To discuss proposals for a public consultation on Future Housing Numbers with the Leader of the Council and the Executive Member for Planning and Enforcement.
The Committee considered a report, set out at Agenda pages 11 to 22, which gave details of the Council proposal for a public consultation on future housing numbers in the Borough.
Councillor John Halsall (Leader of the Council) and Wayne Smith (Executive Member for Planning and Enforcement) attended the meeting to answer Member questions.
The report stated that, at its meeting on 30 May 2019, the Executive had agreed to carry out a public consultation exercise aimed at gauging residents’ opinions on the Government imposed housing numbers for the Borough. The consultation would be carried out by sending a postcard or letter to every home in the Borough. Responses could be electronic via a website link or hard copy via freepost. The proposed question was “Do you support the Government imposed housing numbers?
The report stated that the projected cost of the consultation exercise was £45k-£80k. This reflected the fact that the final cost would depend on the balance between electronic and freepost responses. The consultation was due to start on 24 June 2019 and would run for one month until 24 July.
In the ensuing discussion, Members made the following points:
As the consultation exercise was being held during the summer holiday period when families were likely to be away, was one month a sufficient timeframe? It was confirmed that the one month consultation period was felt to be acceptable as residents were being asked to respond to one simple question.
The cost of the consultation was estimated at £45k to £80k. What was the basis for this estimate? It was confirmed that the final cost of the consultation would be determined by the method of response used by residents. So, for example, if all residents responded electronically the cost would be around £39k. If all residents used the freepost option the cost would be around £100k. The cost estimate assumed a mix of response types.
What level of response to the consultation was expected? It was confirmed that a significant response was expected as residents were being asked to respond to a simple question in contrast to other, more complicated, consultation exercises. Members were encouraged to ensure that the consultation exercise was given a high profile in their wards.
Once the consultation result was in, what would be the next steps? It was confirmed that the consultation feedback would be used to lobby the Government about the proposed housing numbers. If that lobbying was unsuccessful, the Council would consider taking legal action.
Whilst the principle of consultation was agreed, would a petition also help to demonstrate the level of opposition to the proposed housing numbers? It was confirmed that the proposed consultation exercise had the benefit of being addressed to every household in the Borough. It was felt that running a petition at the same time may be confusing for residents.
How would the consultation exercise be publicised across the Borough? It was confirmed that the consultation would feature in the Borough News as well as local print and social media.
Did the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) contain any measures which the Council could use to argue its case with the Government? It was confirmed that the NPPF contained a clause relating to a rejection of housing numbers in “special circumstances”. This would be explored if the Council decided to take legal action against the Government. To date, there was no case law on this issue.
In light of the Member discussion, it was proposed by Pauline Helliar-Symons that the Committee recommend that the Executive consider extending the future housing consultation deadline for a short period.
On being put to the vote, the proposal was not agreed.
1) John Halsall and Wayne Smith be thanked for attending the Meeting to answer Member questions;
2) the proposals for the future housing consultation be noted.