To answer questions asked after notice in accordance with the provisions contained within the Council’s rules in Part 4 of the Constitution on any matter in relation to which the Council has powers or duties or which affects the District:
(a) to the Chairman of the Council;
(b) to the Leader of the Council;
(c) to any Member of the Cabinet; or
(d) the Chairman of any Committee or Sub-Committee.
The Council’s rules provide that answers to questions under notice may take the form of:
(a) direct oral answer;
(b) where the desired information is in a publication of the Council or other published work, a reference to that publication; or
(c) where the reply cannot conveniently be given orally, a written answer circulated later to the questioner.
Answers to questions falling within (a) and (b) above will be made available to the member asking the question one hour before the meeting. Answers to questions falling within (c) above will be circulated to all councillors.
Questions, if any, will follow if not received in time to be incorporated into the agenda.
Question by Councillor C C Pond to the Portfolio Holder for Planning Services, Councillor N Bedford
To prevent the uncontrolled exercise of inappropriate and deleterious development, will the PFH for planning please give 12 months public notice of issuing article 4 directions to prevent the use of permitted development rights in respect of the following:
· Conversion of shops to residential units;
· Conversion of offices and similar buildings to residential units; and
· Any works to frontages, boundaries, roofs and the surfacing of front gardens in conservation areas and heritage assets, similar to those imposed by EFDC on two CAs 25 years ago.
Question by Councillor C C Pond to the Portfolio Holder for Planning and Sustainability, Councillor N Bedford
“Could the Planning and Sustainability Portfolio Holder agree;
To prevent uncontrolled exercise of inappropriate and deleterious development, will the PFH for planning please give 12 months public notice of issuing article 4 directions to prevent the use of permitted development rights in respect of the following:
• Conversion of shops to residential units;
• Conversion of offices and similar buildings to residential units; and
• Any works to frontages, boundaries, roofs and the surfacing of front gardens in conservation areas and heritage assets, similar to those imposed by EFDC on two CAs 25 years ago.
Response to Councillor C C Pond from Councillor N Bedford
The District Council can only impose an “Article 4” directions in very limited situations where it was necessary to avoid wholly unacceptable adverse impacts and protect local amenity. It must be based upon robust evidence and can only apply to the smallest geographic area possible.
The Council have controls in place through their policies in the emerging Local Plan which seek to limit the loss of office and retail space. Planning permission will not normally be permitted unless evidence demonstrates that there was no longer a reasonable prospect of the site being used for the existing employment use.
It was important to note that article 4 directions to restrict the change of use of shops/offices to residential use may accelerate conversions as applicants can apply for the change of use prior to the Article 4 direction taking effect.
There was also a risk of compensation for those owners/occupiers affected by the additional burden of securing planning permission for something that would otherwise be permitted development.
Additionally, it could be seen as contrary to the Government’s objective to provide flexibility and adaptability for businesses, particularly during periods of uncertainty such as the pandemic.
Likewise, seeking to restrict permitted development rights in relation to conservation area/heritage assets requires careful consideration. The Council would need to identify the harm being caused to such assets and assess their significance to justify Article 4 for restrictions. Again, it would need to be routed in evidence.
At this point, the Council does not have the evidence or justification to demonstrate that it would be appropriate and proportionate to consider the introduction of Article 4 directions. However, the Council will continue to monitor the loss of office and retail space and the economic and social impact it has upon the evolution of our town centres and any future compensatory measures that may need to be made to offset the loss of retail and office floorspace.
Councillor C C Pond stated that the question was phrased as it was, as by giving six months’ notice any question of compensation could be avoided. I have heard what the Portfolio Holder has said and I will write to him, particularly in respect of the bullet point added regarding demolitions, where some rather sharp practice has been going on.