Called In Item - Local Plan - Recommendations from Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee
At its meeting on 7 February, 2019, the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee considered the Called-In decision of Cabinet (17 December, 2018).
Recommendations of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, minute of the Call-In meeting, Cabinet report and minute are attached.
The Cabinet received its Minute of a called-in decision that it had previously made on the Local Plan at its meeting held on 17 December 2018 (Minute No. 47 refers) and had regard to the Cabinet report it had considered at that meeting. It also considered Minute No. 43 of the Special meeting of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 7 February 2019 to consider the called-in decision.
The Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee had held a special meeting on 7 February 2019 to give the called-in decision its consideration and had made (Minute No. 43 refers). The Cabinet noted that the Committee had resolved as follows:
The Cabinet Member to set out a timetable and programme for publication of all studies;
To set out costs of consultants proposed to be employed and identify all budget headings;
Report to Cabinet on a structure for Member led consultation after discussions with all Parties to ensure details of all studies are available;
The Cabinet Member takes further action towards a cross-party working Group on the Local Plan and provides continued further information to answer questions from all back bench elected Members.’
Councillor George Davies reported that an appropriate, robust Local Plan which met the housing needs of Wirral’s residents was a must. It was a vital duty which the Council would deliver. He informed that he had made it clear from the outset that the Local Plan would be underpinned by the views and needs of Wirral residents and would include the highest levels of democratic oversight and scrutiny by his fellow Councillors. That was why he was pleased to respond to the recommendation of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and set out the avenues for Elected Members of all parties to play a fundamental role in shaping Wirral’s Local Plan.
In response to the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s recommendation which Councillor George Davies welcomed, he would present the Cabinet with a table that identified all the technical studies commissioned from third parties required to support the current Local Plan work, their publication dates and costs (were known). Paragraph 31 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) stated that the preparation and review of all Local Plan policies should be underpinned by relevant and up-to-date evidence. All local planning authorities relied on these technical studies to gather the evidence required for the Examination and to ensure that the Local Plan was ultimately found ‘sound’ by the Planning Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State.
Councillor George Davies informed that he had written to the Political Group Leaders seeking a meeting with them to discuss the formation of a cross-party Advisory Group on the Local Plan. He also informed that he would report back to the Cabinet with the terms of reference for this once the meeting had taken place with them.
Councillor George Davies went on to say that he had asked officers to arrange a series of briefings for all Members of the Council on the Local Plan process and future timetable. He would Chair these meetings and was happy as the Cabinet Member with support from officers, to answer all questions from backbench Elected Members.
Councillor George Davies reported that, within the Council’s budget there was a specific cost centre where all of the Local Plan costs could be identified and monitored as the Local Plan work progressed. There was an allocated one off additional budget of £1.2m, funded from reserves and other resources for expenditure to March 2020.
Councillor Phil Davies informed that Cabinet Members accepted the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s recommendations. There was in absolute agreement that all Members should be involved in the Local Plan process and have the opportunity to scrutinise it and ask questions.
Councillor Phil Davies also reminded the Cabinet of the tight timeline that must be adhered to in the delivery of the Local Plan. It would be worked on at pace in order to meet the deadlines that had been laid down. Providing these deadlines were kept to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s requests should be agreed and the Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning had set out exactly how this would be done and had detailed what the Cabinet would receive a further report on.
Councillor Phil Brightmore informed that he considered it to be an utter disgrace that the Government was forcing such housing targets on the Council and if through the recommendations arising out of the call-in, the Council can come together to express its disgust, then hopefully, the Government will change its mind and allow the Council to set its own targets.
Councillor Phil Davies made the point that the Cabinet was committed to supporting the ONS figures for housing projections (488) and, as Leader, he had written to the Secretary of State to make this clear. This remained the position. He considered it to be an accurate reflection of the needs of Wirral than the much higher figure (803) that the Government initially had set out. Cabinet Members would continue to make that case to Government at every opportunity in the coming weeks and months.
Councillor George Davies recommended and it was
That the Cabinet
(1) receives and considers the recommendations of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny meeting of 7 February 2019;
(2) notes and endorses the actions of the Cabinet Member with portfolio for Housing and Planning in:
(a) setting out a table identifying all the technical studies, their publication dates and their costs;
(b) writing to the Political Group Leaders seeking a meeting with them to discuss the formation of a cross-party Advisory Group on the Local Plan; and
(c) arranging a series of briefings for all Members of the Council on the Local Plan process and future timetable.
(3) requests the Cabinet Member to report back to the Cabinet for approval of the terms of reference of a cross-party Local Plan Advisory Group; and
(4) authorises the Corporate Director for Business Management, in consultation with the Cabinet Member with the portfolio for Housing and Planning, to undertake decisions relating to the approval and publication of the evidence base and associated technical reports, relevant to the preparation of the Local Plan.
- Minute Extract ENV OS Call-In 7 Feb 2019, item 61. PDF 146 KB
- Cabinet Minute Extract 17 Dec 2018, item 61. PDF 104 KB
- WirralLocalPlanReport - Cabinet 17 Dec 2018, item 61. PDF 144 KB