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Annotated Summary of BPC Publicly Accessible

Neighourhood (Development) Plan Information

(More info on BOB's NDP page)

 

 

BPC has been progressing its Neighbourhood (Development) Plan behind the scenes since at least July 2017 yet there is little publicly accessible decision making information. Not 'all' residents have been informed what a NDP is or is not, how much it will cost, liabilities, how it can or cannot protect our community, etc. or been asked whether they even want one. It seems that BPC's approach to date is to consult behind closed doors with select/chosen groups and individuals before residents. Why are some residents allowed acess to this information and process but not 'all' residents? The final NDP plan is to be put before residents to 'vote' at a referendum, why not consult with residents throughout the process seeing as it affects all residents of Bleadon, our community, environment and precept, for many years to come?

 

Government NDP guidelines state "The relationship between any group and the formal functions of the town or parish council should be transparent to the wider public ... The terms of reference for a steering group or other body should be published and the minutes of meetings made available to the public." So why the ongoing secrecy between BPC and residents, and BPC and fellow councillors? 

 

For asking for resident/public access to information and to be fully consulted BPC has implemented its Vexatious Policy against BOB for 2 years... yes you heard correctly, they have stated that they will not respond to resident requests for information via BOB from Jan 16 until Feb 2019! We have seen the effect of closed meetings with BPC ignoring residents' views expressed in the adopted Parish Plan e.g. last year's school development proposal; and other developments proposing the potential loss of fields, SNCI, PROWs with 'no objection' by BPC. What will happen by the end of the NDP process without full information and consultation with 'all' residents?

 

The following documents and comments on BPC's publicly accessible information relating to their NDP process, stored in one place in chronological order. As you will see there is a large volume of information not yet publicly accessible, the question is why the secrecy? What select residents (some of whom may be landowners), councillors, developers, agents, etc. have been involved in the process to date? What effect will this secrecy have on our community and environment now and in future years? 

-----

 

10 Dec 12 (Min 249.5.5) "To resolve to set up a Working Party to investigate the possible future need/viability of a Neighbourhood Plan for the village of Bleadon. Resolved that such a working party be set up"

BOB: We can find no further information given to residents about this closed working party or reasons as to why BPC ultimately chose not to implement a NDP at that time.

 

10 Jul 17 (Min 297.22) "To receive a report from the Management Working Group Cllr Dobson provided an update of his and the Chairman’s attendance at the ‘Accommodating Housing Growth, Parish and Town Council briefing’, held by North Somerset Council on Thursday 6th July. The Clerk to contact North Somerset Council representative to set up a meeting with Cllr Dobson to discuss in more detail the Neighbourhood Plan initiative." 

BOB: When will BPC release agenda, minutes, reports, etc. regarding this closed group that influences BPC decision making?

 

14 Aug 17 (Min 298.6) "Exchange of information between Councillors. Cllr Dobson had a meeting with North Somerset Planning Policy Officer to discuss the Neighbourhood Development Plan and will update the Councillors in section 298.25 of the agenda. Cllr Strong informed the meeting that an Environment Survey at the Veale was being conducted looking at endangered species and a wildlife survey for slowworms and nothing of significant has been found yet." 

BOB: Where is resident feedback on this influential meeting that led to a NDP Designation in the following month, with resident consultation?

 

(Min 298.7) "To review and discuss the correspondence regarding North Somerset Local Plan 2018-2036 - Bleadon Settlement Profile. It was unanimously agreed to inform North Somerset of the inaccuracies highlighted and identified in the report. The issues of the reduced Bus Service discussed and impact to residents to be included in the response. To obtain confirmation from NSC of the location of the centre point of the village used in the report."

BOB: How will this review affect the protection given to Bleadon to date? E.g. development outside the Settlement Boundary/Village Fence and any proposed NDP?

 

(Min 298.25) "To receive a report from the Management Working Group Cllr Dobson had a meeting with the North Somerset Planning Policy Officer to discuss the Neighbourhood Development Plan initiative. He informed the council that grants are available to assist with professional services eg planning policy specialist, transport specialist etc Estimated two years to complete the full plan, however highlighted that if there is an emerging plan it is something that will be considered in local planning decisions. Cllr Dobson to prepare and provide more information at the September meeting including the programme of activities, objectives and relevant information for setting up the necessary steering group. The Chairman to contact ALCA to ask if they can provide a list of recommend professional advisors in regards to preparing Neighbourhood Development Plans." 

BOB: Why is there still no information on this influential group, its information and decision making?

 

BPN107 Summer 2017 "The nationaI picture. National Government is changing planning rules, which greatly reduces the ability for District Councils to refuse planning applications for new homes. Setttement boundaries, village plans and even some new neighbourhood plans have been shown to be irrelevant or at best to hold very littte weight in current national planning decisions. The relaxation of planning conditions is the Government's route to significantly boosting the suppty of housing, and NSC has been set a five year supply target. All villages are now being encouraged to produce new neighbourhood plans by the end 2019 which will cover issues such as planning. Guidance and advice is being sought by the Parish Council in this regard for Bleadon. Dave Chinn"

BOB: 

 

11 Sept 17 (Min 299.4.ii) "Cllr Dobson asked for an updated on Neighbourhood Plan. Cllr Porter provided an updated and highlighted that Neighbourhood Plans are adopted and linked to part of their Planning Strategy.

BOB: Where is the information for 'all' residents to access? Bleadon's adopted and current Parish Plan was supposed to have been linked to NSC policies and strategy, but seem to have been ignored by BPC and NSC. Why do BPC state in their NDP application letter "The Neighbourhood Plan will make reference to the Bleadon Parish Plan which was completed in 2009" when in Apr 17 they declared to residents that BPC "could not find a copy of a Parish Plan", that it was "obsolete" and that "If the Plan is found then it will be made immediately available". Does this mean that the PP has been found, is valid and being used by BPC, and that a copy is now available to residents? NB. BPC are still refusing to respond to any request via BOB for access to pubilc information until Feb 2019.

 

(Min 299.18) " To consider submitting the Neighbourhood Plan Application to North Somerset Council. It was unanimously agreed to submit the application for the designation of a Neighbourhood Area to North Somerset Council. It was agreed to create a sub-committee group to look at the projects and priorities and break them down into steps to look at resources due to the small number of Councillors and limited time available from the Clerk. The management working group was set up to undertake research, explore options and present these to the council for any decisions." 

BOB: Where was the consultation with 'all' residents to proceed with this, as indicated in Government Guidance on Neighbourhood Planning? Where is the information relating to this sub-committee group TOR, agenda, minutes, reports, etc.?

 

15 Sept 17 BPC submit an application to NSC for a NDP Neighbourhood Area.

BOB: Why was there no discussion about a NDP or its Designation of a Neighbourhood Area with 'all' residents? 

 

Oct 17 BPC start sending select/chosen residents and groups a 'NDP Briefing Note - Advantages & Key Points' by Cllr Dobson. 

BOB: Why were not 'all' Bleadon residents given access to this information? Why did it not contain any disadvantages, costs, liabilities, etc.? BOB did not receive a copy until 19 Nov 17, via the Bleadon Action Group NB As far as BOB is aware there was no discussion or formal response from the Action Group. Despite BOB's requests, no information regarding the NDP has been received from BPC, as they declared in Aug 17 that they would not respond to any BOB requests for public access to information until Feb 18 [now extended to Feb 19, and still no answers!]

 

9 Oct 17 (Min 300.14) "To consider the Terms of Reference for the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group. It was agreed to approve in principle, subject to minor amendments which the Chairman will discuss in detail with Cllr Dobson." 

BOB: Why are these TOR still not publicly available despite requesting them?

 

(Min 300.26) "To consider the allocation of an agreed contingency from the current budget to provide additional support staff to deal with an anticipated increase in workload. It was highlighted that it is not possible within the current budget to allocate additional costs, unless it is taken from existing budget lines or from reserves as the budget has been set for the year. It was requested to understand costs incurred by other Parish Councils that have adopted a Neighbourhood Plan. The Clerk to ask Cllr Dobson for clarification on costs. It was agreed to defer to the next Parish Council meeting in November." 

BOB: Why are these costs not publicly available?

 

Nov 17 November saw a series of extra-ordinary meetings. At the beginning of November Cllr Hartree resigned as Chair (for the second time since his co-option Sept 15), the new Clerk resigned after 7 months (the fourth clerk resignation in three years) and Cllr Dobson offered his resignation (for the second time, after 6 months) (Min 301.26.4). By mid-November Cllr Hartree was again Chair (Min 302.1) , Cllr Dobson had withdrawn his resignation but the Clerk unfortunately stuck to her word and had resigned (Min 302.8).

 

6 Nov 17 (Min P68.12) "To consider and agree a response to the Submission of Burnham and Highbridge Area Neighbourhood Plan. It was unanimously resolved not to respond and comment on the Burnham and Highbridge Area Neighbourhood Plan. The Chairman highlighted that the report provided key information that would be helpful in formulating the Bleadon Neighbourhood Plan."

BOB: Why is this key NDP information not publicly available?

 

(Min P68.13) "To consider and agree a response to the North Somerset’s draft Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment (PNA). Cllr provided a summary of the consultation findings and highlighted that it was a very thorough and comprehensive document. Also, there is information contained within the documents that would benefit consideration for the Neighbourhood Plan. A concern was highlighted over the number of new houses quoted in the document and the predication was deemed understated. Questions were highlighted in the document and asked people viewing the consultation document to consider, which the Cllr read out. It was unanimously resolved to respond to the assessment to highlight that the council agree with the statements within the consultation, but ask them to review and potentially update the target housing figures contained within the document.:" 

BOB: What information 'would benefit consideration for the NDP'?

 

(Min P68.14) "To consider and agree a response to the final draft of the West of England Joint Spatial Plan (JSP). Cllr provided a summary of the JSP documentation. A Cllr highlighted that there is no green belt in our area and the green belt refers to the area around Bristol, Clevedon and Portishead. The area for Bleadon is referenced as AONB. It was unanimously resolved not to respond and comment at this stage and to review after the proposed public engagement from 22th November 2017 – 10th January 2018 is available and to add this onto the December Planning Committee Meeting agenda." 

BOB: It is because of the green belt around Bristol that development is happening around Bleadon as it jumps over it. Only part of Bleadon is in the NSC ANOB, is the JSP version different? The December Planning Comittee Meeting did not occur so where was this publicly discussed? See BPC comments in Dec 17 and Jan 18 Min 304.14.

 

(Min P68.17) "To discuss and agree the role of the Planning Committee in the development of the Neighbourhood Plan. It was unanimously resolved that the Neighbourhood Steering Group will bring Planning Policy developments to the Planning Committee for review. The Planning Committee with then provide neighbourhood planning policies recommendations to the full Parish Council Meetings. A discussion was held between Councillors in regard to the format of presenting planning applications for future Planning Committee Meetings."

BOB: Where is the publicly accessible information to date as no public Planning Committee meeting has occurred since this one? 

 

13 Nov 17 (Min 301.4) "District Councillor Porter highlighted the importance of the Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) and having a strategic plan. The JSP is currently being reviewed and going through the approval process. A public consultation will be available." 

BOB: The JSP will be very influential in the planning process including NSC Local Plan and any potential Bleadon NDP. So, a strategic plan, yes, but surely it should be based on a PP and certainly worth full public discussion and consultation. Cllr Hartree and Cllr Dobson were subsequently tasked with responding on behalf of BPC in Jan 18, after the decision to delay in Nov 17, what about other councillors input or approval? Residents views?

 

(Min 301.17) "To approve the project recommendations for the Neighbourhood Plan. It was agreed for Cllr Dobson to start setting up a Neighbourhood Plan steering group and formulate a full plan with budget allocation and present back to the full council at the December Parish Council meeting" 

BOB: Why is this information not available to 'all' residents not just the select few on the steering group, e.g. who are on the steering group (residents, developers, agents, BPC, NSC, etc.?), Terms of Reference, agenda, minutes, reports, plans, budgets, etc?

 

19 Nov 17 BOB receives a copy of Cllr Dobson's 'NDP Briefing Note - Advantages & Key Points' via the Bleadon Action Group.

 

23 Nov 17 BOB responds to BPC re: the NDP Briefing Note including concerns over the limited consultation and information to 'all' Bleadon residents. NB. Despite our requests, no information regarding the NDP has been received from BPC, as they declared in Aug 17 that they would not respond to any BOB requests for public access to information until Feb 18 [now extended to Feb 19!]

 

24 Nov 17 (Min F&P 52.5) "To consider the budget setting and precept demand for 2018/19. Figures under various budget headings were considered, which are contained on a spreadsheet. Cllr asked if there would be an opportunity to look and consider sponsorship over the next 12 months to aid income. The Chairman highlighted two new items on the budget for Civic Award and Professional Fees and Clerical Administration. The Clerk 49 highlighted that an invoice has been received for £900.00 (inc. VAT) regarding work undertaken on the Churchyard wall in 2016. Therefore, expenditure for this year under Churchyard may increase to the figure quoted. It was agreed to increase in the precept demand for 2018/19 to £44,401 which is an increase of 13.44%. Based on a Band E is £12.00 increase over the year or a £1 a month. It was agreed to recommend this precept demand to the December full council meeting." 

BOB: The spreadsheet is not publicly available (why not?) and there is no mention of any NDP costs, what does this mean for the NDP?

 

27 Nov 17 (Min 302.7) "To receive the Clerk’s report ... The Neighbourhood Area was approved by Executive member on 27th October and actionable from 13th November 2017. This has been published on the NSC website ... A Parishioner asked if there is a planned public consultation to discuss the Neighbourhood Plan; its process and the importance of highlighting advantages and disadvantages of a Neighbourhood Plan to members of the parish so they can make an informed decision. A Cllr and The Chairman highlighted that the Parish Council would look to hold a meeting early next year and no money has been spent thus far on the Neighbourhood Plan. A Parishioner highlighted that costs would need to be included in the 2018 /2019 budget precept. The Chairman highlighted that in the proposed budget precept for 2018/19 there is no specific allocation of budget to the Neighbourhood Plan. A Parishioner asked which meeting a request to discuss the Neighbourhood Plan in the public session should be addressed. The Chairman highlighted it should be addressed to the Planning Committee Meeting Agenda. The Chairman highlighted that if a Neighbourhood Plan should go ahead it needs to be adopted by the majority of Parishioners when it is presented. The Chairman highlighted that the Parish Council will hold public consultation meetings throughout the process." 

BOB: Why was there no public consultation by BPC, or NSC, as had occurred for all other applications submitted to NSC up to that point? When in then new year? How do BPC intend to fund their proposed NDP (2 weeks later BPC state that Wedmore has spent $9.5K. The last Planning Meetings was 6 Nov 17. Residents should be consulted throughout the whole process, not just be presented with a NDP at the end.

 

Dec 17 NB By the beginning of December, after some very extraordinary meetings, Cllr Strong resigned (after 8 months) with reference to BPC's secret meetings, bullying and lack of transparency, these comments were not however minuted (Min 303.6) and BOB December post.

 

BPN108 Winter 2017 "A Neighbourhood Ptan for Bleadon. The Parish Council has now received approval from North Somerset Council (NSC) to start work on a Neighbourhood Plan. This represents an excellent opportunity to create a community-led vision for the future development of Bleadon and formalty establish specific local planning policies. A Neighbourhood Plan offers a number of advantages over relying on the Local Plan produced by NSC or on an informal Parish Plan. The plan becomes part of the NSC statutory planning process and has to be considered by the local authority and planning inspectors when considering planning apptications or appeals in the neighbourhood area. This effectively gives Bleadon more influence and control over future development. The plan can also guide the provision of infrastructure for example pedestrian links, improvement of junctions and open spaces. The Neighbourhood Plan will be prepared by a community-led Steering Group and will involve consulting with a whole range of people and organisations in Bleadon, providing an opportunity to update and expand on the existing Parish Plan. The previous work done on the Parish Plan will be invaluable and help to reduce the time required to prepare the first draft of the Neighbourhood Plan. The final version of the plan will have to demonstrate that full community engagement has been achieved and it will be subject to a referendum before it can be approved. A vote in favour of more than 50% is required. Therefore, it is not something that can be imposed on the community. The opportunity will also be taken to create a Community Action Plan, which will incorporate any remaining actions from the original Parish Plan to ensure that these ideas are valued and taken forward. The Steering Group will be formed during December, so if you are interested in taking part contact a member of the Parish Council team and please get invotved. We will be at the Bleadon Saturday Market every month to provide further information and updates as the work progresses, and will also organise a series of public meetings. There is a lot of useful information on the internet and here are few links to get you started: Locatity - www. locality.org. uk Campaign for the Protection of Rural England - www.cpre.org.uk Comm unity Matters - www. communitymatters. org. uk My Community - www. mycommunity.org. uk Richard Dobson"

BOB: It seems that at least one BOB request for public access to information got through to BPC, even though they still did not respond to us, and don't intend to until Feb 18 [Now extended to Feb 19!]. How can it be a community-led vision if BPC are not consulting 'all' the community from the beginning? The NDP will need to be compliant with NSCs Local Plan, it cannot offer less development that the LP, so what additional development will BPC NDP offer, if any? The Parish Plan is not 'informal', it is the adopted view of residents for the period 2009-2029 and should have been submitted to NSC as a supplementary planning document as indicated in the Government Guidance on Neighbourhood Planning. The Neighbourhood Plan is clearly primarily concerned with development, BPC should be very clear about this with 'all' residents. 

 

Who is on the 'community-led Steering Group', bearing in mind that members of the community can be landowners, developers, agents, etc. as well as residents and have a vested interested in the NDP aims? When will BPC fully inform and consult with 'all' residents equally, especially if they have voiced an interest? Great to see BPC publicly acknowledge the existance of the PP, especially after their 'lost' and 'obsolete' comments in Apr 17, does this mean that it is now accesssible and will be updated and used in its own valid right as indicated by the Good Councillor Guide for Parish Councillors 2017 and 2013? BPC states that "The previous work done on the Parish Plan will be invaluable", so why have they been ignoring it to date and submitting comments to NSC on behalf of residents that are contrary to the PP for so long?

 

As far as we are aware "A vote in favour of more than 50% is required" of the number of people who turn out to vote in the Referendum. If only 20 people turn out and 11 vote for the NDP it will be passed on behalf of all residents. Conversely, the PP was based on the views of "60% of residents" i.e. at least 660 residents. Isn't a "Community Action Plan"  just a renamed PP Action Plan? When will the original PP be published with updated completed and outstanding actions? Who are on the "Steering Group"?

 

When will BPC publish the information discussed/distributed at the Village Market to 'all' residents, rather that offer it only to those that can/want to attend the market? When will the first public meeting be held, and will residents have access to the background information they need before the meeting? (see Feb 18). There is a lot of useful information on the BOB NDP webpage too!

 

11 Dec 17 (Min 303.4) "Concern was expressed about a planning decision elsewhere in North Somerset where a housing development had been allowed outside of the village fence. A discussion ensued on the merits and disadvantages of the village having a Neighbourhood Plan. The view of the Council was that an approved Plan would assist the planning authority to defend against undesirable planning applications. However, it was recognized that at the end of the day a Planning Inspector would have the final say on any development. It was noted that North Somerset Council had given authority for the Parish to start preparation of a Plan and the intention now was to consult on a preliminary outline of the Plan to gauge public support for it. It was stressed that the Parish Council would only proceed if there was local support. Reference was made to the situation in Backwell where a Neighbourhood Plan was in place. A decision was imminent on a housing development which was in conflict with the Plan and the Inspector’s decision was eagerly awaited as it would demonstrate what weight the Inspector gave to an approved Plan in that case. District Councillor Porter commented that an approved Neighbourhood Plan should strengthen the authority’s position. He also understood that an application for grant funding should be submitted by 18th January and this would be checked." 

BOB: Where is the documentation relating to the `merits and disadvantages`of a NDP for 'all' residents to access? How would a NDP be able to "defend against undesirable applications"?  NSC approved BPC's neighbourhood area on 27 Oct 17 as indicated by BPC on 27 Nov 17, where was the area consultation with residents, or the want/need for a NDP in the first place?. Where is resident access to the 'preliminary outline of the Plan'? When will BPC inform and consult with 'all' residents about whether to have a plan, and what to put in it, how do residents know without all relevant documentation to make an informed decision? The grant funding had been extended to 2022 in Sept 17, to beyond March 2018, so a Jan 18 submission deadline was no longer applicable.

 

(Min 303.10) "To consider the Initial Arrangements for a Neighbourhood Plan. Councillor Dobson referred to correspondence received from a parishioner on this issue, requesting that full consultation and engagement with the parish be undertaken to ensure that local people’s wishes were fully taken into account. Councillor Dobson explained that good consultation and communication were an integral part of the Neighbourhood process and he and Councillor Chinn were suggesting that a Working Group of local people be set up initially to consult with local groups and arrange workshops. This would enable the Council to establish the facts and the likely costs and to bring an outline to a consultation meeting with the public to gauge the level of support in the parish. He had also visited Wedmore to discuss how they had gone about preparing their Plan and reported that they had received a £5,000 grant and had used some £4,500 of their own funds. It was recommended that an allocation of £500 be made from reserves to cover any room hire, consultation or other setting up costs of the Working Group. Agreed that a Working Group be established to carry out the work referred to above and that a ringfenced allocation of £500 be made from reserves to meet any initial costs." 

BOB: Who is in the Working Group, what have they discussed and decided behind closed doors so far? What "local groups" have been consulted? What are the "facts and costs" so far? Despite the Wedmore budget information of £9.5K BPC did not allocate any money to the NDP up until April 2019, how do they intend to fund a NDP?

 

(Min 303.14) To Consider a Response to the Final Draft of the West of England Joint Spatial Plan. It was agreed to respond to the document at the next Planning Committee.

BOB: There has not been a Planning Committee since Nov 17, Cllr Hartree and Cllr Dobson were subsequently tasked with responding on behalf of BPC in Jan 18, after the decision to delay in Nov 17, what about other councillors input or approval? Residents views?

 

8 Jan 18 (Min 304.4) "District Councillor Porter referred to the desirability of parishes preparing Neighbourhood Plans and advised that he had indicated to the Clerk at Hutton the willingness of this parish to explore joint working where this was feasible. With regard to NSC’s Sites and Policies Plan, he was hopeful that the Inspector would sign it off as acceptable in the not too distant future and this would put the planning authority in a much stronger position."

BOB: It is desirable for District Councils to encourage Parish Councils to develop NDPs as it reduces their planning costs, speeds up the development process, reduces expected resistance to development, and promotes and identifies new development in the parish that may not have been previously identified (see BOB's Planning Policy Overview page). 

 

(Min 304.10) "Update on the Neighbourhood Plan Process. Councillor Dobson reported that it had been confirmed that grant applications for funding had been extended up to 2022 and authorities would be able to apply from April although the precise rules governing this were awaited. He and Councillor Chinn had met to plan the initial consultation stage of the process and were suggesting meetings with small groups of stakeholders through workshop sessions and would be preparing for these over the next couple of months. Once grant funding had been applied for, the more substantive work would commence from May/June onwards. A number of local parishes had been contacted to ascertain any interest in joint working. Loxton PC had expressed interest in working together and both Yatton and Congresbury had offered assistance. Further contacts would be made before the next meeting. It was noted that there were a number of exit points in the process when the Council could decide not to proceed but that there were real benefits to be gained from the exercise, however far it was taken."

BOB: The grant application process was extended to 2022 in Sept 17, why only inform residents now, 4 months later? Where is the information on the initial consultation stage plan for 'all' residents to understand the process, not just select groups/stakeholders? When are 'all' residents going to be consulted rather than BPC chosen/select groups? Where is the information from these group consultations and who they are? When are BPC going to consult and/or joint work with their own Ward and District neighbours e.g. Locking and Hutton? What are these NDP 'exit points'?

 

(Min 304.14) "To Consider a Response to the Final Draft of the West of England Joint Spatial Plan. Agreed that Councillor Dobson prepare a response on behalf of the Council in consultation with the Chairman for submission by the deadline of 10th January." 

BOB: Although Cllr Porter indicated the 'importance of the JSP' BPC originally decided to delay a response to the consultation in Nov 17, so why did a response on behalf of 'all' residents seemingly come down to the input of 2 councillors 2 days before the deadline? What about other councillors' input or final approval? What about residents views? Considering the influence that the JSP will have on both NSC and Bleadon's NDP, also indicated by Cllr Porter, what was BPC's response to the JSP Consultation on behalf of residents and councillors? This confirms Cllr Strong's statement regarding secrecy within BPC and decision being made in closed meetings, excluding some councillors.

 

12 Feb 18 (Min 305.10) "The Chairman read a report from Councillor Dobson explaining that there had been a positive reaction during preliminary consultation with residents."

BOB: Where is public access to the report and the information regarding the 'positive reaction'? Who has been consulted so far, what groups have responded, as not 'all' residents have been consulted, only selected/chosen groups? 

 

"People could see that moving from a Parish Plan to a Neighbourhood Plan would have many benefits."

BOB: What people? An NDP is different to a Parish Plan and should be built upon it, what benefits have BPC been promoting to groups for them to "see that moving from a PP to a NDP" is beneficial? After declaring to residents that the PP was 'lost' and 'obsolete', last Apr 17, BPC have referred to it in its NDP submission to NSC in Sept 17, BPN 107 & 108. But BPC still have not made it available to residents, or indicated what actions have been completed and/or current since 2009? NB a PP is valid in its own right as indicated by the Good Councillor Guide for Parish Councillors 2017 and 2013. If BPC truly respect residents views how did they lose the PP, how are they making their decisions with consultation, and why do they appear to be currently working on a 'neighbourhood' plan behind closed doors?

 

"However, recently there has been a concerted wave of negativity from some individuals which was very de-motivating."

BOB: Any negativity toward BPC's NDP may be due to a lack of information and consultation, with some select residents and groups being more informed by BPC. Why can't 'all' residents have access to the same information for openess and transparency?

 

"The initial urgency was due to grant funding ending in March 2018 but funding has now been made available until 2022."

BOB: The grant situation was extended to 2022 in Sept 17, indicating that BPC's perceived 'initial urgency' to implement a NDP has been unnecessary. NB BPC only submitted their desire for a NDP to NSC in Sept 17 i.e. the same month as the extension.

 

"There is time to continue if parishioners desire it but the opportunity to limit current over-development has been lost."

BOB: What "opportunity to limit current over-development has been lost" as BPC did not intend to 'start' the substantive NDP work until at least May/June 2018 (Min 304.10). As far as we're aware BPC have never published a timetable or project plan e.g. "The completed project planner must also be submitted with neighbourhood planning grant applications. If this hasn’t been completed it will delay the grant assessment process". However, in Aug 17 BPC "Estimated two years to complete the full plan" (Min 298.25). BPC's Summer Newsletter stated BPC/villages were being "encouraged to produce new neighbourhood plans by the end 2019" (BPN107). So from the public information available via BPC it appears that a NDP for Bleadon was not intended to be finished until at least July 19 or towards the end of 2019? So how did councillors intend to "limit current over-development" in the meantime, especially in relation to an adopted, fully reisident-consulted and approved NDP?

  

"There has been no cost to the Parish Council so far as Councillor Dobson has funded the work himself." 

BOB: The 2017 Good Councillor Guide states, "Whatever your council’s approach to plan making, financial regulations say it must have a budget. The Plan creates the Budget that determines the Precept ...". BPC decided not to fund a NDP until at least Apr 2019 (Min 302.7), no money had been spent up until Nov 17 (Min 302.7), and BPC allocated £500 to the project in Dec 17 (Min 303.10), so why has Cllr Dobson been funding the work himself, and what work has incurred an expense? What effect will this have for our future precepts?

 

"However, he will not continue with the process."

BOB: Is the current NDP project the sole responsibility of Cllr Dobson or all Councillors? Is the NDP project being "community-led" as previously stated by BPC (BPN108) or led by one councillor, where is the publicly accessible documentation to date? Where is the information and consultation with 'all' residents?

 

"If, at the Parish Meeting in April, parishioners indicate their desire to continue then it can be re-started."

BOB: The Parish meeting in April 18 will be the first time that BPC has potentially decided to discuss the NDP with residents in an open forum. Previously requests for resident access to information have been denied (e.g. BPC's 2 year 'vexatious' block via BOB on requests until Feb 2019) or delayed to some future meeting or date that has not yet occured (e.g. Min 302.7).NB only 9 people attended the annual parish meeting last year (APM Apr 17), not all attendees were residents. Will BPC really make a decision without going to 'all' residents via, for example, its website and or newsletter that goes to 'all' residents homes, rather than its usual poorly attended parish meetings?

 

NB BPC seem to have reworded and misrepresented BOB's submitted NDP question to meet this objective.

  

"The Chairman thanked Councillors Dobson and Chinn for their hard work to date. Agreed that the Neighbourhood Plan Process be suspended."

BOB: In Dec 2012 (Min 249.5) BPC resolved "... to set up a Working Party to investigate the possible future need/viability of a Neighbourhood Plan for the village of Bleadon." BOB can currently find no further publicly accessible information regarding this, e.g. the decision making process behind it, residents involved, or why a NDP was not pursued at the time.

 

There is also reference to NDP funding (Min 249.10.14) via CPRE/NALC in the 'To receive and consider the following correspondence' section of the minutes i.e. the section BPC removed from resident/public access since Mar 16 (Min 282.10) when Cllr Hartree became Chair previously, nor was it reinstated by Cllr Gutsell as Chair in May 16, nor not been reinstated since Cllr Hartree became Chair again in Apr 17, despite being asked to do so. Why has this information been removed from public access via the Agenda/Minutes?

 

NB Locking Parish Council appear to have have a different approach to a NDP. Whilst BOB doesn't agree 100% with comments made at least they appear giving residents the choice to investigate a Parish Plan and/or a Neighbourhood Plan, with accessible user group agendaminutes and pros/cons. They also make reference to a potential change in natonal planning laws and regulatons requiring some current NDPs to be rewritten, what effect has this had on BPC's NDP timescales, decison making and approach? Why are NSC Cllr Ap Rees (Locking) and Cllr Porter (Hutton) encouraging BPC to have a NDP, and seemingly against a Parish Plan, yet their parish groups do yet have one?

 

12 Mar 18 (Min 306.4) "A parishioner was concerned that the Neighbourhood Plan was a waste of money and should not be progressed. He had asked Locking and Hutton parish councils for their opinion and discovered that Locking was uncertain but Hutton was not bothering. The clerk for Locking had produced a ‘pros and cons’ list and concluded it was a waste of time. Cllr Porter responded on several points, suggesting that the parishioner was mis-informed, particularly regarding the importance placed on such Plans by Planning Inspectors when considering applications and appeals. Local Plans (together with any Neighbourhood Plans that have been brought into force) are the starting-point for considering whether applications can be approved. An up to date plan positively guides development decisions.

BOB: Locking NDP Group note "Mandate from council is for an update on the 2005 parish plan and £1000 has been allocated for this purpose" and "We are looking at 2-3 years of effort for a Neighbourhood Plan.  A Parish Plan would be quicker.  Outcome currently is to hold fire until we establish if there is more interest in the Parish" Feb 2018. Also See Stratford-on-Avon DC comment on NDPs.

 

The Chairman explained that a Councillor had received offensive and undue negativity from certain parishioners during his work to gather information and support regarding a Neighbourhood Plan. NSC had been asked to provide an officer to speak at the Annual Parish Meeting so that this council could understand the likely support for seeking funding to progress to a draft Plan. New funding for the production of Neighbourhood Plans was available from April 2018. The parishioner left the meeting."

BOB: Perhaps the negativity is due to BPCs closed approach to this NDP project, gathering support and information from unknown people to date, rather than being open and transparent with 'all' residents during the creation of its draft. NB No NSC officer was scheduled to speak at the APM on 09 Apr 18. 

 

(Min 306.5e) "To receive the Clerk’s Report ... e) Letters/emails confirming Parish Council decisions sent to: ... NSC for a presentation on Neighbourhood Plans at the Annual Parish Meeting".

BOB: Interesting to note that they are minuting "Letters/emails confirming Parish Council decisions sent ..."  by BPC but still no correspondence listings received by BPC that was stopped by the council, as seen in the last information received by residents, in Mar 16 (Min 282.10). 

 

(Min 306.14) "To Propose arrangements for the Annual Parish Meeting (APM). The meeting will take place at Coronation Hall at 7pm on Monday, 9th April, 2018. The agenda will include reports from the Chairman and the Hall Management Committee and the Finance Summary for 2017/18. It is hoped that a presentation from an expert regarding the pros and cons of Neighbourhood Plans will be attending."

 

BOB: Who will be the expert? For this to be an open, honest and transparent consultation with the public all councillors involved with the NDP project to date should be in attendance, are there any planned absences? Bleadon has 1000+ residents, so, any information given to the 150-ish? residents that may fill the hall to capacity, should also be published to the majority of remaining residents who were unable to attend. As the Clerk usually voice records the councils meetings perhaps this could be released to residents? Or perhaps the event be recorded on video?

 

"Standing Orders suspended: A parishioner asked how everyone would be notified, since the Bleadon Newsletter was not an option ("There will not be a Spring edition produced" (Min 306.12.g)). A general discussion took place during which it was agreed that a leaflet will be produced by the council and distributed to every household. The offer of distribution by the Newsletter team was gratefully accepted."

BOB: If this is just a notification of the meeting, how will residents have access to existing NDP information before they attend, so that they are 'all' informed before being asked to make a decision whether to proceed with a NDP? E.g. access to TOR, Agenda, Minutes, Reports, etc. as indicated by the Government

 

"Regarding the Neighbourhood Plan, the council’s intention is to apply for the new funding, working with parishioners in order to progress to a draft plan for wider consultation.

 

Is the ‘draft plan for wider consultation’ the same as the final ‘Draft Plan’ that goes to public voting at the Referendum?

 

It was suggested that the leaflet could include links to websites giving further information on the pros and cons of Neighbourhood Plans."

 

BOB: Although suggested it is not clear whether their leaflet would the contain information,or a future one regarding the NDP in particular? NB  BPC's actual leaflet did not contain any NDP information for informed debate at the meeting.

 

"The ‘independence’ of any expert was questioned as it was felt that a consultant might be hoping for a contract and a council officer’s report might be proscribed."

 

BOB: As this will be the first time BPC has discussed this in an open forum, rather than tightly controlled/prescribed BPC meetings, it will be interesting to hear all sides of the debate. Hence the request for access for 'all' residents to what is discussed and decided on the day.

 

"As every parishioner is invited so there could be a problem with numbers. The Hall has a capacity limit. A parishioner offered the free loan of his Public Address equipment with a roving microphone to ensure that all attendees can hear and be heard. The council gratefully accepted this offer. Standing Orders resumed."

 

BOB: What is this limit? Although BPC accepted the offer of a 'roving microphone' they did not appear to offer a resolution to the 'problem with numbers'. How about confirming that they'll address all questions posed, both before and at the meeting, and post the resulting answers on their website to ensure inclusion of 'all' residents?

 

"AGREED that a leaflet be produced and distributed before the end of March"

 

Mar 18 BPC website indicates Cllr Chinn and then Cllr Dobson resignSORRY TO SEE YOU GO.

Councillor Richard Dobson has resigned from the parish council with immediate effect. We appreciate his reasons for doing so and are grateful for his offer to continue to be involved with the work of the parish in a resident capacity.  We look forward to working closely with him.

 

Councillor Dave Chinn has resigned from the parish council with immediate effect.  We are sorry to see him go and are very grateful for his considerable contribution to the community of Bleadon during his time as councillor.  His hard work and desire to make a positive difference to life in Bleadon will be missed.  We wish him well in his career."

 

28 Mar 18 (Min 307.4) "To Note the Resignation of a Councillor. Cllr David Chinn submitted a letter of resignation due to work and family commitments. He praised the work of the council to date and stated the high regard he has for his fellow councillors in their voluntary work. He looks forward to volunteering as a member of the community and will continue to support the council as time allows. He hopes to be able to stand for election again at some time in the future. The Parish Council accepted the resignation with regret. AGREED that the Chairman would write to Mr Chinn thanking him for his contribution to the parish and gratefully accepting his offer of volunteer support in the future."

BOB: It is interesting to note that councillors seem to resign when key issues come to a head e.g. Parish Plan, School, Newsletter, NDP and various access to information issues, but they rejoin not long after e.g. Cllr Hartree in Apr 15 (rejoined Sept 15) and Nov 17; Cllr Chinn hoping to stand for election again at some time in the future; and Cllr Dobson Sept 16 (rejoined May 17), offered again Nov 17 and now Mar 18. The timing of these two resignations, just after a NDP Open Forum Meeting was announced, leaves BPC with only three serving councillors.

 

28 Mar 18 (Min 307.4.1) "To Note the Resignation of a Councillor. The Chairman reported that he had received a letter of resignation from another Councillor. Cllr Richard Dobson expressed sincere regret on resigning from the Parish Council. He rejoined the Parish Council last year following the departure of a number of Councillors and Parish Clerk, with the intention of helping to strengthen the Parish Council."

BOB: Cllr Dobson can perhaps be forgiven for offering his resignation for a third time since May 16 as, living in the village for a relatively short time, he may not have had an awareness or understanding of the long running concerns residents have with our local democracy. After all, the Parish Plan was created in a more inclusive manner in 2005, adopted in 2009 under better BPC access to information circumstances, but then subsequently ignored in the recent years in which he joined.

 

"His reasons for resigning relate to issues around public behaviour at meetings and the continual anti-Parish Council narrative that runs on the local social media website."

BOB: We assume that these comments are not aimed at BOB. BOB is pro-resident access to information relating to BPC decision making to ensure their inclusion and engagement in all issues, as is a resident's right. If this is considered anti-Parish Council then democracy in Bleadon is in serious trouble.  See Nolan Principles of Public Office that welcomes public scrutiny, which BPC include in their own Code of Conduct; especially accountabiity, scrutiny and openness!

 

"Richard thanked the many people in Bleadon who have provided positive encouragement, and apologised to them for having to end his involvement with the Parish Council. The Parish Council accepted the resignation with regret. AGREED that the Chairman would write to Mr Dobson thanking him for his contribution to the parish and gratefully accepting his offer of support on various issues in the future."

BOB: We believe that  unless BPC improve access to decision making that happens in their closed undocumented meetings this offer of support will not improve residents' confidence in who and how decisions continue to be made. Surely if Councillors truly believe they are representing the majority of electorate they should continue to champion them.

 

"The Chairman noted that these resignations brought the Parish Council down to three members only. Three is the minimum number of Councillors for a meeting to be quorate."

BOB: We believe that unless BPC ensure a culture of openness, honesty, transparency and respect both within BPC and with the public, then residents who want to see 'all' residents views represented and discussed in a democratic way will continue to be wary of joining such a closed 'group or club' that BPC has become over recent years. See minutes of BPC and BOB 'Meeting of common ground.' in 2016 where BOB forwarded links to the Parish Plan to the Chair & Vice Chair Cllr Hartree (which continued to be ignored and we believe incorrectly declared 'obsolete' in Apr 17). We also discussed public communication issues and improvements, which were not resolved or implemented and have progressively worsened for 'all' residents. Despite BOB's requests and offer to discuss them BPC has blocked all communication for 2 years until Feb 2019.