Contact: Gurdip Paddan
To confirm as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 10 December 2020 (previously circulated).
The Minutes of the meetings held on 10 December 2020 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
DECLARATION 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 this Agenda.
Councillors S. Boulton and P. Zukowskyj declared a non-pecuniary interest in items on the agenda as appropriate by virtue of being Members of Hertfordshire County Council.
LOCAL PLAN VERBAL UPDATE
A verbal update from the Head of Planning on the Local Plan.
Members received a verbal report from the Head of Planning on the Local Plan, as there had been some further developments with the Inspector and the Programme Officer. This Panel had received a report before Christmas which had gone through the Council’s committee process. This update related to the OAN assessment of housing needs which was agreed at 13,800 and the Council submitted a package of sites of approximately 13,277 homes. The Inspector has reviewed these sites and has written a letter in response stating that the sites in the submitted Plan together with sites in the new plan; if taken together do statically meet the OAN of 16,000 homes but he is not yet convinced by the exceptional circumstances or that they all meet the soundness test; so he therefore intends to host further hearing sessions. He will examine the changes to the OAN evidence, he recognises the work the Council has undertaken in terms of population etc. and he will host hearing sessions on this issue and on the new sites that have been identified. It was noted that he also intends to examine sites adjacent to excluded villages such as Welwyn, Welham Green, Brookmans Park and Cuffley, which made it through the HELAA assessment process but have not been selected by the Council for submission. He also wants to investigate the evidence that has led to the rejection of sites at Digswell and Oaklands and Mardley Heath, to ensure that the distribution of housing is valid.
He did not intend taking action on the Potters Bar safeguarded site of PB1, as it is a late stage submission in the Plan and not having been subjected to the same arduous consultation/examination. There are also sustainability and deliverability reservations in respect of this site.
The Panel noted that hearing sessions have been scheduled for 24, 25 and 26 February to consider OAN and windfall issues. Hearing sessions have been arranged for village sites between 1 to 18 March 2021. Hearings may continue after 18 March if elections are postponed, as no purdah period will apply.
At the end of last year Members were advised of the new standard housing method which was reducing the need for housing and if the Council did not have the Local Plan it would have a target of 667 homes per year. The Government has reverted back to the previously introduced Standard Method and this equates to 875 homes a year, which is higher than the one the Council had been anticipating through the Local Plan process.
The Panel will be kept updated on all developments. Officers will now be compiling responses/statements to the hearing questions the Inspector poses and representing evidence that has been prepared in the site selection. Officers will put forward the decisions made by this Panel, as agreed via the Council’s decision-making process and seek to convince him of the view made by this Council.
A Member referred to the windfall issues and stated that he will comment ... view the full minutes text for item 109.
Report of the Corporate Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) on the consultation on changes to the planning system.
Report of the Corporate Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) on the consultation on changes to the Planning System. The Government had consulted on a change to the Planning System that would allow shops, services, cafes/restaurants, offices and health centres grouped in the new Class E use to gain permitted development rights to change to residential use without the need for planning permission. A report on this change was presented to this Panel last year. It was also consulting on a fast-track route for public service buildings such as schools and universities.
The potential consequence of this proposed new permitted development would mean that town centres could lose shops and other service and gain residential units in their place. This means that commercial high street business such as an estate agents could become a house; without planning permission. This was not open to any consultation. Members were advised that the Council has policies in the adopted District Plan and the emerging Local Plan that would retain a dominant proportion of shops in the town centres with a sufficient balance in other centres whereby the Council would be able to retain town centre use in all of those units. Town Centres as a whole or partially could become residential and there would be no limit on the size of the building. It does however protect pubs, theatres and live music venues, as these are recognised as having community value and/or heritage value. It would mean that it would be a prior approval process and the Council would only be allowed to consider certain things such flooding, natural light and contamination.
The Head of Planning advised that the Council should oppose the new permitted development right for Class E commercial, as it reduces our control over town centres and neighbourhood centres.
There is also the fast-track route for public service building such as schools, hospitals and universities; if Members had comments on this route, these can be reported within the Council’s response to the consultation. If it is brought in as a permitted development right, the Council can consider an Article 4 Direction but at present they are only at the consultation stage.
Members were advised that there is no fee for prior approval planning applications and cannot seek S106 but the Council does own properties within the Class E and would benefit from this right if it wishes to take up this right.
The following points were raised and discussed:
· It was clarified that the fast-track route would still involve the normal planning consideration/determination and regulations were in place but it does allow the planning application to be considered within a short timescale and prioritise it over other development schemes. The Officer explained that from a permitted development right, it does allow greater enlargement of public service buildings. There are also proposals for new permitted development rights to allow greater enlargement of public service buildings (25% of footprint rather than 25% of the original building’s gross floorspace and extra ... view the full minutes text for item 110.
Report of the Corporate Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) on the Annual Monitoring Report and covers the period 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020.
Members considered the report of the Corporate Director (Public Protection, Planning and Governance) on the Local Plan – Annual Monitoring Report. It was noted that the Annual Monitoring Report (AMR) serves a number of purposes, including; reporting upon the amount of development that has taken place in the Borough during the year, assessing whether this development meets targets across a number of indicators and setting out expectations for future development in the Borough. In addition, it also reports on progress against the Local Development Scheme, which sets out when and how the Council will produce new planning documents and polices and includes progress on the Council’s efforts under ‘duty to cooperate’ with other public authorities.
The 2019/20 AMR covered the period from 1st April 2019 to 31st March 2020. While the AMR may also refer to development and changes since the 31st March 2020, the 2020/21 AMR reported on these in more detail.
The AMR provides considerable information on what is happening in the Borough not just in terms of housing but services such as health and wellbeing.
The following key points were noted:
· The AMR reports on 36 planning indicators.
· The Borough’s population grew at an estimated rate of 0.2% (Welwyn Garden City), which was an increase to just over 123,000; slightly lower than Hertfordshire as a whole (0.4%).
· The Council’s annual retail survey was undertaken during October/December 2020 – the Town Centre vacancy had increased to 8.6% compared to last year of 4.1%. Some large units became vacant during the year which contributed to the increase. In Hatfield Town Centre the vacancy also increased to 16.5% from 13.8% last year. Part of the vacancy in Hatfield has been due to the redevelopment at 1-9 Town Centre.
· The new library has opened in White Lion Square but another large unit had become vacant.
· Last year saw 673 net new housing units having been completed. A total of 69 new affordable homes were brought to the market which accounted for 10.3% of total net dwellings completed.
· In terms of student flats – 94% were completed; providing 272 self-contained dwellings.
The average dwelling density for new dwelling
· The Borough has continued to see a net loss of employment floorspace totally -5,903m2 in 2019/20. Another notable B2 loss in 2019/20 was at the Entech House site in Woolmer Green, which is being redeveloped for housing.
· The number of claimants of job seekers allowance saw a 0.3% increase to 2.0% in March 2020 (from 1.7% in March 2019). The impact of Covid-19 had led to an increase of claimants in the Borough to 4.5% in October 2020.
· The minimum annual local housing need was calculated using the Standard Methodology, under which ... view the full minutes text for item 111.