Rutland County Council vote to scrap Local Plan and start again at cost of £1.4m
After six years of work and costs of £1.193m, a scheme to define the future development of housing and public services in Rutland is to be torn up and started again.
Rutland County Council met on Wednesday evening to vote on proposals to scrap the current Local Plan.
Creating a new 15-year plan from scratch will cost a projected £1.4 million and take up to four more years to complete.
Officers recommended the step, believing the current plan would likely fail scrutiny by the Planning Inspector.
This followed the council's decision, in March, to turn down a £29.4m Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) grant for a major development at the St George’s Barracks site which underpinned the current plan.
After almost three hours of debate, as well as deputations from parish councils across the county, 14 of 27 councillors voted to start again, with 10 against and three abstaining.
For - Coun Edward Baines (Con), Coun David Blanksby (Ind/Grn), Coun Kenneth Bool (Con), Coun Andrew Brown (Ind/Grn), Coun Paul Browne (LibDem), Coun Joanna Burrows (LibDem), Coun William Cross (Con), Coun Jeff Dale (Ind), Coun Miranda Jones (Ind/Grn), Coun Abigail MacCartney (LibDem), Coun Marc Oxley (Ind/Grn), Coun Roemary Powell (Ind/Grn), Coun Gale Waller (LibDem), Coun Sue Webb (Ind/Grn).
Against - Coun Paul Ainsley (Con), Coun Gordon Brown (Con), Coun Richard Coleman (Ind), Coun June Fox (Con), Coun Samantha Harvey (Con), Coun Oliver Hemsley (Con), Coun Karen Payne (Con), Coun Ian Razzell (Con), Coun Alan Walters (Con), Coun David Wilby (Con).
Abstained - Coun Nick Begy (Con), Coun Adam Lowe (Ind), Coun Lucy Stephenson (Con).
Throughout the evening councillors pledged to support the eventual consensus and urged unity.
Coun Stephenson described the vote as 'Rutland's Brexit' because of its polarising effect, while Coun Oxley said it was the toughest decision in his 18 years on the council.
"Whatever the outcome we must all work hard to heal the division which has split this council in recent months," he said.
Yet the tone was set early on when a vote on whether to adjourn the meeting for a break was split 12 votes each.
This followed a proposal from Coun Razzell, portfolio holder for planning, for the council to reconsider their earlier decision on the HIF grant and potentially save the current Local Plan.
"I want to express genuine regret to those who feel let down or lacking representation because of the position we are now in," he added.
Coun Razzell's motion divided opinion once more, with 13 voting in favour and 14 against.
He said the delay in creating a new plan would leave Rutland at risk of planning applications 'in every corner of our beautiful county'.
It was a fear echoed by several other members who were keen to also retain a guiding hand on St George's future.
Coun Fox said the £29m would bring the infrastructure this county 'so desperately needs', and that scrapping the plan would remove obligation for developers to provide affordable housing.
Coun Gordon Brown believed the lack of a plan would leave planning officers naked to the whims of developers and make their applications 'incredibly difficult to resist', while Coun Begy warned of 'uncontrolled development'.
Yet Coun Bool argued the value of the HIF grant had already been depreciated by inflation and by 2025 it will have 'the buying power of £20m or less', adding the grant would need a '£10m top-up just to stand still'.
Coun Andrew Brown believed any further delay would only leave the council in the same position and waste 'more time and taxpayers' money'.
Coun Waller added: "The terms and conditions (of the HIF) left Rutland County Council with far too many risks and I have seen nothing since that changes my opinion on this.
"I would suggest the situation might even be worse in two or three months' time."
For full details, the council documents can be viewed here.
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