Cabinet Member: Dafydd Meurig
To consider the report of the Head of Environment
A report was submitted by the Senior Planning Manager, raising awareness of the development of the above guidance before the Joint Planning Policy Committee made a decision on the suitability of adopting it on 23.5.19. A request was made for the Scrutiny Committee to submit observations on the guidance to the Policy Committee.
The members were reminded that the scrutiny working group, which was investigating the consultation process on the draft Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) on behalf of the Scrutiny Committee, had submitted observations and recommendations to the Committee, which, in turn, had been submitted to the Policy Committee for consideration before the Guidance was published for public consultation.
The Chair of the Scrutiny Working Group highlighted his wish to refuse the report as the suggestions of the working group had been disregarded. He also noted, following the 10th Edition of the Planning Policy, that the changes affecting the SPG needed to be considered. He suggested that the current SPG should continue to be used until 2020 and for experts to be appointed to seek to evidence the impact of the guidance and for adaptations to be drawn up by August 2020. He expressed that the discussions had been difficult and had been prevented, and that the working group had not been given a fair hearing.
Councillor Aled Evans (a member of the scrutiny working group) reiterated that the guidance needed to be strong and valuable and he questioned its worth in its current form.
In response to the comments, the Monitoring Officer noted that the report included observations following the public consultation, with a request for further comments from the Committee. Refusing the report would lead to resubmitting previous comments, and this would be inappropriate. He noted that what was being requested was difficult to achieve as it would mean a change in policy. He emphasised that the Guidance could not change the policy, and that the purpose of the Guidance was to offer a further explanation and guidance in relation to the implementation of the policy. He highlighted that the thresholds in terms of when it was required to ask for a linguistic assessment/statement had been set out in the wording of the policy
In response to the observations, the Senior Planning and Public Protection Manager noted that the working group opposed to the policy and that the guidance was an attempt to say how to uphold and interpret the policy. He reiterated that the allegation of 'preventing a discussion' and not listening was unfair. He noted that the process of collaborating with the Scrutiny Committee, the Scrutiny Working Group and Anglesey Scrutiny Committee had been long and open and that the observations of the Working Group or Scrutiny Committee had not been disregarded. He highlighted that no evidence had been received to prove that the policy did not work and he said that it was being monitored annually. He expressed that the contribution of the working group had been valuable and that some changes had been made following the comments received, e.g. external planning and language experts had been appointed to evaluate the value of the guidance. He reiterated that there was an opportunity for further comments before the Policy Committee met to discuss it further on 23.05.19.
Councillor Aled Evans questioned the need for the guidance if no language assessment was necessary for sites already designated in the Local Development Plan and for that small number if the 'need' had changed. In response, the monitoring officer accepted the member's frustration and noted that the legislation would need to be changed to address this, with political pressure and appropriate evidence.
From the response, it was asked how statistics and evidence could be gathered and what was the way forward. It was also asked whether evidence existed for the past two years and whether a mechanism was in place to gather evidence.
In response, the Senior Planning and Public Protection Manager noted that statistics from the census was used, along with information on the growth of households / the population. He also highlighted that the unit was working with language officers.
He also noted that there was a duty on the Council to submit an Annual Monitoring Report regarding the Plan to the Government during October. It was highlighted that the Annual Monitoring Report included an analysis of how the Plan was being implemented, and was based on 69 monitoring indicators identified in the Plan. Some of these indicators related specifically to linguistic matters and the implementation of Strategic Policy 1.
The Chair expressed his disappointment as there was no evidence gathering mechanism in place and that this was a weakness in the process.
The Chair of the Working Group expressed the need for a strong and effective guidance to protect the language in line with the Cabinet Member's statement in July 2017. He noted that the working group had held a number of meetings and a number of the invitees had expressed their concern as not enough was being done to protect the language. He emphasised the need to seek a public consultation on every application of 10 or more houses (5 in a rural area) - this did not appear difficult as there was a need to consult on other matters in any case.
The Chair expressed his disappointment that the guidance could not be strengthened, however, he noted the need to submit further observations to the Joint Planning Policy Committee.
The Monitoring Officer noted that there was an opportunity to submit the observations to the Joint Planning Policy Committee and he suggested that the working group should submit observations / express concerns on behalf of the Scrutiny Committee.
RESOLVED to accept the report and for the scrutiny working group to submit observations on behalf of the Scrutiny Committee to the Joint Planning Policy Unit.