Will the Executive please tonight defer the adoption of the revised LPEP until after the next Corporate Services Overview & Scrutiny Committee meeting in September?
The officers’ response, and their consequent revisions, to the LPEP arising from measured comments in the public consultation require a diligent review and assessment by the Corporate Services Overview & Scrutiny Committee. Since the public consultation the Committee has not had any further discussion on the LPEP.
There are a number of material and serious omissions; here are two examples. Firstly, nowhere in the revised LPEP is there any reference to Green Belt. This is an extraordinary omission given the impact of Green Belt on planning issues especially in the northern parishes of the Borough. Secondly, in seeking to clarify “planning harm”, the revised LPEP incorporates some, but not all, of the framework developed by Tendring Borough Council (which was suggested in consultation responses). Specifically, the omissions are “irreversible harm” and “special exercises”. The revised document, as well as the omissions I have mentioned, need to be appropriately overviewed and scrutinised and that is not the purpose or function of an Executive meeting like tonight’s with a very full agenda.
It would thus be a material failure of sound and proper governance by the Executive to adopt the revised LPEP tonight. The Executive needs the assurance – which it presently does not have - that the revised LPEP has passed through a proper assessment procedure by the Corporate Services Overview & Scrutiny Committee prior to the LPEP being formally submitted to the Executive for adoption.
In light of Mr Meadowcroft being unable to attend the meeting the following written answer was provided:
The Council is keen to adopt the LPEP in its current state to be able to set out to local residents the level of service that can expect from the planning enforcement service. The LPEP has been 18 months in preparation and considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on four separate occasions. The OSC has influenced the content of the document which has received wide support from elected members and should be implemented as soon as possible.
There is no reference to the Greenbelt in the LPEP because the LPEP sets out procedures for planning enforcement and the level of service that will be provided. Greenbelt designation is a specific planning policy and it is not appropriate to refer to specific planning policies in the plan. Planning policy is assessed as part of the tool to assist with assessing harm (appendix 1 of the LPEP). This tool has been adopted from the model used by Tendring District Council and adapted to meet circumstances within Wokingham Borough.
As a result of the enforcement review, the planning enforcement service has received a greater level of resource at a time when many councils have reduced the enforcement activity considerably. However, there are still limited resources to deal with the 700 cases that the authority receives each year and the LPEP sets out how these resources will be allocated.