Venue: Via Zoom https://zoom.us/j/93063688674
Contact: Governance Email: email@example.com
No apologies were received.
The Chairman recognising that there were strong feelings on either side of the debate, expressed his wish that the debate be conducted in a courteous and respectful manner. He believed that every Councillor would vote in the way that he or she felt was in the best interests of the County.
Councillors were reminded that the debate was whether or not to accept the terms of the Housing Infrastructure Funding (HIF) Agreements and was not about the allocation of the St George’s site. That issue had been debated when Council decided to submit the Local Plan and would be debated again when Councillors met to consider whether or not to adopt the Local Plan.
The Chairman advised Members that, as there was a necessity to make a decision that evening, amendments to recommendations 1, 2 and 5 would not be permitted as these could not be made unilaterally by the Council and therefore would negate the motion put before them. In the same vein, a motion to defer the decision would also not be permitted.
ANNOUNCEMENTS FROM THE LEADER, MEMBERS OF THE CABINET OR THE HEAD OF PAID SERVICE
There were no announcements from the Leader, Members of the Cabinet or the Head of Paid Service.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
In accordance with the Regulations, Members are invited to declare any disclosable interests under the Code of Conduct and the nature of those interests in respect of items on this Agenda and/or indicate if Section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 applies to them.
There were none.
To receive any petitions, deputations or questions received from members of the public in accordance with the provisions of Procedure Rule 28. The total time allowed for this is 30 minutes. Petitions, deputations and questions will be dealt with in the order in which they are received and any which are not considered within the time limit shall receive a written response after the meeting.
2 deputations and 5 questions had been received from members of the Public and, in accordance with the virtual meeting procedure rules, these had been published on the website and circulated to Councillors before the meeting.
Before the first speaker was invited to give his deputation, the Chairman proposed that Procedure Rules 28, 29 and 58 were suspended for the meeting.
Suspending Procedure Rules 28 and 29, that restricted the time allowed for deputations and questions, would enable all the deputations and questions submitted to be heard and as Chairman, Councillor Baines was particularly in favour of this in light of the fact that the matter before Council was proposed to be heard in confidential session.
Suspension of Procedure Rule 58 would mean the cut-off time would not be enforced and so Council could continue to sit beyond 10pm, if necessary, to ensure that Council’s consideration of the matter was finalised that evening.
Councillor Bool seconded the motion and a vote was taken.
Council voted unanimously to suspend Procedure Rules 28, 29 and 58.
The first of the deputations, (appended to the minutes) was delivered by Mr M Touchin on behalf of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.
Councillors did not ask any further questions of Mr Touchin.
The second deputation (appended to the minutes) was received from Mr R Camp on behalf of Manton Parish Council.
Councillors did not ask any further questions of Mr Camp.
Mr D Hodson asked a question (appended to the minutes) on behalf of Greetham Parish Council.
Councillor G Brown, Portfolio Holder for HIF and the Local Plan, responded to the question by stating that Council had approved the draft Local Plan for submission to the Planning Inspectorate following the Regulation 19 consultation and this included the allocation of the brownfield site at St. George’s Barracks (SGB) for the new Garden community. The decision in front of Councillors was whether to accept £29.4m of HIF monies to support delivery of approved Local Plan policies. If Council voted against accepting the HIF monies then, as many different parties had assessed, the SGB Garden Village would no longer be viable unless alternative ways could be found to meet the £29.4m gap, and Local Plan Policies H2 and H3 could still be met.
It was likely that should the HIF monies not be accepted the Local Plan would need to be withdrawn from the Planning Inspectorate for review and modification in order to meet the requirement for 160 homes per year. Councillor Brown further stated that it could take up to three years to get to the point the Council was currently in which would result in the Council not having a five year housing land supply; there would then be a presumption in favour of development and a real risk of uncontrolled development.
There was no supplementary question from Mr. Hodson.
Ms J Stuttard then asked a question (appended to the minutes)
Councillor G Brown, Portfolio Holder for HIF and the Local ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL
To receive any questions submitted from Members of the Council in accordance with the provisions of Procedure Rules 30 and 30A.
There were no questions from Members.
Report No: 51/2021 and Report No: 42/2021
Before moving to consider the exclusion of the public and press, the Chairman invited the Monitoring Officer to advise Council on why they were being asked to move into private session. This was also to ensure that members of the public who were watching understood the reason for the motion and the advice given to Councillors.
The Monitoring Officer advised that Council should move into private session as the information in the agreement that Council was being asked to make a decision on was confidential within the meaning of Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972. Both Homes England and the DIO had told Council that release of the information that would be the subject of the debate could harm their commercial interests. The information had been supplied on the basis that it was confidential and the Council would be in breach of this confidentiality to discuss the detail in public.
Council was being asked whether or not to enter into the agreements and would therefore necessarily have to discuss the detail in order to ensure that regard of all the evidence that was material to the decision being made had been had. Should Council choose not to go into exempt session then Council would not be able to discuss, for example, details of the cashflow, milestones other than the 2024 date, the recovery strategy, and specifics on the agreement of risk. A previously public meeting had debated the principles of such an agreement and it was concluded that Council would need to consider the detail in order to make an informed decision.
The Monitoring Officer made a final point for his reasoning and strong advice that the issue should move into confidential session and that was that, while individual councillors might be of the view that what they wanted to say could be done in open session, this was unlikely to be the case for all councillors.
Following the advice given, the Chairman confirmed that he and the Monitoring Officer had held lengthy discussions to explore any way in which the decision could be held in public however there was no doubt that the position of Homes England and the MOD would preclude Council from doing this and therefore he felt that there was no other option but to move into private session.
The motion to move into confidential session was proposed by Councillor Walters and seconded by Councillor Ainsley.
Councillor Bool addressed Members at this point to express his concern that Council was attempting to go into private session so early on in the debate especially as so many members of the public were observing. Councillor Bool wondered whether or not there were other hidden issues because he felt that the issue had started in secrecy four years ago, when the previous Chief Executive had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which was then kept secret from 24 of the 26 councillors for an entire year, and would be ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
EXCLUSION OF THE PRESS AND PUBLIC
Council is recommended to determine whether the public and press be excluded from the meeting in accordance with Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, as amended, and in accordance with the Access to Information provisions of Procedure Rule 239, as the following item of business is likely to involve the disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 2 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.
Paragraph 3: Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).
The vote on excluding the public and press was taken and Members voted 15 in favour and 12 against. The motion was therefore carried.
The Chairman proposed that an adjournment of 5 minutes be taken before Members rejoined the private session of the meeting.
The public session of the meeting was closed at 8.22pm
HOUSING INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING CONTRACT
Exempt appendices 1, 2 and 3 have been circulated to Members under separate cover.
The motion to accept the Homes England grant offer of £29.4m Housing Infrastructure Funding was proposed by Councillor G Brown and seconded by Councillor Hemsley who reserved the right to speak later in the debate.
Councillor G Brown’s opening remarks included the following points:
· The decision before Council was whether to accept the Housing Infrastructure Funding. Doing so would allow for the road improvements to be completed so that a clear route, avoiding the surrounding villages, would be available for construction traffic right from the beginning of the development.
· The decision was not about the Local Plan which was approved by Council in February last year and was with the independent Inspector. On Friday of last week Councillor Brown was advised of the provisional dates of the examination of the Plan which would take place virtually at the beginning of June,…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
· The Inspector was planning to issue her initial letter and request information both at the same time which suggested that there were no major concerns and the Local Plan had passed the initial hurdle of basic soundness.
· Councillor Brown had responded to the frequently asked question of why RCC should be liable for costs or other liabilities when the landowner would receive a surplus on the existing use value of their land by stressing that the agreements before Councillors actually protected Council from these liabilities; RCC would not be responsible for the construction of highways, meeting milestones or for remediation for any cost overruns. The risk to RCC was probably less than any other housing project because of the agreements that had been negotiated.
· SGB would not turn out to be another Barleythorpe development as the grant would enable the Council to influence the development on the site. The outstanding issues at Barleythorpe were outside of the Council’s control.
· The SGB development was not a private company development but a public sector body development and as such the DIO was accountable to parliament and the tax payer.
· The development would bring about local employment, shops, hospitality, a school, medical facilities, a country park and potentially a 1 megawatt solar farm with landscaping across the site.
· RCC had been in talks with the Prince’s Foundation which had been responsible for the visionary Nansleden and Poundbury communities, and had introduced them to the DIO.
· If the Council rejected the HIF grant the Local Plan would no longer be viable and would therefore need to be reviewed and modified. As the evidence base would need to be updated it could entail starting all over again at a cost to the Council of approximately £1m.
· Without a 5 year housing supply, planning applications would have to be determined with a presumption in favour of development.
· Turning down the grant would also damage the Council’s reputation with MHCLG at a time when the Executive had fought hard to win a seat at the table for the Fairer Funding Review.
· Discussions were ongoing with Homes England to support the Contract Management Team to ensure ... view the full minutes text for item 9.