Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Windmill Street, Gravesend DA12 1AU. View directions
Contact: Committee Section Email: email@example.com
Apologies for Absence
An apology for absence was received from Cllr Karina O’Malley; Cllr Ektaveen Thandi substituted.
The minutes of the meeting of the Strategic Environment Cabinet Committee held on Wednesday, 29 March 2023 were signed by the Chair.
Declarations of Interest
Cllr Meade declared several interests:
Thanks - Simon Hookway
The Committee asked that their thanks be recorded for Simon Hookway (Assistant Director Communities) who had recently retired last week after 36 years of service to Gravesham Bourgh Council and applauded his tremendous work with the Committee and the Council.
The Committee were provided with a report that gave them an overview of the Planning Service.
The Assistant Director (Planning) advised Members that the majority of Planning was set in statute but there were a range of areas with flexibility, and it was best for them to have a broader understanding of the Planning Service.
The Assistant Director (Planning) guided Members through the report and outlined key points regarding the portfolios following areas:
· Development Management
· Planning Enforcement
· Building Control
· Environmental Management
· Planning Policy
The Assistant Director (Planning) explained to Members that the contact details for the best officer to approach within in each Planning area was listed in the report.
Members noted the report.
The Committee was presented with a report that provided them with an update on the development of the borough wide design code, Design for Gravesham.
The Assistant Director (Strategic Regeneration) took Members through the report which summarised the background to the project, stakeholder engagement to date, the emerging, draft vision and principles of the document prepared by place-making specialists Levitt Bernstein and the associated next steps in the document becoming a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), subject to approval of Cabinet.
The Associate Director and Senior Architect from Levitt Bernstein delivered a presentation explaining further details about the design code and its impact on Gravesham; the presentation was included within the agenda and could be accessed through the below link:
The Chair added that elected Members from both political parties attended the first two stages of consultation for the design code and robust discussions were had on the subject between Members and the public.
The Chair stated that the Assistant Director (Strategic Regeneration) had brought along two hard copies of the emerging draft of a summary document for Members to review. The Chair assured Members that they would each receive a hard copy of this document. The Assistant Director (Strategic Regeneration) explained that the draft document presented at the Committee tonight, described the emerging vision and principles for the code and included an example page of one of the key elements from each principle.
The Chair reminded Members that the document was still in its draft form and further changes would be made to respond to the second stage of stakeholder engagement.
Following questions and comments from Members, the Associate Director and Senior Architect from Levitt Bernstein explained that:
· Design for Gravesham is a borough wide design code. It is a once in a ten-year opportunity to steward community and place led regeneration by creating a Policy document that sets out Gravesham’s expectations for high quality and sustainable regeneration and development that delivers holistically for people and place in Gravesham - responding to the needs of Gravesham’s diverse community and the borough’s unique identifies, places, towns, villages and neighbourhoods. The Design Code will be adopted as a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), subject to approval of Cabinet. The document will then be used by planning officers in the assessment of planning applications. The development of a borough wide design code responds to the government’s Regeneration and Levelling Up bill, which at time of drafting, is in the reporting stage in the House of Lords.
· The national model design code and its principles were considered and used as a model for the design code for Gravesham, but Gravesham’s code is unique to the area and the vision and principles have been drafted in response to engagement with the community. The Assistant Director (Strategic Regeneration) added that the latest draft of the document referenced the national design code and how it was used to assist in creating the design code for Gravesham.
The Committee were provided with a presentation on the key principles of Planning in Gravesham.
The presentation had been published and could be accessed via the below link:
The Assistant Director (Planning) advised that it was a working document which, at the Chairs request, gave greater clarity and detail on the components of the Planning Service, its strategic aims, and examples of planning application submissions.
The Chair stated that the key principles would become a strategic document that was fair and consistent and treated everyone equally.
The Chair noted that many developers and some households had the expectation of receiving planning advice for free when they should be paying for pre -application advice which was unfair to the taxpayer. Residents with general inquiries should be find the information needed via our website and links, but if any local specific advice concerning planning applications was required then they would need to pay for the pre-application advice service.
Members praised the themes of fairness and consistency throughout the presentation and felt that those were two principles that should underpin the planning process, but concern was raised that the Planning Inspectorate made too many inconsistent planning decisions on similar projects which affected local residents.
The Chair agreed that the Planning Inspectorate were inconsistent but advised that Members should make it clear to the residents that the Council had no powers over the decision of the Planning Inspectorate. However, the Council would have a consistent approach to its own planning process and decision making.
Following comments concerning clarifying information on conservation areas for residents, the Assistant Director (Planning) explained that there was a big issue with window and door replacement in conservation areas several years ago. Part of the issue was a lack of understanding around the value of the doors/windows and the need for a specific appearance in those areas. Residents living in the area were unaware how the change of appearance of properties affected the area. To combat residents buying the wrong doors,/windows and having to change them to the correct appearance a Conservation Area guide was created which improved residents understanding of what materials they had to use if they wanted to make any changes or replacements. Recently there had been further requests to remove UPVC and composite windows and install windows that were right for the conservation area they lived in; the correct windows did not usually result in a significantly higher cost in most areas. With the additional consideration of climate change, there had been some amendments made to the guidance.
The Assistant Director (Planning) explained that the document would work alongside the Corporate Plan and the monitoring of things, such as responding to a planning application if it is invalid within five working days for minor and house holder applications, would be carried out by the performance indicators that would be reported to Strategic Environment Cabinet Committee through quarterly ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
The Committee was informed of the council’s involvement in partnerships that were within the remit of the committee which was an annual item to the Committee.
The current partnerships that most directly relate to the work of the Strategic
Environment Committee were as follows:
Members noted the information.