St Albans Fails Duty to Cooperate – ‘high level’ ‘over-arching’ ‘broad-brush’ ‘unstructured’ meetings

This district has cranked up more posts on this than any other  – letter from Inspector – top of list for plan making to be taken over by government.  Local cllrs (con group – not a political point just fact)  have obstructed every step of way.

There is no clear indication in the submitted SLP as to what the strategic priorities are, particularly those with cross-boundary implications….

A number of local planning authorities that were represented at the Hearing confirmed that in their opinion there was no structure in place in terms of the regularity and frequency of joint meetings and that many of the meetings were ‘high level’ where issues were addressed in a ‘broadbrush’ way, indeed the Council itself described some of the meetings as being ‘over-arching’

There has been engagement between St Albans Council and nearby local planning authorities, particularly in the earlier stages of plan-making, for example in relation to the 2008 Strategic Market Housing Assessment (SHMA) and employment work undertaken in 2009. Constructive engagement in more recent years appears to be less evident and it is difficult to conclude that the Council has approached cross-boundary priorities in a meaningful and positive way….

the Council did not reply to a letter requesting a meeting (dated 11th April 2016) from Three Rivers District Council (on behalf of four south-west Herts LPAs) for over 5 months, despite being sent a reminder via e-mail. The letter also includes a request for housing data to be forwarded4 . 29.The Council’s response includes an apology for the delay but also refers to ‘difficult dilemmas’, ‘past, difficult political level discussions’ and ‘ the technical , political and practical challenges of developing a plan in St Albans’…

The Joint Statement (paragraphs 3.3 to 3.6) provides examples of invitations to St Albans to participate but there appears to have been a reluctance to accept and contribute to the debate. As already stated, there is no obligation on the Council to agree with its neighbours but without even entering fully into the debate, it is difficult to conclude that there has been collaboration….

The references to ‘watching briefs’7 and ‘general liaison’8 do not instil confidence that every effort has been made…

on the evidence before me I am unable to confirm that St Albans City and District Council has given adequate consideration to helping meet the development needs of other nearby local planning authorities. In these circumstances the plan would not be effective and therefore it could not be found to be sound.

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