Given the absence from this meeting’s agenda of consideration of the Local Planning Enforcement Plan, (LPEP) public consultation responses and the proposed amendments to the LPEP document, the Committee will have no input prior to the matter coming before the Executive on July 30. This contradicts the plan the Committee had previously stated.
Is the Committee sufficiently concerned to implement its purpose to overview and scrutinise by insisting on arranging a meeting of the Committee prior to the July 30 Executive meeting so that it can submit to the Executive for its July 30 meeting its own conclusions on the LPEP consultees’ responses and the redraft by officials of the LPEP proposals?
Given the absence from this meeting’s agenda of consideration of the LPEP public consultation responses and the proposed amendments to the LPEP document, the Committee will have no input prior to the matter coming before the Executive on July 30. This contradicts the plan the Committee had previously stated. It did want to have input to this plan. Yes you have just mentioned in your previous answer that the Committee did have input to the first plan, but in fact the two particular areas that this Committee raised, (by Councillor Bowring particularly) were largely evaporated because if you see the minutes, he was satisfied with Clare Lawrence’s, Head of Development Management words to the effect that it was largely impossible to sort out what planning harm might be or to define may or may not be expedient. Perhaps it is the public consultation event that has brought this particularly to the forefront as being grappled by Ms Lawrence’s department but is unable to present its revision here. I think the fact that you have had input prior to this meeting, yes I agree on the first, but not on the second which could be rather more important now in that we might have an LPEP document which meets needs rather better than the first one.
Is the Committee sufficiently concerned to implement its purpose to overview and scrutinise, bearing in mind that the Executive is the decision making authority, but this is overview and scrutiny area, by insisting on arranging a meeting of the Committee prior to the July 30 Executive meeting so that it can submit to the Executive its own conclusions on the LPEP consultees’ responses and the redraft by officials of the LPEP proposals because that is not what you have done and I think it is your job to do so? To not to do so is in my view an abrogation of the responsibility of Overview and Scrutiny.
Most of my answer is fairly similar probably to the previous question.
As you are aware, the Committee has looked at the planning enforcement area a number of times over the last couple of years so we have played quite an important role in the review of the Planning Enforcement Service and then in helping to prepare the plan,
The Committee has reviewed the draft Local Planning Enforcement Plan document and made comments at that stage. As stated previously, I have been informed that the views of the Committee have been taken into account although I have not seen the draft document.
The formal process now is for the Plan to be presented to the Executive. That is the decision making body and it is quite unusual for something to come back repeatedly to overview and scrutiny whilst it is being developed so we have done quite a lot in that regard so far. All the Members of the Committee will receive the papers before they go to the Executive, I will certainly read them and if Members of the Committee have concerns I will get them to raise them with me and I will raise them with the Executive Member so that they are taken into account before the Plan is put into place.
In terms of the action plan, I am intending that the action plan will come back to Overview and Scrutiny in a few months’ time so we can see how things are going to the plan that they have set themselves.
You have answered me as Chairman, do your other colleagues have a similar view about my concern that you possibly meet just for this one item between now and July 30, so that you can clearly feel that the level of scrutiny you do will have been done? Bearing in mind, that the Executive is not a scrutineering committee. I have been to those meetings. There is very little detail. It is rather presentation, rubber stamp, move on to the next question. That concerns me. I have been to the last nine meetings of this committee. Nine consecutive meetings and I have seen that from the moment this committee voted nine to nil that this was going to be its main task in 2014 and I think it dates back to a decision in September 2013. We are now nearly 2 years on and I think this committee can be proud that it decided to make this a major item as it was something of a blot on the landscape and has tackled it and we have got an excellent report from John Sylvester. But I do not know how many Members of the Executive have read it. My copy has been loaned to a member of the Planning Committee who had not even seen it. That is why I am concerned that somebody somewhere on this committee which I think it is very good vehicle, really gets to the nuts and bolts of what has been proposed not just in this document but in the LPEP proposals that have come from the council Officers and the revised ones because the revisions are important because we all feel a little bit uncomfortable about what planning harm and not expedient meant. Therefore I would ask you again to consider even though it is July and short notice, and there are plenty of other meetings, that there is a focus because if you say no I will have to come to another conclusion about what overview and scrutiny is really meaning.
Supplementary answer provided by the Chairman:
I think the papers will only come out a week before the meeting so the most convenient thing to do is for members of this committee to review the papers and if people have concerns then we will correspond with each other. If is absolutely necessary, if it is so serious we can call a very quick meeting to discuss. I think that’s the most expedient way of dealing with it. It is not that we do not want to deal with it. I think that we deal with it that way and it will get done and then, as I say, we will correspond if we have got concerns when we read it. So I think that is the way that I am proposing that we deal with the issue. So we will certainly look at it.
Of course this is to put in place the plan. There is the action plan running which is running alongside. As you are aware there have been a large number of changes over the last couple of years in the planning enforcement and I think most Members have seen a ramping up of enforcement action in their areas. So it is not that things are standing still. It is just putting formal plan in place so that we can rely on it in planning terms.