Extraordinary Council meeting 25/4/19

Extraordinary Council meeting

Thursday April 25

Motion: “To instruct the Chief Executive and fellow officers not to issue a Planning Decision Notice for planning application UTT/18/0460/FUL until the related Section 106 Legal Agreement between UDC and Stansted Airport Limited and the Planning Conditions have been scrutinised, reviewed and approved by the Council’s Planning Committee after the local elections”

In response to the motion put forward by the Liberal Democrats and Residents for Uttlesford, the Leader of the Council, Howard Rolfe said:

Firstly, may I thank the public speakers. However, we must focus on the motion…..it is not about the planning decision in November 2018. That has been made and the process has been ratified by the SOS. It is not even a scrutiny of the 106 terms, it is about whether it is appropriate for a Council to change its governance and processes.

Section 106 agreements are subject to a series of legal tests. This is set out in the Community Infrastructure Regulations of 2010, Regulation 122(2) and supported in the National Planning Policy Framework. They set out that planning obligations must be:

1.      Necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms;

2.      Directly related to the development;

3.      Fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the development.

The delegation to officers to determine 106 arrangements is normal practice. Planning applications are determined in accordance with the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Council has delegated its responsibilities to officers and the Planning Committee.

Tonight’s meeting is not illegal, but it is highly unusual and inconsistent with the governance of councils who have planning responsibilities. There are wider implications of using Full Council to review the decisions of any committee that has been delegated to discharge functions on behalf of the Council.

The scheme of delegation is established to enable the efficient and effective working of the Council and provides a framework within which officers and members can operate with confidence. It also provides residents, businesses and customers the clarity, transparency and some certainty on how the Council makes decisions.

It is extremely important to note that the Planning Statement, as presented to the Committee, included draft S106 Heads of Terms, which drew together the various measures set out in each of the topic chapters and clearly identified the trigger points. The resolution of the Planning Committee to approve the application was made in the context of the application documentation in its entirety. The audio recording of the meeting did not note any changes or additions to the mitigation measures. The Committee was therefore content.

Colleagues are reminded of the 106 headings:

1.      The Sound Insulation Grant Scheme

2.      Strategic Route Network Improvements

3.      Local Roads Network

4.      Public Transport

5.      Other Matters –

·         Skills, Education & Employment

·         Community Trust Fund

·         Ecology Provisions

·         Surface Water Discharge Quality Monitoring

It is not part of tonight’s debate to discuss the detail, but it should always be noted in a Section 106 arrangement of this scale that it is about the total package.

There is an uncomfortable inference in this debate that some members do not trust officers. If this attitude were to grow, then it has major consequences for the business of this Council. Not only were officers guided by expert planning legal advisors, the agreement was also approved and signed by Essex County Council.

So, what would happen if this motion was successful? It would damage our governance, it would break the working relationship between officers and members, it would ask a new Planning Committee, some of whom have no experience of this case, to do what? Renegotiate, as I have already outlined, this is very unlikely.

Finally, it would lead to a charge of non-determination where UDC would be bound to pay all the costs and where we would struggle to defend, as our officers had made the recommendation. In a small instance of non-determination in Cambridge, the Council had to pay £250,000 over four houses. Stansted is of a very much greater magnitude so the costs could be over a million. A high price to pay.

I beg Council to oppose this motion.