COuttersides had submitted the comprehensive Joint Strategic Plan, noting that this report was similar to that going through the process in each of the partner five districts, and was the first meeting in terms of the process. COuttersides outlined that the report was a summary of the Regulation 18 consultation undertaken last year and the strategic plan was looking long-term across the five districts and did not replace local plans. It was anticipated the JSP would guide the next round of local plans. COuttersides stressed the importance of thinking strategically and long-term across the geographical region, anticipating that strategic planning would become more of a focus if there were to be a change of government. The ability to look at infrastructure needed to deliver good growth was a key point to support growth across South West Hertfordshire across the next 15-20 years and beyond.
COuttersides noted the plan was Dacorum's rather than a county plan, outlining that if at any point in the process the Council didn't like anything they could object and have the veto right. COuttersides highlighted that there was a governance structure, adding that Cllr Wilkie was part of the lead member group that gave the political direction. The report had been approved by Cllr Wilkie, changes to vision and objectives having been endorsed by her as well as the wider membership across the partnership in terms of leadership and portfolio holders.
The Chair confirmed that about half of the Committee had been present at the briefing on Wednesday 31st (sic).
Regarding the section headed other sections of consultation on page 54, Cllr Birnie noted there was no reference to the need to make adequate provision for the treatment and disposal of wastewater, suggesting that in view of the reporting of poor performance of water companies that should be at the top of the agenda. COuttersides reported that an objective on page 39 had been strengthened to protecting and enhancing water resources. Cllr Birnie reiterated that this did not refer to wastewater. COuttersides responded that he would hope wastewater would be covered by one of the other objectives, which he noted were high level in terms of detail. COuttersides considered wastewater would be an issue that needed to be looked at, there was a need to look at what strategic issues meant in terms of wastewater and dealing with water resources. COuttersides thought when the detail of the next round of the plan was considered, he would look at objectives.
Cllr Birnie noted that whenever there were new areas of development the existing infrastructure for the disposal of wastewater was always deemed as inadequate. COuttersides reported that they were not sure when the end periods of the current local plan reviews were, once those were provided they could provide a definitive start point. The current view was probably around 2035-2050 as a time horizon. It was clarified that the JSP would inform the next wave of local plans for councils across South West Hertfordshire.
Cllr Birnie clarified that there was plenty in the report on water supply, he was talking about water disposal and the damage being done to rivers through overspill. COuttersides noted page 44 of the JSP, delivering robust and sustainable infrastructure. Four key objectives were outlined regarding delivering key infrastructure and promoting a circular economy. COuttersides read the section, 'Minimising waste by promoting the reduction, reuse and recycling of materials, delivering key infrastructure required to support new and existing growth, working with partners to deliver in a timely manner, ensure it meets local needs and adapts to the effects of climate change, green energy generation and digital infrastructure.' He hoped disposal of wastewater would be covered in those umbrella objectives at the next stage of the JSP. The Chair suggested COuttersides put that on his radar for future discussions and debate with the other local authorities, feeling the current document did not need to be changed, however wastewater was an area that was very important.
A question was raised regarding the autonomy of having local plans running underneath the JSP, with the suggestion that local authorities should retain autonomy over local plans and merge at joint strategic plan level to achieve the right level of infrastructure. The member was concerned at hearing that the joint strategic plan was going to guide and inform local plans. There was discussion around the semantics of guiding and informing, the Chair was of the opinion that guiding and informing was useful in gathering information, adding that guiding was taking advice from somebody who had looked at the broader picture and how that might impact. The Chair noted that they were the only group of authorities trying this joint approach.
There was a question as to whether there was commitment to retaining green belt and areas of outstanding natural beauty. The Chair believed those were for the local plan rather than the JSP, which was confirmed. AONB was not set by council and was separate. COuttersides added that there was no plan for a top-down approach to development, this was a bottom-up approach to the capacity as to what growth they were prepared to accept. COuttersides reiterated it would be very much up to local plans to detail and work out whether they were feasible in real life, adding that the local plan would have ultimate autonomy as to whether potential areas of growth were deliverable.
Cllr Birnie was concerned to hear that the local plan would be postponed until the JSP was further down the road, assurance was given that they were getting on with the plan and they would be presenting to the Committee. The JSP work was happening in the background and by the time that was done it would inform the next round of the local plan. The current local plan was being progressed through to adoption in the normal way, when the JSP was live it would inform the style and content of the next round of local planning.
Referring to the summary of comments and response,it was noted that green belt was mentioned, 'It's important to note that green belt is not a landscape issue, green belt land may be barren in this respect and was not a requirement or purpose of the designation. Furthermore, green belt is a policy designation, not an environment or sustainability designation.' The member had the impression that meant they would not discuss green belt in the final plan as it was overarching any consideration of what green belt might be. COuttersides reported that to date, green belt had not been a factor, the report was asking for endorsement on the vision and the objectives. COuttersides anticipated that the next phase of work would look at what strategic growth opportunities existed across South West Hertfordshire, as part of that process green belt would be looked at as a whole across South West Herts. There was a programme of work over the next year to eighteen months, the results of that would be brought back to this Committee.
The Chair asked whether anybody objected to the Committee endorsing the plan, there was one abstention due to not having enough clarity. The plan was passed by the Committee. COuttersides confirmed his details were in the document and that he would set up a one-to-one briefing if anybody required that.