5 May 2020
As Mid Suffolk District Council held its first virtual cabinet meeting Green Party councillors were on hand to maintain their role of holding the conservative administration to account.
Group leader Rachel Eburne asked four questions including pressing the need for a virtual full council meeting to be arranged soon rather than leaving a gap of 5 months to the next planned meeting in the council chamber.
She also asked about delays to the Joint Local Plan and the lack of any public airing of planning policy issues arising from the Declaration of climate and biodiversity emergencies.
Councillor Eburne said:
“There are very few public occasions at which we can ask unconditional questions of the Administration – and at this critical time, this is not supportive of a healthy democratic process.
We have particular concerns over how much the draft Joint Local Plan is taking into account the Climate Emergency that the Council declared, including how to ensure we build in the environmentally friendly policies that so many people in our district clearly want. As important as this, we also have serious questions about the spatial distribution put forward in the current draft. As it stands, I am not allowed to ask a question on this at Cabinet which is very frustrating.
We would like to know why, in the initial draft the spatial distribution policy for housing in our core villages (such as Elmswell and Thurston) gave options ranging from 15 to 30% of all housing yet in the current draft this figure is 43%. There has been no public discussion on this figure. Outstanding planning permissions are running at more than 7,500 and a supposed “transport” corridor approach has been agreed – but this only seems to apply to the A14 and villages along that route, not the A140 or the Stowmarket /Diss/Norwich train line.
Finally, the lack of a Joint Local Plan is often cited as a reason to approve locally controversial planning applications and it is therefore even more vital that we can get some public discussion on this soon.”
Also attending the meeting was chair of Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Keith Welham, Green councillor for Haughley and Stowupland.
Questions in full
I note that there is no planned full Council meeting until 23rd July. Given that the last full Council meeting was 27th February, this will have been a five month gap which is not good democratic practice (noting that the Council has only had the power to hold virtual or remote meetings since 4th April). In the interests of openness and transparency to the public, please can you consider holding a meeting before July?
I note that the Forthcoming Decisions List does not include an item for the next stage of the Joint Local Plan. According to the current Local Development Scheme (LDS), the Joint Local Plan should have been adopted in February 2020. When will a revised LDS be published giving the public and developers a more realistic schedule for the remaining stages?
With regards to the Report from the Environmental and Climate Change Task Force, due at Cabinet on 6th July, please advise how the declarations of Climate and Biodiversity Emergencies and the work from this Task Force will be reflected in the next stage of the Joint Local Plan given there is no current timetable for this work noted on the Forthcoming Decision List and the original timetable has long since passed.
Regarding the Mid Suffolk Business Grant Programme, Item 8:
Please can you advise how this Programme will support Essential Skills in our District, where those skills have been shown to be much in need during the current crisis?
Meetings & Events
Next meeting will be virtual, in September, date to be confirmed.
If you wish to receive an invite, please email john [a] suffolkgreenparty.org.uk
While the present crisis and lockdown persist, Mid Suffolk Green Party will be holding virtual meetings. Green News will be available by email, so if you wish to receive this, please send your email and postal addresses to john [a] suffolkgreenparty.org.uk
- Mid Suffolk meetings generally held at Cafe 52, Crowe Street, Stowmarket, Suffolk, IP14 1DL
- Meetings occasionally held in Woolpit, Eye, Walsham le Willows, Stowupland, Needham Market and other villages.
All Members and well-wishers welcome.