Duty to Cooperate sabotage? CPBC Local Plan2016 left up **** Creek without a Paddle?

With an admittance of having little knowledge of the Local Plan process, we fear that the Castle Point Local Plan2016 may have already come across some major difficulties.

One of the very first stages pre-examination is for the local authority to gather and submit evidence on how they have attempted to cooperate with neighbouring authorities.

“Local planning authorities should make every effort to secure the necessary cooperation on strategic cross boundary matters before they submit their Local Plans for examination.

Local planning authorities must demonstrate how they have complied with the duty at the independent examination of their Local Plans. If a local planning authority cannot demonstrate that it has complied with the duty then the Local Plan will not be able to proceed further in examination.”

It appeared apparent to us, during the Local Plan Task and Finish group meetings that little evidence of cross local authority cooperation work had been published.

Now we learn of the Planning Inspector’s letter to cpbc, expressing an opportunity for cpbc to offer an explanation on the missing gaps in the required work.

It appears to us that the letter underlines the chasm between the level of commitment to the Local Plan2016 between officers and members.

At the recent Council meeting the council leader made light of the issues, but unless a united effort is made by officers and lead group members, the Local Plan2016 may have hit stormy waters less than one calendar month after it being submitted to the Planning Inspectorate!

The Inspector wrote on 22nd September;

1. As an initial matter the PPG makes reference to the submission of robust evidence by authorities of the efforts they have made to co-operate on strategic cross boundary matters (ID 9-012-20140306).  This should include details about who the authority has co-operated with, the nature and timing of co-operation and how it has influenced the plan.  Whilst some information is given at Section 4 of the DtC Report precise details are scanty.  Future work through the South Essex Strategic Members Group and the completion of a written Strategic Planning Framework appear to be broadly in line with co-operation principles but clearly have no bearing on the preparation of the New Local Plan.  In responding subsequently I therefore request that the Council provides specific detail of actions taken to seek the co-operation of key partners in relation to the preparation of the New Local Plan.

2. Section 4 of the DtC Report indicates that officers have come together since mid-2014 to consider strategic planning issues affecting South Essex.  Prior to that was there any constructive, active and on-going joint working linked to the preparation of the New Local Plan?  If so, what form did it take?

3. Section 4 also includes a list of cross-boundary planning issues.  Compared to the topics identified in Appendix 1 communications infrastructure is omitted.  Having regard to paragraph 156 of the NPPF and the PPG (ID 9-013-20140306) could the Council confirm the full list of strategic matters that, in its view, fall within the definition in Section 33A?  Having done so it would be helpful to have a short resume of the steps taken to meet the DtC and to deal with questions 6, 7 and 8 in respect of each of these matters.

4. The PPG refers to the important role of Councillors in the DtC process (ID 9-0003 & 004-20140306).  To what extent have Councillors been directly involved in any specific DtC activities?

5. Has the Council considered any more formal arrangements in terms of joint working on plan preparation as set out in the PPG (ID 9-01620140306) and as required by Section 33A(6) of the 2004 Act?  If so, why have any such approaches including the use of formal agreements not come to fruition?

6. How have any DtC actions maximised the effectiveness of plan preparation?

7. How have any DtC actions influenced the preparation of the New Local Plan and what have been the outcomes?

8. What solutions have emerged to achieve effective strategic planning policies?

9. Regulation 34(6) requires details of action taken in co-operating with other bodies under Section 33A to be given in a monitoring report.  Have any such details been provided in monitoring reports throughout the plan preparation period?
Housing

10. Paragraph 13.22 of the New Local Plan recognises that the housing target of 2,000 new homes by 2031 does not represent objectively assessed need but reflects the capacity of the Borough to accommodate growth.  Paragraph 179 of the NPPF indicates that joint working should enable local planning authorities to work together to meet development requirements which cannot be wholly met within their own areas.  In the light of the strategy proposed for Castle Point what specific steps have been taken or mechanisms are in place to distribute unmet housing need elsewhere in the Housing Market Area (HMA) or beyond?

11. What is the rationale for reducing the housing requirement from 4,000 in the Draft Local Plan to 2,000 in Policy H1 as referred on p12 of the Consultation Statement (CP/05/013)?

12. When were neighbouring authorities within the HMA made aware of the Council’s intention not to meet its full objectively assessed needs and of the reduction referred to above?

13. Has the Council considered whether it should meet any unmet housing requirements from neighbouring authorities?

 

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4 responses to “Duty to Cooperate sabotage? CPBC Local Plan2016 left up **** Creek without a Paddle?

  1. Cllr Bill Sharp

    Item 10 of the inspectors letter needs to be addressed. The motion at full council stated that there would be 4000 homes put forward in our local plan (site specific)but for some unknown reason the officers decided not to put in the motion agreed but reduce the number by some 2000 and the whole of the site known as North West Thundersley was left out .
    I am given to understand that members are making this fact known to the inspector, and a copy of the webcast which clearly shows which sites were approved by members is recommended to his viewing .

  2. We in the Borough of Castle Point are fortunate to have very experienced planning officers, who would be aware that the Local Government Association through their Planning Advisory Service provides specific guidance as to what is expected, with regards to the duty to cooperate,
    There should have been an understanding from the start that the duty is more than a procedural requirement – it is how authorities are expected to undertake strategic planning, and not only about speaking to your neighbours.
    It would be incomprehensible that our officers would have forwarded CPBC Local Plan for assessment without having fully understood this principle.

  3. The NPPF was published in 2012. Paragraph 157. reads; “Crucially, Local Plans should:be based on co-operation with neighbouring authorities, public, voluntary and private sector organisations;”
    This would have covered the period of the unpopular previous iteration of the cpbc plan, the draft New Local Plan. Little evidence of any attempted agreements with neighbouring authorities have emerged or been presented from that period.
    Reliance appears to fall upon the Thames Gateway and similar business and transport alliances that have brought finances and personal recognition to cpbc and members.
    As far as housing is concerned attempts at cooperation appear more like a last minute scramble.
    The necessity is to attempt to cooperate, not to achieve success.
    Our local government officers will have been fully aware of this requirement.
    It appears, to an outsider, that officers have either failed, or have been prevented from undertaking the duty to cooperate process.
    I am certain there is some explanation and as with Cllr Sharp’s comment, referring to item 10, all may be revealed in a week’s time, within the response letter from cpbc to the Planning Inspector.
    Editor.

  4. Editor.
    We are told that:-
    “Under current arrangements a charge will be made for determining whether your Local Plan is sound. The current fee rate is £993 per day. In addition your council will be required to reimburse any expenses paid for such items as travel costs, subsistence etc. An invoice will be issued for your Local Plan once the report has been despatched. Both the fees and expenses will be payable for all duties carried out in examining your Local Plan”.

    Surely the Authority would not have forwarded a Local Plan that could possibly not be found SOUND, given the burden to the public purse.
    According to a recent report the Council is awash with fund despite this however there remains a responsibility for the Council to spend our money wisely.

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