Agenda item

Main Meeting Theme: Planning


4.1     The Chair introduced the main meeting theme of Planning and invited the Strategic Infrastructure Planner to present.

4.2     The Strategic Infrastructure Planner gave a presentation on climate change and the planning system.

4.3     The Chair asked in relation to the Future Homes Standard, if developers are starting to meet the standards in advance of the mandatory 2025 date.  It was noted that the changes to Parts F and L of the current building regulations took place in 2021 to ensure the supply chain is better placed for the construction industry to be able to meet the standards from 2025 onwards. There may be examples where exclusive developments are already seeking to meet 2025 standards, but the Strategic Infrastructure Planner was not aware of any schemes.

4.4     The Chair asked with regard to the addition of the Climate Change Statement to the validation checklist in 2021, if permissions rely on meeting all the requirements noted.  The Strategic Infrastructure Planner noted that the statement forms an important part of the planning application process. The Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Place added that the list of items are aspects a Climate Change statement should consider, with not all aspects relevant to every application.

4.5     In relation to sustainable drainage, a best practice example was shared of a retrofit scheme in a social housing estate in Hammersmith and Fulham that also addressed a number of other challenges. The Chair noted that it was a very usable example that could be reviewed in connection to Medway Council refurbishment projects.

4.6     The group asked if best practice such as this is being shared with developers as an example of what we would like to see.  The Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Place noted how he particularly liked how the case study addressed various challenges which have been turned into opportunities to address a wider range of issues. In relation to needing developers to embrace these opportunities, it was noted that in the recent meeting with major developers, they responded positively to the discussion around opportunities and expectations around future developments. The Chair also noted that the developers were very positive and realise that these are good selling points.

4.7     In relation to heat network opportunities, the Chair noted developers concerns about current supply chain issues on the repair and maintenance of advanced systems.

4.8     The Chair gave thanks to the Strategic Infrastructure Planner for their presentation and requested that itbe shared with Medway Development Company (MDC) and the Head of Housing.

ACTION: The Strategic Infrastructure Planner to share presentation.

4.9     The group gave thanks for the presentation and raised how it was important to note that no council could go beyond the Building Regulations for commercial reasons as otherwise developers wouldn’t be competitive and so for this reason it is unlikely that changes will push significantly ahead in advance.

4.10 The group asked if information to explain the work being undertaken by Planning on climate change could be made available online, in layman terms for the public, noting that the planners need credit for work they are doing, and it can be hard to grasp the complexities.

4.11 The Chair agreed and asked for this to be considered in the next review of the action plan.

ACTION: The Planning Policy Team and Climate Response Team to seek to expand the Planning content available on the climate change pages of the website.

ACTION:  The Climate Response Team to consider items raised in the next review of the action plan.

4.12 A member of the group noted in relation to the major developers meeting that developers do appear to realise it is an emergency and there is flexibility in what they are willing to deliver, with some scope to go beyond the regulations through ongoing discussion.  The HRA work being led by the Housing team was noted as a benchmark that should be expected from developers.

4.13 The group also noted the issue of the long-term maintenance of sustainable drainage measures by local authorities.

4.14 The group asked how much weight neighbourhood plans carry and how the success of future regulations like biodiversity net gain will be measured. The Strategic Infrastructure Planner noted that once a neighbourhood plan is adopted it becomes part of the development plan and so carries a material weight in planning decisions however the question will be taken away for colleagues to respond to.

ACTION: Planning team to provide response on weight of neighbourhood plans.

4.15 The Chair noted the growing trade-off between Section 106 to address climate change requirements and that needed for other infrastructure and how this will either impact on house prices or developer costs, noting that this is a national issue.

4.16 A member of the group noted how three quite different areas of Medway are going through the neighbourhood plan process and reiterated how information on the weight of plans needs to be shared with these neighbourhoods. In relation to Section 106 funding, it was felt that climate emergency improvements should form part of Section 106 from developers whereas aspects such as highways, health and education should be funded by central government. It was noted in relation to viability testing, that climate measures must be made viable.

4.17 The Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Place noted on neighbourhood plans, that the Council strives to work closely with those formulating plans and that there is lots of engagement on plans coming forward and assured members that all neighbourhood plans are in keeping with emerging local plan principles.