To receive a presentation from S Jevans, Interim Strategic Director.
T Tsui, Planning Policy Projects Officer, was in attendance.
An update on the Local Plan was received. The Council had been required to produce a new Local Plan that would set out its planning strategies for where new developments would be built until 2033 and also set out its planning policies, which would be used to determine planning applications. Large numbers of technical documents had been published and the public consulted over the last eight years. The Submission Version of the Local Plan has been published in December 2017. Ms Louise Phillips was appointed as the Inspector to carry out the independent examination of the Local Plan at the public hearing sessions that had been held from February to June 2019. The Council was awaiting the Inspector’s interim advice, which was due on 12 July 2019.
Meanwhile the Implementation Team was working on progressing the masterplan sites, which included North Weald Airfield, North Weald Bassett, Waltham Abbey, Harlow and Gilston Garden Town (3 sites – East of Harlow site, Latton Priory and the Water Lane area). A number of other applications for Local Plan sites had been granted and others were being submitted seeking planning permission. The Council was still being affected by the concerns of Natural England and the Conservators of Epping Forest about the potential impact of developments on the Forest (Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation), particularly local air quality. Therefore, no planning decision notices were being finalised for developments in the SAC, although the Council was working to resolve this with the stakeholders. The Council’s Planning Policy Team would be reporting back any advice received from the Inspector to members. Once a final report was received from the Inspector, the decision would be taken for the Local Plan to be presented to Full Council to be formally adopted, hopefully by early next year.
Councillor S Neville said that if the interim report was expected on 12 July, would the Inspector be issuing any further changes or would this only be known when the Inspector issued her final report on whether the Council had implemented the changes that she wanted? T Tsui replied that the Council had agreed a number of changes throughout the public hearing sessions but it was difficult to surmise what interim advice the Inspector would be providing.
To help clarify the issue around not being able to issue planning decisions, Councillor J Philip, Portfolio Holder (Planning Services), explained that Natural England’s instruction to the Council that it could not issue planning decisions was quite clear, but neither could the Secretary of State determine planning applications. Moving forward, the Council would hopefully receive a clear steer from the Inspector on the additional pieces of work required of the Council and on the major modifications to ensure the soundness of the Local Plan. By early autumn, the Council was hoping to be able to consult with the public on the modifications. The Inspector would take on board the responses from the consultation on the modifications and what she had heard during the hearing sessions. There would then hopefully be a final report from the Inspector to further ensure that the plan was sound, and to allow the Local Plan to be brought to Council for adoption. In the interim period, updates on the progress of the Local Plan progress and masterplans, performance agreements and any Section 106 receipts would be reported to Cabinet or the Local Plan Cabinet Committee.