MINUTES OF THE STRATEGIC POLICY AND RESOURCES PANEL held on Tuesday 13 October 2020 at 7.30opm via Microsoft Teams Video Conferencing
1. Cllrs John Lowman (Chair), Allan Brown, Stephen Hand, Tony Lank, Claire Majsai, Martin Machan & Bob Sampson. Also in attendance: Sarah Groom, Clerk to the Council
2. Apologies for Absence and Declarations of Interest: Apologies were received from Cllr Malcolm Llewellyn.
3. Declarations of interest: There were no declarations of interest.
4. Minutes of the Previous Meeting of the Strategic Policy & Resources Panel: The minutes of the meeting of 21 September 2020 were agreed as a true record of the meeting. The minutes will be signed by the Chair at the next available opportunity.
5. White Paper: Planning for the Future: The Panel considered the Government’s White Paper on Planning for the Future. The closing date for responses to the consultation is 29 October 2020. The Planning for the Future consultation proposes reforms of the planning system to streamline and modernise the planning process, bring a new focus to design and sustainability, improve the system of developer contributions to infrastructure, and ensure more land is available for development where it is needed.
The panel had also benefited from reading three further documents: a power point presentation from the Sussex Association of Local Council’s written by Flo Churchill; a response that had been prepared by Henfield Parish Council; and the Hassocks Parish Council response.
The Panel agreed that the Henfield response was very professional and comprehensive. It was specific to Henfield and Horsham District Council but it could aid us in formulating our response. Mid Sussex District Council had indicated that they did not intended to consult town and parish councils as part of their response on this consultation. The Clerk will ask MSDC for an understanding of what format their response will take.
It was agreed that our response would be based on general feedback on the policies and the Parish Council would not get drawn into responding to the detailed questions such as how the technology could work on mobile phones etc.
Cllr Hand felt the Henfield PC response was very good and chimed with him. The theme of the White Paper seems to be to blame local authorities for the current system. There is no implication of blame targeted towards the developers who have not always played their part in the process. Our first theme can be that the Paper represents a one-sided view of where the system is not fit for purpose and it does not reflect the lack of accountability that developers have shown in delivering their commitments under planning permissions and planning conditions.
Cllr Majsai was concerned about the top down approach that appeared to reduce the input by local people and was not optimistic that the top down approach would be helpful of efficient. Cllr Lank was concerned that the generic Growth or Renewal area zones would imply planning consent for the whole of London and the south east. Cllr Sampson felt that the issue of sustainable communities was not addressed sufficiently and Sayers Common was a good example of how this is already undervalued. Cllr Brown had read the Robert Jenrick MP articles about the fault with the algorithm and Cllr Lank reminded the Panel of the Andrew Griffith MP speech in the House which was sent to us by Cllr Joy Dennis.
Cllr Machan is concerned that the input from parish councils will be reduced and our local knowledge will not be sought or used. We represent local residents and know our own patch well and we should
be attempting to control the type of development rather than it becoming a tick box exercise. Cllr Lank felt the Neighbourhood Plan although mentioned, would lose their important legal status and become design guides. Cllr Hand felt the standardisation of a Local Plan would weaken the role of the Neighbourhood Plans.
Cllr Majsai felt the White Paper didn’t address the key issues of affordable social housing and affordable rented homes which is especially hard for young people. People can’t afford to live and the Government is tinkering around the edges. Developers aren’t building the homes they already have permission for. Cllr Hand agreed and felt the White Paper was intended to allow developers to do what they want. They will focus on profits from large exclusive homes and continue their land banking practice whereby they sit on land but don’t build the homes, to keep the supply low and thereby the demand high, making homes more expensive. By keeping land on their assets list they keep the value of their companies high. The developers don’t care about the coalescing of communities or essential infrastructure. Cllr Lank felt delaying infrastructure until after occupation of the site was disastrous.
The Clerk was asked to create a list of bullet points to start the drafting of our response for Council to consider on 22 October. Cllr Brown believes the MSDC response will be in line with the comments made by the MP.
ACTION: The Clerk would:
i. request that MSDC share the approach that their response might take with us; and
ii. prepare a draft response for Council to consider on 22 October 2020 for submission by the deadline.
6. South Downs National Park: Guidance on Parking for Residential and Non-Residential Development SPD: The Panel considered the draft Supplementary Planning Document which the Parish Council has been invited to comment on by 19 November 2020. The Panel agreed they had no strong feelings about the document which seemed logical and the Panel noted the promotion of cycling over parking provision in towns like Lewes and Midhurst. The Panel agreed no comments would be returned.
7. Budget Setting 2021/22: The Panel considered the invitation to request a budget for e.g. planning consultants for 2021/22 and agreed that there were no current issues envisaged or foreseen, requiring a budget.
8. Matters for information or inclusion on next agenda:
If there is a second lock-down, the Panel can be called to meet at short notice if necessary. Many lessons have been learnt this year such as the supermarket deliveries, but the mental health and domestic violence situation has undoubtedly worsened. The Parish Council can help promote the helplines and support services for mental health services and domestic abuse / child line numbers. People’s financial positions will be worse this Winter and the food bank may be needed more.
A future meeting will consider a draft Environmental Policy for the Parish Council. Not so much declaring a climate emergency generically, but having SMART targets and a solid set of actions of what the Parish Counci can do and how we can lead on it locally.
9. Date of Next Meeting
The date of the next meeting is to be confirmed as required. Evenings are preferred by the majority.