HAMPSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL

Decision Report

Decision Maker:

Cabinet

Date of Decision:

29 June 2009

Decision Title:

2007 Sustainable Communities Act - Proposal for Decentralisation of Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Funding

Decision Reference:

799

Report From:

Director of Environment

Contact name:

Alison Quant

Tel:

01962 845090

Email:

Alison.quant@hants.gov.uk

1. Executive Summary

1.1. The purpose of this paper is to seek the views of Cabinet, prior to consideration by County Council on 16 July 2009, on the best way to proceed with the proposition of the Governance Committee to submit a proposal under the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 (SCA) to seek the return of planning powers.

1.2. This paper

2. Contextual information

2.1. The County Council referred a motion to make a submission under the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 to the Governance Committee to consider potential topics. The Governance Committee decided to recommend to the County Council that the Act be used to seek the return of planning powers and that a submission be made in the first round. The Committee also recommended planning ahead for future rounds, taking proposals from Councillors to the Policy and Resources Select Committee and also preparing for submissions to the County Council. The process for first round submissions is that they are submitted to the Local Government Association (LGA) by 31 July. The LGA will then filter submissions and present those selected to the Communities Secretary for decision.

2.2. A draft proposal has been prepared in response to the Governance Committee's recommendation, prior to County Council considering the matter on 16 July.

2.3. The paper addresses the devolution of the regional planning powers contained in the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act, but also anticipates the changes to those powers set out in the Local Development, Economic Development and Construction Bill currently before Parliament. This Bill envisages a single integrated regional strategy covering economic development and planning. The Bill transfers strategic planning responsibilities from regional assemblies (the South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA) in Hampshire's case) to joint arrangements of regional development agencies (eg the South East England Development Agency - SEEDA) and a `Leaders' Board' comprising a small number of leaders of local authorities in the region. The Bill, as it currently stands, deletes the provision under the 2004 Planning Act which gave principal authorities the duty to provide first sub-regional proposals (S4.4). This duty was a hard won concession by principal authorities in the final run up to the passing of the 2004 Act.

3. Hampshire's Proposal

3.1. The proposal that could be advanced under the SCA would be that responsibility for preparing the first draft of the Regional Strategy (RS) should be transferred to county councils as follows:

3.2. In the longer term, the proposals are potential building-blocks for new, more devolved arrangements for strategic planning should any proposal to abolish regional planning powers ever be implemented. Should this initiative prove successful, it might be possible to extend it to cover other areas where a funding agency currently operates at regional level. This could include, for example, housing and economic development, currently overseen by the Homes and Communities Agency and the Regional Development Agencies.

3.3. Implementation of the proposal outlined above would require an amendment to the legislation which sets out responsibilities for strategic planning. Currently this is the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act but the relevant clauses are set to be superseded by the provisions set out in the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill. This Bill puts on a statutory basis the proposed duty on regional development agencies and local authority leaders to produce a single regional strategy.

4. Consultation

4.1. The Act specifies a certain level of consultation including a representative body of local citizens. It is a requirement of the Act to `reach agreement' with the consultees, including the citizens' panel. A draft consultation plan consistent with a 31 July submission date is attached as an appendix for consideration. The survey has already commenced, given the short timescale.

4.2. Given the impact of the proposal, the draft paper has been used to consult informally with other county council officers in the region (pending the outcome of elections) and with the LGA. There is likely to be a reluctance amongst other county councils to promote such a proposal at a time when the governance of regional planning is before Parliament and contains a hard won concession that council leaders share responsibility with the Regional Development Agency for the production of a regional strategy. In addition, there has been a significant amount of lobbying to retain the powers for principal authorities to prepare first sub-regional proposals, so far without success.

4.3. LGA informal advice is that, without the support of other councils (both within the region and locally) the proposition is unlikely to succeed through the LGA selection process. Moreover, the LGA has suggested that the appropriate vehicle, while there is a Bill before Parliament, would be lobbying for further amendments to the Bill. This is because submissions under the SCA have to be in conflict with existing legislation. Given the Government's rejection to date of amendments to the Bill to retain the statutory duty of principal authorities to prepare first sub-regional proposals, this approach is unlikely to succeed. For both of the above reasons, it may be beneficial to delay any submission until the legislation is passed. The Bill is at the third reading stage in the House of Commons and can be expected to be completed this parliamentary session.

4.4. More generally, the risks of proceeding with the proposition include:

5. Recommendations

5.1. That Cabinet considers:

5.2. That Cabinet invites South East England Councils to consider the planning framework embodied in the potential submission.

CORPORATE OR LEGAL INFORMATION:

Links to the Corporate Strategy

Hampshire safer and more secure for all:

no

Corporate Business plan link number (if appropriate):

Maximising well-being:

no

Corporate Business plan link number (if appropriate):

Enhancing our quality of place:

yes

Corporate Business plan link number (if appropriate):

Other Significant Links

Links to previous Member decisions:

 

Title

Reference

Date

     
     

Direct links to specific legislation or Government Directives

 

Title

Date

2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act

2009 Local Development, Economic Development and Construction Bill - currently before Parliament

Sustainable Communities Act 2007

 
   

Section 100 D - Local Government Act 1972 - background documents

 

The following documents discuss facts or matters on which this report, or an important part of it, is based and have been relied upon to a material extent in the preparation of this report. (NB: the list excludes published works and any documents which disclose exempt or confidential information as defined in the Act.)

 

Document

Location

None

 

IMPACT ASSESSMENTS:

1. Equalities Impact Assessment:

1.1. No impact.

2. Impact on Crime and Disorder:

2.1. No impact.

3. Climate Change:

a) How does what is being proposed impact on our carbon footprint / energy consumption?

b) How does what is being proposed consider the need to adapt to climate change, and be resilient to its longer term impacts?

APPENDIX

Draft Consultation Programme for a Proposal Under the Sustainable Communities Act 2007

Action

By When

1.

Online residents survey (fulfilling Citizens Panel requirement) runs until early July

June-July

2.

Discussion with SEEDA and Government Office for the South East (GOSE)

Informal contact followed by formal notification of proposal (Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Authorities (HIOWLA) paper)

June

3.

Hampshire District and Unitary Councils HIOWLA AGM

or

Senate meeting + consult Unitary Councils

Same day, 10 July

4.

Other South East Councils -

Paper to SEEC meeting

First meets

15 July

5.

County Council

16 July

6.

Cabinet

To consider a final draft of the proposal regarding strategic planning if required

27 July

7.

Submission of proposal

31 July