Local Plan Update (Standing Item) (Agenda item 7)
To receive an update.
Simon Wood the Director of Planning & Building Control provided Members with a Local Plan update.
The call for sites process would end on 20 May 2022 and the findings would be reported in due course. There had been a number of questions raised by Councillor Atterwill at the previous meeting in terms of clarification around the dates of some of the key elements of both the single policy review and the Local Plan update. The Director of Planning & Building Control advised that that Local Development Scheme was available on the website and was currently the definitive and published timeframe. However, another timeframe was being considered that had been highlighted in various meetings in relation to the partial review, and it was anticipated that a report in relation to the partial review would be taken to Cabinet in June 2022 that would be subsequently submitted to the Planning Inspectorate following a consultation period with possible adoption by April 2023.
In terms of the Local Plan update, it was currently anticipated that a report would be taken to Cabinet along with the final draft document in December 2024 with a submission date following various consultations in April 2025 looking at adoption in 2027.
Members would be kept updated if any of these dates changed. Members should also be aware that planning was expected to be highlighted in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech that could possibly bring some changes and would have to be factored into the process.
In response to a question, it was confirmed that the dates that had been set at the recent Cabinet meeting were accurate; Members were asked to ignore the dates that had been provided at the subsequent Neighbourhood Plan meeting.
In terms of nutrient neutrality, this was still a matter that was causing a great deal of upheaval within Norfolk. All were still in a position where planning authorities were not able to determine a substantial number of planning applications particularly those relating to residential development that provided additional overnight accommodation.
There was work being carried out by officers of all the Districts to seek to clarify with Natural England and with Anglian Water the types of development that authorities could seek to determine especially outside the catchment areas. The Director of Planning & Building Control would be attending an upcoming meeting to hopefully clarify such matters with the key aim being how Districts could move forward with an adopted consistent approach in relation to applications that were non-residential.
In terms of mid and long-term solutions, this subject was going to carry on for some considerable time before authorities could get into a position where normal service could be resumed. Information would be brought to this Committee on any key changes or steps forward made.
Councillor Atterwill had noticed that there had been a great deal of information in the local press about the 7 authorities getting together to employ a consultant to look at these matters and asked the Director of Planning & Building Control if he was able to provide Members with any details as to what this consultant’s remit would be, and the possible timeline that he/she had been asked to work to.
In response, the Director of Planning & Building Control advised that the timelines would be agreed in discussion with the said authorities; it was hoped that it would be a short piece of work; however, this might not be the case. In terms of remit, this would be to look at the 2019 evidence provided by Natural England that underpinned its approach sent to local authorities in March 2022. Additionally, the remit would be to understand the scale of the issue in relation to Norfolk as a County and the number of residential units that the County was looking to provide over the various plan periods and arising from that the level of mitigation required and how such mitigation measures could be provided for such developments. It would be a fairly wide brief but what was also being looked at was whether there was a methodology that could be taken to allow a risk-based approach to decision making within the catchment area in the short term.
Councillor Atterwill also asked a question about Anglian Water, and the lack of communication between various bodies. He had developers and landowners approach him about the state of the sewage works in Swanton Morley and how the sewage treatment plant could not cope and was flowing into the River Wensum. He asked the Chairman if it would be possible to invite an Anglian Water representative to a future Committee meeting to discuss various issues across the District and ask them how they intended to move forward. Alternatively, he could submit a ‘Councillor Call for Action’ to be brought to an Overview & Scrutiny Commission meeting.
The Director of Planning & Building Control understood that Anglian Water had been invited to the next Overview & Scrutiny Commission meeting on 26 May 2022. An agenda had already been indicated to them that covered areas such as the sewage works in Swanton Morley, flooding issues and Nutrient Neutrality. In the last few weeks, Anglian Water had been extremely supportive in terms of discussing such issues and concerns and was helping to move matters forward in terms of information sharing.
Councillor Wilkinson asked the Director of Planning & Building Control if he expected developers to leave areas that had Nutrient Neutrality issues and build on land that did not. He felt that if this were to be the case it could have a detrimental effect on Local Plans going forward.
Members were informed that if this Council moved into a position where a part of the District was relatively free from Nutrient Neutrality, he expected that there would be pressure from some developers to look at such areas where it was easier to develop but such land would still have to be assessed against the Local Plan. He assured Members that it would not end up being a free for all to keep development going and the position of the 5-year housing land supply would also have to be taken into account.