Agenda item

PETITIONS, DEPUTATIONS AND QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC

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.

Minutes:

Deputation 1

 

A deputation, as printed below, was received from Mrs Susannah Fish, on behalf of the Parish Council Liaison Group.

 

Good evening. I am Susannah Fish. I am a Wing Parish Councillor where I have been resident for over 10 years. I was a police officer for over 30 years retiring as Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police. I now run my own business.

Councillors, tonight you are considering the conditions around the HIF grant, in private. It is difficult to see at this stage when there is only one developer, the Ministry of Defence, what commercial considerations are in play. The fact that the report is in DRAFT, your capitals, is no reason for exemption at all, and is not the transparency in decision making that the communities of Rutland expect.

One mustassume thatthe Cabinet eitherdo notwant anyembarrassing facts in the public domain, or want to test properly, what must be a whole array of assumptions, or both. In the absence of information, I wouldask theCouncil onthe public’sbehalf, toensure thefollowing four salient points aredebated.

1.    TheLeader hasrepeatedly assuredresidents thatany development at SGB would be infrastructure led, and that no houses would be built until the infrastructure is in place. One assumes that timing will be covered in the grant conditions. Are they? Are the Leader’s remarks borne out? For example, are road improvements, transport arrangements such as bus services agreed, medical, policing, and retail facilities in place. If not how long is it before critical mass is reached, how long do residents have to put upwith living on an isolated building site with noinfrastructure?

 

2.    The main reason for accepting SGB but not Woolfox as an acceptable site is that neither were viable according to your own consultants, but the HIF grant of £29m tips SGB into viability. Viabilityis currentlymeasured usinghigh levelassumptions togive strategic infrastructurecosts perunit. Whatis inthe publicdomain is thefact that£16m ofthe £29mof HIFfunding isrequired tomeet the toxiclegacy costsof theMOD –in essencea tax-payerssubsidy to the MOD, artificially supporting the land value to the MOD. This is not in line with either commercial values or usual property practice. The remaining £13m is therefore spread across the 2215 units. It does not reduce the cost per unit by that much, and certainly not sufficient to offset the margin of error in the assumptions used. Councillors should test why it is concluded that SGB is not viable without HIF, but viable with. What is the cost per unit reduction, and does this take the cost per unit significantly below Woolfox?

 

3.    Inview ofthe inadequatelegal advicetaken todate, whoand what are the Council’s lawyers advising on, for example, the Council’s exposures in the grantconditions?

 

4.    Perhaps most important of all, the Local Plan proposal to include significantdevelopment atSGB, willbe vociferouslyopposed atthe Local PlanInspection inPublic. Itwould bethe biggestmistake that youever makeboth personallyand forRutland toaccept anygrant conditions which tie the Council in any way before the conclusion of the examination inpublic.

 

I urge you to challenge the naivety that has been shown thus far in dealingswith theMOD andcentral Government,and tochallenge the arroganceof thetreatment ofaffected parties,or thoseseeking clarity of intention in making your decisiontonight.

 

Questions by Members

 

Mr Walters asked regarding the comment of inadequate legal advise taken to date, was it expressed as a matter of fact or a point of opinion and what basis was the assertion made?

 

Mrs Fish replied that it was her opinion in the face of the lack of information that we have got and the lack of due process thus far.

 

Deputation 2

 

A deputation, as printed below, was received from Mr Peter Coe, on behalf of the residents of Edith Weston.

 

This deputation relates to the major uncertainty and risks of accepting the HIF grant funding before the Local Plan is proved to be ‘sound’ AND in terms of the Housing Infrastructure Fund there is ‘still work to be done’.   

 

The HIF may be welcomed as it indicates that Rutland is worthy of funding, but how can the Council vote to accept the HIF to enable St Georges Barracks to be developed before there is any agreement that our Local Plan, should proceed to the next stage of the review process.

 

It is also clear that there is still work to be done on the HIF terms of agreement as you are being asked to make an ‘in principle’ decision.

 

Do you, our Councillors, share the same belief and confidence as the Cabinet that there are no ‘show stoppers’? Have the full details of the HIF conditions, risks and benefits really been fully addressed?

 

Alongside this it is clear that there is unquestionable concern about the overall content of the Local Plan, which, in its full form, has only very recently been made available to us. 

 

 We need you, our Councillors to pause, think carefully and NOT accept the ‘in principle’ decision until further thinking and collaboration has been conducted.

 

Just SOME of the KEY reasons why we say this:

 

·      The Local Plan does not have the support of a significant number of residents, so why would the scale of development of St Georges Barracks be sound?

 

·      We think the risks and benefits of accepting HIF funding are not yet fully exposed or transparent

 

·      SGB will be a new town – presented at first as a local service centre, but in time will become larger than Uppingham.

 

·      Without A-road connectivity –this will majorly impact Ketton, Empingham, North Luffenham and Edith Weston. The assessment data used to inform the infrastructure requirements is inadequate, the impact of HGV movements have not been considered. 

 

·      The Council are saying that Woolfox is not an option as evidence has not been produced.  Have the same tests been applied to examine the Woolfox possibility.? The Council will be open to legal challenge if fairness has not been applied.

 

·      Acceptance of the HIF to unlock SGB must be right for our Local Plan.

 

There are many many more, but, as a final note for you to consider, last week  Uttlesford’s draft local plan, which included Garden Villages, was kicked back by the planning inspector stating that ‘fundamental aspects of the Draft Local Plan were unsound’.

 

Findings included:

·      The approach predetermines the strategy long beyond the plan period and so is unduly inflexible;

 

·      The assessment of reasonable alternatives does not consider a smaller number of garden communities, in combination with more housing in existing sustainable settlements;

 

·      The lack of certainty about the delivery of employment uses undermines the potential for the Garden Communities to be sustainable places;

 

Also, and very importantly, a key recommendation stated that:

 

‘We believe that the key decisions to be made on the future of the Garden Communities and the spatial strategy need to be taken by the Council, in consultation with local residents’

 

We think this applies to RCC –

 

You have not sold the Local Plan to Local Residents – you do not have the support of a significant number of residents.

 

We need to build something we can be proud of.

 

There are too many uncertainties and assessments undertaken are inadequate.

 

More time is needed to gain public support and to re-think the HIF requirements and plan. 

 

We strongly urge Councillors make the right decision and vote NO to accepting the HIF in principle recommendation. Thank you.

 

Questions by members

 

Mr Walters acknowledged that Uttlesford had been sent back to the Council by the inspector. Mr Walters questioned whether it was a realistic comparison to make. Uttlesford included 18,000 homes over three garden communities, not just one. The actual sites had not been particulary identified only generaically, they had yet to have development plans assessed for them and put forward. One of the sites had an ancient monument that the inspector threw out on that basis. In fact there were 15 reasons why the inspector sent it back. Does the speaker think this is a realistic comparison to make with the project we are considering in Rutland when they appear to me to be so very different?

 

Mr Coe responded that they were obviously different sizes in relation to the developments, but there was the consideration of whether the assessments that have been done by Rutland to date are sufficient for the Local Plan to be held as sound, and we don’t believe that’s the case so it is an example of another Local Plan that was found to be unsound.

 

Mr G Brown noted a line in the deputation “We need to build something we can be proud of”. Mr Brown asked what they think we should build at St George’s and whether we should retain the Barracks as they are today and also explain why the parish councils have not engaged with the design and layout subgroup which we have invited them to be a part of which would design the layout of St George’s for the future, the very engagement they were looking for?

 

Mr Coe stated the parishes had not joined the sub group as they believe the development is too vast and that there are other options that could have been assessed alongside it, not necessarily jus ton St George’s Barracks but elsewhere as well.

 

Mr Begy asked what the implications of voting no would be.

 

Mr Coe responded that voting no would put the plans on hold, need to be further down the line with the Local Plan and assessing St George’s with more detail prior to accepting of the principle funding.

 

 

Deputation 3

 

A deputation, as printed below, was received from Mr Malcolm Earnshaw, on behalf of the residents of Edith Weston.

 

Good evening, my name is Malcolm Earnshaw C.B.E. And i have lived in Rutland for 35 years.

My career experience has included senior marketing roles, presidency of the world federation of advertisers, a director of the advertising standards authority and chief executive of the incorporated society of British advertisers, representing their interests with government and media.

 

Rutland the brand

 

So you may be asking why I am suggesting Rutland is a brand, well brands are not just the Coke’s, Persil’s and Tesco’s of this world. Charities, the BBC, even brand UK is referred to.

 

Rutland is a brand in its own right as it is distinguished by clear attributes, benefits, values and personality and even has its own tag line “Multum in Parvo”, and it is advertised and promoted too with reference to its peaceful rolling countryside, 50ish timeless stone villages, characterful market towns, great schools and hotels, shops, pubs, restaurants, cafes and so many activities to meet most interests and needs. Tourism is an important part of Rutland’s economy and all that Rutland water offers the jewel in the crown. For those of us who live here the benefits are clear from the quality of life reinforced by strong local communities and a fresh and green environment.

 

Rutland has a very well developed brand essence and strength, but of course all brands to stay strong must evolve and grow but how this is accomplished is key to future success.

 

From my experience there are many, many ways to successfully evolve and develop a brand, but there is one vital aspect that is fundamental to the brands future strength and success and that is that innovation and change must add positively to brand value not detract from it. A statement of the obvious you might say but there are plenty of examples reported on weekly to prove the point.

 

You all as Rutland’s elected council are the custodians of brand Rutland for the duration of your stewardship. I am sure we all share a common purpose to do what is right for Rutland.

 

It is very relevant that even the new proposed Rutland corporate plan states, and i quote “to cherish and sustain the characteristics that makes Rutland special”, the first of those characteristics being that Rutland is rural and sparsely populated.

 

The current adopted “development plan” incorporating the local plan, spatial strategy and core strategies are serving brand Rutland well and could continue to facilitate the positive evolution of brand Rutland being soundly based and well tested.

 

In my experience successful brand evolution works from the bottom up, based on an in depth understanding of consumer (in this case citizen) needs and wants. There has been no proven need within Rutland for the scale of the proposals for the SGB site which are inconsistent with the essence of brand Rutland.

 

Reflecting this bottom up approach and following the provisions of the localism act (2012) which encourages local citizens to be a proactive part of determining their neighbourhood, Edith Weston produced and has adopted a neighbourhood plan which is currently in law part of the adopted Rutland “development plan”.  Although not applying to the part of the SGB site “within the wire” it does cover a significant part of the SGB site outside the wire and where development is proposed. No account to date appears to have been taken of this.

 

Since the signing of the MOU between the mod and RCC, the SGB project has been driven “top down” by external needs and timetable. It is arguable that the extensive preplanning work undertaken by RCC/MOD and their agents in advance of consultation and adoption of a revised local plan and strategies is premature as the development proposed is so substantial, or its cumulative effect so significant, that such activities amounting to pre-planning consent risk undermining the plan making process by predetermining decisions about the scale, location and/or phasing of new developments that are central to the emerging plan.

 

From my experience brand development driven top down and by external factors usually detract rather than add to the brand in question.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, by voting tonight to accept the HIF grant you will be unlocking the massive urbanisation of that large part of the county to the immediate south and east of Rutland water, with its impact on adjacent villages, country lanes and minor roads. The elevated site of the former North Luffenham air base will ensure the result will also be visible for miles around and detracting from the essence, character and appeal of brand Rutland.

 

I trust you will consider very carefully if this is what you believe will be right for Rutland, and whether this is the legacy you wish for your years of stewardship of brand Rutland.

 

Thank you.

 

 

Questions from members

 

Mr Walters asked would the Rutland brand be best protected by being proactive, working with the MOD, bringing infrastructure in at an early stage, having an influence on the number of houses and on the way that the development progresses. Or would our brand be better protected by walking away and potentially the MOD sticking 4000 more houses on the site.

 

Mr Earnshaw responded that it was a huge extrapolation to suggest the MOD would put 4000 houses there, assuming there was commercial demand for that on the site. Mr Coe believed along with the nine other local parishes and 95% of the 1500 objections that the whole approach has been the wrong way round and rather than rushing to sign the memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Defence, if time was taken to fully understand and evaluate what the needs of Rutland were and how that is best served, with the Ministry of Defence.

 

Mr Begy asked what the feedback was from the 18 parishes that are not affected by St George’s and would be the green fields that would be developed on because the housing need has to be met in the green field sites of those villages.

 

Mr Earnshaw responded that he was not a member of a parish council and therefore have not gone round looking for the opinion of parish councils of Rutland but there have been nine that have expressed the view. Certainly living in Rutland have heard many conversations about the extreme concern and disquiet that there is county wide on the proposal and not seen any evidence in the form of a county wide referendum that would be an overall majority of residents in the county in favour of the particular approach.