Cheshire East is having to extend its local plan consultation to allow for consideration of ommission sites.
In an incredibly ill judged letter to the Crewe Chronicle the leader of the Council has made it clear whatever the results of the consultation, and whatever the results of the final environmental report (SEA) which of course cannot conclude until that consultation has completed he says:
“I, as leader of the council, am personally shocked at the number of sites from Wistaston in Crewe, to Sandbach and Wychwood Park, and I state that I want the people of these areas that are being consulted to come and speak out. I want petitions, which cumulatively, we could use to force a parliamentary debate. Make no doubt, Cheshire East stands strongly against these unwanted, unsustainable development.”
He could not more clearly state he is only interested in objections, not representations in support, he has made his mind up and is not open to arguments. This is predetermination. The Localism Act does not change this, all it does is allow cllrs to express a prior view not to close their minds to all arguments. At the final decision on submission they must still look at all evidence and all submissions with a fresh mind. The change in the law allows a prior opinion not to be treated as predetermination, but this is not a prior opinion, it is a statement of a course of future action and future decision.
The administrative law principal of predetermination has not been abolished by the Localism Act, merely clarified.
Section of the Localism Act 2011 provides:
“A decision-maker is not to be taken to have had, or to have appeared to have had, a closed mind when making the decision just because:
(a) the decision-maker had previously done anything that directly or indirectly indicated what view the decision-maker took, or
would or might take, in relation to a matter, and
(b) the matter was relevant to the decision.”
So having a ‘closed’ mind is still illegal (otherwise it would not include the phrase ‘just because), and stating opposition to a proposal is not, but here the leader has bound the whole authority without even having read the results of the consultation!
Undoubtedly the leader if he votes on submission will face legal challenge now and has landed his authority in costly and unnecessary legal action. He should resign.