The Chair introduced his report on reviewing the process for production of the Local Plan and highlighted various concerns including the following:
· The HELAA procedure guidance was not followed.
· The impact on Neighbourhood Plans.
· Evidence missing from the consultation.
· The need for improvements to health infrastructure.
· Criticism of the Commonplace consultation software.
· An explanation is required as to why town and parish consultation meetings were not held.
Comments and questions from Members included the following points:
· Concern was expressed regarding the public consultation held in Whimple with confusion regarding proposed housing numbers.
· Lessons needed to be learned regarding the choice of the Commonplace software.
· Comments from members of the public were welcomed and the lack of uncertainty with the consultation was a cause for concern.
· All aspects of the Local Plan process should be referred to the Strategic Planning Committee for investigation in the first instance.
· The Commonplace software was an improvement on the paper based consultation of the past.
· There needs to be an evaluation of why the usability and accessibility of the Commonplace website was not checked.
· There was concern that the consultation had been held over the Christmas period.
· Members also expressed concern as to whether the consultation would be seen to be valid.
· Members felt that the new Local Plan process was being done in a hurry and could have waited until after the May elections.
· Residents had not been given the full information in the consultation but were still being asked for their views.
In response to Members’ concerns and questions, the Chief Executive and the Assistant Director Planning Strategy and Development Management advised that the Strategic Planning Committee was the appropriate Committee to be considering issues regarding the Local Plan and consultation. Following a report to the Strategic Planning Committee, the Scrutiny Committee could then consider a report with the added benefit of the views of the Strategic Planning Committee and the Portfolio Holder.
It was noted that the Commonplace software had also been used for other consultations and that no issues had arisen. The Committee confirmed that any report arising out of the discussion should focus solely on the Local Plan consultation.
The decision to hold the consultation over the Christmas period had been taken by the Strategic Planning Committee and had factored in various issues and time pressures. The recent consultation was the first of the minimum of two formal stages, known as Reg. 18 and Reg. 19, in a long process which may involve further consultations depending on the responses received and which would give the public further opportunities to comment.
The Assistant Director Planning Strategy and Development Management clarified the purpose and procedure for the HELAA process in identifying sites which are deliverable and achievable and the stages at which the public can give their views. The Assistant Director was confident that the consultation process was valid.
That a report be prepared for the Strategic Planning Committee assessing what has been done so far in the new Local Plan process and setting out the way forward.