development period 2014-2021 would require 900 houses per year to be built to catch-up to the regional average.  The average in 2007-08 was 625.

 

A crucial point to note, it was felt, was that the Council could not control the housing market, either in terms of building, selling or mortgages.  If the market was not delivering what was required over the last five years or more and was not likely to be in a position to do so over the next five years given the economic climate, it was evident that the shortfall in the regional housing target would not be achieved.  It was felt the figures were purely theoretical and bore no relation to reality.

 

A member suggested that one solution to help address these targets might be to promote self-build housing plots, which he felt could realise 100 units per year, as well as assisting targets on affordability as a self-build site was 70% of a full market cost.  The key, however, would be to identify sufficient serviced sites.

 

RECOMMEND to Cabinet that it notes the Commission’s views above and that the Commission:

 

(1)    supports the views of Panel 1 that the NHPAU housing projection rates are unsustainable and unachievable and that the GVA level represents a more  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Year 2 Review of the Breckland Disability Equality Scheme (Agenda Item 9) pdf icon PDF 78 KB

Report of the Chief Executive.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Commission considered the report on this matter and, in particular, has noted the establishment of a new pilot consultation scheme between the Council and Dereham Access Group which, if successful, could be used to create a framework for the future.

                                   

The Commission endorsed the report and

 

RECOMMENDS to Cabinet that approval be given to the publication on the Breckland Council website of the Year 2 Review of the Breckland Disability Equality Action Plan December 2006 – November 2009.

8.

Policy Development and Review Panels (Agenda Item 10)

To consider reports from Panel Chairmen in respect of the following meetings:

808a

Panel 1 - Unconfirmed minutes of the meeting held on 16 December 2008 pdf icon PDF 77 KB

Minutes:

The Panel’s recommendations at minutes 75/08 and 76/08 were dealt with respectively under minute item nos. 5/09 and 6/09 above.

 

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of Policy Development and Review Panel 1 held on 16 December 2008 be adopted.

808b

Panel 2 - Unconfirmed minutes of the meeting held on 27 November 2008 pdf icon PDF 96 KB

Minutes:

(i)           Review of Council Website (Panel 2 minute 44/08)

 

In answer to members’ concerns about the delay in the development of the on-line planning application process, the Deputy Chief Executive explained that this was affected by the project looking at the externalisation of the planning and building service.  A decision had been taken early on as part of the latter project not to upgrade the planning OCELLA system independently of the decision on the service, as part of the proposals included an upgrade of the system.  Members were assured that the ultimate decision on the service proposals would also have the result of providing for the necessary investment to upgrade the OCELLA system.

 

         RESOLVED that the Commission agrees with the Panel’s recommendation that the development of the on-line planning application process should be kept under review.

 

(ii)         Adoption

 

                  RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of Policy Development and Review Panel 2 held on 27 November 2008 be adopted.

808c

Panel 3 - Unconfirmed minutes of the meeting held on 9 December 2008 pdf icon PDF 80 KB

Minutes:

(i)      Draft Financial Inclusion Strategy – Consultation (Panel 3 Minute 39/08)

 

         The Commission has considered a reference from the meeting of Policy Development and Review Panel 3 held on 9 December 2008 on a presentation of the draft Financial Inclusion Strategy as part of the consultation process on the new policy.

 

         It was noted the consultation on the draft Strategy was due to be concluded at the end of February 2009, to be followed by submission of the document to Cabinet on 7 April 2009 and Council on 23 April 2009.

 

         It has been noted that the aim of the Strategy is to create effective services and tools for Breckland residents to reduce financial exclusion, lower the number of homelessness applications due to rent and mortgage arrears and lift households out of fuel poverty.

 

         Financial inclusion had two elements:

 

§         Financial exclusion – a person’s ability to access appropriate financial products and services

§         Financial capability – the skills people had to budget and plan for the future and their attitude to money and financial institutions

 

         There were a number of ways in which people could be affected by financial exclusion or their financial capability, ranging from bank accounts and personal credit to home ownership, tenancy/mortgage sustainability and fuel poverty.

 

         In the light of the detailed report from Panel 3, the Commission has supported its recommendations and notes its comments, in particular in regard to the establishment of a Task and Finish Group to assist with the revision of the Affordable Housing Policy and the establishment of Credit Unions.

 

         RECOMMEND to Cabinet that it notes that the Commission endorses the adoption of the draft Financial Inclusion Strategy as it would help those most in need.

 

(ii)         Adoption

 

RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting of Policy Development and Review Panel 3 held on 9 December 2008 be adopted.

9.

Revised Scrutiny Arrangements & Ways of Working (Agenda Item 11) pdf icon PDF 92 KB

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Following the recent review of the overview and scrutiny function and a subsequent scrutiny workshop held on 2 December 2008, the Commission considered a report on possible revised scrutiny arrangements and ways of working to reflect the desire for an informed non-executive member-led scrutiny process.

 

The scrutiny workshop held in December had identified the following groups of topics to be included in the scrutiny programme for 2009:

 

  • Local Development Framework
  • Health
  • Waste & Recycling
  • Transport/Parking
  • Rural Issues Agenda
  • Sewage & Flooding
  • Youth Issues

 

It was proposed that there should be a standing Task and Finish Group to cover the LDF whose membership should be drawn from the former Policy Development and Review Panel 1 to enable the knowledge and expertise gained by Panel 1 members to be retained and to provide consistency.

 

The suggested new work programme for 2009 contained four distinctive strands that constituted best practice on scrutiny.  These were summarised as:

 

  1. An emphasis on partnership scrutiny.  To assist in this process, a “Partnership Questionnaire” had been developed.

  2. Holding decision makers to account.   This would involve Executive Members being invited to attend OSC at regular intervals to advise on progress of key issues and policies within their portfolios and facilitating questions by members of OSC.

  3. Performance monitoring.   A new mechanism would be developed to improve implementation tracking for scrutiny monitoring purposes.

  4. Contract monitoring.   This would continue current practice as undertaken by OSC and the former panels, directed towards effective service delivery (such as the Environment & Security Services Contract).

 

Allied to these strands, there was an implied need to take account of the wider community and to this end, it was suggested that meetings of OSC be held at venues around the district in order to try to forge a connection between scrutiny and the wider community.

 

In addition, there was also a need to build capacity and flexibility into the work programme to provide for:

 

  • Stand-along (minor) reviews the Commission might wish to undertake for itself
  • Final reports from Task and Finish Groups
  • Annual commitments, e.g. annual reports on Overview & Scrutiny, RIPA Powers, Customer Complaints, etc.
  • Items for “pre-scrutiny”, which  typically should be restricted to ‘key decisions’ only on the corporate Forward Plan
  • Standing items, such as call-ins, items arising under the Community Call for Action (once the mechanism for this has been adopted), the corporate Forward Plan and the OSC work programme for forward planning purposes

 

The report also highlighted that the Police and Justice Act 2006 established a statutory function for local authority scrutiny in terms of Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRP).   Bearing in mind that the boundaries of the Breckland and King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council CDRP were contiguous with the district and borough borders of the two Councils, there was an opportunity to establish a joint scrutiny approach to these CDRP and this was presently being explored.

 

To reflect the new focus of the scrutiny function, there were new and revised protocols to recognise the new roles and responsibilities for members and officers, as  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.

10.

Next Meeting (Agenda Item 12)

To note the date of the next meeting to be held on 12 February 2009, at 2.15 p.m., in the Anglia Room, Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Dereham.

Minutes:

The arrangements for the special joint meeting of the OSC and Audit Committee on Monday, 19 January were noted.

 

The arrangements for the next ordinary meeting of the Commission on 12 February were also noted.