Agenda item

Proposed Main Modifications to the West Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy as submitted - Ratification of Decision of 16 December 2013

(Report attached)


Kevin Lane, as Lead Monitoring Officer for the West Northamptonshire Joint Strategic Planning Committee, stated that the purpose of the meeting was to rectify a procedural flaw which had been discovered at the previous meeting of the Committee on 16 December 2013 which made that decision susceptible to the risk of legal challenge.  Ratifying the decision at this meeting would eliminate the risk of legal challenge.  The procedural flaw was that the member substituted at that meeting had not provided at least 24 hours’ notice in writing of the substitution to the Chair, although the Chair had been aware of the possible substitution for a number of days prior to the meeting.  The lead Monitoring Officer stated that the Committee was only meeting to consider this issue and that it would be unlawful to consider the Proposed Main Modifications to the Joint Core Strategy itself at this meeting as that was not the subject of the officer report.  If the decision of 16 December 2013 was not ratified the decision in fact remained valid unless a legal challenge was made and the decision was overturned.  Ratification would remove the risk of such a challenge being successfully pursued.  If the Committee decided not to ratify its decision the option, as set out in the report, would be to re-visit the merits of the proposed modifications at a future date.


The supplementary advice received from Queen’s Counsel was that provided the Committee’s decision of 16 December 2013 was ratified before the Proposed Main Modifications to the Joint Core Strategy were presented to the Inspector for further examination it was perfectly valid for the public consultation, which began on 14 January and would conclude on 25 February 2014, to continue.


Councillor Chantler proposed, Councillor Breese seconded that ”The decision made by the Committee at its meeting of 16 December 2013, as set out at paragraph 1.1 of the report, be ratified.”


Councillor Chantler stated that he found Queen’s Counsel’s (QC) advice comforting.  He stated that some people considered that any decision with which they disagreed was undemocratic.


Councillor Larratt spoke against the proposal.  He stated that the meeting held on 16 December 2013 had been a “shambles” and not been open and honest, and that members of the public had not been able to speak and engage in the decision making.  He stated that not all QC’s advice had been published and that it stated that to ratify the Committee’s decision was not risk free and that the safest option was for the Committee to re-consider its decision of 16 December 2013.  He stated that the Government had established the Joint Strategic Planning Committee to seek a consensus for West Northamptonshire but it had not proved possible to reach that consensus.  He did not consider that the process complied with the rules and regulations established for the process and was against the wishes of the people of Northampton.  He hoped that the Inspector would not accept the plan as proposed.


Councillor Michael Clarke stated that the plan needed a clear endorsement and that a consensus had clearly been lacking at the meeting held on 16 December 2013.  He stated that the Committee should consider the view the Inspector would take of the “wafer thin” majority vote in favour of the plan being put to public consultation.  He made a plea for the plan to be re-considered, allowing members of the public who had not been allowed to do so to speak, and to seek to take the plan to the Inspector with a clear democratic mandate.


Councillor Nunn stated that he could not support the ratification of the Committee’s decision and had then to support the option of re-considering the plan.  He considered that the plan was an over-development of the South of Northampton and would have an impact on the whole of Northampton.


Councillor Hadland stated that as there had been a procedural flaw at the meeting on 16 December 2013 he believed that no decision had actually been made at the meeting.  He did not consider that an erroneous decision could be ratified and the plan should be re-considered.


Councillor Gonzalez de Savage stated that the plan needed to be strategic but was unsound.  There was a red line around many parts of the plan and the impact of the plan would be on Northampton.  He expressed concern that the meeting was not being held at the correct venue and that members of the public were being prevented from addressing the Committee by restricting the number of public speakers to five. The County Council had made representations against the plan for many years but these had not been taken forward. He stated that the Environment Agency had issues regarding flooding which had not been addressed and stated that the flooding issues being experienced in Somerset could occur in Northamptonshire.  He stated that development should be in the right location and in the correct manner.  He referred to “scaremongering” by some members of the Committee if the plan was not approved.  He did not understand why the Committee was considering at its meeting something which it could not ratify.


Councillor Millar stated that the process to develop a Joint Core Strategy (JCS) had been on-going since 2006 and that the Government had merged the plans of the local authorities in West Northamptonshire to seek growth for Northampton and had established the Joint Strategic Planning Committee.  There was a risk in whatever was included in the JCS.  He stated that there was a limit on what could be developed in North Northampton and that Moulton and Overstone had taken more than their share of development.  If the plan was adopted there would still be development in West Northamptonshire but without a plan there would be no defence against development.  He stated that the majority of homes proposed around Northampton were outside the Borough boundary and fell within Daventry and South Northamptonshire districts, where the impact of development would be experienced.


At this point, the Chair requested members of the public not to interject when members of the Committee were speaking.


Councillor Millar stated that the public had a right to feel passionately about their areas but that a plan had to be agreed which some people might not agree with or West Northamptonshire would be left in the hands of developers.  He stated that it would entail a massive risk to the area if a plan could not be agreed.  He fully supported the ratification of the plan and if ratified would seek an early review of the plan.


Councillor Gonzalez de Savage asked to speak again and was permitted by the Chair.  Councillor Gonzalez de Savage stated that the public were not passionate but were fearful of being flooded if the plan was approved and wanted to protect their areas.  They had not been given a voice to express their concerns at the meeting and should have been allowed to do so.


As proposer of the motion Councillor Chantler addressed the Committee again.  He stated that advice given by the Planning Minister was if a Joint Core Strategy was not perfect it should be accepted on the grounds that an early review (within three years of the plan’s adoption) should be undertaken.  Often plans were not reviewed until their final year but it was being suggested that the West Northamptonshire JCS should be reviewed after three years.


It was proposed by Councillor Larratt, seconded by Councillor de Savage, “That a recorded vote be held on the proposal before the Committee.”


Upon a recorded vote being taken:


the following Councillors voted in favour of the proposal:


Councillors Breese, Chantler, Stephen Clarke, Digby, Millar and Over,


the following Councillors voted against the proposal:


Councillors Michael Clarke, Flavell, Gonzalez de Savage, Hadland, Larratt and Nunn.


The vote was tied 6 for and 6 against and the proposal was carried on the Chair’s casting vote.




That the decision made by the Committee at its meeting on 16 December 2013 be ratified, as set out below:


1.         That the proposed Main Modifications, attached at Appendix 1 to the report, to the Pre-Submission version of the West Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy, as amended by the Proposed Changes, be approved for a six week consultation period to run from 14 January to 25 February 2014.


2.            That the Head of the Joint Planning Unit be authorised in consultation with the Chair of the Joint Strategic Planning Committee to agree any editorial changes required to the Proposed Main Modifications.


3.            That the Communication and Consultation Strategy, as attached at Appendix 2 to the report, to support the Proposed Main Modifications to the Pre-Submission version of the West Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy, as amended by the Proposed Changes, be approved.

Supporting documents: