In introducing the item, the Chairman explained that the Committee was concerned that given the size and complexity of the Waterbeach New Town SPD document and as it had not been made available to Members until 5 working days before the meeting, it had been given insufficient time to review and make a considered and informed response to Cabinet. The Committee was therefore minded to recommend Cabinet to defer consideration at its meeting on 5 September 2018. This would enable Scrutiny and Overview Committee to consider the item at its meeting on 18 September 2018. The Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development explained that if the Committee decided to defer this item, it would mean sending the report a month later to Cabinet and delaying the public consultation on the SPD. He outlined the consequences of delaying the consultation, including the impact on determining two planning applications noting that the Council’s ongoing 5 year housing land supply partly depends upon completions at Waterbeach new town from 2021/2022 onwards.
The Chairman accordingly invited the Committee to consider the Draft SPD. Comments raised by Members of on the document included the following:-
Officers responded to the points raised by Members as follows:-
(a) Emerging Local Plan
In response to concerns that the SPD alone would not guarantee that the developers delivered its aspirations, the Principal Planning Officer explained that the Council’s planning policies were included in the Local Plan. The SPD would sit alongside the Local Plan Policy for the new town in guiding the Planning Committee when it was determining any planning applications relating to this development. The Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development further explained that the Section 106 agreement would put legally enforceable obligations on the developers.
(b) Further consultation
In response to comments that the consultation process needed to be clarified the Principal Planning Officer explained the proposal to hold public exhibitions and to engage with the County Council and other stakeholders. The SPD would be reviewed following consultation with residents and stakeholders and would then be resubmitted for Member consideration.
(c) Learning from previous developments
In respect of the comments regarding previous developments and the need for developers to build the new town in accordance with the agreed plan and to ensure that community facilities were provided by the developers in a timely way, the Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development explained that the Council had gained experience from previous developments such as Cambourne and Northstowe. He also commented that the SPD would not operate in isolation and would sit alongside design codes and other planning guidance.
(d) Section 106 Agreements
The Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development explained that the purpose of the Section 106 Agreement would be to ensure that facilities were provided according to a set timescale. This was not the primary purpose of the SPD.
(e) Providing a summary
The Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development acknowledged that it would be helpful to add an executive summary that also explained the purpose of the consultation and how it related to the local plan. He further accepted that it would have been useful if the Committee had been provided with guidance on how the SPD related to the policies in the emerging Local Plan.
(f) Working with landowners and developers
With reference to the challenges of achieving the objective of “a single unified development” the Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development explained that it was not unusual for there to be more than one landowner for major developments. The onus was on the two developers to demonstrate how they would deliver the project.
(g) Transport Strategy
The Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development observed that some elements of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s (CPCA) Transport Strategy were still evolving but indicated that reference could be made in the consultation documentation to the CPCA’s emerging transport proposals.
The Environmental Services and Licensing Portfolio Holder, who was in attendance at the meeting, reflected that the Committee’s views appeared to fall into two categories – comments on the content of the SPD itself and comments on the consultation process. Based on the discussion, it was apparent that the Committee felt that the proposals for consultation were not clear and that in order to ensure that meaningful responses were received, it would be important to provide information on the background and context to the consultation and to consider possibly narrowing down the scope for comments or at least highlighting the main areas upon which the Council was inviting responses from consultees.
Given the advice of the Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development on the impact of deferring consideration of the SPD, the Committee reflected on options for submitting comments to the Cabinet on 5 September 2018. A proposal to authorise a small group of Committee members to work up a response was not supported on the basis that this would not necessarily reflect the views of the whole Committee. Instead it was suggested that Members should provide comments to the Principal Planning Officer individually.
At the conclusion of the debate, the Chairman summarised the comments of the Committee as follows:-
· Given the size of the document and the limited time it was made available to Members before the meeting, the Committee had been given insufficient time to review and make a considered and informed collective response to Cabinet upon the Waterbeach New Town Draft SPD.
· In the circumstances the Committee would have welcomed the opportunity to have recommended that Cabinet defer consideration at its meeting on 5 September 2018 so that Scrutiny and Overview Committee could have given more in depth consideration to the document, provided a co-ordinated response and made recommendations to inform decision making at Cabinet.
· Given the advice of the Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development on the impact of deferring consideration and delaying the public consultation exercise, the Committee had reluctantly concluded that, on this occasion, it had no option but to invite its Members to submit their comments on the Draft SPD individually with the intention that the responses (including those expressed at the meeting) be collated; that planning officers provide responses to Members’ comments and that a schedule of comments and responses be submitted to Cabinet on 5 September 2018 for consideration alongside the item.
· The Committee had agreed that there was a need to add a covering document which provided background and context to the purpose and objectives of the consultation; referred to the relevant section of the emerging Local Plan and highlighted the areas upon which consultees were being invited to comment.
· Noting that the Scrutiny and Overview Committee would receive a further report following the conclusion of the consultation process, Members requested that the report be published in good time to allow proper review and consideration by the Committee.
The Chairman thanked the Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development and the Principal Planning Policy Officer for their informative answers.