Suffolk Association of Local Councils 13th June 2011
Proposal by Ron Bailey re Planning Applications
Agreed by Leiston-cum-Sizewell Town Council 7th June 2011
1. This is NOT a proposal either in support of or against any particular application. It is a proposal that I think will assist us in our deliberations on all applications: however there is one current application that we would like it to apply to: that by Tesco Ltd.
2. This application arouses strong feelings in the Town. But there is one issue on which both the ‘antis’ and the ‘pros’ agree: it will have a significant impact on Leiston. Some say that will be a bad impact: others say it will be for the good.
3. We have to make up our minds on our response by reading the application, listening to both sides, assessing any other evidence we can gather and in the end using our judgement. This proposal is to help us get as much evidence as possible on which to base our final judgement.
4. This proposal is that we use the rights and powers given to us under the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 (‘the SCA’) and the Sustainable Communities Act (Amendment) Act 2010. The proposal is
The Resolution passed by the Town Council on 7th June
We ask the current Minister at the Department of Communities and Local Government (Greg Clark MP) to make the following planning policy/guidance to apply to large planning applications in the area of a Town or Parish Council
- 1. That any applicant or representatives of any applicant who submits such an application that will have a significant effect on an area must, if requested by the Town or Parish Council attend a meeting of
(i) that Council to answer questions from elected councillors; and
(ii) a Town Meeting, should one be duly called, to answer questions from all electors.
- 2. That any applicant who submits such an application that will have a significant effect on an area must, if requested by the Town or Parish Council, or a Town Meeting, pay for the Council or Meeting to get an independent assessment carried out as to how the proposed development will affect the sustainability of the local communities.
- 2A. That if we agree the above or either of the above that we communicate this to Suffolk Coastal District Council with the request that they delay determination of the Tesco application for a reasonable amount of time to enable us to act on this proposal and to get a decision from the Minister.
- 3. And if we agree 1 and 2 above, we seek the support of other Town and Parish Councils.
5. Re Proposal 1 above. The application is about 8 inches thick: I have read some of it; I have many questions. Others will probably have their own questions. We need them answered to enable us to make our best judgement. There is no way that this can be done by letter or email., It is reasonable, and indeed necessary to enable us to make the best judgment (whichever way that judgement goes), to seek the right, using the SCA, for us to require any such applicant to attend our meeting.
6. Re Proposal 2 above. Tesco’s have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on this application. The consultants they have used do not come cheap! Inevitably their evidence supports their application: there is nothing wrong or improper in that. But there may be other views that ‘other’ consultants may take. Indeed, we need an alternative view, or even a ‘critique’, so we can make the best decision based on a fair weight of evidence from both sides. There is no way we can afford this amount of money. Tesco’s have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds presenting their case; they will almost certainly have budgeted for an appeal if one should ne necessary. They are going to significantly affect our town. It is reasonable that they pay what will be a far smaller amount to enable us to get evidence to carry out our quasi-legal duty regarding assessing this application.
Re Proposal 2A above. This is a reasonable request to enable us to get more information and to involve our electors. We have checked with the Planning Officer – it is not against the law for this reasonable delay to be agreed – but it is more likely to be so if the process that we have requested in place, as this would give the local planning authority a good reason to postpone their decision..
7. Re Proposal 3 above. The Minister is more likely to reach agreement with us if we have other local councils also backing this idea.
The Sustainable Communities Acts 2007 and 2010: background
8. In order to explain the legal background as to how we can use the SCA I now add a few words about what the SCA is and how it works, the legal rights it gives us and how it can help us. I start with a brief background to the Acts.
9. These were both Private Member’s Bill promoted by Nick Hurd MP (now Cabinet Office Minister for Civil Society) and Alistair Burt MP. The campaign to get them through Parliament was organised by the Local Works coalition of which I was the National Organiser. This was a very wide coalition supported by over 100 organisations from The Association of Chief Police Officers, to the National Association of Local Councils, to the Society of Parish and Town Clerks, to Friends of the Earth, to the NFWI, CAMRA, Age Concern, Help the Aged, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, CAB and many more.
10. It was in the end a totally cross party campaign: at a rally in Westminster Hall in support of the (then) Bill in 2007 the speakers were David Cameron, then Leader of the Opposition, Sir Menzies Campbell, then Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Phil Willis MP, then the relevant (Labour) Minister of State at DCLG.
11. They are both important Acts – establishing in law for the first time the principal of ‘bottom-up’ governance (explained below in this note). The Labour Minister, Phil Willis, said at the Third Reading of the 2007 Bill in the House of Commons:
‘I genuinely believe that the Bill will change the relationships in British politics …. I am proud to be the Minister who helped it through Parliament’ (Hansard 15.6.2007 col 1035
And the current DCLG Minister, Greg Clark, recently said in the House on 29th March this year:
‘The Sustainable Communities Act 2007 is one of the most important Acts that this House has passed … (it is) a seminal piece of legislation’ (Hansard col 146).
So he is going to take our proposal seriously.
The Sustainable Communities Acts 2007 and 2010: our rights
12. The 2007 Act gave principal councils the right to make proposals for government action to help them build and protect the sustainability of local communities. Those proposals were submitted through a ‘selector’ (the Local Government Association) for short listing. The government then had a duty to ‘try to reach agreement’ (i.e. NOT just consult) with the Selector on implementing the proposals. Initially there were 199 shortlisted proposals and the Minister responded positively on 2/3 of them.
13. The 2010 Act extended this right to submit proposals to county associations and to parish and town councils – again with the duty on the Minister to ‘try to reach agreement’ with these bodies. To quote the Minister, Greg Clark MP again:
‘We are very keen indeed for parish and town councils, which represent their communities so successfully, to submit suggestions and proposals ….. we will ensure that the duty to “try to reach agreement” … will apply to requests from parish councils’ (Hansard 29th March col 149).
The Minister has also indicated that in future the National Association of Local Councils and the Local Works coalition will also play a role as ‘the Selector’.
14. These are the legal rights that underpin this proposal.
 So should I ‘declare an interest ‘in using the SCA? If so – I hereby do so.