The Interim Assistant Director (Planning Policy), A Blom-Cooper, presented a report that sought:
a) To update members on the progress of the preparation of the District Local Plan.
b) To seek agreement to an updated Local Development Scheme, the high-level project plan for the preparation of the Epping Forest District Local Plan. The proposed new scheme would supersede the earlier Local Development Scheme agreed in October 2017, with the preparation of the single District-wide Local Plan submitted to the Secretary of State for independent examination in September 2018.
c) To agree the resources needed to match the revised Local Development Scheme and support the Implementation Team.
d) To agree that the posts within the Implementation Team should be funded through Continuing Services Budget (CSB).
The Council had been delayed in submitting the Local Plan Submission Version for independent examination following a claim for judicial review in March 2018. When the claimant’s application for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal was refused, the Local Plan Submission Version was submitted to the Secretary of State on 21 September 2018. Louise Phillips MA MSc MRTPI, the Inspector appointed to carry out the independent examination of the Local Plan, was currently appraising it and the representations submitted at the Regulation 19 stage. It was likely that the public hearing sessions would start in February 2019. When confirmed, the hearing dates would be publicised on the Council’s website.
The revised Local Development Scheme (appended to the agenda) set out an ambitious target of July 2019 for the receipt of (final) report, Regulation 25, and October 2019 for the expected adoption and publication, Regulation 26.
Resourcing of the Local Plan was previously agreed by Cabinet in October 2017 and a budget agreed to take the Local Plan through adoption, in accordance with the current Local Development Scheme. As a result of the delay in submission, the budget had been re-profiled to take account of the revised Local Development Scheme and identified that the overall Local Plan budget required an additional £25,860 in 2019/20 and £353,000 in 2020/21. This was largely a result of additional spend from the delay and costs incurred by the judicial review, and extra evidence based work such as transport modelling/testing, air quality and updated work for the infrastructure delivery plan (IDP).
The Neighbourhood Planning budget required £11,500 over the grant provided by the Government (to provide advice and assistance to parish councils to develop neighbourhood plans). Support has been provided through a contract with the Rural Community Council of Essex. However, the Council had incurred additional costs as a result of the unsuccessful examination of the Chigwell Neighbourhood Plan which could not be recouped through government grants and an additional £11,500 was required in 2019/20 to continue the support to parish councils who were preparing neighbourhood plans.
The Implementation Team had been created in April 2018 following a Cabinet decision on 7 December 2017 when DDF funding of £284,400 was agreed for 2018/19 and 2019/20 with an agreement to review after one year. The posts and grades within the Implementation Team were detailed, as well as net expenditure of £238,000 in 2018/19 and £178,000 in 2019/20 from DDF. As the team would be required longer term, this needed to be part of the CSB. It was therefore proposed that from 1 April 2018 all posts except the Urban Designer were transferred to the CSB at a projected cost of £203,000 in 2018/19 and £316,880 in 2019/20. These figures included an additional Principal Planning Officer that was not included in the original proposal. The Council had also successfully secured £150,000 to support high quality design in the District in its bid to MHCLG for the Planning Delivery Fund, and this would be used to fund the Urban Design Officer post for the first two years when it would also be transferred to CSB. Furthermore, it was expected that the Implementation Team would become self-financing either from income from Planning Performance Agreements (PPAs) or income related to the fees for processing planning applications. However, until that point some DDF funding would be required to make up the difference between expenditure and income. This was estimated at £78,000 for 2018/19 and £166,000 for 2019/20, subject to regular review.
Work on the Harlow and Gilston Garden Town project had progressed significantly during 2018. It was essential that a collaborative and co-ordinated approach was taken to development implementation to ensure successful delivery across the partnership. Agreement to establish a wider Garden Town Team and Joint Implementation Team had been reached in principle. In summary, the total EFDC budget proposed to deliver the Garden Town project over the next budget period included the provision of £133,000 for 2019/20 and also £133,000 for 2020/21.
(1) That the update in relation to progress in the production of the Local Plan be noted;
(2) That the updated Local Development Scheme included as Appendix 1 be agreed and published on the Council’s website;
(3) To note expenditure from the Local Plan to date in 2018/19 financial year, and to agree a bid for an addition to the DDF of £25,860 in 2019/20 and £353,000 2020/21 (£378,860 in total over the two financial years); and agree a DDF budget of £11,500 to support Neighbourhood Planning;
(4) To transfer the posts within the Implementation Team to CSB from 1 April 2018 (at a cost of £316,880 in a full year) except for the Urban Design Officer post which it is proposed to transfer from 1 April 2020 (at a cost of £51,460). But retain DDF funding of £244,000 to fund the difference between Expenditure and income in 2018/19 and 2019/20.
Reasons for Decisions:
The Council was obliged under the Localism Act 2011 to prepare and publish a Local Development Scheme so that the public and stakeholders were aware of the likely timing of key stages of the plan making process.
The Council must ensure that the Local Plan was sound and deliverable to meet the requirements of legislation and national planning policy, and also to ensure that future development was plan-led, sustainable and of a high quality. To ensure that the Local Plan would be sound and deliverable it was vital that the production and implementation process was adequately resourced.
Other Options Considered and Rejected:
· Not to provide an update on the preparation of the Local Plan.
· Not agree to amend the Local Development Scheme.
· Not to agree the additional funding identified for the Local Plan DDF.