To receive any questions relating to items on the agenda from members of the public and replies thereto.
Mr Byrom referring to Item 6 (Local Plan Review – Inspectors Report on Adoption) on the agenda stated that: I truly hope the new Local Plan will be adopted this evening and speak in favour of Cllr Norton’s proposed amendment.
In 2016 this Council gave three promises of protection when site SP2 was allocated at the very last minute.
This Council has abandoned its first two promises. The third is in serious danger. That is why we need one further minor-modification. I gave my reasons in your Appendix A and I backed them up in the paper that I sent you last Friday.
Cllr Norton’s amendment would strengthen that third promise of protection by leaving all SP2’s highest ground as Green Infrastructure in the countryside, as is done in nine other locations. I believe my two papers show that this is simple, lawful and necessary.
The Head of Planning and Regeneration assured Cabinet that Policy SP2 provides all the protection that is needed. You may hear this again today.
I will be frank: I do not believe those assurances. As part of an on-going appeal, an officer has already signed (but not sealed) an agreement with a would-be developer of the SP2 site. The map in that ‘Section 106’ agreement clearly allows development on land that both the 2013 SHLAA assessment and Policy SP2 say must remain undeveloped. The S106 agreement breaks the third promise of protection.
Members, a leading QC has suggested that Policy SP2 is a strong enough basis for reaching a section 106 agreement to protect the highest ground at the site. But was he shown how the officers who wrote Policy SP2 have already signed a S106 agreement that gives away that promised protection?
This Council meeting is not entitled to discuss the merits of the appeal. But it is entitled – and has a duty – to assure the public that the long-awaited Local Plan will be fully respected in practice. This is about trust.
So, in conclusion, I have two questions for the Head of Planning and Regeneration -
Members, please support the change proposed by Cllr Jo Norton.
Mr Quinn referring to Item 7 (Part 2 Business – Minutes and Drafting Conventions) stated that: In this report, the Monitoring Officer confirms that some Part 2 matters are not being dealt with properly and that changes are required. However, her report only addresses one part of the problem - the poor minutes. It does not address the main cause of public dissatisfaction - which is the current practice of excluding whole reports from the public.
I understand that there are times when exempt information has to be put before Members, but at the moment this is scattered all through the reports given and it is not obvious which bits of information are exempt and which are not.
This scattering, means that reports cannot be made available to the public before the meeting and Members are forced to exclude the public from any debate.
Many Members are aware of this situation and have commented on the poor way reports are written.
The solution is to revise the way that reports are prepared in the first place.
It would be much better if any exempt information was clearly identified and separated from the report. It should be put in a confidential (Part 2) Appendix.
In this way Members, and the public, can be provided with reports which may be discussed in open session. The public would still be excluded from the Part 2 Appendix, and any discussion of it.
Such an approach is consistent with the legislation, which specifically allows for the exclusion of the public from the discussion of part of a report.
This new way of presenting reports would allow the Council to be more open and transparent. It would allow the public to understand the matters being discussed but still maintain the exemptions required by the legislation.
My question is: As part of your consideration tonight, in order to allow more transparency: Will Council please ask for the specific identification, and separation, of exempt information in future reports to Members?
The Chairman indicated that answers to questions posed would be considered when the items were debated.