Minutes

of the Meeting of the

Strategic Planning and

Economic Development Policy

and Scrutiny Panel

Monday, 9th February 2009

held at the Town Hall, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

 

Meeting Commenced:  3.30 p.m.   Meeting Concluded: 4.52 p.m.

 

Councillors:

 

P  Clive Webb (Chairman)

A  David Pasley (Vice-Chairman)

 

A  Bob Cook 

A  Jill Iles 

P  Edward Keating 

P  Reyna Knight (substitute for David Pasley)

P  Dr. Mike Kellaway-Marriott 

P  Keith Morris 

P  Tony Moulin 

P Marcia Pepperall (substitute for Jill Iles)

P Howard Roberts (substitute for Bob Cook)

 

 

 

P: Present

A: Apologies for absence submitted

 

Officers in attendance: Karuna Tharmananthar (Development and Environment), Malcolm Nicholson (Solicitor to the Council), David Jellings (Corporate Services Unit), Richard Kent (Development and Environment), Michael Reep (Development and Environment), Brendan Stone (Development and Environment), Jo Gadegaard (Corporate Services Unit)

 

SPE

46    

Public Discussion – Hilary Burn (Agenda Item 2)

 

Hilary Burn, of the Parish Councils’ Airport Association and North Somerset resident, addressed the Panel on the subject of Core Strategy and specifically the expansion proposals by Bristol International Airport (BIA).

 

Ms Burn expressed concern that the next formal stage of the Core Strategy (the Publication stage) was not due to be considered until after RSS approval, probably in Autumn 2009, whilst the planning application submitted by BIA was due to be considered by North Somerset Council in March 2009. She was also disappointed that the opportunity over the past two years to have carried out consultation on BIA’s proposals had not taken place.

The Panel was informed of the particular concerns that the planning application differed significantly from the BIA Master Plan, and that the adopted Local Plan did not appear to take account of the important issue of climate change.

 

The Panel was asked to take these concerns into account when considering the agenda item on the Core Strategy.

 

The Chairman on behalf of the Panel thanked Hilary Burn for her address.

SPE

47    

Declarations of Interest by Members (Agenda Item 3)

 

None.

 

SPE

48    

Minutes of the Meeting held on 26th January 2009 (Agenda Item 4.1)

 

Resolved:  that the minutes of the meeting be approved as a correct record.

SPE

49    

Local Code for Member Involvement in Planning Matters (Agenda Item 6.1)

 

The Committee considered a report that set out the main areas of guidance available on Member involvement in planning matters, and how the Council had addressed those matters

 

The representative of the Director of Development and Environment outlined the salient points of the report. He explained that there was not a local code specific to North Somerset but instead national guidance was followed. He advised that an explicit local protocol for Member engagement would be particularly useful.

 

The Solicitor to the Council highlighted recent case law, and informed the Panel that the Department for Communities and Local Government was keen for early member involvement in discussions with developers and others at the pre-application stage. He advised that a local code would help Members to carry out their role more safely, and that Member involvement in drafting the code would be welcomed.

 

Panel Members said they would welcome local pre-application advice and guidance and the likely protection that it could provide. They also asked that Members be given the opportunity to keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date by means of bite-size training sessions. 

 

The representative of the Director of Development and Environment referred to the concept of front loading; engaging the local community and obtaining local opinion through dialogue, so that there were no surprises for developers, the community and the local authority when planning applications were submitted. There were examples of best practice in other local authorities which would be analysed.

 

Members considered that the involvement of town and parish councils in the process could be enhanced.

 

Members expressed the wish to be involved in the discussions with officers on drafting a local code for member involvement in planning matters.

 

Concluded: that a local code of conduct to guide member involvement in planning matters be drafted by the officers in consultation with Members of the Strategic Planning and Economic Development Policy and Scrutiny Panel by means of a workshop, and that the draft code be submitted to this Panel for endorsement prior to being referred to Area Committees for comment, and the Planning and Regulatory Committee for decision.

SPE

50    

The Core Strategy and urban extensions to Weston-super-Mare and Yanley – Interim Report (EXE 84) and Update (Agenda Item 5.1)

 

The Panel received a reference from the Executive of 16th December 2008 advising that the Executive generally supported the recommendations and that the Executive Member for Strategic Planning, Transport and Economic Development had indicated that he would submit a report on the Core Strategy at the appropriate time.

 

The Panel also received a written update that advised that approval of the Regional Spatial Strategy would set the planning context for North Somerset in terms of, for example, the amount and general location of new development to 2026, including proposed urban extensions.  Further progress on the Core Strategy must await clarification of the RSS which has dbeen delayed and remains subject to much debate, and is currently not anticipated until Summer 2009.  The next formal stage of the Core Strategy (the Publication stage) will therefore not be considered by Executive until after RSS approval and not before Autumn 2009.

 

The representative of the Director of Development and Environment explained that it was not a matter of the Core Strategy being delayed, but rather that the stages of the process had been adjusted. The Government Office of the South West (GOSW) had been contacted regarding the timetable, and the Council had been advised that there was no longer a requirement for councils to produce a referred options document. Instead, North Somerset was intending to go direct to public consultation. A timetable was being prepared that would define the engagement with consultees, including town and parish councils, and this would be discussed with Members. It was suggested that workshops be arranged to take place following RSS approval to produce a formal document encompassing key issues such as climate change and Bristol International Airport.

 

The representative of the Director of Development and Environment, with reference to Bristol International Airport, explained that the Local Plan took account of the context that planning applications may be submitted prior to RSS approval. It was pointed out that the RSS encouraged BIA expansion but not before 2026. The Local Plan had to be in accordance with the RSS approach.

 

A Panel Member referred to the issue of climate change. It was considered that this was an ongoing issue for discussion and debate.

 

Concluded: that the reference and update be noted.

SPE

51    

Portishead Open Air Pool (Minute EXE 86) and Oral Update (Agenda Item 5.2)

 

The Panel received a reference by way of response from the Executive of 16th December 2008.

 

The Chairman reported that further to the Executive Decision the Director of Finance and Resources and the Director of Development and Environment had met the Trustees of the recently formed Portishead Open Air Pool Trust at which they presented a business plan for the next three years.  It had been agreed that both parties would further consider the contents of the business plan.

 

The Panel was informed that Executive Members had received briefings on the Trust proposal from officers and Trust representatives and had informally agreed to take the negotiations to a more detailed level pending a further meeting, which was likely to take place at the end of February 2009.

 

The Chairman also reported that the Leader of the Council, Councillor Nigel Ashton had stressed that no decision had yet been made, with further information requested on some aspects of the proposals and suggested conditions of a transfer.  However, Members were satisfied that the Trust was approaching the issues in a business-like manner and appeared committed to making their proposals work. The Leader had added: “Clearly we have a responsibility to the wider North Somerset community to ensure that any handover of the Pool to a Trust does not come back on the council tax payer at a future date and that the proposals are in the best interests of Portishead residents”. 

 

A final decision was expected in March or April 2009.

 

Panel Members welcomed the oral update and the positive message it contained.

 

Concluded: that the reference and oral update be noted, and that the Executive Member for Strategic Planning, Transport and Economic Development be requested to report to this Panel for scrutiny and comment prior to reporting to the Executive.

SPE

52    

Quarter 2 Finance and Performance Monitoring (Minute EXE 92) (Agenda Item 5.3)

 

 

The Panel received a reference from the Executive of 16th December 2008.

 

It was noted that there were no significant areas of underperformance within the Panel’s remit. Arising from this, it was considered that there no areas of performance that required immediate investigation as part of the Panel’s work plan.

 

A Panel Member asked for clarification about the concessionary fares budget and the cost to North Somerset Council.

 

The representative of the Director of Development and Environment advised he expected North Somerset to be within the cost parameter forecast for concessionary fares. He undertook to provide the Member with a brief summary of the financial implications.

 

The representative of the Director of Development and Environment whilst advising that performance on minor and other applications could be improved, commented that overall performance was good. He was pleased to report the Government was particularly positive about North Somerset’s performance on transport, particularly with regard to encouraging bus patronage and cycle use.

 

Officers provided a brief update in response to Members’ queries about the impact on the roads of the current adverse weather conditions.

 

Concluded: that the report be noted.

SPE

53    

Response of the Executive Member to Recommendations of the Road Maintenance Working Group (Agenda Item 6.2)

 

 

The Panel considered a report that set out the response of the Executive Member to the recommendations of the Road Maintenance Working Group.

 

The representative of the Director of Development and Environment

 

Panel Members broadly welcomed the response. They referred to and commented on the issues of public footpath maintenance and communications strategy, and reaffirmed that these were issues that needed investigation by the Road Maintenance Working Group.

 

The representative of the Director of Development and Environment, in response to Members’ queries, advised that the new highways maintenance contract started on 1st April 2009, that the contract appeared financially robust, and that the successful contractor had submitted very competitive rates.

 

Concluded: that the report be noted, that the Road Maintenance Working Group further investigate and consider the issues of assessment of public footpath maintenance, the creation of a communications strategy for publishing information about planned road works, and that the Working Group meet with officers to discuss the Highways Asset Management Plan.

SPE

54    

Draft Revenue and Capital Budgets 2009/10 and further update on financial position 2010/11 and 2011/12 (EXE 90 and COU 127) (Agenda items 5.4 and 5.5)

 

The Panel had previously considered references from the Executive and Council regarding the budget proposals for 2009/10 (Minute SPE 45) and had considered the amendments proposed by Councillor Leimdorfer, at the meeting of the Council on 6th January 2009, and had made recommendations back to the Executive.

 

Further to this consideration, the Chairman asked Panel Members whether they had any comments, queries or questions that required a response by the representative of the Director of Development and Environment.

 

The Panel considered that the budget had been fully deliberated at the Panel meeting on 26th January 2009, and that there were no further matters to consider.

 

 

                                                                                    ________________________________

                                                                                                                Chairman

                                                                                    ________________________________