To consider the recommendations from the meeting(s) of the Cabinet held on 8th July 2020.
Councillor A. Kent, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regulatory Services presented the Wyre Forest Statement of Common Ground, which charted the ongoing discussions between this Council and Wyre Forest District Council in respect of the review of Wyre Forest Local Plan. This Council had been engaged throughout the process under the duty to co-operate as detailed in the report in the main agenda pack. There had been a consistent theme throughout the discussions, which was this Council understanding the impact of this plan on the infrastructure of Bromsgrove District. Unfortunately, after much discussion it was the view of this Council that it was still not possible to establish what that impact was, due to the deficiencies in the evidence which Wyre Forest had been reliant on within its plan. Councillor Kent explained that the statement was therefore more a statement of what this Council disagreed on, rather than what it agreed on. On signing this document, it would be forwarding on to the Planning Inspectorate examining the Wyre Forest District Council Local Plan which was expected sometime in late Autumn. Planning Officers from this Council would represent the Council at the Examination and Councillor Kent took the opportunity to thank the Officers for a lot of work which had not been easy, and as could be seen from the report, a difficult process. Members were advised that the matter had been discussed in detail at Cabinet and Councillor S. Colella was thanked for his attendance, support and comments at that meeting.
The recommendation was proposed by Councillor Kent and seconded by Councillor G. Denaro.
The report was then debated with Councillor L. Mallett commented on the appendices attached to the report, and the interesting documents within those. There were two areas in particular which he wished to direct Members too and asked Councillor Kent, as Portfolio Holder to comment on:
· There was a historic note of a meeting with Worcestershire County Council (WCC) Highways and other bodies, which highlighted some of the highways issues and which seemed to have explained that Wyre Forest’s transport plans intrinsically linked into this Council’s development plans. An update in respect of the current position in respect of such issues as the western distributary road, which may be a key part of this Council’s own transport assessment and where the Council was in understanding the impact of the proposed growth and development of Wyre Forest on this Council Plan and development aspirations.
· Councillor Mallett made reference to the Mott Macdonald technical note within the agenda pack (pages 213 onwards). He highlighted that within that note Mott Macdonald stated that “the information to date did not give any comfort on the models (those of Wyre Forest District Council fitness for purpose in being used for their local plan review ….”.
Councillor Mallett asked the Portfolio Holder the current position in respect of the modelling work for this Council’s strategic transport assessment, and whether this had as yet been procured and if so who would do that modelling and the timeframe for its completion and would the Portfolio Holder be able to give Council the assurance that it would not be using the same providers as Wyre Forest District Council had used, as it was important that the Bromsgrove Strategic Transport Assessment was fit for purpose. Councillor Mallett then went into further detail in respect Mott Macdonald’s comments in respect of the model area and the diagrams within the agenda pack which referred to this and the traffic flows on the major highway links and Wyre Forest Developments which it appeared were not currently being accounted for in this District’s own developments or within live planning applications which were currently being considered. As the questions Councillor Mallett had put to the Portfolio Holder were of a technical nature, he suggested that a written response with full details to all the points raised, would be more appropriate.
Councillor Mallett concluded that he believed this Council had one chance to get this right and resolve the ongoing issues in the District, it was therefore important that urgent action was taken on the issues he had raised.
Councillor Kent thanked Councillor Mallett for his questions and commented that he had recently had one of the most productive meetings during his time as a Councillor and which was in respect of this Council’s Strategic Transport Assessment, a remote meeting was held to discuss the procurement of this Assessment which was being funded jointly with Worcestershire County Council (WCC) to meet the needs of this Council as a whole. It would be based on a 50/50 contribution and one of the questioned Councillor Kent had put at that meeting was would the report fill in the deficiencies which had been found within the Wyre Forest District Council Plan. He was assured that this would be a deep examination and assessment of what the needs were for the whole of this District taking into account those assigning factors. The general outline of the work had now been agreed with WCC and he had held a meeting at which the WCC Councillor was also involved. The formal tender had been drafted with Mott Macdonald, who are acting as the advisors for the tender but were not actually able participate in the procurement of the physical contract. The Council therefore had an independent organisation able to assist with the tender process. In order to best address the transport assessment there was a huge number of variables, particularly in light of Covid-19 and continued uncertainty around what was the current and future landscape to be considered. The aim was to ensure that whatever the model was, it would be fit for purpose going forward. He was confident that the work being undertaken would finally draw a line under the problems around Bromsgrove. He was happy to respond to the detailed technical questions put by Councillor Mallett, with the aid of officers. He also offered to discuss these issues with Councillor Mallett in more detail outside of today’s meeting.
Councillor Mallett thanked Councillor Kent for his positive response and that things appeared to be moving forward on a better footing than previously, he urged him to stick to his guns with WCC and would provide his questions in writing in due course.
Councillor Kent assured Members that he was keen to take all Members with him in order to reach the common goal, he was confident that the Council’s transport assessment may become an asset to the Council, as one of the areas being put forward was that this model could be used for developers and other people looking at what they may want to provide in the area. It was not therefore just a transport assessment, but to make sure it was fit for the future, using modern technology and archive data and other factors to ensure it resulted in the best outcome for this District.
Councillor S. Colella commented that he was already on record thanking Councillor Kent and the Strategic Planning and Conservation Manger for their hard work and he also echoed what Councillor Mallett had already said within the meeting.
A point of clarification was raised in respect of the meetings between this Council and Worcestershire County Council and whether there were any plans in respect of the A38. Councillor Kent advised that this was not the subject of this debate, but he was happy to respond to any questions put to him in writing outside of the meeting.
RESOLVED that the Statement of Common Ground at Appendix A to the report, be signed by the Leader of the Council and submitted to Wyre Forest District Council for consideration by the Local Plan Inspector.