Borough Local Plan - Next Steps
Cabinet considered the report regarding an update on the Borough Local Plan.
The Cabinet Member for Planning, Environmental Services, and Maidenhead informed that following the Stage 2 hearings held in late 2020, the Inspector had issued a post hearings advice letter. The Inspector had agreed with the council’s proposals to amend some policies; had proposed that three allocations previously removed are reinstated and that one current allocation be deleted (Housing by Maidenhead Train Station). At every stage of the proses the plan adds more weight to the planning system.
The plan did include sites that were in the green belt, that was not liked, however there was a need for family homes and 80% of the borough would remain green belt.
The next steps was the Schedule of Proposed Main Modifications for public consultation. To reduce the risk of delay, delegated authority is sought for the Head of Planning in consultation with the Lead Member for Planning, Environmental Services and Maidenhead to agree the detailed wording of the schedule under the direction of the Inspector. The consultation would only be on the changes made by the Inspector and he was also recommending that the consultation be extended by one more week.
The Cabinet Member for Finance and Ascot said that he was delighted to see that the BLP would soon be complete. The future of development within the Royal Borough needed a robust plan.
The Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Sustainability, Parks and Countryside asked for clarification that the consultation would only be on the changes the Inspector had asked for and that the content would be discussed with Cabinet Members. The Cabinet Member responsible confirmed that this was correct and that there would be no change in policy.
The Chairman endorsed the necessity to get the BLP in place not only to protect from unwanted speculative development but also to provide the blueprint going forward. The impact of not having a BLP would be unwanted.
Cllr Baldwin mentioned that the report requested more key decisions being delegated to the Head of Planning and Cabinet Member, he asked what would be the alternative. He noted the long delay in getting the plan in place and asked how many speculative developments had been granted since 2013 without a BLP. He also said that between £25m to £75 million had been lost since 2016 without CIL being applied in Maidenhead Town Centre, how would needed infrastructure be paid for.
The Cabinet Member responded that as said there were no changes to policy and that the consultation was on amendments only. There were no sensible alternatives, if we were changing policy then the recommendations would be different. With regards to unwanted speculative developments he did not have the figures at hand but would ask for them to be provided. With regards to CIL there other funds available such as S106 and we were only talking about the centre of Maidenhead. There was no issue about raising money.
Cllr Werner mentioned that the climate change emergency was passed one year ago yet there was no mention of it in the BLP, this was a concern as planning was a major vehicle in dealing with the emergency. The Cabinet Member responded that the plan was set in stone and at this stage could only change areas set by the Inspector. We did have planning design statements in place for climate change. The Chairman also added that once the BLP had been adopted work could commence on the next one with enhanced focus on climate change.
Cllr Brar mentioned that one of her constituents, named in the Inspectors response, had shown why the plan was flawed especially in Cookham, he had not received any response to his letters. Concerns had been raised about congestion and not responded to. The Cabinet Member reiterated that the current plan was set in stone and only those areas raised by the Inspector could be considered. He was happy to meet with the resident mentioned.
Cllr Singh raised concerned about planned development in Maidenhead centre, policies on height were not adhered to, too much emphasis was placed on flats that there was not demand and what about employment. A lot of work was being caried out by the RBWM Property Company. He made refence to current live planning applications that Cabinet informed would not be discussed. The Cabinet Member also said that developers would not build properties if there was no demand. It was important to make Maidenhead attractive to employers. The Chairman said that as well as flats there was also affordable family homes.
Mr Hill addressed Cabinet and said that he would like to focus on paragraph 2.3 where it says the inspector had no concerns about the Golf Club development. Paragraph 29 of the inspectors report named Mr Hill were he said that based on the public information available there was a clear risk of the deliverability on the site. He said that contrary to paragraph 2.3 there was a risk.. the Council had sad that the land was available and that the terms of the release of the land was confidential; withheld under FOI and denied to the planning, however it was lodged with the land registry and publicly available. The Golf Club had stated that under the agreement until the BLP the proposals could be rescinded. The Inspector has said the authority should inform her if there was something that she did not know at the time that may impact the plan. He asked why this had not been done due to the surrender agreement.
In response the Chairman said that there was no risk to the BLP due to the Golf Club proposals and the Inspector had been satisfied. A response to the Golf Clubs letter had been sent and he refuted that the Council had not engaged with them. The Golf Club site would be delivered even if this required compulsory purchase orders. We have a sound BLP that will meet required tests.
Resolved unanimously: that Cabinet notes the report and:
i) Delegates authority to the Head of Planning in consultation with the Lead Member for Planning, Environmental Services and Maidenhead, to publish the Schedule of Proposed Main Modifications to be agreed with the Inspector for public consultation.