Your Councillors

Agenda item

Question and Answer Session for Members of the Public

Minutes:

Question to the Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee

 

Mr Elliot Dean had given notice of his wish to ask a question of the Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee relating to the conversion of properties into houses in multiple occupation and issues associated with over density, but was not present at the meeting.  The Mayor indicated that a written response would be provided.

 

Questions to the Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee

 

Mr Peter Coulling asked the following question of the Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee:

 

If constraints act to restrict some of the sites in the current draft of the Local Plan, will the Borough have to search for replacement sites so that it nevertheless meets the Objectively Assessed Housing Need or will that number definitely be reduced without having to conduct such search?

 

The Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee replied that:

 

I cannot predict what the Committee will decide next week and whether they will conclude that factors of constraint will restrict some of the sites from proceeding.  However, it is my understanding that should this be the case, then we would have the option to proceed with a lower target, a target lower than the Objectively Assessed Housing Need, or to consider alternative sites, and that would be a decision for the Committee at that time.

 

Councillor Mrs Blackmore, the Leader of the Conservative Group, Councillor Cox, on behalf of the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Mrs Gooch, the Leader of the Independent Group, Councillor Sargeant, the Leader of the UKIP Group, and Councillor McKay, the Leader of the Labour Group, then responded to the question.

 

Mr Coulling asked the following supplementary question of the Chairman of theStrategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee:

 

May we ask for your firm assurance that you will use every effort to exploit any constraints that are on the table to reduce the number of homes to be developed in Maidstone, and will you consider not contesting the KCC traffic analysis constraints which will actually help towards reducing that number?

 

The Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee replied that:

 

At every stage of this process, all Members of the Council have looked at issues of potential constraint, and when we come to the matter at the meeting on Monday I do not think that will change.  All matters will be considered, and I hope that the correct decision will be made.  With regard to the traffic modelling in particular, you may have followed events at the Joint Transportation Board earlier this week where, I would like to say, there was a great coming together of all parties involved to agree a way forward and to look at appropriate mitigation, and the test of severity has yet to be finalised.

 

Councillor Mrs Blackmore, the Leader of the Conservative Group, Councillor Cox, on behalf of the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Mrs Gooch, the Leader of the Independent Group, Councillor Sargeant, the Leader of the UKIP Group, and Councillor McKay, the Leader of the Labour Group, then responded to the question.

 

Ms Geraldine Brown asked the following question of the Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee:

 

For new Gypsy and Traveller Sites, will the Borough reduce its planned number of new sites to take into full account Government guidelines issued in August of this year?

 

The Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee replied that:

 

The implications of the revised definition of Gypsies and Travellers will be considered by the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee at its meeting on 13 December 2015.  The consequences for our Gypsy and Traveller sites target is the subject of a report accompanying the agenda which was published on 6 December 2015.  It states that the identified need for 187 pitches includes already a deduction for those not travelling.

 

Councillor Mrs Blackmore, the Leader of the Conservative Group, Councillor Cox, on behalf of the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Mrs Gooch, the Leader of the Independent Group, Councillor Sargeant, the Leader of the UKIP Group, and Councillor McKay, the Leader of the Labour Group, then responded to the question.

 

Ms Brown asked the following supplementary question of the Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee:

 

We are continually being told that Maidstone is completely out of line with other Boroughs in Kent with regards to its number of Gypsy and Traveller sites.  Why are we not taking this opportunity to bring Maidstone into line with other parts of Kent?

 

The Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee replied that:

 

The Objectively Assessed Need for Gypsy and Traveller sites was work that was conducted by Salford.  It used a similar methodology to that which is used in other places.  We might not like the answer that it gives, but this Council, through the Committees and at other times, has looked at it and has, to this point, accepted it to be the realistic estimate of need.

 

Councillor Mrs Blackmore, the Leader of the Conservative Group, Councillor Cox, on behalf of the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Mrs Gooch, the Leader of the Independent Group, Councillor Sargeant, the Leader of the UKIP Group, and Councillor McKay, the Leader of the Labour Group, then responded to the question.

 

Mr John Hughes asked the following question of the Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee:

 

Do you agree with KCC’s assessment that certain areas of our Borough are already saturated with traffic and that proposed further developments in those areas are un-sustainable?

 

The Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee replied that:

 

I am not aware that Kent County Council has stated that traffic has reached a saturation point – that is a very specific term.  Through joint work with Kent County Council at the Joint Transportation Board, consideration has been given to how severe congestion will become, and we continue to work to produce an Integrated Transport Strategy that will mitigate future congestion.  As instructed by the National Planning Policy Framework, we continue to plan positively.

 

Councillor Mrs Blackmore, the Leader of the Conservative Group, Councillor Cox, on behalf of the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Mrs Gooch, the Leader of the Independent Group, Councillor Sargeant, the Leader of the UKIP Group, and Councillor Harper, on behalf of the Leader of the Labour Group, then responded to the question.

 

Mr Hughes asked the following supplementary question of the Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee:

 

Do you think that the Local Plan allocating the large majority of the high number of new housing sites which feed onto already congested routes such as the Sutton and Loose Roads before having any effective Integrated Transport Strategy is a reasonable way to plan for the sustainable development of Maidstone where traffic congestion is already a very major issue?

 

The Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee replied that:

 

One of the things that we have to remember is that the life of the Local Plan is between now and 2031.  It does not propose that we build 18,500 houses next week, it will take time, and the Plan gives us protection against further unwanted development. 

 

The delivery of the Integrated Transport Strategy in respect of which we are getting great co-operation with Kent County Council currently has a series of measures in it.  One of the recommendations that came out of the meeting of the Joint Transportation Board this week was that funding that we have already received, some £8.9m, for the Integrated Transport Strategy be brought forward to accelerate the delivery of some of the key pieces of infrastructure work ahead of some of the development.  This is significant because normally the funding comes out of the development to support mitigation, but if we do work that perhaps brings together a transport fund, and we use it smartly and dynamically, we can do a job with it. 

 

Mr Hughes referred to the A274, and at the meeting of the Joint Transportation Board, the Borough and County Members collectively made the strongest resolution, during my time at the Council, to push ahead to test the viability and the practicality of, and examine how we can find the funding to build, a Leeds/Langley Relief Road which I think has the potential to afford great relief to that corridor and also to the Loose corridor and some of the villages where people use alternative routes.  In terms of planning positively, we have had our discussions, we have examined the evidence and there is some degree of consensus developing to get on and do the right thing for Maidstone.

 

Councillor Mrs Blackmore, the Leader of the Conservative Group, Councillor Cox, on behalf of the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Mrs Gooch, the Leader of the Independent Group, Councillor Sargeant, the Leader of the UKIP Group, and Councillor Harper, on behalf of the Leader of the Labour Group, then responded to the question.

 

Ms Cheryl Taylor-Maggio asked the following question of the Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee:

 

How many windfall homes have come forward in our Borough in each of the calendar years 2013, 2014 and (to-date) 2015?

 

The Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee replied that:

 

The following numbers of windfall homes have come forward since 2013/14:

 

2013/14  197

2014/15  170

2015/16 (so far)  135

 

However, since last week when this data was collated, there has been an appeal decision against Maidstone Borough Council in respect of an application for 89 houses that was rejected by the Local Planning Authority at a site that was rejected for inclusion in the draft Local Plan.  Because of this, and in the absence of an adopted Local Plan and a five year housing land supply, we have an additional unwanted windfall of 89 houses at a site where arguably the roads are completely unsuitable and we have been deprived of the ability to collect contributions from the developer to mitigate the impact.  I think that this underlines the urgency for us to progress the Local Plan unless we desire more of these unwanted windfalls.

 

Councillor Mrs Blackmore, the Leader of the Conservative Group, Councillor Cox, on behalf of the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Mrs Gooch, the Leader of the Independent Group, Councillor Sargeant, the Leader of the UKIP Group, and Councillor McKay, the Leader of the Labour Group, then responded to the question.

 

Ms Taylor-Maggio asked the following supplementary question of the Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee:

 

Are you going to project forward our Borough’s windfall delivery over the past few years for the full period of the Local Plan?

 

The Chairman of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee replied that:

 

It is my understanding that the number we have for windfall homes for inclusion in the draft Local Plan is quite an ambitious number, and actually we want windfalls to be the absolute minimum because in reality we need to be in control of where development takes place to prevent unwanted windfalls.  I would therefore reiterate the urgency to conclude a successful, appropriate Local Plan at the earliest opportunity next year.

 

Councillor Mrs Blackmore, the Leader of the Conservative Group, Councillor Cox, on behalf of the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Councillor Mrs Gooch, the Leader of the Independent Group, Councillor Sargeant, the Leader of the UKIP Group, and Councillor McKay, the Leader of the Labour Group, then responded to the question.

 

Note:  Councillor Brice entered the meeting during the question and answer session for members of the public.