Agenda and minutes

Strategic Planning & Environment Overview & Scrutiny - Wednesday, 4th October, 2023 7.30 pm

Venue: Conference Room 2 - The Forum. View directions

Contact: Corporate and Democratic Support  01442 228209

No. Item


Minutes and Actions pdf icon PDF 331 KB

To agree the minutes of the previous meeting.

Additional documents:


Cllr Birnie wondered if he had missed a response to his question regarding the monitoring of air quality at Bennet's End Road. It was noted that a specific question hadn't been received in the matter, but confirmed that the air quality report had been circulated. Cllr Birnie reiterated his request to know why an air monitoring station had been put in, as there had not been one there previously.


It was confirmed that the latest issues at Luton Airport were currently with the inspectors, but these would be sent around as soon as available.


The Chair noted that the minutes would be accepted as a true and accurate record.


It was highlighted that the infrastructure funding statement would now be going to a cabinet member decision, but that officers had been asked to circulate the document for information, and this was why it had been removed from the agenda. It was also confirmed that it would be circulated imminently.



Apologies for Absence

To receive any apologies for absence.


Apologies were received from Cllr Riddick and Cllr Walker with Cllr Williams and Cllr Banks substituting, and from Cllr Mitchell due to illness.



Declarations of Interest

To receive any declarations of interest.


Cllr Gale noted that he was a Trustee for the Leverstock Green Village Association.



Public Participation


The Chair confirmed that there were some members of the public in attendance virtually, and welcomed them to the meeting. It was noted that no members of the press were known to have registered.



Consideration of any matter referred to the Committee in relation to Call-In




Q1 Planning Performance Report pdf icon PDF 496 KB

Additional documents:


The report was taken as read, and highlighted as being the one which had not been on the previous month's agenda, covering April, May, and June. It was confirmed in paragraph 1.3 that there had been a noticeable improvement from Q1, being 76% on-target against a 70% target, compared to 69%. Paragraph 1.5 was noted as giving a breakdown on minors and others, with majors being at 100% for Q2. Enforcement site visits in paragraph 1.7 was identified as having fallen to 56% against a target of 100%, with a temporary enforcement officer having just started in post, and interviews for a second about to start, along with overtime agreed with existing enforcement officers to bring the number of cases down and carry out priority site visits as they come up.


Cllr Birnie referred to 1.7, noting that timely site visits had previously been agreed as important for resident confidence, and vital to avoid complications during the build, stating that 56% was a poor percentage of site visits. It was reiterated that the report was slightly aged, with the next report likely to reflect additional resources that had and were being brought in to address the issue.


Cllr Timmis hoped that the additional planning officers would help to address outstanding cases, but expressed concern that they were 'temporary'. It was explained that due to the budgeting position, permanent established posts could not be added, with the temporary posts running for twelve months to address the backlog, and consideration then to be given regarding more permanent requirements in future. The Chair identified that the steer from the committee should be to have the area properly resourced if at all possible, and the matter should remain on the agenda.


Cllr Birnie referred to 1.8, questioning difficulties identified in accessing data from third parties. It was explained that the data available was based on the financial year, so the indicator in the report potentially needed adjustment to take the annual nature of that data into account, as it currently included up to April 2023, but anything more recent would not be available until the end of March 2024. It was noted that the collection of data on housing completions had been externalised, increasing capacity, cost effectiveness, and improving the consistency of checks.


Local Plan pdf icon PDF 2 MB

Additional documents:


The Chair noted that there had been previous briefings, and the documentation was taken as read.


The importance of having a policy and strategy for future places was emphasised, with the Local Plan including the vision and objectives, and serving as a tool to set out which areas are protected, which areas are or are not for homes, where infrastructure is needed etc, in order to support other priorities such as access to education. It was added that the plan would also help to secure affordable housing, protect open spaces and conservation areas, and to plan for housing with suitable alternative natural green space, such as the Chilterns Beechwoods Special Area of Conservation, as well as addressing climate change, and that, following from knowing where homes and jobs would go, the utilities could then be improved and expanded. It was noted that without such a plan there was more uncertainty, with developers able to 'plan by appeal', but acknowledged that setting a local plan up was a lot of hard work due to competing priorities.


The process of making a local plan was summarised, starting with Regulation 18 and community consultation, with a Task and Finish Group to balance evidence, issues, and feedback. It was noted that there were other opportunities for community engagement and consultation prior to the examination in public and inspectorate. It was confirmed that the local plan had been in progress for a while, with two rounds of consultation with the community so far, but acknowledged that the start had been in 2017, with a revised consultation recommended for October 2023, and finalisation of evidence for submission to the inspectorate in 2024. It was noted that the requirement for a local plan was part of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which was currently going through transition, and that when it came into force as an Act there would be a transition period, meaning that there was a 30th June 2025 deadline to submit the agreed local plan to the Secretary of State, with sign-off by the Planning Inspector required by 2026. St Albans were identified as being on a similar track for their local plan.


In regard to the strategy, it was noted that feedback had led to a focus on development on brownfield land, building on urban areas as much as possible, preserving Green Belt as much as possible, building in sustainable locations close to current facilities and amenities, and supporting areas in need of intervention and investment such as Hemel Hempstead town centre. It was confirmed that where Green Belt was being released, comprehensive planning was taking place to keep homes and infrastructure together, affecting areas such as Tring and Berkhamsted, with existing schools being expanded where feasible. Paragraph 2.26 was identified as analysing the change in homes per settlement since the previous consultation, based on community feedback, with 16,899 homes proposed over the planned period, which was now 14,345. It was confirmed that the plan was recommending lower numbers than those set  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Work Programme


The Chair noted that there was a meeting in the agenda to discuss the work programme, and requested that she be informed of any topics for discussion.


Cllr Banks wondered if it would be appropriate to have something in the work plan regarding climate change. The Chair agreed that this could be added.


There being no other business, the Chair thanked attendees and closed the meeting.


Action: Committee members to submit any topics for discussion as part of the work programme to the Chair.