The Panel was presented with the most recently published Executive Forward Plan. In accordance with the Panel Procedure Rules, prior requests had been received for updates on:
(a) Housing Strategy: Progress Update
The Panel considered a report that presented a progress update on the Housing Strategy.
In the ensuing debate, particular reference was made to:-
(i) consulting with partner agencies. Officers confirmed that they were committed to consulting on the draft Strategy with as many partner agencies as was practically possible. In addition, the list of consultees was currently being compiled and Members were able to add relevant agencies to that list by contacting the lead officer;
(ii) the ‘Better Homes, Better Lives’ strapline. The Panel expressed its support for the proposed strapline and it was PROPOSED and SECONDED and when put to the vote declared CARRIED that this be reflected in the Panel recommendations to the Executive;
(iii) the implications of the upcoming Planning White Paper. Such were the potential affordable housing implications arising from the Central Government Planning White Paper that a Member questioned the timing of the Strategy. In reply, the Deputy Leader emphasised the importance of the Council making progress on its Housing agenda and was of the view that the Strategy could be reviewed in the event of the White Paper coming into effect;
(iv) the close linkages between the Strategy and the work of both the Climate Change and Biodiversity Working Group and the Council’s Draft Recovery Plan;
(v)affordable housing need. A Member cited an example of a number of carers working (but not living) in the South Hams and made the point that accurately identifying affordable housing need in the South Hams would be difficult;
(vi) the existing housing stock. The Deputy Leader stated the importance of the Strategy not solely focusing on the development of new properties but equally making the best use of the existing housing stock in the South Hams;
(vii) the invitation for the Panel to consider the results of the public consultation exercise. The Panel welcomed this invitation and it was PROPOSED and SECONDED and when put to the vote declared CARRIED that this should be incorporated into the Panel’s Work Programme.
It was then:
(b) Formation of a Wholly Owned Company – Verbal Update
The Director of Place and Enterprise provided an update during which particular reference was made to:
- the legal agreement still to be concluded in light of the Council resolution arising from its meeting held on 13 February 2020 (Minute 75/19(g) refers);
- the importance of all partners being fully satisfied before the agreement was concluded;
- it being hoped that the agreement would be concluded before the end of December 2020;
- the £40,000 budget set aside to form a Community Benefit Society. In reply to a question, it was anticipated that the total spend would be much lower than the £40,000 cap that had been applied.
(c) Gypsy and Traveller Update and Options – Verbal Update
In his introduction, the Director of Place and Enterprise advised that it was intended that the report to be presented to the Executive meeting on 22 October 2020 would seek to:
1. Endorse a Strategy of Engagement with Devon County Council to work towards identifying a Gypsy and Traveller Site in the South Hams;
2. Endorse a Strategy of Engagement with Registered Provider partners to identify and manage a Gypsy and Traveller Site in the South Hams; and
3. Request that a further report be presented back to the Executive in the Spring of 2021.
In the ensuing debate, the following points were raised:
- Members welcomed the proposal to collaborate with Devon County Council and Registered Provider partners. In particular, a Member stressed the need for both transient and permanent sites to be brought forward and emphasised the current disparity in identified need between the County Council (80 pitches) and the District Council (5 pitches). In reply, officers reiterated the importance of co-operation between the District and County Councils and it was asked that dual-hatted Members help to progress this intention;
- A Member highlighted the trend whereby an increasing number of residents were living in their vehicles and it was recognised that there were different groups within the overall ‘Gypsy and Traveller’ category;
- Whilst stressing that this was a longstanding issue, a Member requested that greater progress needed to be made on this matter. In reply, another Member made reference to the associated difficulties and the amount of distress that was caused to local residents and the cost to the Council of clearing up sites. In his conclusion, the Member stated that sites needed to be established in locations where Gypsies and Travellers wished to be sited.
(d) Consolidation of Off-Street Parking Places Order – Verbal Update
Officers advised the Panel that this report had now been deferred to the Executive meeting to be held on 3 December 2020.