To consider the report of the Director of Strategy, Performance and Governance, (copy enclosed).
The Committee considered the report of the Director of Strategy, Performance and Governance seeking Members’ agreement of the draft response to the Governments consultation on changes to the current planning system (attached at Appendix 1 to the report). It was noted that the consultation (due to close on 1 October 2020) proposed significant changes to the planning system, which would impact on the annual housing target for the Maldon District and the ability to delivery affordable housing on sites under 50 dwellings in size.
The report summarised the changes proposed by the consultation which fell under the following headings:
· The standard method for assessing housing numbers in strategic plans;
· Delivering First Homes;
· Supporting small and medium-sized developers;
· Extension of the Permission in Principle consent regime.
It was noted that the proposed changes would impact on minimum local housing need requirement and the delivery of affordable housing.
A lengthy debate ensued, and Members raised a number of questions regarding the consultation and the Council’s proposed response. Officers responded to questions and the following information was provided:
· Changes to the National Planning Policy Framework did not require legislation as it was a Government document and regularly updated.
· Essex County Council were submitting a joint response to the consultation with the Essex Planning Officers’ Association and it was confirmed that Maldon was working together with them to ensure a consistent response.
· It was noted that Maldon was one of only a small number of Authorities who had adopted a Local Development Plan and it was felt that more emphasis should be given in the answers provided in relation to this.
· Members were advised that Officers had discussed the questions in detail and a general consensus response identified, however it was noted that there was some level of assumption applied as the full detail was not available in some cases.
· Concern was raised regarding the change to the method for calculating local housing need and in response Officers provided further detail regarding the proposed change and the impact this would have on the District.
· Officers were concerned regarding the impact of the proposal to compare house prices with salaries and therefore more homes had to be built to push the price down. This would have an impact on authority like Maldon where house prices were higher than salaries.
· The impact of the proposal on affordable homes for the vulnerable and elderly was raised.
Following further discussion regarding the responses proposed, Councillor Mrs P A Channer proposed that in addition to the consultation response the Leader of the Council and relevant Directors send a letter highlighting the particular concerns of the Council and copy this to the local MPs. This was duly seconded. In response the Director of Strategy, Performance and Governance agreed with the suggested letter and commented that Officers recognised the seriousness of the implications of the proposals for the Council. He suggested that the letter be sent prior to 1 October to ensure it was considered alongside the consultation responses. The Chairman then put the proposal to the Committee and this was duly agreed, by assent.
In response to the forthcoming white paper from the Government, Members were advised that due to timescales this would be brought to the Council meeting on 1 October.
Councillor Mrs Channer proposed that Officer review and strengthen the responses to the consultation in consultation with the Leader of the Council. This was duly seconded and agreed, by assent.
(i) That prior to 1 October 2020, the Leader of the Council and relevant Directors send a letter highlighting the concerns raised by Members in relation the proposed Changes to the Current Planning System and copy this to the local MPs;
(ii) that the proposed response to the Changes to the Current Planning System Consultation be amended and agreed in consultation with the Leader of the Council.