The Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regulatory Services advised that this was a topic report in current circumstances and asked the Strategic Planning and Conservation Manager to take Members through the report.
The Strategic Planning and Conservation Manager advised that there had been detailed discussions of this items at the Strategic Planning Steering Group (SPSG). There were two recommendations which referred to the response to the Planning for the Future White Paper and the response to the Changes to the Planning System. The White Paper was taken first, and the Strategic Planning and Conservation Manager gave a brief summary of the response, which covered the following areas:
· It contained 3 pillars of proposals with 24 further pillars leading from the main areas.
· The focus was to speed up the planning system and make it simpler and affectively there was a strong focus on house building.
· There was a significant change from where the local authorities were at the moment and these would have an impact on this Council as it progressed through its current review.
· The main issue was the change in the allocations – as currently there was much more scope in respect of other policies. The proposals broke it down into three areas; growth, renewal and protection.
· The response was a balanced one as far as possible, although there were some issues and the responses tried to pick up the technical issues.
· More clarity was needed in respect of the 3 pillars, as the “devil was in the detail”.
· There were some issues around setting development management issues nationally and the Strategic Planning and Conservation Manager explained this in more detail.
· The removal of the duty to co-operate was a positive element as this was something which had not really worked in the vast majority of places.
· There was support for the simplified sustainability test, which would reduce the work needed.
· The standardised methodology - there would be varying views in respect of this as to whether the results would mean the figures were either too big or too small, so this was also a contentious issue. Clarity and certainty were the key in order for everyone to be able to deliver the required numbers.
· Affordability issues were discussed in respect of housing and the link to employment.
· There were a number of technical issues which needed to be considered, for example speeding up the process but this should not be to the detriment of the decision that were made. The resource and the technology were also needed in order to achieve this.
· There were substantial changes in respect of the timescale, which were welcomed. Whilst this was supported, consideration also needed to be given to the consultation process, which should not be weakened, as there was much benefit from the face to face consultation which currently took place.
· The infrastructure delivery and funding also carried with it a number of issues, which gave certainty and clarity, but it should be made sure that the levy was set at an appropriate level. It was likely that this would have financial implications for the Council.
It was hoped that the response flagged up the areas of concern whilst supporting the majority of it where there were positives for the planning system.
The Strategic Planning and Conservation Manger then moved on to the Council’s response to the Planning Systems Changes, which had already been submitted as the deadline was 1st October. However, it was confirmed that there was an opportunity to provide further feedback, should Council wish to do so on considering this document. Much of it was similar to that in the White Paper and contained details around the Housing Methodology and details of the changes to the housing need in Bromsgrove District were discussed. This was due to new population projections and affordability changes, which put this Council in a different position. A further change proposed was in respect of affordable housing and the need for the Council to deliver affordable housing wherever it could was discussed.
The implications of these documents were mainly in respect of those in the process of preparing plans and what approach should be taken. Some authorities were continuing to try and avoid the reforms and others were at a position where they would have to take them into account. In respect of this Council it was suggested that it continued to do the things that it could do, but did not spend significant amounts of money on evidence which may not be needed, although things such as a flood risk assessment could go ahead in the background. It was suggested that nothing by published for consultation until the Council had a better idea of what the reforms were and once the Government’s response was published the Council would be able to pull together a plan as to how to move forward. Subject to agreement the website would be updated to explain that things were progressing, but documents would not be published until such time as it was more appropriate.
The Deputy Leader reinforced a number of areas which had been covered in the presentation of the report, which he confirmed that been before two meetings of the SPSG, with the most recent meeting been very well attended and detailed discussed had taken place. The importance of clarification on the Greenbelt was also highlighted which would majorly affect this Council. The timescale to put a plan together was also noted and the importance of speeding up this process and the financial implications. It was vitally important to also deal with the affordability issue that Bromsgrove District had. The Deputy Leader also drew Members attention to a number of excellent ideas within the report, including tree lined streets and help for small builders and help for self-builds were also welcomed. There was still work which would continue on the current Plan and whatever needed to be done would, but there would be elements which would be put on hold until clarity had been received.
Following presentation of the report Members made a number of comments:
· The Leader had been on a call with central Government recently and it had been made clear that there would be further consultation later in the year on this matter.
· It was about providing homes but also economic growth areas within the District and the challenges the Greenbelt posed. The area had good connectivity and it was felt that a small amount of the Greenbelt needed to be allowed for economic growth and homes.
· The financial implications in respect of the levy were discussed and it was confirmed that it was a risk, but it was difficult to say at this stage what this would be. The Strategic Planning and Conservation Manger explained in detail how this currently worked and the proposals for setting this nationally and how it would impact on this Council.
1) Appendix A as detailed in the report, be submitted to MHCLG as the Councils Response to the Planning for the Future White Paper; and
2) Appendix B as detailed in the report, be confirmed as the Councils response to the Changes to the planning System consultation.