“Who runs this council – is it officers or is it councillors?” as Local Development Plan motion fails to make agenda
A councillor has said the way a motion on the Local Development Plan has been handled “raises serious concerns”.
Today’s Full Council meeting was set to hear, and vote, on a motion put forward on the topic of the LDP however it was ‘postponed’ after the council took external legal advice.
Recently there has been indications that political support for the Local Development Plan (LDP) has been pulled from a major part of the administration running the council, with the Council Leader now twice speaking out against the plan in the strongest terms and declaring his group’s position. Matters around the LDP moved forward recently during a spiky meeting between the Local Development Plan inspectors and Wrexham Council’s planning department.
The council’s Legal Officer had explained the reasoning for the move to ‘postpone’ the motion and not including it on the agenda, saying “If the Council were to resolve now that it does not support the local development plan, there would be a risk that the Council might be regarded as having predetermined a future decision about adopting the plan”, a move that has previously been branded a ‘gag’.
The early business of today’s meeting was interrupted at agenda item three when petitions and motions are taken and considered with a Point of Order raised on an alleged “irregularity in the procedure of today’s meeting”.
Councillor Carrie Harper, who put forward the motion, told the meeting: “This agenda is missing an item – it was a motion submitted by myself and the Plaid Cymru group about this council withdrawing support from the Local Development Plan, a matter of ongoing concern to communities across Wrexham and also, I would guess, the majority of councillors in this meeting.”
“Now the motion was submitted and accepted as part of our Constitution. It was then pulled from the agenda by a council officer without consultation on the basis of independent legal advice. Neither myself or any other councillors, as far as I know, have seen that legal advice despite repeated requests to see it.”
“It raises fundamental questions about who runs this council – is it officers or is it councillors? Because if it’s officers, then lets be honest, we can save ourselves a couple of hours tonight and just log off.”
“The way this has been handled raises serious concerns. According to our constitution, councillors should be given access to information. To refuse to share that information and to knock this key item off the agenda is not only unheard of, it is also thoroughly undemocratic and it should concern every one of us.”
The Mayor deferred to the Legal Officer, who said : “Points of Order are matters for the Mayor to rule upon at a meeting.”
“Members have already been informed of the reasons for not including the motion on the agenda today.”
“But for completeness, I will reiterate: On the basis of legal advice which I sought and received I concluded it would not be appropriate for the council to consider a motion concerning the local development plan at a time when the examination in public is ongoing, and the inspectors report and recommendations have not been reported to the council.
“To consider such a motion prematurely risks undermining the statutory inspection process. This advice was accepted and the motion is not included in the agenda for consideration at today’s council meeting.”
“I invite the Mayor to confirm that only items on the agenda will be considered this afternoon, and to move to the next item on the agenda for this meeting.”
With the power with the Mayor to rule on such Points of Order, he decided Cllr Harper had “made your point in the public record, but as the motion is not on the agenda, we have to move to the next item of business”.
The meeting then proceeded.
The submitted motion read:
In recent weeks significant new evidence and information has emerged that undermines the basis of Wrexham’s Local Development Plan relating to:
– population projections that formed the basis of housing allocations
– drastic reductions in affordable housing
– the process of assessing highways impacts
– the process of allocating gypsy and traveller sites
As a result, this Council resolves to:
– Withdraw its support for the deposit Local Development Plan (as passed on 22 November 2018 by Wrexham CBC) as it no longer meet the needs of Wrexham’s communities in light of recent available data for the County Borough.
– Call on the appropriate Welsh Government minister to recognise that the Plan process and its content are fundamentally flawed and unsound and halt the examination by the local Plan inspector
– Call on the Welsh Government to ensure protection for greenfield sites by strengthening Technical Advice Note 1 to prevent speculative development.
Top pic: The ruling Mayor wearing his now traditional pandemic paper chains. Low res image as our usual Zoom grab was not possible as we were declined access to the meeting direct, just the public webstream.
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