The Local Plan Committee, of which I am a member, held its latest meeting last Thursday evening (17th September) in Clacton Town Hall (Princes Theatre). I counted 37 people in the public gallery, which may not sound many, but it was three times the number at the full council meeting in the same venue the previous week! The main subject was a discussion of the Housing Needs Study produced by Peter Brett Associates. I posted my letter to other members of the committee on this subject on this blog on September 7th.
First there were five submissions from members of the public, a maximum of three minutes each. Apparently members must submit a request in advance to be allowed to address the committee. The first three submissions were comments on the Local Plan, specifically objections to housing around Little Clacton. This was clearly not what the chairman or officers thought these public submissions were supposed to be about. Nonetheless, all submissions were heard in full and I am sure they will be properly captured by the Local Plan consultation exercise that is currently underway.
Apparently these submissions were intended to be specifically about the revised Housing Need Study. I have to say it was not at all clear to me how members of the public were supposed to know that. Anyway the next two submissions were very directly on the subject of that study. The first was from John Smith-Daye as a resident and then from Alan Eldret as a resident and also as Representative of Tendring Residents Lobby Group. Clearly they had both taken the trouble to read the report in detail and argued strongly that 597 dwellings pa, down from the original 705 dpa, was too many. They wanted a number of 497 dpa or lower.
Then the committee began their discussion and members were kind enough to compliment me on the letter that I had circulated, both on its clarity and for being circulated well in advance of the meeting. Moreover they wanted to support the suggestion that I had made. Extraordinary – I felt hugely gratified! After some to’ing and fro’ing that I had no part in the final motion, proposed by Cllr Jeff Bray (UKIP) and seconded by myself was:
“That the Local Plan Committee having considered the findings of the new ‘Objectively Assessed Housing Needs Study’ (July 2015) attached as Appendix A1a));
a) instructs Officers to go back to the authors of the above-mentioned study to investigate the matters raised by the Committee in respect of figures and assumptions in the study and to explore the possibility of revising its conclusions with a view to setting lower housing growth figures for Tendring, such that it is no greater than 479 dwellings per annum as detailed in Section 4.39 of the Appendix; and
b) notes that a further, more detailed assessment looking at the composition of future housing needs across particular groups in society, is underway.”
Clearly, this may not result in any change. However, the Local Plan will have to pass inspection and that will be difficult indeed whilst section 9.25 of this study gives a lower bound of 597 dpa and an upper bound of 705 dpa. This is the right process to be following and I am pleased that the committee has passed this motion.
In due course I will write my own submission to the consultation exercise that is underway. That will, of course, be posted here. If any of you wish to use all or part of that you are welcome and I would be flattered.