Friday, 2 May 2014

CWaC meeting 31st April 2014

CWaC meeting 31st April 2014

At last evening’s CWaC meeting we asked the executive the following question relating to unconventional gas exploration –
Will the proposed cross party working group discussion be open to the public and lead to a full and open public consultation before a strategy is agreed and that in the meantime all planning and other approvals relating to such developments relating to unconventional gas exploration and extraction are put on hold and the current draft local plan be amended to accommodate this exercise?

In response, Cllr Mike Jones CWaC stated the following –
I can confirm that the Cross Party Working Group will be open to the public. It will
effectively function as a Commission of Inquiry. The group will initially establish its terms of reference and agree on its way of working. It is then intended that interested parties will be invited to submit evidence to the group, which they may be asked to present in person, at the Chairman’s discretion. We want to give representatives and experts from both sides of the argument an opportunity to contribute, to ensure the production of a fully balanced report. Evidence which is presented to the Group will be published together with any final report. Where it is intended to translate the findings and recommendations of the group into policy, this will be subject to consultation in the usual way.

In terms of Planning, the Council is bound by the statutory requirements of Planning law. As such we have no ability put on hold making decisions on planning applications.

Application have to be determined in the light of the development plan and other material considerations, including the specific national planning guidance. After a prescribed period applicants are able to lodge an appeal against the non-determination of a planning application. In those circumstances the decision is taken out of the Council’s hands and passed to a Planning Inspector or, in some cases, the Secretary of State
The Local Plan Part 1 is at its examination stage, with hearings due to commence on 17th June overseen by a nationally appointed Independent Planning Inspector. Through the examination, the appointed Inspector will consider whether its policies, including those on energy, are sound, consistent with national policy and provide an appropriate basis for determining applications.

Planning applications for all types and forms of development continue to be submitted as local plans are being prepared and updated. It is vitally important for the Council to put in place a new Local Plan at the earliest opportunity, as a basis for guiding and managing development across the borough. The absence of an up to date plan leaves a policy vacuum and an inability to control development. At this advanced stage it would be completely inappropriate to halt the progression of the Local Plan.

However, the Council is preparing a Local Plan Part Two, which will contain more detailed development management policies. These in turn can be accompanied by further policy guidance on specific themes or topics including energy. I would also anticipate that the findings of the Cross party Working Group will inform this process.

Moreover, in the coming weeks we will be inviting views on what policies the Local Plan Part Two should contain. I would strongly encourage you to respond to this to help to shape the scope of that Plan.
Cllr Mike Jones

FFU would like to thank Richard Atkinson for structuring the question – let’s see if CWaC put their words into actions.

 Reproduced with kind permission of Phil Coombe

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