Agenda, decisions and draft minutes

Special, Cabinet
Tuesday 18th January 2022 5.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Council Offices, The Campus, Welwyn Garden City, Herts, AL8 6AE

Contact: Alison Marston 

Media

Items
No. Item

71.

PUBLIC QUESTIONS

Up to thirty minutes will be made available for questions from members of the public on issues relating to the work of the Cabinet and to receive any petitions.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Question 1 - from John Gardner:-

 

I note the proposal by Welwyn Hatfield BC for additional sites and modifications to the plan. (Public reports pack CPPP 20220113), which ignore significant points in the Inspector’s Letter (EX271) and supplementary report (EX272).

 

In summary:

 

·       Why is the council proposing to explicitly ignore the directions on site allocations set by the Inspector? 

 

·       Why are they taking the risk that the Inspector will have no choice but to find the plan unsound, with the consequent impact of an even higher housing number in a future plan?

 

·       Why is WHBC in it’s preferred option(D) ignoring sites that are close to local train stations, schools and shops, in preference for a site like Symondshyde which will have few local shops, only a primary school and be distant from all transport hubs

 

·       Why have WHBC not followed up the comments in the Inspector’s letter exploring all available avenues for a FOAHN reduction?

 

Site Allocations

 

The Inspectors directions on site allocations

 

In EX271 and EX272 (and supporting documents) the inspector required “evidence that objectively justifies the choice and distribution of the proposed sites.” and “but the process should be objective and transparent as well as justified”

 

·       The Inspector further stated para 16. “Site selection is a complex process, which needs to be undertaken in a consistent and transparent manner. There is no evidence to suggest that the Council followed such a process when considering which additional sites to place before the Examination. Indeed, not all land previously considered appropriate for development by the Council but also being assessed as causing high or moderate/high harm to the GB, if developed, was selected for removal from the plan. At best this suggests an inconsistent approach and a lack of objectivity. The conclusions are not justified and thereby unsound.”

 

The Inspector made absolutely clear at several Hearing Sessions that Symondshyde should not be allocated ahead of suitable sites in “Large Villages” and he further stated that the allocation of Symondshyde would not be found sound until all other options had been “exhausted”. Clearly, the Council is going against the Inspector’s advice and instructions.

 

It is difficult not to see the selection of Option D as an attempt to minimise development around Brookmans Park, at both the expense of other less suitable sites and the local plan overall.

 

The Inspector’s commentary on numbers

 

·       In EX241 he describes the employment strategy as “seeks to further grow the amount of employment in the Borough, beyond what are already excessively high levels, for the size of the economically active population.”

 

·       In EX272 para 25 The inspector notes ”The Council’s development strategy is based on the assumption that there will be further economic growth in the area during the plan period. Land to accommodate some of this is to be released from the Green Belt. I discussed my concerns about this when I examined the overall strategy in 2017 and again in my preliminary conclusions and advice.”

 

·       The inspector indicates that ”such a  ...  view the full minutes text for item 71.

72.

DECLARATIONS OF INTERESTS BY MEMBERS

To note declarations of Members’ disclosable pecuniary interests, non-disclosable pecuniary interests and non-pecuniary interests in respect of items on the Agenda.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Councillors S.Boulton, T.Kingsbury and F.Thomson declared a non-pecuniary interest in items on the Agenda as Members of Hertfordshire County Council.

73.

ITEMS RELATING TO THE BUDGET AND POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR RECOMMENDATION TO THE COUNCIL

To consider the following items:-

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The following items were considered:-

73a

Budget Proposals and Medium Term Financial Forecasts 2022/23 (Forward Plan Reference FP1086) pdf icon PDF 305 KB

To consider the comments of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Public Document Pack from its meeting on 6 January 2022 on the budget proposals for 2022/23 (Minutes from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to follow).

Additional documents:

Decision:

(1)   Cabinet noted the changes to the draft budget papers for 2022/23, and considered the recommendations from Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

 

(2)   Cabinet recommended the budget proposals 2022/23 to Full Council.

Minutes:

Report of the Head of Resources on providing an update on the 2022/23 budget proposals for recommendation to the Council following the Cabinet on 4 January 2021.

 

The budget proposals were accepted at the Cabinet meeting on the 4 January 2022. At the same Cabinet meeting changes to fees and charges for the Estates Management Scheme were agreed. These changes have now been incorporated into the proposals.

 

There were also further minor wording changes made to the proposals, following discussion with the Executive Member, Resources.

 

Members noted that the budget proposals were discussed at the meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 6 January, 2022, having previously been reviewed by a Task and Finish Panel.  The Overview and Scrutiny Committee unanimously found the proposals to be financially sound and did not put forward any recommended changes.

 

RESOLVED:

(unanimous)

 

(1)   Cabinet noted the changes to the draft budget papers for 2022/23, and considered the recommendations from Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

 

(2)   Cabinet recommended the budget proposals 2022/23 to Full Council.

74.

Local Plan - Additional Sites and Modifications to the Plan (Forward Plan Reference FP1083) pdf icon PDF 186 KB

Recommendations from the meeting of the Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel on 13 January 2022 on additional sites and further modifications to the Local Plan.

 

Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel Document Link - Thursday 13 January 2022 

Additional documents:

Decision:

Cabinet recommended to Full Council the proposed dwelling numbers of 13,279 which can be formed from sites which the Inspector found sound.

Minutes:

Recommendations from the meeting of the Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel on 13 January 2022 on additional sites and further modifications to the Local Plan.

75.

STATEMENT BY THE EXECUTIVE MEMBER (ENVIRONMENT, PLANNING, ESTATES AND DEVELOPMENT)

Additional documents:

Minutes:

At the Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel on 13 January 2022, the panel considered the recommendations for modification to the Local Plan and in particular housing numbers and sites as set out in the officer report and the recommendation that option D be accepted. The panel unanimously rejected option D of 15,200 dwellings and the required sites. A further motion was put to the panel to recommend a strategy is put forward for 13,277 dwellings. This motion was approved by the panel (10 in Favour, 2 against, 1 abstention). In the interim officers had confirmed that 13,279 dwellings can be obtained from sites which have been found sound by the inspector.

76.

PRESENTATION BY THE PLANNING AND POLICY IMPLEMENTATION MANAGER

Additional documents:

76a

Key Stages

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were 3 informal consultations for the Local Plan to identify issues.

·       Issues and Options were consulted upon in 2009

·       Emerging Core Strategy in 2012

·       Site Consultation in 2015

 

Consultation on the draft Local Plan was undertaken in 2016 and the Plan was submitted for examination in May 2017.

 

There were further consultations on:

·       Additional Sites in 2019

·       Proposed Changes consultation 2020

·       Interim Inspector’s report October 2020

 

The Council then submitted Additional Sites for examination in November 2020.

 

The Council then received the inspector’s report on the additional sites and sites in villages in July 2021.

 

76b

Hearing Sessions

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The hearing sessions had begun in 2017 and there had been a total of 10 hearing sessions.

 

·       Stage 1 Legal Soundness and Duty to Cooperate in September 20217

·       Stage 2 Overarching Strategy in October 2017

·       Joint session with East Herts on Birchall Garden Suburb in January 2018.

·       Stage 3 Topic Specific Policies in February 2018

·       Stage 4 Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City policies and allocations in June 2018

·       Stage 4 Green Belt Assessment in November 2018

·       Stage 6 Birchall Garden Suburb, Housing and Employment Land Needs in December 2019

·       Stage 7 Birchall Garden Suburb and Symondshyde in March 2020

·       Stage 8 Village site in July/ August 2020

·       Stage 9 Additional Sites, OAN, Windfall and Greenbelt boundaries in February/March 2021

 

76c

Inspector's Reports

Additional documents:

Minutes:

After the stage 9 hearing sessions, the Council received a number of documents from the inspector.  This included an overall letter to the Council, a report on the full objective assessment of housing need (FOAHN), a supplementary report providing guidance for the Council and what it needs to do to achieve a sound plan, the stage 9 round up notes on sites, the inspector’s conclusions on windfall and the approach to be considered when taking land out of the greenbelt.   Options for making the plan sound were considered at Cabinet Planning and Parking Panel on 13 January 2022.

76d

Strategy for 13,277 dwellings

Additional documents:

Minutes:

A strategy for 13,277 dwellings was agreed at Full Council in November 2020. It was based on meeting the objective assessment of housing need (OAN) of 13,800 dwellings and it resulted in additional sites being selected which gave a housing supply of 13,277 dwellings.

 

This comprised of:

  • Completions, commitments and small sites (3,097)
  • Windfall assumption (1,402)
  • Allocation in plan (8,029)
  • Sites where capacity changed (679)
  • New Sites (1,702)
  • Sites to be removed from the plan where they harmed the greenbelt (1,632)

76e

Changes

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Since November 2020 there have been a number of changes to the underlying basis for these figures.

 

The inspector’s conclusions on what would be appropriate windfall assessment had increased from 1,402 to 1,668.

 

Completions, commitments and small sites had increased from 3,097 to 3,334.

 

For site capacity, an additional 130 dwellings were found suitable and potentially further increased site in Little Heath from 34 to 63.

 

Not all sites were found sound, including sites in employment areas, whilst some sites were advised to be unlikely to be found sound if not required to meet local need.

76f

Capacity Changes to submitted sites

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members noted a list of sites where capacity had changed over the course of the examination, in 2016, 2020 and 2022. For example, the  Panshanger site (north east of Welwyn Garden City), had its capacity increased from 815 in 2020 to 845 in 2022; while the Birchall Gardens suburb site SDS2 had decreased from 1,200 dwellings in 2016, but had increased by 100 dwellings since November 2020.

76g

Additional Sites

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members noted a list of additional sites. The majority of the sites were found sound but there were a number of sites in the employment areas particularly in Welwyn Garden City which had been found unsound. There were concerns about the suitability of a number of sites as there were other sites that had be found to be in more sustainable locations and therefore these sites should only come forward if those other sites also came forward and there was a general local need for those sites to come forward.

76h

Sites proposed for removal

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members noted a list of proposed sites to be removed from the local plan. This included Symondshyde, BrP4/HS22, BrP7/HS24, Cuf7/HS30, Cuf12/HS29 and Barbaraville (which is the extension of the traveller site).

 

BrP4/HS22 had been found sound, whereas there were options for the other sites which could be found sound if more sustainable sites also came forward or if there was a general local need. 

76i

Additional sites found unsound

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members were shown a list of sites which were found unsound.

 

Settlement

HELAA Ref

Green Belt / Urban

Site

Capacity 2020

WGC

Pea106

Urban

73-83 Bridge Road East

235

WGC

Pea103

Urban

29 Broadwater Road

128

WGC

Pea105

Urban

61 Bridge Road

21

WGC

Pea97

Urban

Former Norton Building

122

 

76j

Sites soundness dependent on Strategy

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members were shown a list of sites where the soundness is dependent on the strategy.

 

Settlement

HELAA Ref

Plan Ref

Green Belt / Urban

Site

Capacity 2020

Brookmans Park

BrP1

GB

Upper Bell Lane

 

104

Little Heath

BrP7

 HS24

GB

Land south of Hawkshead Road

100

Cuffley

Cuf7

HS30

GB

Wells Farm, Northaw Road East

72

Cuffley

Cuf12

HS29

GB

Land North of Northaw Road East

73

 

Three of the sites were part of the sites proposed for removal. The other site was BrP1 which the inspector had confirmed was not a particular sustainable site in comparison to other sites in Brookmans Park and was unlikely to be found sound unless there was a genuine local need for additional housing which could not be met by more sustainable location.

76k

Summary Table

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members were shown a table which showed a summary of sites by type in 2020 and 2022.

 

Total 2020

Total 2022

Total 2022 with sites removed (which had been found to be unsound or likely to be found unsound)

Total Sites

8,778

8,887

8,277

Small Sites

15

14

14

Windfall

1,402

1,668

1,668

Completions

2,121

2,514

2,514

Commitments

961

806

806

Total

13,277

13,889

13,279

 

76l

Risks

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Officers set out the risks with submitting to the Inspector a strategy which would deliver 13,279 dwellings. The key points included:

 

·     The figure of 13,279 did not meet the FOAHN

·     The strategy did  not conform to the Inspector’s guidance on selecting sites or proportionate distribution

·     It proposes the removal of sites which had been found sound

·     The Inspector had already rejected this strategy so there is a strong likelihood of the strategy being found unsound

·     There is a lost opportunity for stepped trajectory

·     Decision on specific planning application would need to be made with reference to the current plan, which is out of date and has limited weight in decision making. Officers noted that the Council had lost appeals because of lack of five year housing land supply and Housing Delivery Test.

·     Five-year housing land supply would be assessed on standard methodology – which would mean a target of 875 dwellings per annum

·     The lack of an up-to-date plan will likely result in ad hoc development and impact on level of developer contributions.

 

77.

CABINET MEMBERS COMMENTS

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Members stated that there were risks involved in whichever decision the Council took with regards to the Local Plan. The lower target of 13,277 was in no way anti-growth. Even with the target, there will be a loss of Green Belt, which Members acknowledged must be protected given the benefits it brought to the borough and the community.

 

Members asked if the 13,279 as opposed to the 13,277 included Symondshyde? Officers confirmed that the figure did not include Symondshyde and that all the sites that Members had wanted to be removed from the plan had been removed. Officers agreed to provide a detailed table of sites to accompany the Cabinet recommendations that would be submitted to Full Council.

 

Members acknowledged the full debate had at CPPP which informed the recommendations made and agreed that it was for elected Councillors and their communities to take planning decisions which were in the best interest of the residents, businesses and communities of the borough.

 

Members acknowledged the risk as outlined by Officer. However, Members were minded to support the CPPP recommendation given the feedback received from the community and their own understanding of the impact of the higher housing figure. It was agreed that the recommendation from CPPP should be tweaked to reflect the more up to date figures and be in a form suitable for adoption by Full Council.

78.

CABINET DECISION

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

(unanimous)

 

Cabinet recommended to Full Council the proposed dwelling numbers of 13,279 which can be formed from sites which the Inspector found sound.