Agenda item

Questions from members of the public

To deal with questions which members of the public may wish to put to members of the Cabinet in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 11 (if any).


The following questions were submitted by members of the public. Copies were circulated to all councillors at the meeting and made available to the public attending the meeting.


Questioner: Paula Woolven


Question One:  I would like to ask if the administration consider that CTLA meets the criteria set out in their policy statement and are therefore worthy of applying for grant funding, to support the residents and communities of the whole District?


Former Coalition Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, said when publishing his code of practice in 2011 “Transparency and openness must underpin every decision a council makes for its residents.”


The funding scheme was not open to all the strategic voluntary sector organisations in the District who meet the criteria listed in the policy on grants to voluntary organisations and Equality and Fairness Analysis and I am asking if this could be reconsidered.


Response by Councillor Nicholson: Thank you for the information you have provided to us with about CTLA Community Transport.  You obviously provide a highly active and valued service in the area and we are sorry to hear that you had been experiencing financial challenges.


The Council recognised and valued the significant contributions that the community and voluntary sector play in delivering services to our residents.


Despite the challenging financial times, the council had continued to prioritise the allocation of grants totalling £216,840 to organisations which play a core role in the local communities of the district.


It was not currently council policy to conduct an open bidding process for grants, as we feel the organisations we currently fund are those which most closely meet our objectives and complement council services.


This policy was periodically reviewed, and we may in future choose to take a different approach. However, we intend that our grant decisions this year (which we would be making in February 2019) would follow the current policy and practice.


When considering the giving of grants, the council must always be mindful whether it is the most appropriate public body to support a particular cause or activity.  It was clearly the County Council who was the lead agency for matters of public transport, under which we would consider community transport to fall. We also note that you had previously received funds from the NHS for providing services.


In these times of diminishing resources, we must focus our spending on those areas which were within our own jurisdiction, and not on services which are for others to fund.  It was unlikely, therefore, even if we should establish a grants application process, that funding of community transport would command a high priority.


Question Two: Could I please ask how much of the development levies charged on new housing and other properties was dedicated to supporting Community Transport in the District?  There were considerable developments approved and were currently being built where residents may not be able to access public transport through a variety of reasons including disability, poor mobility, isolation and many other access barriers and I would like to know the level of investment from the District Council in transport facilities specifically to help these residents?


Response by Councillor Nicholson: LDC Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) governance required that after the first regulatory apportionment of 15% or 25% passed to the towns and parishes and 5% towards administration costs, 20% of the remaining CIL for every CIL liable development is ring-fenced into the Community Pot. This could be bid by Community Infrastructure providers such as the NHS, Police or Community Transport providers such as CTLA for funding the provision, maintenance or operation of infrastructure in accordance with the CIL Regulations.


The CIL Community Pot at present was £515,243. Demand notice for a further £288,813 was due within the coming year and the next bidding round would begin in summer 2019.


Questioner: Geoff King


Question One: How can Lewes District Council justify that Policy E1 is sound and sustainable when Policy E1 had the poorest score overall of the three proposed sites when measured against the 18 objectives listed in the Lewes District Council Local Plan Part 2 on pages 56 to 61 of the Sustainability Assessment as included with the consultation documents of September 2018. Table 36 on page 79 of the Sustainability Assessment showed Policy E1 to have the highest number of Amber scores (Likely Negative Effect) and lowest rating of Green scores (Likely Positive Effect). Thus Policy E1 had the poorest score overall of all three proposed sites. Therefore how could Lewes District Council justify selecting Policy E1 over the other proposed sites.


Response by Councillor Jones: Within the Sustainability Appraisal the employment sites were not compared to each other; each site was tested against the sustainability criteria to assess its sustainability. The Examination Inspector would hear all the objections and reach a decision on whether the policy was justified and sound.


Supplementary: As per the Council procedure rules, Mr King submitted a supplementary question, arising directly out of the original question or the reply. Councillor Jones agreed to send a written response following the meeting.


Question Two: It was recognised that Newhaven Port Access Road would occupy the western section of E1 but given that Newhaven Port and Properties are understood to have no interest in development further east than the Newhaven Port Access Road and given that E1 are not part of the Newhaven Enterprise Zone I ask why the eastern section of E1, the historic WW1 Seaplane Base and internationally recognised vegetated shingle beach, which was part of the UNESCO World Biosphere, none of which was needed for the Newhaven Port Access Road, cannot be removed from Policy E1?


Response by Councillor Jones: Core Policy 4 of the adopted Local Plan Part 1 required the Council to retain the unimplemented employment site allocations from the 2003 Local Plan unless there was clear economic viability or environmental reasons for not doing so. Core Policy 4 also stated that the Council would support plans for expansion of the Port as identified in the Port Masterplan. Core Policy 4 was considered at the public examination into the Plan and found sound by an independent inspector.  Policy E1 carried forward the unimplemented area of land allocated for the expansion of the Port in Policy NH20 of the 2003 Local Plan and supported the Port Masterplan, in accordance with Core Policy 4.  Newhaven Port & Properties submitted a formal representation in support of Policy E1, clearly stating that the allocation was vital to the long-term viability of the Port and the economic regeneration of Newhaven.


Supplementary: As per the Council procedure rules, Mr King submitted a supplementary question, arising directly out of the original question or the reply. Councillor Jones agreed to send a written response following the meeting.


Questioner: Caroline Standen and Zoe Brown (The Old Brickworks Business Park)


Question One: Much time and effort had been put into examining whether GT01, the proposed Gypsy and Traveller site in Plumpton, would be a suitable site for Gypsies and Travellers but, to date, nobody from Lewes District Council had visited The Old Brickworks or spoken to any of our tenants, yet these people would be the ones most directly affected by the proposed GT01.  What is the justification for ignoring the impact on this community of hard-working individuals?


Response by Councillor Jones: Officers from both the District Council and East Sussex County Council attended a Parish meeting on the 9th October which was well attended by members of the local community, including the Old Brickworks. The proposed site was discussed here at length and the officers present recognised that concerns were raised.


Question Two: If all our tenants were forced to relocate by the proximity of GT01 and The Old Brickworks Business Park had to close down then us, the directors of The Old Brickworks, shall be unable to meet the monthly mortgage payments and shall be forced into bankruptcy.  How does Lewes District Council reconcile the needs of five Traveller families over and above the needs of the 30 families who are reliant on the continued security and prosperity of The Old Brickworks Business Park?


Response by Councillor Jones:  You do not give a reason, and the Council does not accept that there is any reason, why proposed policy GT01 should force tenants to relocate.


The Council had a Public Sector Equality Duty which required the Council, as a matter of law, to have regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and harassment.


It must have regard to the need to foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic (such as gypsies and travellers) and persons who did not.


It must also have regard to the need to advance equality of opportunity between members of protected groups, and other persons


The Council must have regard to its Public Sector Equality Duty in the carrying out of all its functions and activities, including the carrying out of its planning functions. It must develop planning proposals which would serve the needs of all members of its community.


I want to point out too that allocating a site for a particular use is not the same as granting a planning permission. In the event of any planning application coming forward the Council would have a duty, at that time, to consult the neighbours and to give further consideration to the impact of the proposed development on the amenity of the immediate community.  


Having regard to the Council’s Public Sector Equality Duty this was the only comment I propose to make in response to this line of questioning.


Question Three: Much attention had been paid to the “visual impact”, traffic and ecological surveys of the proposed Gypsy and Traveller site, GT01, but how was Lewes District Council going to mitigate the social impact on Plumpton Village, the 21 businesses at The Old Brickworks Business Park, who would be forced to move elsewhere at great expense, if GT01 goes ahead with the loss of jobs, the loss of trade to our local village shop, pub and disruption to our close neighbours?


Response by Councillor Jones: Same answer as question 2 above.


Questioner: Seaford Town Councillor Penny Lower


Question: The officer’s report stated that other than a change to the area covered by it, ‘Draft Policy E1 essentially carried forward Policy NH20 from the Lewes District Local Plan 2003, which was retained’. This was simply not true.


The saved policy NH20 allocated this land for a proposed new ferry terminal i.e.  “to respond to opportunities to introduce new, faster services such as the larger high-speed catamaran”  (paragraph 12.80) in order to provide a sufficient area to accommodate fully satisfactory operating conditions for an operator of cross-channel ferries. (paragraph 12.79)


E1, however, changed this purpose to any industrial use which bore a relation to port activity. We note that the term ‘port-related’ had recently been used to grant permission to a concrete manufacturing plant. Going even further, Draft Policy E1 also allowed for industrial use “which was not associated with port-related activity”


We ask therefore how can the Council possibly justify adding such a controversial and substantial change to a saved policy, at such a late stage of the local planning process, and how could this be considered either sound or acceptable?


Response by Councillor Jones: Policy NH20 allocated land at East Quay for the “upgrading and expansion of the port”, with a possible extension further to the east if open storage was required to support the operation of the ferry service.  Newhaven Port and Properties proposals for upgrading and expanding the port were set out in its Port Masterplan, which the District Council was committed to support, as formally set out in Core Policy 4 of the adopted Local Plan Part 1.


The Port Masterplan identified land at East Quay as an opportunity to accommodate a range of industrial and warehouse uses associated with the Port and this was reflected in the wording of Policy E1, as required by Core Policy 4.  Newhaven Port & Properties had submitted a formal representation in support of Policy E1, clearly stating that the allocation was vital to the long-term viability of the Port and the economic regeneration of Newhaven.

Officers would support a minor modification to the policy to remove the second sentence that currently suggested other uses; non-port related uses would be appropriate so long as they didn’t undermine the operational use of the Port.  A minor Schedule of Changes was proposed to accompany the Plan upon submission.