Members of the public are invited to put questions to the Chair and Executive Councillors on any matters within the powers and duties of the Executive, subject to the exclusions set out in the Code of Practice. (Questions must be submitted no later than 30 minutes prior to the commencement of the meeting on the card provided. These are available at the meeting and at local libraries and information centres. You can also submit via the Council’s website at www.stockport.gov.uk/publicquestions)
The public were invited to put questions to the Executive on any matters within its powers and duties, subject to the exclusions set out in the Code of Practice.
16 questions were asked.
Twelve questions related to the draft Woodford Village Garden Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) included on the agenda at item 15 (see Minute 6 below).
· The first question asked whether consideration had been given to a health related development on the Woodford site to increase health care capacity through the provision of specialist services which would also necessitate housing and other commercial development to support this use.
The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that while the approach suggested was innovative, it was unlikely to be deliverable, which was a key test of the SPD. The current draft SPD was housing led as this was more deliverable in the current circumstances although this would not preclude anyone from submitting a planning application for this site which would then be judged on its merits.
· The second question asked when details of any financial contributions to the A6 to Manchester Airport Relief Road scheme from Cheshire East Council and Harrow Estate or Avro Heritage, as potential developers of the Woodford Aerodrome site, would be made public.
The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that no financial contributions would be required from either Cheshire East Council nor the developers of the site for the Relief Road Scheme as funding had been identified by Central Government and from within the Greater Manchester Transport Fund.
· The third question asked whether the Executive would consider the comments made by the Environment & Economy Scrutiny Committee about the proposed SPD, why officers of the Council had been meeting with potential developers of the Woodford site and why the public’s views as expressed through the Core Strategy were being ignored.
The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that the comments of the Scrutiny Committee would be taken seriously by the Executive as part of the consultation on the content of the SPD. It was confirmed that officers had met with the potential developer as part of taking forward the SPD but that this was in large part to make the views of the local community aware to the developer. It was stated that the final SPD would take account of national and local planning policy and the views of the local community. It was added that the SPD was designed to shape development on this site, and that this was the most effective mechanism for the Council and the public to get the best out of any proposal.
· The fourth question asked why the current proposals for the site did not include any employment uses, despite the desire for mixed development in the Core Strategy and sought reassurances that this was not to satisfy developers.
The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that some employment would be retained on the site and that residents’ views on encouraging this would be welcomed as part of the consultation. The SPD needed to be deliverable and in the current situation this would be best achieved through a housing-led scheme. It was added that the site was an unusual location for a large employment site and was associated with historical circumstance rather than local planning policy.
· The fifth question asked how the proposed carbon mitigation measures for any development at Woodford, such as public transport improvements and walking and cycling routes, would be funded.
The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that on and off site sustainability measures would be funded by developers via Section 106 legal agreements as set out in the SPD.
· The sixth question asked why the Core Strategy’s requirements for formal and casual recreational space and children’s play space were not included within the development area in the SPD.
The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that a key objective of the Council had been to enhance the openness of the Green Belt and that given the scale of open space being suggested it would be consistent with the Council’s policy to exclude these areas from the calculation of the overall built area.
· The seventh question asked why statements made by Councillor Roberts had suggested that residents in Woodford had opposed development at the Woodford site when evidence was clear that this was not the case as the majority of residents involved in consultation favoured a mixed housing and employment use. It was asked whether the SPD would be reconsidered to take account of local views and local policies.
The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that he agreed that residents had not simply opposed development and that their engagement had been constructive and informed, and acknowledged the concerns of residents over the scale of development. He further replied that significant employment development on this site would not accord with existing Stockport and Greater Manchester policies nor would it be as deliverable, therefore he was not minded to reconsider the draft SPD at this stage. Residents were nonetheless encouraged to express their views through the consultation.
· The eighth question asked whether the SPD had been drafted to allow for the increase in the developable area beyond that defined in MEDS A and B, and what safeguards there were to prevent this from happening.
The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that there were no plans to increase the size of developable area at Woodford and that he would discuss further with officers what appropriate safeguards could be put in place.
· The ninth question asked whether, given the significance of the potential development at Woodford, the Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) and other representatives of the Council would be willing to meet with Woodford Community Council.
The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that he would be willing to meet with Woodford Community Council.
· The tenth question asked whether the fact that Cheshire East Council had withdrawn the draft SPD from agendas of their upcoming committee meetings because of outstanding issues not having been resolved to their satisfaction meant that Stockport Council was proposing to proceed alone with an SPD that covered areas in another authority’s boundaries, or if not, whether it was not premature for the Council to be publishing before the outstanding issues were resolved.
The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that should Cheshire East Council not be able to approve the draft SPD for consultation, Stockport Council would consider moving forward for those parts of the site within the borough’s boundaries, however it was hoped that the outstanding issues could be resolved as a matter of urgency.
· The eleventh question asked whether consideration would be given to deferring consideration of the SPD to allow for consideration of a proposal for the creation of neighbourhood forum/ plan as described in the Localism Act 2011 and given there was no immediate need for an SPD for this site.
The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that the Council’s view was that there was an immediate necessity for an SPD to provide a development framework against which to determine an application from a developer. The question of whether to establish a neighbourhood forum was a matter for local residents and would be considered by the Council should it be necessary.
· The 12th question asked whether the SPD should provide additional clarity on the likely obligations on developers of Woodford in terms of contributions to transport and infrastructure and whether trigger points could be included within the SPD to indicate the threshold for which a contribution would be required.
The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that he recognised the importance of public transport and school infrastructure for the local area which was why a requirement for a new school was within the SPD. It was further replied that further consideration would be given to trigger points and that this should also be included in the public’s response to the consultation.
Two questions had been submitted about the A6 to Manchester Airport Relief Road Scheme.
· The 13th question sought clarification on the timescale for consultation on the proposed relief road scheme.
The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that there was a typographical error in the report which should have stated that the consultation would begin in autumn 2012, not 2013, should the proposal be approved by the Executive.
· The 14th question sought clarification on the timescale for the delivery of the relief road scheme.
The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that the target programme was as follows:-
- Consultation autumn 2012 to spring 2013
- Planning application submission spring 2013
- Statutory approval, including planning permission (and allowing for a public inquiry) summer 2014
- Final award of contract autumn 2014
- Construction commences winter 2014
- Construction complete spring 2017
Two further questions were asked.
· The 15th question asked for an explanation of the benefits of using inter-council borrowing to fund the cost of purchasing the Debenhams site rather than seeking finance directly from the market.
The Leader of the Council (Policy, Reform & Finance) replied that the Treasury Management report on the agenda for the meeting set out the changes to borrowing arrangements. The Council had borrowed from another council at a rate lower than the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) which would equate to a saving of £62,000 over two years. It was added that there had been a recent announcement by the Government that would offer discounts to councils using the PWLB which the Council would be investigating.
· The 16th question asked whether comments by Councillor Hawthorne at the recent Council Meeting stating that he was not constitutionally required to attend scrutiny committees was consistent with the importance placed on the scrutiny process by the Leader of the Council.
The Leader of the Council (Policy, Reform & Finance) replied that Councillor Hawthorne was correct that there was no constitution requirement that he attend the scrutiny committee in question and that he had explained to the Council Meeting that he was unable to stay for the entire meeting due to a prior commitment. She stated that Cllr Hawthorne had given an assurance that he would attend the next scrutiny committee.
Two further questions had been submitted by a member so the public who was not present at the meeting. It was stated that in accordance with the Code of Practice a written response would be provided.