20 June 2019
I have been to lots of meetings! This is partly because I am on the Planning Committee which meets every three weeks to consider planning applications. However, most of them have been briefings by the officers on how the council works and on the Corporate Business Plan. The one on planning was about the do’s and don’ts of being on the planning committee. We have another session on legal aspects soon. We have been given copies of the National Planning Policy Framework, The Plan for Stafford Borough and a list of Material Planning Considerations. Tomorrow I am attending a special seminar at the Council put on by the Town and Country Planning Association on Planning and Climate Change.
The Corporate Business Plan has been the subject of three briefings. It was apparently agreed a year ago and is intended to last another 2 years. The main problem is that it is all about growth. The introduction states that ‘Growth, wellbeing and financial sustainability are the council’s key objectives over the next three years. No mention of environmental issues there. When we had the financial briefing, all became clear. Government grant to the Council has been reduced by over 70% - but the Council has been able to offset most of this by securing Government growth funding – grants linked to the number of new houses and businesses being built.
So not only has the planning policy changed to favour more development, not only do councils get more revenue from Council tax when new houses are built, they also get extra funding from section 106 agreements, ‘affordable housing’ as part of new developments but they also are able to maintain the level of government grant provided they agree to lots more houses and commercial buildings being built.
Most new housing developments include a proportion (30%) of ‘affordable’ homes. The other day, I attended the Doxey Parish Council meeting and there were two reps there from Taylor Wimpey who are building the new houses on Burley fields. It seems the first phase is about 450 houses. Someone asked the question – so how many affordable homes will there be – the answer was ‘None’. It seems the Council has agreed that instead of having over a hundred affordable homes, the money is instead going towards the construction of the SWAR (Stafford Western Access Road)
There are several advantages to being on the Planning Committee. One is that it does not operate on the same Party line basis as other committees. Another is that it does take decisions, but perhaps the main one is that it is actually dealing with proposals which have an impact on the environment in Stafford.
All decisions have to have regard to planning policies and there are very strict rules about lobbying and taking a stance before the matter is discussed in committee. As a ward councillor, if I wish to speak on behalf of residents, I have to forfeit my place on the committee in order to speak at the meeting. I do, however, have five minutes to speak whereas the developer and person opposing it have only 3 minutes
I have had discussions with the Leader of the Labour Group about putting the Climate Emergency motion. This should be debated at the next Council meeting on July 23rd. It would be great if we could get a lobby of the Council meeting that evening.
We need to progress the petition about the piece of land next to the St Gobain factory becoming a local nature reserve.
No major achievements but a few minor ones
The Iron Man event came through Castletown. Residents in the streets affected had to move their cars by 5.30 pm on the Saturday. The Sainsbury’s car park is nearby but charges are in force until 6pm. I got the Council to agree that residents could park their cars on the Car Park free of charge provided they had their residents permit badges.
A Virgin media box in Castletown has been damaged and looks a mess. It has been like that for a long time. Someone asked me if I could help get it sorted. I wrote to the Chief Exec asking him to point me to someone who could help. The reply I got was that it was nothing to do with the Borough Council. However, this week, the box has been replaced!
A resident on Doxey Road (or Doxey, as I am told it should be) has complained about motorbikes which are very loud and speed along the road. I have raised the issue with the County Council, am having a meeting on site with the County Councillor and Police and have asked that the Crime Reduction Partnership which is serviced by the Borough Council discusses the problem.
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